Who was John Lennon's biological father?
Julia Stanley first met Alfred (aka Alf/Fred/Freddie) Lennon in 1929, when she was fifteen and he was two years older. They met in Sefton Park, exchanging come banter from the start. Both worked in junior office jobs and superficially had similar temperaments.
Julia was vivacious, fun loving, a natural rebel. Alf was a popular with his peers, ‘a rascal. An absolute character’ said one pal. There was also a shared musicality. Julia loved singing and played banjo. Alf sang, specialising in comedy songs and comically mangling the words of standards. Like his brothers - and later his son - Alf played the harmonica - the 'mouth iron' as it was known in Liverpool.
The rebel meets rascal combination did not go down well with Julia’s family: the tight-knit Stanley clan. They saw Alf as ‘low’ - and they were not referring to his diminutive stature (he was 5.3”)
The Stanleys always believed they were several notches above the Lennons, claiming better breeding, education, nationality, religion, refinement resources and aspiration… at least some of which is debatable.
Mark Lewisohn, Tune In
There may also have been an element of sectarianism - the Stanleys were protestant while the Freddie’s name, address and former school marked him as a nominal Catholic.
He also seemed to be the archetypal ‘scally’ - a figure of fun in Liverpool but not one welcomed into respectable families. That he had been placed in an orphanage after the death of his father might have evoked sympathy - but it also confirmed the impression that he was a young man to be avoided.
Soon after meeting Julia, Freddie joined the merchant navy. This meant long absences from Liverpool. Their relationship had continued intermittently, apparently without much commitment from either party.
In many respects the relationship was casual — Julia ‘never went to the docks to see him off’ (Lewisohn, p.17). Nor, according to the memory of the not always reliable Mr Lennon, did she respond to his letters.
Julia, now a cinema usherette, did continue to see Alf/Fred when he was on shore leave. Then in 1938 she suddenly married her occasional boyfriend. This appears to have been on a whim, or more precisely to fulfil a dare.
The Stanleys were horrified. ‘We were all shocked. She just thought it was clever to defy the family.'
War and a baby came in quick succession - but the marriage remained nominal. Julia never lived with Freddie and went back to sea before John was born.
He never really came back. Alfred and Julia Lennon were legally separated in 1942. Famously, Julia then gave up care of her son to her sister Mimi.
Freddie would make one final, melodramatic appearance in John’s childhood - the notorious tug-of-love on Blackpool promenade. He then disappeared from his son’s life for twenty years.
Aunt Mimi never changed her opinion about what she considered to be an ill-considered match. ‘The only good thing to come out of it was John,’ she later said. 'We all make mistakes.'