Let It Be! ‘Owain Glyndŵr was the ancestral uncle of John Lennon’
It’s previously been acknowledged that the ancestral roots of John Lennon are firmly rooted in Wales.
However the extent of his Welsh DNA was little known, but according to a book on The Beatles family history his fascinating ancestry can be traced all the way back to the greatest of Welsh royalty.
Lennon’s family connections to Wales have been fully detailed in genealogist Richard Edmunds’ book ‘Inside the Beatles Family Tree’ – a forensic tome that took 10 years to complete and details the family histories of the Fab Four.
And it unearths some incredible findings, especially when it comes to one half of the greatest songwriting duo in music history.
From his mother Julia’s side of the Lennon family, the ancestral line can be traced back to the days of Owain Glyndŵr and Llywelyn the Great.
“Past Beatles biographers have tended to skim over their family roots, or filled a vacuum of knowledge, by utilising scant and woefully inadequate earlier published accounts,” says the author.
“As a result, a variety of tales, often belonging firmly to urban mythology rather than serious academic research, have been told, and retold, time and again.”
Edmunds adds that beginning from scratch, researching the original documentary evidence in the archives, he has had slowly but surely reconstructed their genealogy and history, both within the city of Liverpool, and further beyond.
The book details Lennon’s Welsh roots through his Victorian ancestors, John Millward, a solicitor’s clerk, of St Asaph, Flintshire, and Mary Elizabeth Morris, a farmer’s daughter, of Berth y Glyd, Llysfaen. Their daughter, Annie Millward, married merchant seaman George Stanley, in November 1906 in Liverpool, and the couple had five daughters, including Lennon’s mother, Julia, who later wed a merchant seaman, Alfred Lennon, in 1938.
Writing in a blog post – ‘John Lennon – a Welsh national hero?’ the author and genealogist details the extensive background to the musician’s family roots in Wales. Through poverty and tragedy to the most aristocratic of Welsh heroes, it tells a story as captivating as The Beatles’ songbook.
“Previous researchers into Lennon’s Welsh roots had mis-identified John Millward as the son of a pub owner in Llantwit Major, South Wales,” he says.
“My research shows conclusively that he was in actual fact the son of Thomas Millward, head gardener to Sir John Hay Williams, High Sheriff of Flintshire, and that John was born in the stately surroundings of Dolben Hall, in the mid 1830s, whilst his father was employed in service there.
“Apprenticed as a solicitor’s clerk to the Williams family as a teenager, in his early twenties John Millward suffered a serious mis-hap during a hunting expedition, when the locking mechanism of his gun failed and the weapon discharged into his body at close range, leaving him near death, and forcing the amputation of his entire left arm.
“Whilst recuperating from this dreadful accident, in a guest house at Rhyl, he met the twenty-year-old Mary Morris, and love blossomed.
“Mary had left her parent’s farm at Lysfaen shortly before, in disgrace, after giving birth to a child out of wedlock with a neighbour, who had subsequently refused to acknowledge her or the child. Eager to avoid further scandal, when she fell pregnant again to John, the unmarried couple crossed into England, giving birth to John Lennon’s grandmother, Annie Milward, in rented lodgings at the Bear and Billet Inn, Chester, in 1871. They set up home together, in Liverpool, shortly after.
“Unfortunately, the relationship between the couple did not last. John Millward ended his life living alone and in poverty, estranged from Mary and their daughters, freezing to death on the floor of a dilapidated Liverpool bedsit, after suffering a stroke in his mid-fifties, his body lying undiscovered for several days.”
The book details how Mary was the family matriarch, a devout Welsh speaker who refused to speak English – whose aristocratic family background yielded the most surprising discoveries.
“Mary died in her eighties, eight years before the birth of her rock star great-grandson,” says Edmunds. “She was a powerful family matriarch, who refused to speak English, labeling it the ‘devil’s tongue’, and insisted all her family regularly attend the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church, at Toxteth, Liverpool.
“Perhaps the most exciting of my new discoveries came through my research into Mary’s family roots. It revealed her great-great-grandfather to be the Reverend Richard Farrington, of Llandwanda, Caernarvonshire, a noted author of several books on the ancient antiquities of Wales in the early 18th century.
“Through him, I traced Lennon’s ancestry back a further five generations to Owain ap Hugh, an Elizabethan High Sheriff of Anglesey, and through Owain, another five generations back to Tudor ap Gruffudd, killed at the Battle of Pwll in 1405, the brother of Welsh national hero, Owain Glyndŵr.”
“These Welsh aristocratic roots also make John Lennon a direct descendant of Llewelyn the Great, ruler of Wales in the 13th century, and through Llewelyn’s spouse Joan, of King John of England, King Malcolm of Scotland, William the Conqueror, and, even of England’s earliest national hero, King Alfred the Great.”
All I can think of is John Lennon’s face if he was to appear on an episode of every budding genealogist’s favourite TV show ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’
How would the fiercely anti-establishment Lennon, who famously returned his MBE to Buckingham Palace in protest against Britain’s involvement in violence and war, react to the news of his stellar royal heritage?
Of course, we’ll never know, but you’d like to think it would be with a withering put down and a cheeky grin.
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