VIRGINIA Mason talks to the owners of a Halifax hotel about the night the Beatles came to stay.
IT may be almost half a century since the Fab Four checked in at a Calderdale country house hotel but the event remains just as memorable today as back then.
In fact, the momentous visit of the Beatles to Holdsworth House, Halifax, is set to be enjoyed by a whole new audience thanks to author Martin Creasey who has included it in his book Beatlemania: The Real story of the Beatles UK Tours.
Between 1963 and 1965, The Beatles undertook six amazing UK tours and along the way met many fans whose memories of these encounters tell the real story of what actually happened when John, Paul, George and Ringo hit the road. It was as loud, chaotic and as exciting as anything Britain had ever seen. It was Beatlemania.
The book traces the trajectory of the UK tours and features interviews with scores of people whose paths crossed with the band.
Among them is Gail Moss, who along with sister Kim Wynn, now owns Holdsworth House. “We’re thrilled to be included in the new book,” she says. “We keep thinking interest in the visit will dwindle but it never seems to. People always want to hear about the time when the Beatles stayed here.”
It’s an occasion that Gail – and Kim – will certainly never forget. The beautiful old house at Holmfield on the outskirts of Halifax, now a hotel and restaurant, was owned by the girls’ late parents Freddie and Rita Pearson back then and was known as The Cavalier Country Club. The Pearsons’ good family friend just happened to be Stanley Corbett, the Beatles’ road manager.
“They had been playing at the Gaumont Theatre in Bradford and they needed a place to stay,” recalls Gail, who was 14 at the time – and very much a fan. “My father told me a couple of days before they arrived that they were coming and I think it was probably the hardest secret I have ever had to keep. I didn’t tell anyone though, not a soul and I remember when it had all happened and I went back to school, hardly anyone was talking to me,” she laughs.
The night in question was Friday, October 9, 1964 – John Lennon’s 24th birthday – and Gail recalls how it was around 11pm when the four Liverpool lads arrived after a bit of a diversion and the help of a police escort to keep their destination a secret – a plan which worked.
The original restaurant bill reveals that they tucked into prawn cocktail, melon, smoked trout and turtle soup, followed by steaks and duckling. Including the chauffeur’s dinner, the entire bill came to £17 6s (£17.30) – more than a week’s wages at the time.
The bar bill, including whiskies, stouts and pints of Whitbread, came to £2 15s (£2.75) but it was only Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr who unwound in the bar until 1am – John Lennon had a toothache and went to bed early.
Because the business was just a country club and not a hotel, the Pearsons had to find beds for their visitors.
“They actually ended up using ours. Can you imagine that?” says Gail.
“John and Ringo slept in what was mine and my sister’s room (room 20, now the general manager’s room) and Paul and George slept in my parents’ bedroom. They borrowed twin beds especially.
“I remember we had set up for them to have breakfast the following morning and they didn’t come down. I was walking up and down the corridor waiting. Eventually my mother grabbed me by the hand, knocked on the bedroom door where Paul and George were sleeping and thrust me inside. ‘My daughter has been waiting all morning to see you’ she said and left me there. I don’t know how she dared.”
Gail adds that George offered her a cigarette “which I refused” and asked if the old house was haunted. We’d been to Ibiza on holiday and I was chatting to Paul about that.
Kim, just eight at the time, admits the visit was “a little over my head”.
“I was very shy and remember not wanting to meet them so I hid in the ladies’ cloakroom under a dressing table. All of a sudden this hand came through the curtains, a hand with rings on practically every finger. It was Ringo and he just said ‘come out and meet the lads’.”
The girls had their photos taken each sitting on McCartney’s knee. “Kim’s came out but unfortunately mine didn’t,” says Gail.
Because it had been Lennon’s birthday the girls gave him a Cavalier Country Club tie.
“I don’t know if he ever wore it but he did remember the visit because he sent us a copy of his book In His Own Write.
Once news of the visit became public, the Pearson family was inundated with requests for souvenirs.
“We still have the brass bedsteads which were on the beds they slept in and at one time the little gold knobs on the top used to disappear from time to time,” says Gail.
“Guests at Holdsworth House today are still intrigued by the visit. We’ve had lots of famous people and celebrities stay with us over the years but The Beatles – well they were huge weren’t they?”
* Beatlemania: The Real Story of The Beatles UK Tours by Martin Creasey, Omnibus Press, £16.95. Holdsworth House Hotel, visit www.holdsworthhouse.co.uk