Live: Village Hall, Irby, Wirral

The Beatles played just once at the Village Hall at 15 Thingwall Road in Irby, Heswall, Wirral.

The venue was, at the time, home of the Newton Dancing School, run by Mary Newton. She ran monthly dances for her pupils, who were aged between 14 and 18. Tickets cost seven shillings (35p), but the organisers failed to raise the £35 fee that Brian Epstein had negotiated for The Beatles’ performance, and the group was paid just £20.

A jumble sale was held on the bowling green opposite the village hall to raise the extra money. Epstein returned in his Rolls-Royce to pick up the money.

Following The Beatles’ performance, George Harrison accidentally left behind a cardboard suitcase containing guitar strings. The case was made of compressed cardboard with plastic trim, and had Harrison’s initials on its sides. A small note on it said: “Mr George Harrison c/o Beatles Party”.

The case was taken away by Dave Irlam, the drummer in local group The Spades, who had recommended The Beatles to Mary Newton.

Dave’s father, Ernie Irlam, contacted Epstein, who told him that someone would arrange collection of the case, but nobody ever did and it was emptied then placed in an attic. It remained there for 40 years before being rediscovered.

They came here with all new equipment, marvellous stuff. But they still had some of the odds and sods of the old stuff. It was the end of an era. We couldn’t raise all the money to pay for them and a few days later Epstein came round to our house for the rest. He was very irate.

I told him not to forget the old suitcase and he said that he would send someone round for it, but he never did. About 15 years later, I found it in the loft and David told me that it was the case the Beatles left. They would not have been seen with a case like that when they were famous, would they?”

“On the night Lennon said to my son, ‘Are you doing the lights?’. He said he was. Lennon said, ‘When we play Blue Moon, put that blue light on. Can you manage that? OK la’.

Ernie Irlam

The case failed to reach its £2,500 reserve at Bonhams in London, but in 2004 was sold to an anonymous buyer for £5,500. It was put on display at the Merseybeat Museum in New Brighton, Wallasey.

The incident at Irby Village Hall later inspired a play, The George Harrison Suitcase, written by Wirral playwrights Bev Clark and Mike Lockley.

Mary Newton kept a ticket from the show, along with Epstein’s letter confirming the booking, in a drawer. They were sold together at Christie’s auction house in London in 2004, also for £5,500, to an anonymous foreign buyer.

I was the boss that night. The Beatles were just another group, but they were a good group. There was all this waving at them from the front. They did Love Me Do and all the early stuff.

It just happened that when I was moving house recently, I took some books out and I thought, ‘what’s that on the floor?’.

Mary Newton
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