A document said to bear the signature of Eleanor Rigby is to be auctioned to raise money for charity.
The paper, believed to originate from a 1911 Corporation of Liverpool accounts book, shows the pay received by 16-year-old scullery maid E Rigby from Liverpool’s City Hospital, Parkhill. It is dated 30 November 1911. The hospital stood on South Hill Road in the city’s Toxteth area.
In 1990 Sir Paul McCartney is said to have sent the document to Anne Mawson, founder and chief executive of the Sunbeams Music Trust, nine months after she wrote to him asking for £500,000 for the charity.
I wrote a letter to Paul McCartney in 1989 on pink paper asking for £500,000 to help provide music therapy to help children with disabilities. I just wanted him to know how much joy his music had brought. I opened it and inside was this beautiful, ancient document. It was spine-shivering really. Partly because he had responded in such a personal way.
It is not known how long McCartney had the item in his possession prior to the 1990 donation. The document is expected to fetch £500,000 when it is auctioned on 27 November 2008, by the Fame Bureau at London’s Idea Generation Gallery.
Sunbeams Music Trust was set up in 1992 to provide music therapy for children with special needs and disabilities, adults with Alzheimer’s and people with dementia. The funds generated from the auction will go toward the charity’s new centre, expected to be build near Penrith, Cumbria.
If genuine, it is the only known signature of Rigby, whose grave was discovered in the Woolton Cemetery, which adjoins St Peter’s Church in Liverpool. The church was where McCartney was first introduced to John Lennon, prior to a Quarrymen performance on 6 July 1957.
Eleanor Rigby was born in 1895 and lived in Liverpool, where she married a man named Thomas Woods. She died on 10 October 1939 at the age of 44 and was buried along with the bodies of her grandfather John Rigby, his wife Frances and their daughter Doris. The tombstone has since become a landmark for Beatles fans visiting Liverpool.
Little is known about the hospital where Rigby is said to have worked. It was located at the Dingle Road end of South Hill Road. It opened on 23 September 1984, and closed before 1926. It is believed to have been an infectious diseases hospital.
McCartney has previously claimed that he took the name Rigby from Rigby & Evens Ltd, Wine & Spirit Shippers, a company based in Bristol. He said the name Eleanor was after Eleanor Bron, who played the female lead in Help!. If McCartney was unaware of the gravestone in Woolton Cemetery, it is less likely that he was aware of the signature until sometime after the song’s release.
I thought, I swear, that I made up the name Eleanor Rigby like that. I remember quite distinctly having the name Eleanor, looking around for a believable surname and then wandering around the docklands in Bristol and seeing the shop there. But it seems that up in Woolton Cemetery, where I used to hang out a lot with John, there’s a gravestone to an Eleanor Rigby. Apparently, a few yards to the right there’s someone called McKenzie.
Update: 13 November 2008
In a statement sent yesterday to the AFP news agency, Paul McCartney denied suggestions that Eleanor Rigby was inspired by a hospital scullery maid.
Eleanor Rigby is a totally fictitious character that I made up. If someone wants to spend money buying a document to prove a fictitious character exists, that’s fine with me.
McCartney’s spokeswoman added they had not been able to establish whether McCartney sent the pay slip to Annie Mawson, who is auctioning it off to raise up to £500,000 for a music therapy centre.