Paul McCartney’s mother Mary dies

Mary Patricia McCartney, the mother of Michael and Paul McCartney, died on 31 October 1956 at the age of 47.

I can’t remember the details of the day we were told. All I remember is one of us, I don’t remember who, making a silly joke.
Mike McCartney

Mary had been suffering from breast cancer, and died of an embolism shortly after an operation to stop the spread of the disease.

The first thing I said was, ‘What are we going to do without her money?’
Paul McCartney

Mary McCartney was buried on 3 November 1956 at Yew Tree Cemetery, Finch Lane, Liverpool.

My mum dying when I was fourteen was the big shock in my teenage years. She died of cancer, I learnt later. I didn’t know then why she had died.

My mum wanted us to speak properly and aspired to speak the Queen’s English. One of my most guilty feelings is about picking her up once on how she spoke. She pronounced ‘ask’ with a long ‘a’ sound. And I said, ‘Oh – “aarsk”! That’s “ask”, mum,’ and I really took the piss out of her. When she died, I remember thinking, ‘You asshole, why did you do that? Why did you have to put your mum down?’ I think I’ve just about got over it now, doctor.

My mother’s death broke my dad up. That was the worst thing for me, hearing my dad cry. I’d never heard him cry before. It was a terrible blow to the family. You grow up real quick, because you never expect to hear your parents crying. You expect to see women crying, or kids in the playground, or even yourself crying – and you can explain all that. But when it’s your dad, then you know something’s really wrong and it shakes your faith in everything. But I was determined not to let it affect me. I carried on. I learnt to put a shell around me at that age. There was none of this sitting at home crying – that would be recommended now, but not then.

That became a very big bond between John and me, because he lost his mum early on, too. We both had this emotional turmoil which we had to deal with and, being teenagers, we had to deal with it very quickly. We both understood that something had happened that you couldn’t talk about – but we could laugh about it, because each of us had gone through it. It wasn’t OK for anyone else. We could both laugh at death – but only on the surface. John went through hell, but young people don’t show grief – they’d rather not. Occasionally, once or twice in later years, it would hit in. We’d be sitting around and we’d have a cry together; not often, but it was good.

Paul McCartney
Last updated: 26 May 2020
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