Maureen Cox was born on 4 August 1946 in Liverpool. She first met Ringo Starr at the Cavern Club, and the couple married on 11 February 1965, remaining together until 1975.
Maureen was born Mary Cox, the only child of Joseph (Joe) Cox, a ship steward, and his wife Florence (Flo) Barrett. Upon leaving school at 16, she began as a trainee hairdresser in Liverpool and changed her name to Maureen. To her friends she was also known as Mitch.
A regular at the Cavern Club, Maureen saw The Beatles perform a number of times and soon developed a crush on their drummer Ringo. She had previously gone out with Johnny Guitar from Ringo’s former band the Hurricanes, led by Rory Storm.
Maureen asked Ringo for his autograph in the street one day and wrote down his car number plate, but it was another three weeks before he noticed her attentions. Eventually he asked her to dance in the Cavern and they began dating.
Maureen later described having to be more guarded when watching The Beatles perform, because of the attention the group were beginning to receive from their female fans.
They used to hang around the Cavern all day long, just on the off chance of seeing them. They’d come out of the lunchtime session and just stand outside all afternoon, queuing up for the evening… The object was to get as near the front row as possible, so that they could see the Beatles, and be seen. I never joined the queue till about two or three hours before the Cavern opened. It frightened me. There would be fights and rows among the girls. When the doors opened the first ones would tear in, knocking each other over. Then when it got near the time for the Beatles to come on, if there was a gang of four say, they would go off in turns to the lavatory with their little cases to get changed and made up. So when the Beatles came on they’d look smashing, as if they’d just arrived.
When it became common knowledge that she was in a relationship with Ringo, she was subjected to attacks from the group’s fans. One scratched her on the face on 14 February 1963, as she waited outside Liverpool’s Locarno Ballroom for the group to leave after their performance. Although she feared for her life during the attack, she managed to wind the car window up in time.
As The Beatles’ fame grew, she and Ringo began to see less of each other. Ringo moved to London with the other Beatles, while Maureen stayed in Liverpool with her parents.
In May 1964 the four went on another holiday, to the Caribbean. Until that moment Maureen had largely avoided the attentions of the press, but suddenly found her name and picture in all the British newspapers.
It really did not surprise my wife or myself when we learned she was half way across the world. In any case it wouldn’t have made any difference. I would have given her permission anyway. Maureen is a sensible girl and well able to take care of herself.
Maureen had helped out at the Beatles Fan Club since 1962, answering fan mail sent to Ringo. Following their holiday in the Caribbean, Ringo introduced her to the press, jokingly calling her his private secretary.
I like answering the letters. I’ve been doing it for five years now. I get some lovely replies back from the parents.
The Beatles, Hunter Davies
When Ringo collapsed in June 1964 at a photo shoot just prior to The Beatles’ world tour, Maureen stayed at his London flat until he was released from hospital. He was suffering from tonsilitis, and although he rejoined the group during their Australian concerts, in December 1964 he returned to hospital to have his tonsils removed.
Maureen visited him during his convalescence, bringing him ice cream and remaining in London during Christmas. The time spent together strengthened their relationship, and in January 1965, at the Ad Lib club in London, Ringo went down on one knee and asked her to marry him.
They married soon after, on 11 February 1965 at Caxton Hall in Westminster, London. Brian Epstein was the best man, and the parents of the bride and groom attended, as did George Harrison and John and Cynthia Lennon.
Maureen was just 18 years old at the time of the wedding. The couple’s first child, Zak Starkey, was born on 13 September that year. The couple had two other children: Jason, born on 19 August 1967, and a daughter, Lee, on 11 November 1970.
The Starkeys enjoyed a relatively stable family life. Although she was content to avoid the spotlight whenever possible, Maureen did join in on the chorus to The Beatles’ song The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill.
Maureen also attended the 1969 concert on the roof of Apple, and can be heared cheering at the end of Get Back on the Let It Be album. Paul McCartney can be heard acknowledging her enthusiasm, saying “Thanks Mo”.