Tell me this isn’t weird.
I am in Liverpool. Last night I was in Leeds. I had taken my daughter Lottie out to dinner. She’s in her final year at the University there.
Lottie is named after the little catamaran I capsized and lost 80 miles north of the Shetland Islands five months before she was born nearly 22 years ago.
The boat was called Lottie Warren. We thought it would be fun to call our daughter after the boat – after all, everyone calls their boats after their daughters…
Actually, the original Lottie Warren was a 1,184ton sailing packet built for the Liverpool-Boston run in 1863 by my great-great-grandfather George Warren – although, researching it now, I see the name was spelled “Lotte”. Anyway, she was scrapped – the ship, that is – in 1879, according to the Internet.
All of this is leading up to something quite extraordinary, which happened today. I drove to Liverpool, where I am meeting my son Theo who is in his final year at the medical school. Having time to spare, I went to have a look at Strawberry Fields – I’d seen Penny Lane and The Beatles Experience on previous visits and, being a teenager of the ’60s, the song Strawberry Fields Forever is on my Desert Island Discs playlist (if ever anyone asks).
I had no idea that today the place has a thriving visitor centre to capitalise on worldwide Beatles fervour (people come from Mexico to hug the trees. Blades or grass are stolen). Anyway, it all produces a useful income for the Salvation Army, which has owned it since the 1930s.
When you put on the headphones for your audio-visual tour, the first thing you hear is that the seven acres of grounds where the young John Lennon climbed over the wall and found that “no one was in his tree”, was purchased in 1867 by Liverpool shipowner George Warren.
Obviously, I thought this was interesting – at least to me. In my enthusiasm, I mentioned the family connection when I bought a T-shirt with Lennon’s immortal sentiment that “Life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans.”
Next thing I know, I am sitting over tea with Alastair Versfeld, the Mission Development Officer, who proceeds to grill me on the history of George Warren. I was able to unload the family legend that he ran away to sea aged 16 after some trouble with an under-housemaid, dismissing the coachman at the docks with instructions to “tell the family I shall not be returning”.
Apparently, he never wore shoes on a ship (nor do I, if I can help it). But he rose to master and went into partnership with a Boston shipowner called Enoch Train. Later, he founded the Warren Line, generating the fortune which enabled him to build Strawberry Field with it’s “grand entrance hall, four reception rooms, billiards room and four WCs).
For me, it was a wonderful discovery.
But how am I going to tell Lottie we’ve been spelling her name wrong all these years…