IMAGINE; If John Lennon Had Followed His Heart and Settled in His Beloved Scotland, the World Would Not Have Lost His Music and Influence When a Crazed Gunman Killed Him in New York 30 Years Ago
Byline: by Tom Kyle
THE tall, spare figure with flowing hair and beard stared out over Hong Kong Harbour. He wore a long coat and fedora and a Gitane smouldered between his fingers.
Behind the round spectacles, his eyes misted up as his mind travelled back almost 30 years, from September 1979 to the rugged, far North-West coast of Scotland and a small boy playing beside the Atlantic Ocean on his aunt's croft in Durness, Sutherland.
As John Lennon would later recall: 'I wandered around Hong Kong at dawn and it was a thrill. I was looking out over the bay when something rang a bell. It was the recognition that, my God, this relaxed person is me from way back. I was rediscovering a feeling that I once had as a youngster walking the mountains of Scotland... the heather... the mist... I thought, this is the feeling that makes you write or paint... it was with me all my life... and that's why I'm free of the Beatles. I took time to discover that I was John Lennon before the Beatles, and will be after the Beatles.'
Those far-off days of his childhood had been the start of John Lennon's secret love affair with Scotland, one that lasted right up until the moment Mark Chapman shot him dead outside the Dakota Building in New York on December 8, 1980.
In one of his last letters to his cousin Stan Parkes, John wrote: 'You know, I miss Scotland more than England.'
Stan said: 'It was a typical thing for him to say. He had a tremendous affection for Scotland. These holidays in Durness were special to him. These were very happy times for John and I suppose that's why the memories stayed with him.
'I remember the other kids in the village always looked forward to seeing John because he was so much fun to be around, even though he was a bit of a rascal from time to time. He was a real boy, full of energy.'
As an adult, John would often break into a broad Scots accent when lampooning his own musical efforts. 'Ah cannae dae it. Ah cannae dae it,' he once chuckled in a mock brogue, as the embryonic version of Strawberry Fields Forever broke down after a few seconds.
LONG before then, John spent every summer from 1950 to 1955 in his Aunt Mater's three-bedroom croft in Sango Bay. It was the perfect escape from his unconventional home life in Liverpool, where he was raised by his mother Julia's elder sister Mimi.
It was another of the Stanley sisters, Elizabeth, known as Mater, who owned the Durness croft, along with her second husband Bert Sutherland, an Edinburgh dentist. Stan was her son from her first marriage. Although he was seven years older than John, the two were, and remained, very close,
Stan said: 'John always remembered his times at Durness. He loved the wilderness. We went fishing and hunting in the hills. John really loved hill walking, shooting and fishing, which is perhaps not the image most people would have of him. He used to catch salmon. He would have been quite a laird.'
This idea is not as ludicrous as it sounds. In fact, it very nearly happened, years later. Stan said: 'At one point, he found out from The Times in London that the Durness Estate where he had spent so many happy times was up for sale. Right away, he said he wanted to buy it. But, as usual with John, he just left it too late. It was bought by a Dutch and Belgian consortium.
'It's curious to think that, had that worked out, he and Paul McCartney could both have been Scottish landowners. I think John would have loved the idea of being a Highland laird - but it wasn't to be.
'In the same way, when my parents died, their home at 15 Ormidale Terrace in Edinburgh, near Murrayfield rugby stadium, was put up for sale as part of my stepfather's estate.
'John wrote me a letter saying he would have bought the house, had he known. Again, he was too late. But right up to the end of his life he said he was coming home and wanted a big family reunion in Scotland. …