50% of The Beatles were Here in Newmarket-on-fergus

It would boggle your mind to read the itinerary of all that The Beatles did in 1964. Between releasing ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘I Feel Fine’, they recorded two full albums and several EPs. Their World Tour included Hong Kong and Australia, and saw them play about 200 gigs. There were countless interviews and appearances on Radio and TV. They made their first (absolutely brilliant) film, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. They met a boxer who was training for a shot at the Heavyweight title, called Cassius Clay. Bob Dylan introduced them to a new type of ‘cigarette’ and Ringo had to be hospitalised to have his tonsils out. Beatlemania gripped America, where they had 14 singles in the charts simultaneously. And all of this was done to a background noise of screaming, hysterical, frenzied fans, more enthusiastic than any the world had ever known.

As Easter approached, George Harrison got a notion that he’d like to have a few days away from the madness with his new girlfriend, a Vogue model, Pattie Boyd. Ditto John Lennon with his wife, Cynthia. Wherever they went, they were swamped by fans and photographers so the holiday would have to be in a remote location. Somewhere nice but in the middle of Nowhere. And that is how they came to spend five nights here in Newmarket-on-fergus at Dromoland Castle.

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It was quite a lark from start to finish. On Thursday March 25th, the four of them arrived in Heathrow Airport; the two men disguised with moustaches, scarves, glasses and hats. There were some suspicious glances in Departures but they made it through without pausing for a second. Their plane was a small 6-seater charter that resembled ‘a car with wings’ and did not inspire confidence. Nevertheless after a bumpy ride, they got to Shannon and were whisked away quickly to their castle retreat.

They had booked one double room and two singles, all in the name of Boyd. Over the following days and nights they enjoyed their stay, exploring the hotel, going over and back to one another’s rooms. The hotel staff said afterwards that they seemed like very nice people but were slightly shocked to see these ‘pop stars’ out in the corridor in their socks! Or even barefoot! While the boys could be heard strumming guitars, the girls often walked about wearing jeans, something no other guest had done before. For a while it was completely idyllic but on an evening stroll down by the lake, John and Cynthia noticed the glint of camera lenses from the far side of the water and beat a hasty retreat.

Next day, John and George agreed to a quick photo shoot. Many of these images can be seen on-line with a simple Google search and have the classic Beatles attitude. Having ‘borrowed’ swords from a suit of armour in the hotel reception, the lads play fight up and down the outside steps. Then they muck about playing croquet, or is it snooker, in front of the fountain. Word of their presence spread however and more photographers began to arrive. Fans surrounded the hotel, but John and George had slipped away in a car. There were all sorts of rumours about where they might be gone. The local point-to-point races, said one reliable source. Liscannor, said another, where they were in McHugh’s pub and wanted to sing but were told to Shhhh! Ennistymon, said a third, where they went into Wall’s shop and bought a pair of boots. Whatever the truth, what can definitely now be said is that the lads visited the Cliffs of Moher on Easter Sunday. There is a short clip on YouTube (filmed by George) of John smiling to camera then lying down and looking out over the edge.

When it was time to check out there were huge numbers of fans and media waiting for a glimpse of their heroes. The lads were happy enough to exit through the scrum but wanted to protect the girls. Together with hotel management a plan was hatched. Pattie and Cynthia dressed up as chambermaids; the full hotel costume with smock, apron and blonde hair hidden beneath a hat. While John and George left through the front door, the girls wheeled a large laundry basket down to the service exit. Then threw out the clothes and jumped inside. The lid was closed and the basket hoisted into a waiting van. They remained inside it, tangled up and shaken about, as it sped through the village and on to Shannon airport.

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I suppose the Beatles were about equally as famous as Elvis Presley. What always strikes me though, is how much more fun they had. The fact there was four of them made for a very different dynamic. There was always a bit of craic to be had, no matter the situation. And as the pressures of fame mounted, they always had three other people who were going through exactly the same thing. Three other people who were on the same level.

Whereas Elvis? He was alone at the top of his world. No doubt he was surrounded by a constant entourage, but there was only one King. And nobody else could even vaguely know what it was like to be him. His pathetic demise and that of many subsequent stars suggests that solo fame is much harder to carry than as part of a collective.

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As the small plane departed Shannon, John, George, Cynthia and Pattie agreed they’d had a lovely time and must do it all again as soon as schedules would allow. The intrusion by the media however proved that Newmarket-on-fergus was not remote enough. They did indeed go on holiday again later that year and their destination was a small island in Tahiti.


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