John Lennon makes the acquaintance of his second cousin, Lynda Mathews, at the Hotel St George, Wellington
Lynda Mathews, John Lennon’s second cousin, who was then a 17-year-old nurse at a private hospital in Masterton, recalls the Beatles’ visit:
The Beatles’ tour was an exciting time for my family, particularly my father, who has stayed in touch with John’s Aunt Mimi.
My grandmother, Harriet Millward, and John’s grandmother, Annie, were sisters. My father, Jim Mathews, was born in Liverpool and came out to New Zealand when he was a baby. My father and John’s Aunt Mimi corresponded with each other for many years and became very close. At the outset we knew that John was in a band, but we didn’t know much about them.
Several days before the Beatles actually touched down in New Zealand, Aunt Mimi arrived by plane in Wellington. My parents and other relatives met her off the plane and drove her up to Masterton, where they stopped for tea at a family friend’s home. It was there that I first met her, before we all travelled back to our farm in Pleckville, near Eketahuna. Mimi remained in New Zealand for several months, long after the Beatles had departed.
I was lucky enough to see two Beatle concerts in Wellington. I saw the first evening show and, after John had given me free tickets, part of the following afternoon session. Because I was John’s second cousin, the local newspaper was able to arrange a meeting with John and the other Beatles while they were in Wellington. Not surprisingly, many other fans had made the same claim - that they were related to the Beatles - but Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ publicity officer, identified the family likeness when he met me. As a consequence, I was able to meet John and the others face to face. I remember sitting on a bed in the Beatles’ hotel room, sipping whiskey and Coke, the Beatles’ favourite tipple at that time. Meanwhile, three Wellington high school girls managed to clamber up a drain pipe in an attempt to meet their idols. While they had to be content with autographs in the corridor, I felt very privileged to have made it into the inner sanctum. It was a funny feeling knowing that because I was related to John, I was doing what thousands of young Kiwi girls would have given and arm and a leg to be able to do.
While I was talking to John, the other Beatles walked in. Paul McCartney was amazed at the family resemblance. When it was time to go, John asked me to take care of Aunt Mimi. You could sense the strong bond and love that John felt for Mimi, the woman who raised him. In fact one of the main reasons the Beatles visited New Zealand was because John knew that his aunt had several relatives out here, and he wanted to give something back to her.
After Mimi returned to England she and my father continued to write to each other until dad died in 1980. My family still keep in touch with the Liverpool connection through John’s cousin, Stanley Parkes. The Beatle legacy has been taken up by the next generation too. In 1987, my daughter Amanda wrote John’s life story for a Queen’s Award, the ultimate award in Girls Brigade.