Beatles autographs – with John Lennon’s greasy fish-and-chips finger smudge – to be auctioned by former Kenilworth teacher

By James Smith

13th Jun 2022 | Local News

The autograph book will be sold by Hansons Auctions on June 15 (Image by Hansons Auctioneers)
The autograph book will be sold by Hansons Auctions on June 15 (Image by Hansons Auctioneers)

A set of Beatles autographs – complete with John Lennon's fish-and-chip-fat finger smudge – could sell for thousands of pounds at auction.

A nervous teenage schoolgirl bagged the star signatures at a canteen in Birmingham in 1963 when the Fab Four were tucking into a chippy lunch.

Consequently, George Harrison's autograph includes a greasy smudge on his first name.

The signatures, which appear on one page of an autograph book, read: "love from The Beatles. Ringo Starr xxx – Paul McCartney xxx – George Harrison xxx – John Lennon xxxx".

In addition, the group's manager Brian Epstein has signed another page of the book.

The signatures date back to June 23, 1963 (Image by Hansons Auctioneers)

The autograph book, which contains many other names from the 1960s music scene, is set to go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers on June 15 with a guide price of £4,000-£4,500.

The seller, a 73-year-old retired teacher from Kenilworth, said she has a clear memory of how she got the autographs.

"I was really, really lucky – and privileged – to get those autographs that day. I remember absolutely everything about it. It was a lovely summer's day 59 years ago.

"I was only 14 at the time. My friend's mother worked in the design department at the ABC Weekend Television Studios in Aston, Birmingham, and the Beatles were filming there on June 23, 1963.

"They were in the city to pre-record a performance for TV show Thank Your Lucky Stars which was broadcast on June 29, 1963.

"My friend's mother arranged for us to go backstage. We walked into the canteen and there they were – The Beatles! It was pretty quiet. No one was bothering them. I suppose people had been told to leave them alone. They were queuing up at the food counter and they all plumped for fish and chips."

The seller said she was "very nervous" to go and speak to them but eventually went over and even wished McCartney a belated happy birthday.

The seller, a 73-year-old from Kenilworth, said she intends to split the money with her freind (Image by Hansons Auctioneers)

He was the first to sign, before passing the book around the table.

"They'd been picking up chips with their fingers and I remember him licking his lips and rubbing his fingers on his trousers to try to get the grease off before he signed," she added.

"He still put a greasy smudge on George Harrison's name. It was one of those old blotchy Biros. I suppose the inky smudge contains John Lennon's DNA.

"They were all so lovely to us, chatty and kind. It was very early days for The Beatles so perhaps the novelty of signing autographs hadn't worn off.

"We could hear loads of screaming girls outside the window of the canteen hoping for a glimpse of them. We watched the band perform for the show and you couldn't hear the music because there was so much screaming going on in the audience."

Later the same day they "bumped into" Brian Epstein walking down the staircase - he was "over the moon" to give his autograph as well.

The signature book is expected to fetch at least £4,000-£4,500 at auction (Image via Hansons Auctioneers)

"I've treasured the autographs for decades and kept them carefully wrapped up in polythene, usually on a book shelf. They've moved house with me many times. I must have shown them to hundreds of people and bored them with my story," she added.

"I am only selling now because my friend, whose mother got us backstage that day, lost her set of Beatles autographs which she got that same day. 

"I plan to share the proceeds with her. It seems only fair. Without her mother I would never have them. It's time for someone else to enjoy and treasure them."

Claire Howell, music consultant at Hansons, said: "This is a particularly lovely set of Beatles autographs with a fantastic back story and provenance. They deserve to do exceptionally well at auction."

The autograph book, lot 138, will be offered on June 15 in a Music Auction at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire.


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