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Biography of Stuart Sutcliffe by David Bedford
Sutcliffe was born on 23 June 1940. His parents were Charles and Martha (known as Millie) Sutcliffe—he was a seaman and she a teacher. Millie was Charles’ second wife, his first also being called Martha. Having briefly moved to England, they returned to Edinburgh, Scotland, for Stuart’s birth. Charles worked in the Cammell Laird shipyard on the Mersey, which brought them to Liverpool. Stuart had two younger sisters: Joyce and Pauline.
When Stuart’s family first moved to Liverpool from Edinburgh, they set up home at 17, Sedberg Grove (Huyton), where Stuart’s sister Pauline was born in 1944. The Sutcliffes then moved to 43, St. Anne’s Road (Huyton) in 1950. The family moved again to 22, Sandiway (Huyton) in 1953.
In 1956 when he enrolled at Liverpool Art College, Stuart’s first flat was at 83, Canning Street (Liverpool), not far from the college. It was a flat he shared with friend Rod Murray. However, he was back home by the summer of 1957. Stuart decided again to get his own flat for his second year at Liverpool Art College, and he rented a small attic flat at 12, Canning Street (Liverpool).
He then moved into a flat at 9, Percy Street (Liverpool) with his friend Rod. Stuart and Rod then moved to Gambier Terrace (Liverpool), a building with a Georgian facade in the shadow of the Anglican Cathedral. John Lennon also lived there for a spell. The Sutcliffe family moved from Huyton to 53, Ullet Road (Wavertree) on the edge of Sefton Park. It was to here that Stuart returned after being beaten up after a gig at Lathom Hall, Seaforth, in North Liverpool. The family then moved to 37, Aigburth Drive, (Aigburth), on the other side of Sefton Park.
For his schooling, Stuart attended Parkview Primary School (Huyton) from 1946 to
1950 before moving on to Prescot Grammar School (Huyton) from 1950 to 1956.
He left the grammar school with five ‘O’ levels, including art, for a place at the Liverpool Art College (Liverpool) where he met John Lennon in 1957. Stuart’s mother, Millie, was an active member of the Labour Party, taking the local
Huyton district constituency minutes and successfully helping Huyton Member of
Parliament (MP) Harold Wilson. After Millie had addressed the envelopes for the Labour Party, Stuart and a few neighbours delivered them. Later, Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister who recommended the M.B.E.s for The Beatles.
Stuart’s dad was Protestant (Church of Scotland) and his mother was Catholic—
a classic case of a “religious mixed marriage”. To make matters worse, Charles was
a divorced Protestant. Millie’s parents were opposed to the union on both grounds.
Charles and Millie had a civil ceremony and shortly after, Charles was shunned by the
community, causing him to lose his job. Charles
and Millie moved away from Scotland altogether.
Stuart sang weekly in the Protestant choir at
St. Gabriel’s in Huyton. He often led the procession
in the church while carrying the cross. After his
untimely death at the age of twenty-one, he was
buried in the Anglican cemetery in Huyton,
Liverpool, where his father is also buried.
When Millie died in 1983, Stuart’s sisters secretly
took her ashes and scattered them over Stuart’s
grave because as a Catholic, Millie couldn’t be
buried in the Anglican graveyard.
Stuart took piano lessons when he was a child,
and owned a Spanish guitar, a gift from his father,
from the age of fourteen. Despite what has been
written about him in the past, Stuart did have a
musical background. His sister Pauline said,
“He was in love with rock ‘n’ roll and loved being
on stage. His stage presence was excellent and
the female fans loved his ‘James Dean’ look”. Stuart joined The College Band, before suggesting the name “Beetles” for the group. Stuart was a very competent bassist and a lot better than he has been given credit for. He didn’t need to know many chords to play most of the songs. Stuart joined John, Paul and George to form the Beatals after being coaxed and harassed by John and Paul at The Casbah. He had just had a painting exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery, sponsored by John Moores, one of the founders of Littlewoods Pools. The piece he submitted was in two parts, but the second was never taken to the gallery. It was purchased by John Moores and with this money, John and Paul convinced Stuart to buy a bass guitar. He also painted the cellars of Allan Williams’ Jacaranda Club—only one small piece of the original remains as the rest fell off the wall or was removed because of the dampness. When Stuart stayed in Germany after the others were deported, George wrote to him telling him how crummy it would be without him in the band. Other bands let
Stuart play with them when the others returned to Liverpool. Pete Best was happy with Stu because drummers work closely with the bass player to provide the rhythm. These were not the actions of a band that wanted to get rid of their bassist; a musician who stood with his back to the audience, a myth perpetuated to this day.
Before Stuart arrived back in Liverpool, Paul had successfully taken up bass and was making a go of it. There was talk of asking Stuart to leave as they were doing so well without him but John wouldn’t hear of it. Stuart then rejoined the group, but it wasn’t long before Paul sensed the bass guitar job could be his. He harangued Stuart to the point where Stuart quit to concentrate on his art. With Stuart’s departure Paul was finally installed as The Beatles’ permanent bass player. By the time of The Beatles’ second visit to Hamburg, Stuart had enrolled at the Hamburg State School of Art. For two years he studied in Eduardo Paolozzi’s Art Master Class.
Stuart died in Hamburg on 10 April 1962 from a cerebral bleed in his brain. His funeral was at his home church of St. Gabriel (Huyton), where he had grown up. He was buried in Huyton Parish Cemetery.
by David Bedford
Taken from his book, “Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles”
Stuart Ferguson Victor Sutcliffe was vital to The Beatles for his influence on John Lennon and how he envisioned art. Even though he died at the age of twenty-one, the impact he had on the group was lasting.
43, St. Anne’s Road
83, Canning Street
12, Canning Street
9, Percy Street
53, Ullet Road
37, Aigburth Drive