Dig a pony – maritime charity discovers it fed The Beatles horse

A maritime welfare charity that helped The Beatles when they fell on hard times has released a new book, which includes how it fed George Harrison horsemeat in Hamburg.

Whenever they played Hamburg, the band visited Sailors’ Society’s seafarers’ centre.

John Lennon and Harrison both had fathers who were seafarers and recognised the charity’s name from its centre in Liverpool.

The charity’s CEO, Stuart Rivers, said: “When we started gathering stories together for the book, we didn’t know exactly how we’d supported The Beatles.

“There were rumours they composed songs on the centre’s piano, but to find out we fed them horsemeat at Christmas was a bit of a surprise!”

The band first visited the centre in August 1960, two years before Love Me Do hit the UK charts.

The centre manager at the time, Jim Hawke, said they were never any trouble, were well behaved and didn’t even smoke. He remembered years later: “They never seemed to have any money – you could see them carefully counting out the coins and they always had the cheapest food.”

Ringo Starr also stayed at the centre while playing with Mersey-beat outfit Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, but it was Harrison who possibly had the most memorable experience.

He’d visited the centre with another Liverpool band, The Dominoes, whose guitarist John Frankland later remembered: “When they brought out the soup the minister attached to the mission asked: ‘Would anyone like to say grace?’ And George in his wonderful deadpan way said: ‘Yes, thank Christ for the soup.’ The minister said: ‘Any more of that and you’re out.’ We ate steaks and we found out later they were horse steaks. We’d eaten a horse for Christmas!”

Sailors’ Society has produced 200 Stories from the Sea to commemorate its bicentenary and all profits made will go to its work.

The book features 200 maritime tales from the charity’s archives and is available in paperback, hardback and in a limited edition sleeve.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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