About Bill Harry
“I currently have over 400 completed articles which, if I post one blog a week, will cover eight years – and that’s not counting the extra features that I’ll complete during that time as I’m still interviewing almost on a daily basis. The blogs will contain a lot of my previously unseen copyright images, plus material people haven’t seen before.”
Harry was born in Smithdown Road Hospital (now demolished), in Liverpool, Lancashire, on 17 September 1938. He came from a poor Liverpudlian background and was brought up in a rough neighbourhood near Liverpool’s dockyards. His father ( John Jelicoe Harry) was killed during the war on the SS Kyleglen British Steam Merchant ship none of the crew survived and he died on 14 December 1940 aged 25, the ship was torpedoed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean by a German U boat. He attended the Catholic St. Vincent’s Institute, but had to get used to the priests dispensing corporal punishment on a regular basis. Because of his small stature, Harry was beaten by his classmates, being once kicked in the appendix and “left for dead”. His mother had no option but to transfer him elsewhere.
Harry became interested in science fiction and read comics by candlelight (the house had no electricity), and eventually joined the Liverpool Science Fiction Society. At the age of 13, he produced his own science fiction fanzine, Biped, using a Gestetner machine to print 60 copies. His pen friend at the time was Michael Moorcock; the writer of science fiction and fantasy novels. After winning a scholarship to the Junior School of Art in Gambier Terrace, Liverpool, Harry started his first school newspaper, Premier.
The Liverpool College of Art at 68 Hope Street, Liverpool, which Harry, Lennon and Sutcliffe all attended
At the age of 16, Harry obtained a place at Liverpool’s College of Art at 68 Hope Street. After studying typography and page layouts, he borrowed the college’s duplicating machine and published a newspaper called Jazzin 1958, which reported concerts at the Liverpool Jazz Society club, the Temple Jazz Club and the Cavern Club. He also worked as assistant editor on University of Liverpool’s charity magazine, Pantosphinx, and on a music newsletter for Frank Hessy’s musical instruments store called Frank Comments. The title was suggested by the owner, Frank Hesselberg, as a play on his own comments, but was abandoned after a few issues.
Harry received a in design while at the Liverpool Art College and became the first student in the new Graphic Design course, eventually winning a Senior City Art Scholarship. Harry maintained that students at art college should be in their thoughts and actions and not like the “dilettantes and dabblers”, whom Harry disapproved of for wearing duffle coats and turtle neck sweaters. One of the college’s artists and teachers, Arthur Ballard, later stated that Harry and Sutcliffe both overshadowed Lennon at college, explaining that they were both “extremely well educated, and very eager for information”. Harry organised a students’ film society, where he showed Orphee, by Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dalí, and Luis Buñuel’s, L’Age d’Or.
Meeting Lennon had been a shock for Harry, as Lennon often dressed like a Teddy boy, and was a disruptive influence at the college. Despite his misgivings about Lennon, Harry introduced him to Sutcliffe, who was a small, softly-spoken and shy student, who had painted a portrait of Harry. The three often spent time together at the Ye Cracke pub in Rice Street, or on the top floor of the Jacaranda club (run by Williams, who later managed the Beatles). Harry met his then 16-year-old future wife-to-be, Virginia Sowry, at the club. Harry, Lennon, Sutcliffe and Rod Murray saw the poet Royston Ellis at Liverpool University in June 1960. Having been disappointed with Ellis’ performance, Harry proposed the idea that they should call the assembled quartet of friends the Dissenters, and make Liverpool famous: Sutcliffe and Murray with their paintings, Harry’s writing and Lennon’s music.