George Harrison, Olivia Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Barbara Bach at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1999.
Newsreader remembers school friend
BBC newsreader Peter Sissons went to primary and secondary school with George Harrison. Here he recalls his fond memories of the Beatle.
"I last saw George at the Hampton Court flower show the summer before last. I was ambling around with my wife buying plants and he was ambling around with Olivia buying plants. I didn’t recognise him, he recognised me, because he was practically in disguise, he had his pork pie hat on and his old clothes. We sat down for a couple of hours and had a very, very long chat, one that was very revealing and one which I will always remember because I saw, in a way, the true George.
He was just recovering from the horrific attack on his life in his own home, he was clearly very, very shocked and damaged by that. He came close to death then, just a fraction of a centimetre from the knife killing him. The way he told me about it, this was a man of enormous gentleness and warmth and peace who spent most of his adult life campaigning for people not to hurt each other. And in the middle of the night in his own home he and his wife had to fight desperately to stop this maniac killing them both. I don’t think George could ever really understand that, why someone like him should be singled out in that way. I think that was a really profound shock to find anyone in his own home capable of that sort of evil.
He said what really hurt him most was that one of the policeman told him that when this man was being driven away from the scene… the man kept saying to the police in the car: ‘I did kill him didn’t I, I did kill him didn’t I?’
There was no doubt that this wasn’t anything to do with just inflicting fright, it was an attempt to murder him. I don’t think George could ever really understand that, why someone like him should be singled out in that way, even though of course it had happened to John Lennon.”
Sissons attended Dovedale Road Primary School in Liverpool at the same time as Harrison and fellow Beatle-to-be John Lennon.
"I didn’t know John, George didn’t know John. We only really got to know each other when we went to secondary school. John went to another Liverpool secondary school, Quarry Bank, and George and I went to the Liverpool Institute, now Lipa, the Liverpool institute of the performing arts and that’s where we all met Paul McCartney.
They weren’t products of the 60s, they invented the 60s. They were products of the late 40s and the 50s: post-war austerity. Hardly anyone had a TV set, everybody made their own entertainment and one of the big features of life at Lipa was the annual hobby show where everybody would bring in what they did for their hobby and put it on display.
The whole school was full of pastimes and hobbies, including those of course who were into the guitar. I remember to this day watching these chaps clinking away in the corner with handbooks of chords. They all wanted to be Duane Eddy, they were plinking and plonking away, no one could have told then they would have gone on to do anything. But it was creativity, you made your own entertainment and that’s where they came from.”