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Beatles biographer Hunter Davies credits John Lennon letters with securing his OBE

Hunter Davies at Hampstead Parish Church book sale in 2012. Picture: Nigel Sutton. Hunter Davies at Hampstead Parish Church book sale in 2012. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Monday, June 16, 2014
5:37 PM

The Beatles’ John Lennon famously sent his MBE back to Her Majesty in a protest against the establishment having been recognised alongside his band members in the 1965 Queen’s birthday honours.

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Among the names in this year’s birthday honours list, released on Friday, is Dartmouth Park journalist and author Hunter Davies, well-known for penning the only authorised biography of The Beatles.

But ironically it is Lennon’s handwritten work which Mr Davies believes helped to secure his OBE for services to literature.

“You’re never told why [you are awarded an honour],” said the former Ham&High columnist. “I’m assuming it’s because last year I donated some Lennon letters to the British Library so that’s probably why I got it.”

The 78-year-old, of Boscastle Road, donated letters and lyrics by Lennon worth £1million to the library in May last year through a new government tax relief scheme.

His donation, including handwritten lyrics to classic Lennon song Strawberry Fields Forever and personal letters from the musician, was the first donation made through the Cultural Gifts Scheme, encouraging people to give gifts to the nation for a tax reduction.

Mr Davies, who writes columns for The Sunday Times and New Statesman, could potentially reduce his tax bill by £319,500 over the next five years under the scheme.

He said his novelist wife Margaret Forster and daughter Caitlin Davies, also a well-known author, found his award for services to literature “very amusing”.

“It’s my wife whose the literary figure, not me,” said Mr Davies. “My wife said, ‘You’re not going to take it are you?’, and I said, ‘Yes, that’s 1,000 words [for my columns] easily.’

“I’m well-pleased. It’s amazing, it’s a talking point. I’m not up with the real nobs but it’s a nice thing to have.”

Asked if he had been contacted by any of the surviving Beatles following news of his OBE, Mr Davies said: “Paul McCartney’s brother Michael just e-mailed me about it.

“I quoted my wife saying she would divorce me if I got knighted and he said, ‘Quite right, there is no empire anyway.’”

In more recent years, Mr Davies gained public attention for ghost-writing the autobiographies of English football stars Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney.

The Rooney book, published in July 2006, attracted a libel suit from the player’s former manager David Moyes which was settled for more than £500,000.

Mr Davies said: “It was a terrible failure. I was happy with the content. I thought I did particularly well to get so much out of a 19-year-old but the book was a failure because it was before a World Cup and he didn’t do very well.

“The Gazza book was amazing, it sold 450,000 in hardback, more than The Beatles.”

Commenting on Rooney’s current form in the Brazilian World Cup, he added: “It’s very sad. He’s not playing very well.”

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