Beatles' 'Eleanor Rigby' Mystery May Be Solved Eleanor Rigby may be a real person after all. A 97-year-old document up for auction in London later this month seems to contain clues about her identity. The current owner of the document, Annie Mawson, gets to the heart of the mystery surrounding The Beatles' iconic song.
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Beatles' 'Eleanor Rigby' Mystery May Be Solved

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Beatles' 'Eleanor Rigby' Mystery May Be Solved

Beatles' 'Eleanor Rigby' Mystery May Be Solved

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And finally, a little something for all you Beatles fans.

(Soundbite from song "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles)

Mr. PAUL McCARTNEY: (Singing) Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in a church where a wedding has been, lives in a dream...

COHEN: There are plenty of stories about the origins of this song. Legend has it that Eleanor Rigby was a fictional character, that the two names were chosen by Paul McCartney based on an actress he knew and a liquor store in Bristol, but there may well have been an actual, real Eleanor Rigby.

And Annie Mawson believes that she may have proof. She joins us now on the phone from Cumbria, England. Welcome to the program, Annie. You...

Ms. ANNIE MAWSON: Thank you so much.

COHEN: You run a charity called Sunbeams Trust, and you use music to help people with physical and mental health issues. And the story goes that, nearly 20 years ago, you wrote a letter to Paul McCartney. What did that letter say?

Ms. MAWSON: Well, in my letter, I actually told him about the transformative power of music and especially how some of his songs have helped our children communicate. And so, I wrote a very emotional 11-page letter, all handwritten.

COHEN: 11 pages?

Ms. MAWSON: Yes. And it was just full of stories of the children who had improved so much through music who didn't even speak.

COHEN: And then, about nine months later, you actually get something in the mail. What did you get?

Ms. MAWSON: I did. Well, first of all, the envelope was exciting because it was a brown envelope stamped with his Paul McCartney world tour logo, unique to him. So, I was very intrigued because I knew it had to come from him.

And inside this envelope was a beautiful ancient parchment from 1911 from a hospital in Liverpool. And on the document, there were three stamps. I saw it was a roll-call of names, and they'd all received their wages, and one of them was a scullery maid called E. Rigby, and she'd received one pound, three and 11 pence, and then she'd signed for her money.

COHEN: Annie, Paul McCartney has often said that Eleanor Rigby wasn't a real person. So, do you think that this document disputes that? Was there, in fact, a real Eleanor Rigby that inspired the song?

Ms. MAWSON: Well, why else would he send me it? That's what I don't understand if it isn't. Maybe it's just another pointer into why he did write "Eleanor Rigby." All I know is that he sent me this beautiful document, and it's going up for auction on November 27th.

COHEN: Any idea how much this document might fetch?

Ms. MAWSON: Well, they're hoping it might even bring 500,000 pounds, but the sooner we can get the money, the sooner we can build our center.

COHEN: The song, "Eleanor Rigby," it's a beautiful song, but it's also a really sad song. It's all about lonely people. Do you ever use that song as part of your musical therapy?

Ms. MAWSON: Well, we do. I actually play the harp and sing, and a lot of the songs are very poignant. And I could say that we cry a lot at Sunbeams, but we also laugh a lot. And I think people need to. But I think there's a time and a place for the right music, and that's one of the songs we love.

COHEN: Annie Mawson is the founder of the Sunbeam's Trust Charity, and she is the current owner of a document that could provide a clue to the identity of Eleanor Rigby. Thanks so much, Annie.

Ms. MAWSON: Oh, thank you.

(Soundbite from song "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles)

Mr. McCARTNEY: (Singing) All the lonely people, where do they all come from...

COHEN: Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from I'm Alex Cohen.


And I'm Madeleine Brand.

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