Eleanor Rigby's Grave
What do we know about the real woman behind one of the Beatles' most famous songs?
On the evening of July 6, 1957, John Lennon was introduced to Paul McCartney by a mutual friend after Lennon’s band played a small show at St Peter’s church in Woolton, a village on the outskirts of Liverpool. The meeting took place in the hall across the street from the church. (Today, a plaque on the front of the hall commemorates the historic meeting.)
Earlier that day, Lennon’s band the Quarry Men had played during the Woolton village fete. The afternoon stage was set up on the school grounds directly behind the church. Lennon and McCartney would regularly take short cuts through the church grounds in the early days before they became The Beatles. In the cemetery at St. Peter’s, a gravestone bears the name of Eleanor Rigby, which would eventually become the title of a 1966 hit song written by McCartney and included on the Beatles album Revolver. The grave is located in the section of the cemetery to the left of the church, in the second row facing the street, just to the right of the cemetery’s center walkway. The gravestone also features inscriptions for several other members of the Rigby family.
McCartney attributed the name to a combination of the actress Eleanor Bron, and the name of a store in Bristol, “Rigby & Evens Ltd, Wine & Spirit Shippers.” He also later admitted he might have unconsciously borrowed her name from the gravestone. In any event the details about the Eleanor Rigby in the song are purely fictional. According to the gravestone and census data, the real Eleanor was born in 1895 to parents Mary Rigby and Arthur Whitfield. She worked in a hospital in Liverpool, and in 1930 married a man named Thomas Woods. Eleanor lived in Woolton her whole life, and died at the age of 44 in 1939.
In 2017, deeds for the Rigby family grave space went up for auction, alongside an 1899 miniature Bible inscribed with Eleanor’s name, and, in a separate lot, the original handwritten score for the song. McCartney again emphasized at the time that his use of the name was entirely out of his imagination and not based on the actual person.
Know Before You Go
The gravestone is located in the section of the cemetery to the left of the church, in the second row facing the street, just to the right of the cemetery's centre walkway.
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