Robin Marriot, the son of George and Mary Marriot, contacted ACERT to share the story of how John and Yoko Lennon supported a caravan school on a roadside camp in Bedfordshire.
I came across your report concerning the above schools. My Dad, George Marriott, a disabled WW2 veteran, and my Mum, Mary, herself disabled, although not Gypsies themselves, were heavily involved in Gypsy Welfare in Bedfordshire from the mid 1960s until the 1980s, due to the inhumane way in which Gypsy people were being treated throughout the county.
As you know, at that time, with no permanent sites for Gypsy families, it was impossible for their children to receive even a basic education and my Dad had the idea to take education to the children via roadside caravan schools.
But how to fund them? I was 19 years old at the time and a Beatles fan. I was aware that John & Yoko Lennon were involved in a number of projects outside of making music so I suggested that my Dad should write to them and ask for financial help to start up the caravan school project.
Some time later, out of the blue, on 1 December 1969, a telegram was delivered saying, “We are behind your project. Will send money immediately. Love John & Yoko.”
A cheque for £100 duly arrived and my Dad negotiated the purchase of a second hand 32 foot long caravan that would be sited on the roadside close to the M1 bridge on the Caddington to Luton Road. Local press covered the story which was picked up by the nationals.
Much to my Dad’s embarrassment The Daily Mirror incorrectly reported that the Lennons had donated £1,000 so he immediately contacted them (John & Yoko) to alert the to the incorrect report.
A few days later a letter arrived from John & Yoko with a cheque for £300 and a “PS” saying, “Use it well, but don’t tell!”. With the additional funding a second caravan was bought that Mr Gerwyn Davies, a supporter of the cause over many years, allowed to be sited at his school in Kensworth.
Unfortunately the Caddington school was burnt and destroyed by so called “vigilantes” or brainless idiots as my Dad referred to them.
I remember well Gratton Puxon and Tom Acton and their involvement, as well as Jeremy Sandford the author of Cathy Come Home and Yehudi Menuhin the violinist.
I was pleased to hear that Gerwyn and Mrs Davies are still with us. My Dad was a great admirer of him and the way he embraced “The Cause” in spite of the unpopularity of the project among local residents.
As a footnote, when my Dad died in 1996 the Luton News and Dunstable Gazette (they referring to him as the “Gypsy Champion”) reported the event. To our surprise a number of Gypsies attended the funeral, some of them were by this time adults who had attended the schools and been taught to read and write !
With kind regards,