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On James Penny, slave trader of Liverpool

From World Media

Beatles' song Penny Lane in controversy

Slave trade links threaten Penny Lane legacy

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LONDON: It is arguably Liverpool's most famous street, immortalised by Paul McCartney as being "there beneath the blue suburban skies". But under a controversial plan to right old wrongs, Penny Lane could soon be no more.

Liverpool council is in the midst of a debate over whether Penny Lane and other suburban streets should undergo name changes to remove their links with the slave trade.

Named after the wealthy slave trader, James Penny, the lane is one of seven streets that may be renamed after people who fought against slavery, rather than 18th-century traders who profited from it.

The Beatles' take on postwar life in the street has led to great affection for Penny Lane over the years. Thousands are drawn to the stretch of road to see if there really is a "barber showing photographs of every head he's had the pleasure to have known".

The renaming proposal has caused much angst among those protective of the Beatles' legacy. Phil Coppell, childhood friend of McCartney, said that renaming Penny Lane was ludicrous. "Penny Lane has become synonymous with the Beatles and is part of Liverpool's and the UK's proud music heritage," he said. "To rename it would be a travesty."

A Liverpool councillor, Barbara Mace, said the aim was to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain, which falls next year. "It has never been my suggestion that every street be renamed, but some streets are named after slave traders who were deeply involved in this awful activity," she said.

Tarleton Street, Manesty's Lane and Clarence Street would be replaced by names linked to the abolition of slavery such as William Roscoe and William Wilberforce.


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The Merseyside Campaign Against Racist Terrorism says the street names should be replaced with names that celebrate successful black people. Critics see the move as an attempt to whitewash history.

The director of the Beatles Story tour, Jerry Goldman, said: "It is a historical fact that Liverpool's fortunes were built on the slave trade. I am sure even the Beatles would have been unaware of its origins. To them it was just a place to hang out."

(The Guardian, UK)

Arrow graphicReferences: Item from Sydney Morning Herald, 11-7-2006, and a story much seen on the Net at the time.

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