The night a Beatle came calling

By Zizi Sparks

50th anniversary of New Zealand tour sparks memories of visit from family friend George Harrison

Pauline and Noel Snelgrove took George Harrison back to his Auckland hotel after his late-night dinner with them.
Pauline and Noel Snelgrove took George Harrison back to his Auckland hotel after his late-night dinner with them.

Screaming fans, loud concerts and poached eggs on toast were all part of George Harrison's visit to New Zealand with the Beatles 50 years ago.

For Pauline Snelgrove, 67, it's the poached eggs she remembers.

Harrison visited her family - his former Liverpudlian neighbours - after one of the band's Auckland concerts, for a late-night dinner.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Beatles tour of New Zealand and Australia. Thousands of screaming fans waited as the band touched down at Wellington Airport on June 21, bringing Beatlemania to New Zealand.

But Harrison's midnight visit was "no big deal" to Mrs Snelgrove.

The grandmother of five grew up a six-minute walk from George Harrison's family in Liverpool and her mother Josie was good friends with his mother Lou.

"This is my mother's story, really," said Mrs Snelgrove.

She remembered when Harrison and his brother babysat her and her siblings, and fondly mentioned how her father, as an electrician, would fix his electric guitars.

When Mrs Snelgrove's family, the Hughes, moved to New Zealand in 1961, Josie and Lou exchanged letters.

Mrs Snelgrove wasn't a fan of the Beatles so when they came to Auckland, the 17-year-old wasn't interested in going to one of their concerts. But she was "dragged to the show" by her brother. Afterwards, Harrison paid the Hughes a visit. "He arrived in a Mini after the show with a big burly bodyguard," Mrs Snelgrove said.

"They came in and stayed until about three or four in the morning. We all sat and had poached eggs on toast with tomato sauce."

Mrs Snelgrove was given several signed photos by Harrison, which she has given away over the years. She only has one left.

She and her now-husband, Noel Snelgrove, dropped Harrison at the Royal International Hotel on Victoria Street - demolished in the 1980s - at 4am after taking him up Mount Eden in Mr Snelgrove's Holden to look at Auckland's lights.

"As we got closer to the hotel, the screams got louder, she said. "When Noel pulled up, policemen came up and said we couldn't stop there. When George rolled down the window the policemen apologised. Then he got out and we never saw George again."

Mrs Snelgrove said the family didn't tell many people of their visitor and some people think it's a made-up story.

"My eldest daughter wrote a high school assignment and told the story of George's visit and her teacher wrote, 'this story shows a good use of your imagination'."

The Beatles performed for less than 30 minutes during each concert.


Now and then

Concert costs for Beatles 1964 NZ tour, versus acts this year
The Beatles
25 Shillings 6 Pence (Inflation-adjusted, $120.40 today)
Justin Timberlake
$219.90 general admission, $99.90 to $269.90 seated
Katy Perry
$159.90 general admission, $109.90 to $199.90 seated
Rolling Stones
$165.55 general admission, $213.85 to $395.55 seated

- NZ Herald

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