Fab Four's Kiwi caps worth a bob or two

By Mathew Dearnaley

The Beatles with the borrowed school caps during their visit to Auckland in 1964. Photo / John Baker collection
The Beatles with the borrowed school caps during their visit to Auckland in 1964. Photo / John Baker collection

Michael Willison did not understand the fuss when he rocked up with a set of school caps in 1964 to adorn the world's most famous mop-tops.

Nor would he have known that the caps would be likely to fetch thousands of dollars each nowadays, if anyone owning them could prove they were once worn by the Beatles.

The Woman's Weekly chief photographer, now retired but still living in Auckland, said yesterday he had not known just how big the Mersey side group had become when he arrived for a picture session at their hotel.

That dawned on him only during their subsequent concert, at the Auckland Town Hall, when he again photographed the Fab Four and feared foot-stamping fans "might bring down the balcony if we were not careful".

"It was complete and utter mayhem," he said, confessing that he was in his early 30s at the time and possibly not fully in tune with youth culture, although he enjoyed the Beatles' music.

Mr Willison recalled that he and his colleagues rustled up the school caps to give the hotel photo shoot a local touch and to provide readers with something extra for having to wait the six weeks it took for the Woman's Weekly colour pages to be published in those days.

"We did it to give it a New Zealand flavour," said Mr Willison of the session in which he photographed George Harrison and Ringo Starr wearing Mt Albert Grammar caps, and Paul McCartney the insignia of Avondale College.

John Lennon, in keeping with his more erudite image, wore a university cap and gown.

Mr Willison believes the caps were likely to have been borrowed from a uniform shop. He does not have any idea where they have ended up.

But veteran Auckland auctioneer Dunbar Sloane Snr told the Herald that if the Beatles had signed the caps, or if whoever now owned them had any other proof they were worn for the photo shoot, they would probably be worth $3000 to $4000 each.

- NZ Herald

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