Jenny Boyd, sister of George Harrison’s first wife, Pattie, and an ambassador for The Beatles Story in Liverpool, tells Abigail Healy her fascinating story
How did you first become involved with The Beatles?
It was when my sister, Pattie, began going out with George [Harrison]. We would often all go to the latest nightclubs in London together.
Why is now the ideal time for an exhibition about The Beatles in India at The Beatles Story in Liverpool?
It’s 50 years since they were in India. That time had such a huge impact on so many people. It was not only their music, but also their influence in bringing the benefits of meditation to the West.
How did you end up joining The Beatles’ trip to India in 1968?
I was staying with Pattie and George in Surrey, having returned from six months in San Francisco. One evening I went with them and joined the rest of The Beatles to see the guru, Maharishi, speak in London. Not long afterwards we saw Maharishi again at the retreat in Bangor. On our return to London, having discussed it with Pattie, George asked me if I’d like to accompany them to Maharishi’s ashram in Rishikesh. I had been on my own spiritual path for over a year and India figured enormously. I had longed to spend some time there. It was like a dream come true.
How long did you all stay there?
John and Cynthia [his wife], Pattie, George and I stayed at the ashram for almost two months. Ringo and his wife Maureen stayed for a few days and Paul, with his girlfriend Jane Asher, stayed for four or five weeks. The whole time we were there was like heaven on earth for me. I could not have been happier – the meditation, the beautiful surroundings, the peace and the joy of being among fellow meditators was everything I had previously been searching for without knowing it.
Did you continue to meditate after the trip?
We practised transcendental meditation every day in India, and the longer we were there the longer we spent in meditation. I don’t know if everyone continued to practise after we left, but I know some time later George was practising transcendental meditation and so was Pattie. I continued to meditate over the years and still do, even though it’s not transcendental meditation now.
What are your favourite memories of the trip?
They include sitting in the early morning sun on the roof of our bungalow with Pattie and Cynthia while we listened to George, Paul and John sharing their latest songs. Another memory is sitting in the freezing cold River Ganges with some fellow meditators, happy and playful. I remember one day when everyone from the ashram, including Maharishi, walked down to the Ganges while George, Paul and John, looking like minstrels, sang and played their guitars. We all sat together on the sand, singing to the music.
What is the highlight of the exhibition?
For me it’s the photographs in The Beatles in India room taken by Paul Saltzman. They bring our time at the ashram back to life.
What influences did India have on The Beatles and their music?
I imagine being at the ashram had a profound effect. For the first time since becoming famous they were able to be together in peaceful surroundings. It was as if the music just poured out of them, songs about everyday life at the ashram. My favourite was Mother Nature’s Son. It is difficult to choose, though, as there were so many great ones, and many of them I heard in their infancy.