Duckie

   

Margaret Duxbury " Duckie"Margaret Duxbury was a student at Liverpool College of Art. Sadly, she died in July 2000. Margaret had four children, Esme, Zoe, Edward and Ivan. Attending her funeral was Rod Murray, a former student friend from the college. Ed Chapman, one of her sons, reminisced about his mother for us:

"Margaret joined the art college a year after John and, I think, Stuart. She shared classes with them and said she or Stuart was always top in the class. She excelled at painting and went on to have a great deal of success in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s (as Margaret Chapman) with her paintings of Edwardian street scenes selling in 50 countries around the world. Several of her exhibitions were sell-outs.

"What of her college days? Well, she was Stuart's girlfriend and lived with him, Rod and Diz at 3 Gambier Terrace. John Lennon was invited to stay later when he moved out of his house with Aunt Mimi.

"She recalled the flat's having a wooden fire escape up which Paul and George used to climb to get in to rehearse - through the window. She remembered Paul coming in through the window and saying 'Ey up, Duckie' or such (as you know, she was known as 'Duckie'). She thought young George was lovely, quiet and very good-looking. They would rehearse at the flat. John asked her what the band should be called and she suggested the John Lennon Quartet, which John liked.

The flatmates broke up all the wooden furniture in the flat and used it as firewood, which not surprisingly upset the landlady when she came round. John, Paul and George all used to cheat at Monopoly to the extent that Margaret would refuse to play the game with them.

She remembered how John would hang about in the art college corridors, leaning on a wall or radiator with his friend Geoff Mohammed and others and he would always have some snide comment to make. She and her friends hated walking up the stairs past them. Lennon would have some witty put down which the girls dreaded.

John, Margaret said, was also always imitating spastics and cripples. He would pull faces of and at them, being particularly cruel. She didn't think much of John's artistic abilities in class, certainly not compared to Stuart.

The first time she was alone with John was at 3 Gambier Terrace. John was waiting for Stu. He had not moved in at this stage. Margaret was worried, thinking he would be the same acerbic guy, ever ready with a put-down. But, of course he showed a different side. In fact he handed her some writing he had recently completed. It was mainly conversation between John and Aunt Mimi as he came home at night.

'That you John?"
"No, it's Winston Churchill."
"You all right?"
"Yes, go back to Bed."

Duckie"That sort of thing. Anyway, it must have been a bit more evocative as Margaret told John it was very good. Did he know the book 'The Catcher In The Rye' that was similar in its use of conversation where the speaker is not identified with he said - or she said?

"John had not read it, nor even heard of it. Margaret lent him her copy (never returned). She maintained that she heard John later say that 'The Catcher In The Rye' was one of his favourite books. Of course, John's killer (another M. Chapman) made his own twisted interpretation of the book.

Like most students, she smoked rolled cigarettes in Ye Cracke. 

She was born in Darwen, Lancashire and for the last 14 years of her life lived in Southport.
Text and photos of Margaret © Ed Chapman. Photo of Stuart courtesy of Rod Murray.


(Editor's note: I have fond memories of Margaret who, I remember at the time, had an intense crush on Rod (Jones or Murray, both of whom shared the flat? I remember Margaret telling me she had a crush on Rod Jones, Rod Murray says 'no', she was his girlfriend - although I thought Rod's girlfriend was Diz. Rod did say that Margaret wasn't Stuart's girlfriend. Sadly, Rod Jones died in October 2002). At an all-night party in an artist's flat off Duke Street, she'd had an argument with Rod Jones and was distressed, so I spent the hours until morning talking to her and then walked her to Central Station.

Ed says, "In Ray Coleman's book (John Winston Lennon) it mentions Margaret being woken up and scared by potatoes with straws sticking out of them. This was not the case, she told me. In fact, she had helped make the spidery-potatoes with the others and John and did not wake to be frightened by them."

Art students having fun. Rod Murray, Stuart Sutcliffe and Duckie (2nd from right) I remember the occasion. It was a party at the top floor of the flat in Huskisson Street. The main room had a double bed, and in the kitchen there was a record player on which Frank Sinatra's 'Songs for Swinging Lovers' was played and re-played throughout the night.

At one point in the early hours John devised a game and asked us all to sit in a circle on the floor. One person was to say the first thing that came into his head and the person next to him did the same and so on, round and round the circle, time and time again. John did come out with words such as 'spastics' and 'cripples' and, on reflection, it was a clever sort of game, which in some ways could reveal thoughts in a person's head, which they exposed through the speed and spontaneity of the game.

"Margaret had indeed become tired and lay on the bed. When the game finished John noticed she was asleep and in his glee came up with the spider idea. He got a bag of potatoes from the kitchen and picked out a selection, then had us stick matchsticks to them to imitate a spider's legs. Then we tied about half a dozen of them from the ceiling dangling above Margaret's head.

"I don't remember what happened later as I fell asleep myself. In those days, at parties, we usually kipped on the floor, or on chairs or settees or whatever).

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