3. Help! / She Loves You

Resize Billy

October 17, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, LIVERPOOL, Wondrous Cities

So, I first did some reading around the birds and discovered some interesting facts about them.

I asked around some colleagues and family members about them first, to gauge what they knew, or had grown up believing, naively imagining that some Liverpudlian youngsters ‘believe’ in the liver birds just as others will in Father Christmas or the Easter Bunny.

It turns out that not many did. Some hadn’t even heard the story!

To widen the net even further, I e-mailed the local paper, the Liverpool ECHO (whose logo is a liver bird with a rolled-up paper in its mouth) to ask if any of the readers of their ‘Flashback’ nostalgia section every Saturday knew anything about this myth and where it came from.

You see, I have always been fascinated by the process of lonely hearts, or more specifically, those ‘once seen’ or ‘rush hour crush’ messages that people host in the hope of finding that person their path once or often crossed with, just in case it was meant to be. I really like how the Echo offers a lo-fi Friends & Families Reunited service too, called ‘Old Pals’, and thought this might help me trace someone who could shed more light on the story I was following.

Part of my message stated:
“…I really enjoy the ‘Flashback’ feature every week, particularly the ‘Old Pals’ section, and wondered if you had ever done a feature on this topic or wanted to? Or, at the very least, could I through the newspaper attempt to trace any couples who might have fallen in love by the Liver Building or the other two birds in the city, and discover their stories? Thanks so much for reading my e-mail and in advance of your reply. Look forward to hearing from you.”

I didn’t hear from her.

I then put the feelers out via social networking sites too, as everybody does whenever they need / want anything nowadays, also, to no avail.

There was nothing I could do except go back and visit myself.

It’s a strange thing when you live in a city like this and get used to what are essentially world famous buildings (still a UNESCO heritage site, regardless of recent and potential architectural erections nearby), almost taking it for granted. I am sure that many of the people who work nearby, and pass the birds every day, or even in the Liver building itself, have grown oblivious to their charms and mystique too.

However it was quite exciting embarking on a trip to just observe them and the people that passed by one Saturday afternoon in September.

Remember how I told you that the female bird was looking out to sea, keeping an eye on the men?

Those men include a statue of Billy Fury.











For those uninitiated amongst you, Billy (real name Ronald Wycherley) was a huge star in the late 50’s, a sort of Scouse Elvis, for whom The Beetles (later to be renamed) once unsuccessfully auditioned as a backing band.

Mine and Billy’s paths had crossed a few years back, when I embarked upon a series of covert trips to fortune tellers in Blackpool to record their messages and track what then happened to me. My research taught me that Billy apparently regularly visited a relative of one of ‘my’ psychics who told him he would die aged 42, which he did.

He was also a keen birdwatcher, and featured on the cover of the last single released by The Smiths.

Arguably Billy’s most famous song ‘Halfway to Paradise’ (he did of course also sing ‘Wondrous Place’…) became the theme of my MA show, and to this day, it remains my song of choice when we frequent a karaoke bar. It’s funny to see the older generation’s response to my poor attempts at replicating his fantastic voice and performances: generally it goes down well, and they share their stories about him.

Anyway there is a bronze statue there, overlooked by the female bird, of Billy in his famous stance. He is pointing back at her.

The day we visited the statue, someone who loved him had placed a peony in his hand and a bouquet at his feet (see image above), featuring a simple message:












My marveling at this sight was interrupted by a couple, still very much in love, of whom the wife was wearing a handmade t-shirt which simply said ‘BILLY FURY: A THOUSAND STARS’.

We got talking about ‘beautiful Bill’ – this could well have been the mysterious Shirl, or the peony donor, but I was too intrigued to ask.











As they left, she wanted her photo taken with ‘him’ before they wandered off towards the Liver buildings, hand in hand…

Avatar of Jonathan Greenbank

Jonathan Greenbank

An avid collector of stories, objects & ideas, I am fascinated by those secret narratives unwinding within our cities, noticed only by those involved and observant onlookers. Working across a variety of media, from pencil drawings to scrapbooks, film & installation, even lasering my eyes to become a superhero for my MA. All this can be found on my blog www.jonathangreenbank.com