Many born in this great city recognise the debt they owe for its multi-faceted contribution to their outlook and character, their culture and philosophy. Some with wealth and position have sought to repay it with bequests of land and buildings, others by their labours for their fellow Liverpudlians. But Pete McGovern presented his city with a unique gift, a simple song which countless hordes of us would bellow out in ill-tuned vigour wherever we roamed to assert that unmatched pride we have in our birthplace.
In my Liverpool Home, In my Liverpool Home
We speak with an accent exceedingly rare,
Meet under a statue exceedingly bare,
And if you want a Cathedral, we've got one to spare
In my Liverpool Home
Peter John McGovern was born in Liverpool on 28th October 1927, the youngest of fourteen children to a Liverpool Irish couple Thomas and Annie. His father was a dock labourer and the family lived at 18 Regent Street L3 off Great Howard Street. The house was, in the words of his song, “down by the docks”, the street still existing but now devoid of housing. The family later moved to 8 Lesseps Road L8.
In 1950 he married Audrey McGann (transposed into Bridget McGann in his song) and they moved to London where she had secured a job with the National Union of Railwaymen. At this time Pete became a railwayman and remained so until his retirement in 1992. They soon came back to Liverpool, living with Pete’s mother at Lesseps Road. They later moved to a flat at 58A Central Avenue, Speke L24 and then to a maisonette in Grassendale, 23 Beechwood Garden L19.
Pete and Audrey were lovers of folk music and with a friend started the Wash House folk club at Sampson and Barlow’s grill, a venue much used by The Spinners. He wrote In My Liverpool Home in 1961 and it soon became a favourite with audiences and performers alike. Particularly associated with The Spinners, to an extent that many mistakenly thought they had penned it, it has been recorded by many other artistes. McGovern freely admitted that he ‘stole’ the melody from one of his favourite Marty Robbins’ songs, Strawberry Roan. He wrote many other songs, publishing a book of them in 1995 entitled In My Liverpool Head.
There have been many verses added over the years, and in 1982 the Liverpool Echo reported that Pete McGovern had written a special verse for the visit of Pope John Paull II
We’ll wave and we’ll shout
And we’re not going to stop
Till we’re a thousand times louder
Than they are on the Kop.
In addition to his musical pursuits Pete McGovern was an active trade unionist and campaigner. In his retirement, as secretary of the Merseyside Pensioners’ Club, he was active in pressing demands for pensions to be linked to the cost of living. The campaigning tradition in his family is being carried on by his granddaughter Alison McGovern, who has been the Member of Parliament for Wirral South since 2010.
Pete McGovern died peacefully in his sleep at his holiday home in Wales on 1st April 2006.
Pete McGovern's home from the 1930's until the late 1950's.
From the Liverpool Echo in 1965 a typical folk line-up including Pete McGovern.
There is a short Wikipedia entry. Very readable is Spencer Leigh's obituary written for the Independent. A version of In My Liverpool Home promoting the International Garden Festival in 1984 can be viewed on YouTube. You can check out the source of Pete McGovern's melody in the YouTube video of Marty Robbins singing Strawberry Roan.
© Liverpool Footprints