Patti Boyd & Letterkenny
“Something in the way she moves, attracts me like no other lover…”
The Beatles (1969)
“And then she asks me, as I turn out the light, I said my darling, you look wonderful tonight.”
Eric Clapton (1977)
Pub quiz aficionados will no doubt sagely inform you that both of these hit songs were actually written about the same woman – Patti Boyd – who was married to George Harrison between 1966-1977 and Eric Clapton between 1979-1989, but not so many could tell you that she also has connections to Letterkenny, as she is descended from the Boyds of Ballymacool.
John Boyd built the family mansion on the Main Street in 1672, having arrived with his brothers William and Robert in the late 1660s. This mansion was approximately where the former Charles Kelly Hardware shop stands today. His grandson, also called John Boyd, built a new palatial mansion on the grounds of Ballymacool in 1783 after purchasing the estate from Samuel Span. His fifth son, Archibald, was born in 1755 and it is through him that we get Patti’s lineage. His great-great-great granddaughter, Patti Boyd, was born on 17 March 1944, in Taunton, Somerset, the first child to Colin Ian Langdon Boyd and Diana Frances Drysdale.
Between 1948 and 1953, she lived in Nairobi, Kenya and after returning to England, she moved to London in 1962 and worked as a shampoo girl at Elizabeth Arden’s salon, until a client who worked for a fashion magazine inspired her to begin work as a model.
Patti began her modeling career in 1962, in London, New York and Paris, being photographed by David Bailey and appearing on the cover of Vogue. In 1964, she was cast in the new Beatles movie, “A Hard Day’s Night”, where she met the enigmatic guitarist George Harrison. They were engaged on 25 December 1965, and married on 21 January 1966, in a ceremony at a registry office with Paul McCartney as best man.
From the late 1960s, Eric Clapton and Harrison were close friends, and began writing and recording music together. It was at this time that Clapton fell in love with Patti. His 1970 album with Derek and the Dominos, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”, was written to proclaim his love for her, particularly the hit song “Layla”. Following a short affair with Clapton, she separated from Harrison in 1974 and their divorce was finalised in 1977. Patti then moved in with Clapton and married him in 1979. Sadly, their marriage was short lived as she left him in 1984, with their divorce being finalised in 1989.
A year after his split with Patti Boyd, George Harrison married Olivia Trinidad Arias, with whom he had one son, but sadly he died in 2001, aged 58, from lung cancer. Following a long time relationship with Lory Del Santo, Eric Clapton married Melia McEnery in January 2001. Patti Boyd never remarried though. Today she works as a photographer and has held exhibitions of her work, entitled “Through the Eyes of a Muse”, in New York, California, London and Dublin while her autobiography, “Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me”, topped the New York Times Best Seller’s list in 2007.
In our last post, we discovered Michael Palin’s connections to Letterkenny. Now we can see that the town has further connections to the swinging sixties with genealogical connections to the wife of a Beatle. Ironically, when the Monty Python team required funding to make their second movie, “The Life of Brian” in 1979, the money was provided for Palin and his cohorts from none other than George Harrison, ex-husband to Patti Boyd of Ballymacool.