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Three years ago, we wrote a story about English place names referring to money, which was published by the UK magazine Coin News, linked by the UK website Fun Wiith Words, and posted in this e-book. We mentioned Penny Bridge, Cumbria; Pennyfuir, Argyll & Bute; Pennyghael, Argyll & Bute; Pennyglen, South Ayrshire; Pennygown, Argyll & Bute, and Pennymoor, Devon.

Last month, Darrell Turner, Research Editor of Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, took us to task: "I was surprised not to see the Beatles' famed Penny Lane in the list" he told us in an email. We explained that our reviews of odd place names were usually restricted to villages, towns and cities.

However, Darrell's suggestion made us wonder whether we could find something of interest about Penny Lane (the place, not the song) on the internet. Among many references, we found a great description in "Notes from a Small Curate" whose parish is in the Beatles' hometown of Liverpool. That was a neat fit, since the Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, 6400 Brotherhood Way, Fort Wayne, Indiana, is "one of America's leading insurers of churches and related ministries."

The small curate is the Reverend John Davies, and this is what he posted in his blog (weblog) for Friday, August 2, 2002:

Penny Lane is in my ears and up my nose

I like walking through the parish on days like today; 'calm after the storm' sort-of days. People who were yesterday trapped inside, staring blankly at odd-Commonwealth and same-old-Gameboy Games, tentatively re-emerging.

Best bit this afternoon, was walking past two smiling young women tourists who were unselfconsciously taking each others pictures outside Sergeant Pepper's Bistro and the Penny Lane Wine Bar opposite. What's home to me is a great adventure to them. The Penny Lane road sign on the corner is surely the most-stolen one in the country. No wonder our city council is skint.

Funny living in a street made world-famous by a pop song. I guess that makes me and my neighbours the spiritual kin of the inhabitants of Baker Street (Gerry Rafferty), (Positively) 4th Street (Bob Dylan), Tenth Avenue (Freeze-Out - Bruce Springsteen), and of course the northern classic Beezley Street (John Cooper Clarke). Among others.

Murray Street (Sonic Youth) has been on my CD player for a little while. That's the place their Manhattan studios are based; they're the sounds they were creating on Sept 11th, and literally blew the dust off to complete later on last year. Penny Lane warms my heart. Murray Street makes my ears burn.

The Rev John, it seems, shares our fondness of quirky names, as when we checked his blog on December 11, 2003, we found this entry:
... I loved this little article they'd gleaned from a recent edition of the Yorkshire Post:

A recent property survey has identified the most popular names people are giving to their houses nowadays. Top of the list is The Cottage, a position it has held for some time. In 2nd place is Rose Cottage, up one place from 1998, and displacing The Bungalow, on the way down from 1st place in 1993 and now in 3rd position. 4th and 5th are Coach House and Orchard House respectively. The biggest fall is The White House, down from 7th to 29th (what might that tell us?), while Greenacres went from 24th to 45th.

Highest new entry in the Top 50 was The Old Post Office at no. 21, reflecting the growing popularity of closing down rural post offices. Other new entrants were The Stables, White Cottage, The Orchard, Primrose Cottage, The Granary, The Nook, The Old School and Honeysuckle Cottage - but it's goodbye to Hill View, Manor Farm and South View.

House names in Northern England appear to relate more to topography and industrial history, while Midlands names were more agricultural; Wales has a high maritime segment, and SE England fancies an apple and woodland theme.

"There's surely social comment in there somewhere," they observe. Too right, many blogs worth. But tonight I don't have time; I'm off now down to the old bus depot, now a glitzy pub serving guest 'real' ales...

John sounds like a real man of the people. His first book, published in 1992, was called Beaches and Baloney ("a decade's worth of poems"). Three years later, he quit a computing job to begin a new life as a church community worker. In 1997 he was a founder-member of the Merseyside and Region Church Action on Poverty campaigning group, and the following year began training for the Anglican ministry.

In 2000 he became a member of the Iona Community. Then, two years ago, at the age of 39, he became a priest... and fortunately for his many internet visitors, he still knows how to write a highly entertaining blog.



Copyright 2004

Eric Shackle

Story first posted January 2004

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