Eleanor Rigby document fetches $177,000

LONDON Thu Nov 27, 2008 11:04pm GMT

A salary register from Liverpool City Hospital featuring the name E. Rigby, a scullery maid who has signed for her monthly wage. REUTERS/Fame Bureau/Handout

A salary register from Liverpool City Hospital featuring the name E. Rigby, a scullery maid who has signed for her monthly wage.

Credit: Reuters/Fame Bureau/Handout

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LONDON (Reuters) - A 97-year-old document that contains clues to the identity of Eleanor Rigby, the subject of one of the Beatles' best-loved songs, sold for 115,000 pounds ($177,000) at auction on Thursday.

The total fell well short of high estimates of around 500,000 pounds for the piece of Beatles memorabilia.

The money will go to the seller Annie Mawson and her charity the Sunbeams Music Trust (www.sunbeamsmusic.org), which uses music to help people with special needs.

The manuscript is a salary register from Liverpool City Hospital and features the name and signature of E. Rigby, a scullery maid who has signed for her monthly wage. Her annual earnings were 14 pounds.

According to Mawson, the document was sent to her in 1990 by former Beatle Paul McCartney when she wrote to him on behalf of her charity.

"I wrote ... to Paul and asked him for half a million pounds. But by the end of the letter I just said 'Look, I know you're a very caring person and I feel it's a privilege to share my story with you'," she told Reuters before the sale.

"Nine months later, in June 1990, this amazing envelope arrived in the post. It was nine months after I'd written to him, which was part of the mystery because you always think it ended up in the waste paper basket."

She said the envelope containing the document dated 1911 featured an official Paul McCartney tour stamp. The singer was on a world tour around that time.

Mawson did not immediately realize the importance of the register until she read the list of names and spotted E. Rigby.

The document offers one of the clearest clues yet as to the identity of Eleanor Rigby, the woman in the song of the same name who dies alone with no one to mourn her. According to music Web sites, previously McCartney has said the heroine of the poignant song was fictional.

The grave of an Eleanor Rigby was also discovered in the churchyard of St. Peter's in Woolton, Liverpool, close to where McCartney met John Lennon in 1957.

"I wonder just how much Paul McCartney meant to unmask when he passed it on," said Ted Owen, managing director of the Fame Bureau which sold the manuscript in London.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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