PETER McGOVERN, composer of one of Liverpool's most famous songs, has died at the age of 78.

The grandfather-of-five, who wrote In My Liverpool Home more than 40 years ago, passed away in his sleep on Saturday.

Made famous by folk group The Spinners in the 1960s, the song has become an emotional anthem for generations of Merseysiders.

Speaking from the family home in Bromborough, Wirral, last night, Mr McGovern's son Mike, 52, said his father had left a "legacy" to the city.

He told the Daily Post: "The song is just him. It is what he felt about his city and the people of his city.

"They were more important to him than anything else."

Mr McGovern, who had been in seemingly good health, died at the holiday home he shared with his wife, Audrey, in North Wales.

Friends and family said he watched his beloved Liverpool's 2-0 triumph against West Bromwich Albion on the television, drank two cans of Guinness and completed his daily crossword before going to bed. He never woke up.

Tony Davis, of The Spinners, last night paid tribute to his friend: "He was a smashing bloke, a delightful man.

"He was great fun and always had a quip. He never had a bad word to say about anyone."

The youngest of 14 children, Mr McGovern was born in Regent Street in the docklands north of Liverpool city centre. When the house was bombed in the 1941 Blitz, he went to live with his older sister in Hunts Cross.

He passed his 11-plus to get into St Edward's College, West Derby, but had to leave for Queen Elizabeth's school, Anfield, after his family could not afford to buy him cricket whites.

After leaving school, he took a series of jobs in Liverpool before following his future wife to London where she had found a job in the National Union of Railwaymen.

There, in 1950, he became a wheel-tapper, starting a career on the railways that would last 42 years.

The couple soon returned to Liverpool to marry, and Mr McGovern found work as a labourer on the tracks, rising through the ranks to become a safety manager.

The father-of-two, who also leaves a daughter, Maureen, was one of the figureheads of the Liverpool folk music scene in the 1960s. He ran the Wash House club in London Road with Audrey and his lifelong friend, Billy Moore.

He wrote In My Liverpool Home in two nights in 1962. Since then, the original four verses have been embellished by an estimated 100 new ones, composed and sung to mark such occasions as the opening of the Garden Festival in 1984, and Sir Paul McCartney's knighthood.


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In 1991, he organised a marathon 60-verse sing-along on Spencer Leigh's Radio Merseyside show, with a host of celebrities including the late poet Adrian Henri and radio personality Wally Scott.

A passionate trade unionist, Mr McGovern continued to work for the community following his retirement in 1992, serving 14 years as secretary of the Merseyside Pensioners' Association.

But friends said it was the humour underpinning his songs, such as Rent Collecting in Speke, that was the secret to his success as a campaigner.

Spinner Hughie Jones said: "He was a ball of fun. Nothing seemed to faze him. He was very politically-minded but he would never preach.

"His songs pointed out social difficulties, but with a laugh. And that is the best way to get a point across."

graham.davies@liverpool.com


IN MY LIVERPOOL HOME

Chorus: 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

I was born in Liverpool, down by the docks Me Religion was catholic, occupation Hard-Knocks At stealing from lorries I was adept, And under old overcoats each night I slept

Way back in the forties the world it went mad Mister Hitler threw at us everything that he had When the smoke and dust had all cleared from the air "Thank God" said the ald fella, "The Pier Head's still there"

When I grew up I met Bridget McGann she said "Your not much but I'm needin a man" "Well a want sixteen kids and an 'ouse out in Speke" Well the spirit was willing but the flesh it was weak

There's a place in dis city were the nits de wear clogs They've six million kids and ten million dogs De play tick with hatchets and I'll tell you no lie a man's a coward if he has more than one eye.

The Green and the Orange have battled for years They've given us some laughs and they've given us some tears But Scousers don't want a heavenly reward They just want the Green Card to get into Fords

The Dockers' Umbrella has bitten the dust You might buy a Meccano, no charge for the rust Scottie Road is a legend now past away But you can go down to Yateses and drink all the day.