The popular image of the Salvation Army as a bunch of well-meaning eccentrics banging huge drums and smiling benignly at passers-by is one the organization likes to present to the public at large. The connection between a pseudo-militaristic and close-knit, hierarchical organization and Christianity is on the face of it difficult to grasp and yet there's something solid and reassuring about a Sally Army Band enthusiastically banging out their greatest hits on a cold Winter's night and they have a way of lightening the spirits of even the hardest of hearts.
The Salvation Army Strawberry Field
But the uniforms and clashing cymbals are only the tip of a very big iceberg and beneath the façade lies a seriously efficient organization which has been quietly and unassumingly performing good works since its inception in Victorian London. The less fortunate members of our society, the homeless, the lost-souls and the downhearted have good reason to be thankful to William Booth and his wife when they looked around Victorian London in 1865 and not liking what they saw founded the Salvation Army with a rallying cry of 'Soup, Soap and Salvation'! The practical and pragmatic help that Booth and his wife offered was a far cry from the posturing of the hell-fire preaching of the day and if helping our fellow man with humility and practicality is the true spirit of Christianity then the Army and its adherents have much to be proud of.
General Evangeline Booth was the fourth daughter of William Booth and it was she who opened Strawberry Field in 1936 after it was bought from the original owner, miss Mary Fawley. The Victorian Mansion was converted into an orphanage for girls from the slums of Liverpool and for decades afterwards there were many saved from a lifetime of misery.
Tucked away behind closed doors (or gates in this case) in a serene and rural setting it was an ideal sanctuary for the rehabilitation of traumatized minds. For an adolescent John Lennon and his pals it was an ideal setting to dream dreams, cement relationships (later to become The Quarrymen) and germinate ideas for songs. [RIGHT]
Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon on a visit to.Strawberry Field,
Liverpool in 1984 after John Lennon's death
Strawberry Fields Forever, the song, evokes perfectly those delicious, escapist reveries when John took refuge in the grounds of a Salvation Army home, perhaps subconsciously he identified with the broken dolls that dwelt there and perhaps he was looking for some comfort of his own. This part of Woolton is one of the highest points in Liverpool and harks back to a time when beacons were lit on the highest points throughout the land as means of communication in times of war and so on and it is on Beaconsfield road that the gates to Strawberry Field can be found. Just a few years ago they were stolen and children nearby said they saw two men put the 8ft high gates into a blue Transit van and drive away. They turned up in a scrap yard awaiting destruction. Police said the dealer made contact after wide-spread publicity surrounding the disappearance of the wrought-iron gates.