What if John Lennon had survived that gun attack – and had his 80th birthday party in Mayo?

John Lennon – and Dorinish Island, in Clew Bay, which he bought in 1967

It was an extraordinary scene.

The old man, still wearing his familiar NHS glasses, greeted his guests one by one as they arrived by boat or, in some cases, by helicopter.

John Lennon looked every day of his 80 years as he stood there on Dorinish Island, the escape he had bought back in 1967 initially as a place to get away from it all with his then wife Cynthia and young son Julian.

But of course, by the time he actually visited the island again, in 1968, that marriage was over and he was with Yoko.

Dorinish had history. In 1970 John had invited a band of hippies, let by their “King” Sid Rawle to set up camp there which they did. But they left after a couple of years and John seemed to lose interest in the island though he occasionally seemed to mention it in interviews as in the one which appeared in Rolling Stone in 1971 when he said, in response to a question as to where he and Yoko would be when he was 64, he said: “I hope we’re a nice old couple living off the coast of Ireland or something like that — looking at our scrapbook of madness.”

But whatever plans John had for his later life all changed on December 8, 1980, just months after his 40 th birthday, when a disturbed young man called Mark David Chapman shot him outside the Dakota Building in New York where he lived with Yoko and new baby Sean.

Miraculously, John recovered. And ever since, he spent more and more time on his Clew Bay Island, accepted by the locals as one of them, as he had been during that three day visit in 1968 when he stayed in what was then a Great Southern Hotel and what is now the Mulranny Park Hotel.

The Magnificent Mulranny Park Hotel, where John might have partied

Back then, only local reporter Martin Curry was aware of the visit, having been tipped off.

Today, though, dozens of reporters from all over the world were camped out along the shore of Clew Bay hoping for glimpse of John and his guests.

He stood with the aid of a walking stick. It wasn’t just the injuries from the shooting which left him slightly crippled and in occasional ill health. He had lived a life of excess with heroin being his drug of choice from the mid sixties.

Today he was on his best behaviour. And it was probably appropriate that the first guest to arrive and give John a hug was Sir Ringo Starr who arrived quietly on a small boat. “Peace and love brother,” he said and turned to the one photographer who was permitted onto the island to record the day’s events.

John and Yoko stood with Ringo and his wife Barbara only to be interrupted by the helicopter bringing Sir Paul McCartney to the island. John had, the story went, been offered a knighthood a couple of years ago, but felt unable to accept it having returned his MBE in protest against war and of course, Cold Turkey slipping down the charts.

Others began to arrive. Eric Clapton brought a guitar with him though it was unlikely any ordinary mortals would get to hear whatever music was to be made on the island that day.

Bono arrived by boat with the other U2 lads and another helicopter arrived, this one carrying Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder.

The onshore press posse was going mad, not able quite to see what was going on but living on the promise of been given photographs later in the day. Long lens cameras tried their hardest and picked out Bruce Springsteen and Robert Plant arrived together.

Mick Jagger was next to arrive. John greeted him saying: “Make sure this boy keeps his trousers zipped up for once,” prompting everyone, except Mick Jagger, to laugh. John’s cruel streak was still evident.

John had done what he had planned for years.

He had lived until 80. And he had begun his celebrations on Dorinish Island as he had always promised himself he would.

By the time the sun began to go down, it was over.

That is to say, it was over on the island.

John and Yoko, Julian and Sean with whom he was now fully reconciled left to join the others at the Mulranny Park Hotel.

And that was where the real party would begin.

Or would have had it not been for the real and tragic events of December 8, 1980.

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