Ringo Starr : biography
In 1944, in an effort to reduce their housing costs, his family moved to 10 Admiral Grove; soon after, his parents separated; they divorced within the year.: Moving to 10 Admiral Grove in an effort to reduce their rent payments; : his parents separated; : divorced within the year. He later stated that he has "no real memories" of his father, who made little effort to bond with him, visiting "Ritchie" as few as three times thereafter.: Visiting as few as three times thereafter; : "no real memories" of his father. Elsie found it difficult to survive on her ex-husband’s support payments of thirty shillings a week, so she took on several menial labour jobs cleaning houses before securing a position as a local barmaid, an occupation that she enjoyed for twelve years.
Twice afflicted by life-threatening illnesses during his childhood, at age six Starkey developed appendicitis. Following a routine appendectomy he contracted peritonitis, causing him to fall into a coma that lasted for three days.; . His recovery spanned twelve months, which he spent away from his family at Myrtle Street Children’s hospital.; . Upon his release in May 1948, his overprotective mother allowed him to stay home, causing him to miss school. At age eight, he had remained illiterate, with a less than poor grasp of mathematics. His lack of education contributed to a feeling of alienation at school, which resulted in him regularly skipping class in favour of spending time at Sefton Park.: a feeling of alienation at school; : Sefton Park. After several years of twice weekly tutoring from his surrogate sister and neighbor, Marie Maguire Crawford, Starkey had nearly caught up to his peers academically, but in 1953, he contracted tuberculosis and was admitted to a sanatorium, where he remained for two years.: His surrogate sister Marie Maguire; : tuberculosis and the sanatorium. During his stay the medical staff made an effort to stimulate motor activity and relieve boredom by encouraging their patients to join the hospital band, leading to his first exposure to a percussion instrument; a makeshift mallet made from a cotton bobbin that he used to strike the cabinets next to his bed.: (primary source); : (secondary source). Soon after, he grew increasingly interested in drumming, receiving a copy of Alyn Ainsworth’s "Bedtime for Drums" as a convalescence gift from Crawford. Starkey commented: "I was in the hospital band … That’s where I really started playing. I never wanted anything else from there on … My grandparents gave me a mandolin and a banjo, but I didn’t want them. My grandfather gave me a harmonica … we had a piano – nothing. Only the drums."
As a result of the prolonged hospitalisations, Starkey fell behind his peers scholastically and was ineligible for the 11-plus qualifying examination required for attendance at a grammar school. He had attended St Silas, a Church of England primary school near his house where his classmates nicknamed him "Lazarus", and later Dingle Vale Secondary Modern School, where he showed an aptitude for art and drama as well as practical subjects including mechanics.: classmates nicknamed Starr "Lazarus"; : Dingle Vale Secondary Modern; : St Silas primary school. On 17 April 1953, Starkey’s mother married Harry Graves, an ex-Londoner who had moved to Liverpool following the failure of his first marriage.; . Graves, an impassioned fan of big band music and their vocalists, introduced Starkey to recordings by Dinah Shore, Sarah Vaughan and Billy Daniels. Graves stated that he and "Ritchie" never had an unpleasant exchange between them; Starkey commented: "He was great … I learned gentleness from Harry." After the extended hospital stay following his recovery from tuberculosis, he did not return to school, preferring instead to stay at home and listen to music while playing along by beating biscuit tins with sticks.
Spitz described Starkey’s upbringing as "a Dickensian chronicle of misfortune". Houses in the area were "poorly ventilated, postage-stamp-sized … patched together by crumbling plaster walls, with a rear door that opened onto an outhouse." Crawford commented: "Like all of the families who lived in the Dingle, he was part of an ongoing struggle to survive." The children who lived there spent much of their time at Princes Park, escaping the soot-filled air of their coal-fueled neighborhood. Adding to their difficult circumstances, violent crime was an almost constant concern for people living in one of the oldest and poorest inner-city districts in Liverpool.; ; . Starkey later commented: "You kept your head down, your eyes open, and you didn’t get in anybody’s way."