An exclusive interview with Hunter Davies

Vaughan Willmore speaks to acclaimed author, journalist and official biographer of the Beatles – Hunter Davies.

“Did you know that Paul McCartney’s oldest daughter was conceived in the bedroom of my house in Luz?”

Now, that’s not a question I’ve been asked too often, and yet is typical of the irascible humour and colourful life of one of my favourite authors, the incomparable Hunter Davies.

In an illustrious career, several of Hunter’s books such as The Glory Game (a ground-breaking behind the scenes look at the running of Tottenham Hotspur FC) and Here We Go Around The Mulberry Bush (later turned into a film of the same name) have legendary status. These volumes were pioneers in a new wave of insightful writing which captured the essence of the late sixties and early seventies. Hunter was also the ghost-writer of former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s autobiography, along with those of Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney.

Perhaps above all else, he is best known for writing the only authorised biography of The Beatles, for which, at the very height of Beatlemania, he had full access to the Fab Four, their families and friends.

Hunter and his wife, the celebrated author Margaret Forster, first visited the Algarve in October 1968, renting a property in Luz for six months. It came with its own cook (Fernanda) and her husband, who was the gardener. It was a self-awarded break after completing (and being paid for!) his biography of the Fab Four. It was also an opportunity to recuperate after falling ill with jaundice and then pneumonia.

In an exclusive interview for Tomorrow magazine Hunter explained, “My wife and I immediately fell in love with Portugal and with Luz and its surroundings. The summer season was over and we had the beaches to ourselves. They were all lovely and the food and wine were wonderful. The culture in Portugal seemed richer and deeper than anywhere we’d holidayed before”.

Hunter and his wife loved it so much, they returned a year later to buy their own property right on the cliffs at Porto de Mós. Hunter recalled, “It was a small development of just four little cottages and we had first choice. It had stunning views of Porto de Mós beach and down the coast to Sagres”.

Hunter explained, “We loved the Guarda Fiscal of that time, who strode around in their smart uniform or on horses with their massive high polished leather boots. There was no motorway so it took forever to drive from Faro through all the little towns and across the railway lines.

Hunter Davies

Hunter with his grandkids

We played a game with the kids – guess how many horse-drawn carts we’ll pass before we get to the airport? It was often as many as eighty.” Hunter also reflected on how, in the early seventies, “There were so many badly disfigured local young men, who had been fighting the Portuguese colonial wars in Goa and Angola.”

I asked Hunter if they ever used the cottage at Porto de Mós as a writing retreat, but as he explained, “We never worked there, it was purely for holidays for Margaret and me and our kids. I always meant to write a travel book about the Algarve, but I never have.”

Hunter and Margaret kept the cottage for forty years before selling it in 2011. He said, “All of our kids were horrified, telling us we had sold their childhood home and how much they loved going there. A few years later, I took the three of them back to Porto de Mós to relive their childhood.”

Paul McCartney and Hunter Davies in Luz