JOHN LENNON planned to turn a remote island off the Irish coast into a hideaway retreat, shortly before he was shot dead in December 1980 outside his apartment block in New York.The former Beatle was investigating how to renew planning permission to build a house for himself and Yoko Ono on Dorinish island in Clew Bay, Co Mayo, just before his death, his Irish solicitor revealed.He bought the island in 1967 and soon afterwards was granted planning permission by Mayo county council to build a house. After the collapse of his first marriage to Cynthia, he postponed the plans and permission lapsed in 1972."It was a place where we thought we could escape the pressures and spend some undisturbed time together. But because of what happened our hopes never came to be," Ono has said. "We often discussed the idea of building a cottage there. It was so beautiful, so tranquil, yet so isolated, it seemed a perfect place to get away from it all".John bought the island for £1,700 after a newspaper advertisement for ‘an island off Ireland’ caught his eye.He sent Alistair Taylor, one of the employees at apple, the record company, to Westport to bid for him at a public auction. Taylor was among a crowd of 30 or 40 locals at the auction, many of them farmers hoping to buy the island to use as pasture for sheep and cattle.John laid down his guitar and casually said, "Alistair, I want you to buy me an island"..."Oh, and it mustn't be more than two hours from London". I went to see some of the big estate agents in London and they hadn't really got anything. I often deal with them--under my own name, because the prices would rise astronomically if they knew that I am acting for the Beatles. Alistair then found and island, took pictures of it, and brought them to John at Kenwood. When John saw the pictures he told Alistair to go and buy it for him} There was one problem--money. The boys carry very little cash; there isn't much opportunity for them to spend it casually. Neither are their houses riddled with safes, as you might suppose. John's attitude is, "You worry about that, I never carry any". I rang Ireland to see if they would accept a check. They would only accept a check certified by a bank. All the banks were closed...So I rang Clive Epstein, Brian's brother, in Liverpool and we came to a last minute arrangement that his chauffeur would be on Crewe Station with eight hundred pounds as the train drew in. After getting the money, Alistair had to wait until two o'clock to bid for the island at auction. While visiting the auctioneer the man said, "I like the look of you, so let me give you a tip. My son Michael is the only solicitor in Westport. Let him do the biding for you this afternoon". In the end Alistair did acquire the island for John at £1,550.} Apparently the island has the finest grazing land in Clew Bay, so everybody was offering me money to allow their animals to graze!Hello Goodbye: The Story of Mr. Fixit by George Gunby, Yesterday Once More (2001) p. 64,When Alistair was asked to find an island for the Beatles' getaway hideout he found an 80-acre island with four beaches, six houses, and sixteen acres of olive groves. The family who owned it was selling it for £90,000. Four other small islands were to be included with the purchase. Alistair also figured out that profits from the sale of the olives would help pay for the islands in seven years. The Beatles thought that buying the island was going to be "as easy as nipping to the grocers to get a tin of baked beans. But Britain was in a financial crisis and there were severe restrictions on pounds sterling going abroad. The only way to buy property outside of the UK was to use property dollars issued by the government. Alistair filled out many forms only to receive a 'no' from the British government each time. The Beatles, Neil Aspinall, and Alistair sat down with solicitors and accountants and wrote a four-page letter to the government asking for reconsideration. The group took a trip to the island and Greece. Upon returning Alistair received a letter from James Callaghan, Chancellor of the Exchequer, stating that because of the Beatles' service to the country they could but the property for £90,000 but no more. Alistair planned for weeks with accountants trying to find ways to finance the houses, boats, recording studio, and furniture with no help from Callaghan. Neil Aspinall told Alistair soon thereafter that the Beatles had decided not to buy the island. Alistair went around to each Beatle and told them he would put the idea on hold for a week. He also told them that once they refused the deal then there was no going back. Two days later John poked his head from around an office door and said, "Forget the island"Hello Goodbye: The Story of Mr. Fixit by George Gunby, Yesterday Once More (2001) pp. 110-112,The Original Sale Documents When John Lennon Bought The Island for Sale. Dorinish was uninhabited when John bought it from the Westport Harbour Board. Sailing ships sometimes stopped at the island to load stones from its shore to use as ballast in rough seas. When diesel engines replaced sails, the harbour board decided to sell the island.Locals have dismissed claims in a British newspaper that John was high on LSD when he visited the island for the first time in 1967.Michael Browne, a solicitor who handled the deal, Browne made arrangements for John to sail to the island. He hired Paddy Quinn, a boat-builder that lives on Inishcuttle island about two miles from Dorinish.Quinn had no idea who his famous passenger was. "It was only afterwards that I discovered it was John Lennon. As far as I was concerned, he was a customer. Beatlemania and the Swinging Sixties had not quite reached the west of Ireland," Quinn said.The party spent an hour and a half walking around the 19 acres of Dorinish, two small islands joined by a natural stone causeway. Afterwards, he took him for a cup of tea on his own island, Ballycuttle, where sandy, Quinn’s dog, annoyed John by continually barking at his long hairy coat.Browne said: "He had a cine camera with him and was taking shots of the scenery all around the area. He was very impressed with Clew Bay. I found him very practical and business-like. He was completely in command of himself, and interested in the logistics and the cost of building a house out on the island. He was worried about further erosion on the island. He was concerned that something should be done to prevent it."John commissioned an architect to do soil borings and paid for a brightly painted hippie-style caravan to be transported from London to the island as a future home for himself his wife and Julian, his son, then aged four.Quinn built a special raft for the caravan to float it out to the island. "It was floated out one summers evening across the bay on to the island. It was quite a sight to see a caravan floating across the sea. It was painted in psychedelic colours," said Browne.A year later, on 22 June, John went off on an expedition by helicopter to Dorinish with a small group that included his new partner Yoko Ono and Ronan O'Rahilly. During their trip they viewed Achill Island with Robert Shaw, the late actor. They had dinner at the Amethyst Hotel in Keel. They then visited Dorinish Island in the company of Ronan O'Rahilly, former head of the ship-based pirate radio station, Radio Caroline, who had become a member of the Apple staff. The party stayed at the Great Southern Hotel. It was established that the Beatle flew to Dublin and was then driven to Westport. They stayed at the Great Southern hotel in Mulrany, a seaside village nearby, where a suite was named after them. They landed by helicopter and ate a meal in the, by now, rather damp caravan, before venturing out to explore the first Lennon property in Ireland for at least a century. The caravan was later moved back to London.In 1970 John summoned Sid Rawle, who was known as King of the Hippies, to the Apple offices. John had heard that Rawle’s group of new age travellers, called The Diggers, was looking for an island to set up a commune.He offered Rawle custodianship of Dorinish, soon know as ‘Beatle Island’, to be used for the public good. Rawle accepted, printed fliers and distributed them among the ‘flower power’ people in London. A group of 25 adults and a baby eventually travelled to Dorinish."We decided we would hold a six-week summer camp on the island. Then we would see what came out of that and decide if we wanted to extend our stay" said Rawle. "It was heaven and it was hell. We lived in tents because there were no stone buildings on the island at all. Most of the time was really good".The hippies stayed for two years, growing vegetable on the island, lighting bonfires to keep warm, and storing food in specially built hollows. They bought groceries in Westport once a fortnight. The commune had no boat so they relied on the local oyster fishermen for transport. They had an agreed system of alerting the boatmen when they needed a lift."During the day, it we put up three sheets on the hill that was an emergency. One sheet was ‘come round and pick us up whenever you’ve got time’. Two was ‘we’d like to see you in a bit of a hurry’ and three was ‘get a move on’."Post would arrive addressed to Hippie Island, Ireland. Some of the local people were hostile to the new age travellers. "Hippie republic under siege" was the headline in the Connaught Telegraph in March 1971 over a story, which said: "After a year of seething anger, Westport has finally declared war on the ‘Republic of Dorinish’."In 1972, after a fire destroyed the main tent used to store supplies, most of The Diggers moved off Dorinish. Rawle went back to Britain. He was one of the founders of the Tipi Valley commune in Wales where 150 people lived for 20 years.After his marriage to Cynthia ended, John postponed plans to develop the island and his permission lapsed in 1972. Years later, John and Yoko revisited plans to build a retreat there but these were cut off by his tragic death.Yoko said "It was a place where we thought we could escape the pressures and spend some undisturbed time together. But because of what happened, our hopes never came to be. We often discussed the idea of building a cottage there. It was so beautiful, so tranquil, yet so isolated, it seemed to be a perfect place to get away from it all."After John's death, Michael Cavanaugh, director of Ireland-West Tourism Organisation, sent a telegram to Yoko inviting her to scatter John's ashes on Dorinish Island. In the telegram he stated that the people of Mayo would regard it as a tremendous honour if she agreed. However, John's ashes were eventually scattered in New York's Central Park.In 1980, the year of his murder, an interviewer, tactlessly quoting a song written by Paul McCartney, asked him what he thought he would be doing "when I'm 64". He replied: "I hope we're a nice old couple living off the coast of Ireland or something like that - looking at our scrapbook of madness."He had already asked his Irish solicitor to see about renewing the lapsed planning permission for his house on Dorinish. Is it too fanciful to imagine that John Lennon really might have been there now?In November 1983, Yoko decided to sell the island with the proceeds going to an Irish orphanage. She commented, 'Putting Dorinish up for sale is an expression of the love we have for Ireland and its people. John would have wished the island to be returned to the Irish. John is still there is spirit. His grandfather was born in Dublin, and John always thought of himself as Irish.'I have been surveying which charity to donate the proceeds to. Children's orphanages have come to mind, but I do not know which one.'John was always very concerned about the Irish cause. He thought a lot about the Irish people and always associated sympathetically with their suffering. He was aware of how severe the Irish plight was. For John, buying the island was a bit like Jewish people buying a bit of Jerusalem.'Ono put the island up for sale in 1984 when Michael Gavin, a local farmer, bought it. He uses the island to graze his sheep and cattle. Beatle fans visit and members of the local sailing club sometimes camp there.The proceeds of the sale, nearly £30,000- were donated to an Irish orphanage. Give peace and quiet a chanceThe Telegraph UK, 07/12/2005 Jan Hayward finds out why John Lennon outbid the local farmers for an island off County MayoLiverpool has the Cavern and New York has the Strawberry Fields Memorial.But there's a 19-acre dollop of green turf off the west coast of Ireland where the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death on Thursday will also be marked. Dorinish, one of 365 islands squashed into County Mayo's Clew Bay, was once owned by Lennon, who declared it "the most peaceful place on earth".It was the summer of 1967, and Sergeant Pepper was spreading the word of love and LSD when the Beatle spotted a newspaper advertisement for "an island off Ireland" and heard the call of his Irish genes (his grandfather was a Dubliner). Mayo's Atlantic coast had long been a draw for artists but farmers buying grazing land at Westport auction house were still bemused to learn that they'd been outbid on a whim by the man who'd shocked Catholic Ireland by claiming to be more popular than Jesus.Equally whimsical is Clew Bay's weather. Petulant showers begin my 60-mile drive from the southern tip to the north of the bay to trace this little-known slice of Beatles history. I motor past seaweed-freckled beaches at Louisburgh and a forbidding Croagh Patrick mountain decapitated by mist. But by the time I reach Westport, Clew's central hub, glowing sunshine is bouncing off red, amber and green-painted houses.Exploring the neat ring of streets that splays out from a central clock tower, it's easy to understand the stir Lennon caused when he strode into town in an ankle-length Afghan coat to view his £1,700 purchase. Even now, though the old fishmongers and woollen shops are interspersed with Mediterranean bistros and art galleries-cum-delis, the hottest ticket in town is the flute-and-bodhran session at Matt Molloy's Bar.Dorinish - quickly dubbed Beatle Island by locals - lies off Westport, and Lennon's next startling move was to raft over a gypsy caravan painted in psychedelic colours for himself, wife Cynthia and son Julian to sleep in. Then he departed. It was more than a year before he returned - this time with Yoko Ono and new plans to build an Irish bolthole.My own plan is to sail out to the island in the morning. First, it's a night at the Park Inn Mulranny, a Victorian hotel towering over the northern curve of Clew Bay. This is where Lennon and Ono stayed, too. After recent refurbishment, it now offers urban-chic accommodation; the couple's room has been renamed the John Lennon Suite. It's not the hotel's largest bedroom, but the wonderful bay view and retro cappuccino-and-cream styling with photographs of the pair lends the right tone for a tributary bed-in.During his visit, Lennon rocked the ballroom with a pre-release airing of Revolution. But at breakfast all is tranquil. Guests tucking into bowls of creamy porridge are mostly couples escaping the stresses of everyday life rather than worldwide fame. A few are artists taking a painting course on nearby Achill Island, which holds almost legendary status among the many who have been inspired by its whitewashed villages and sea-bashed cliffs.Beatle Island is calling me, though. At Rosmoney pier, I meet Tommy Gibbons, who, as a child, gazed wide-eyed as Lennon and Ono's helicopter flew over his family's island to Dorinish. Now he boats visitors around the islands on fishing trips for the mackerel that lure dolphins into the bay. Do local people mind incomers? "Not at all, it's interesting to see who turns up," says Tommy, pointing out an island owned by a transcendental meditationists' group.In 20 minutes we're at Dorinish. Suitably quirky, it resembles a velvety emerald burial mound, edged by boulder beach. At each side, a stone reef stretches out into the bay, one pointing at Inishgort lighthouse, the other linking to a second piece of land shaped like an upturned iron. When the boat's motor cuts out there is total silence. To a restless popstar it must have seemed perfection.So why, rather than enjoying that perfection, was Lennon still making enquiries about building on Dorinish months before his murder? Donie Quirke, who was fishing off Dorinish when the helicopter landed, wonders if the answer lies with Ono. He remembers the Beatle sitting at the top of the island gazing out over the glassy bay, but his memory of Ono is of a black-clad figure flapping in panic as nesting terns divebombed her.After Lennon's death Ono sold the island to a farmer and donated the proceeds to an Irish orphanage. Fledgling plans for boat trips around the island as a tape played Imagine mercifully came to nothing; on the anniversary of Lennon's death, the only visitors will be local musician Tommy Hodgins, his wife and pet dog, who sail over each year to pay their respects. Peace still reigns on Dorinish.