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Gallery: Schoolboy cashes in on Beatles gig

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The night The Beatles came to Belfast meant a lucrative business opportunity for one teenage fan.

Chris Hill was one of those who has vivid memories of the Fab Four’s concert in the Ritz Cinema 50 years ago today – memories which are immortalised thanks to an east European camera which he got for his birthday.

Then aged 16, the south Belfast youngster took a string of snaps of the group on stage, which he went on to sell to fellow schoolchildren across the city.

Although he said none had ever been published before now, he estimated he sold as many as 800 of the prints, which he produced in his own dark room, netting him a sum worth about £3,000 today – but spent so much time doing so that he performed poorly in his mock O-level exams.

About four weeks before the gig, he had got up at about 2am to cycle three miles from his Malone home to queue for the best seats in the house.

“1963 was the year they broke through,” he said.

“It was the biggest thing that ever happened in the life of a teenager.”

The band started enjoying serious success with their first major single Love Me Do, which had been released only one year earlier.

But by the time of the Belfast gig, they had already enjoyed a run of Number Ones, said Mr Hill.

“You forget that this was music that was totally different to anything spewed out on the radio beforehand.

“This was a whole new thing for a whole new generation.”

And when they arrived in Belfast, he witnessed it first hand – from the middle of the second row.

“It was pandemonium,” he recalled.

One of his best images from the set was a single one of Paul McCartney, taken of him alone against a black backdrop.

“That’s the one the girls all wanted,” he said, recalling his business venture. “I was always thinking in terms of making my photography pay as a hobby. Not just taking pictures for my own amusement but also making it pay.”

He had gone to the Rolling Stones concert in the city the following year, but that concert was an all-standing affair, and he was unable to get any decent shots because of the jostling of the crowd.

Back then he was using an East German Werra camera, costing about £30 at the time.

Today, the 66-year-old is a professional photographer, and acknowledges his schoolboy snaps of 1963 are not a patch on the quality of today’s images – although, considering the technology of the day, he hailed the results as “superb”.

 

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