Paternity test bid by daughter of former Van Morrison girlfriend

A WOMAN is planning to take Van Morrison to court to establish whether or not he is her father.

Samantha Branch, 42, whose mother Dee dated the Belfast singer in the mid-Sixties, wants the 64-year-old to take a paternity test.

Dee was road manager for Morrison’s band, Them, in 1966 and was 28 when she became pregnant.

Samantha was born in March 1967 but the identity of her father remained a mystery as no one was named on her birth certificate – and Dee died from a brain haemorrhage when Samantha was just four months old.

At the time Morrison was singing in the band Them and was just a few years away from worldwide success with his Astral Weeks album.

Close friends and relatives say that Dee, who also worked as a publicist, had told them Morrison was the father.

Samantha, a partner in a specialist high-rise maintenance firm, said last night: ‘I was told Van Morrison is my father.

‘Dee told her family and friends this but I would like to know once for all if he really is. All I want is to be happy within myself.’

News of her quest comes just weeks after the singer was embroiled in an extraordinary controversy over claims his association with American woman Gigi Lee, who is the mother of an infant boy.

Morrison, who is married to former Miss Ireland Michelle Rocca, has denied a statement posted on his official website that Miss Lee gave birth to a baby boy named George Ivan Morrison III on December 28.

Instead, he has labelled it a bizarre hoax perpetrated by computer hackers. His friend, public relations executive John Saunders, claimed Morrison did not even know who Gigi was.

However, company records show a Gigi Lee named as a director of at least 14 of his companies last April – just weeks before she told pals she was pregnant with ‘a little Van’. And subsequently, a picture of the couple together has appeared.

Morrison has denied he is the father of Branch, and a source close to the singer said that the emergence of this issue shortly after the Gigi Lee story was ‘more than a coincidence’.

His relationship in the 1960s with Dee has been documented in three biographies of the singer.

In one, Dee is even credited with helping give Morrison the confidence to leave his band, Them, and forge ahead with a solo career.

The couple appear to have met around 1964/5 and Samantha’s family remember her being employed as a ‘road manager’ to Them.

Although she had a flat of her own in east London, she also shared a flat with Morrison in west London’s Notting Hill.

According to Steve Turner in his 1993 book, Van Morrison: Too Late To Stop Now, the singer was living with Dee in a rented flat in Notting Hill Gate in the autumn of 1965.

Them guitarist Jim Armstrong told Turner that Dee – short for Doreen – was ‘a lot older than Van and looked after him’.

He recalls how ‘she’d put his scarf on for him and give him money for his bottle of wine and his cigarettes’.

Johnny Rogan mentions Dee several times in his 2005 book, Van Morrison: No Surrender – where her influence on the up-and-coming singer was reported to have been substantial.

Them member Billy Harrison told Rogan: ‘When things started to go to hell, he had this girl Dee that he was knocking about with.

‘She was considerably older than him and drove him about. It became, “I’m a star – I don’t travel with the group.” ‘In my opinion, she was a bad influence.

She filled his head with rocking-horse s**t and made him think he was something he wasn’t.’ Rogan wrote that Dee ‘boosted his ego’ – much to the band’s disgust.

‘The other members of Them treated the mysterious and aloof Dee with suspicion.

At one point, there was even a crazy conspiracy theory put forward that she might have been deliberately recruited to secure some form of control over the singer.

It was only years later that Morrison learned of the scurrilous gossip about his former girlfriend and he dismissed the story as ‘ludicrous fantasy’.

Rogan also detailed the rollercoaster nature of the relationship: ‘Morrison slowly retreated from Them as apathy festered into antipathy.

He spent much of the time at his base in Notting Hill where his relationship with girlfriend Dee veered from loving to volatile.

‘As well as driving Morrison to gigs, she mothered him, running errands for wine and cigarettes and ensuring that he was wrapped up well in a scarf.

Them roadie Bobby Hamilton remarked: “She was just right for him. He loved her, he did. Thought the world of her”.’

Their volatile relationship, however, appears to have ended at some stage during Morrison’s 1966 ill-fated first stint in America.

The singer was there during May, June and July of that year – just about the time that Samantha was conceived, given that she was born the following March.

Her family say they have no idea whether Dee travelled to the US with Van, whether Morrison returned to London during that time or, indeed, whether Samantha was born prematurely. But it was during that summer that Dee told her family she was pregnant.

Her sister, Brenda Henriot, said last night: ‘We were all on a family holiday during the summer of 1966 when Dee told her father she was pregnant.

‘She seemed very happy about that but, although she didn’t say who the father was at the time, she later told me it was Van Morrison.

‘I knew they had been a couple, so it didn’t surprise me. But they had fallen out and stopped going out as a couple around that time.’

Mrs Henriot added: ‘She never mentioned she was going out with someone else, either around the time she was dating Van Morrison or afterwards.

‘She was a very loyal woman and, from what I can gather, was devoted to Van Morrison.’

Dee’s baby girl was born on March 7, 1967 in St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, west London, and was christened Samantha. However, her birth certificate lists no father.

Doubtless, Dee would have told her daughter as soon as possible, but just four months later tragedy stuck. Dee died of a massive brain haemorrhage on July 4, 1967. Her funeral, eight days later, was attended by members of Them but not, apparently, by Van.

Morrison’s biographer Rogan, however, suggests that the song TB Sheets – ‘a bitter requiem painfully detailing a young woman’s slow death from tuberculosis’ – recorded by Van in 1967, could have been about Dee.

Rogan wrote: ‘Given the preceding references to Notting Hill, some were tempted to speculate that the “Julie” mentioned in this composition was the doomed Dee, Morrison’s girlfriend during the final days of Them.

‘Her tragic death, reportedly from a brain haemorrhage, may have partly inspired the elegy on a subliminal level.’

Many rock historians repeat the apocryphal tale that when Morrison recorded the song, he broke down in tears and the rest of the session had to be cancelled.

The first that Samantha heard of her father possibly being a rock star was during a family holiday to Spain when she was eight.

She was told by her uncle Ronald, who had taken on the role of her father when she was four years old.

And only when he died in 1986 did Samantha start trying to find out more about her paternity – and Morrison’s association with her mother.

She said: ‘I didn’t really know who he was when I was first told he was my father but I do remember being quite excited about the prospect that my father was alive and that he was a singer.

‘But there was never any great push to get in touch with him. It was always just accepted that it was all in the past and people were living different lives.’

Shortly after Uncle Ronald’s death, Morrison performed a concert in Nottingham, where Samantha lived.

She said: ‘I turned up backstage, gave my name and asked to speak to him. But the person I spoke to came back and said Van Morrison didn’t know who I was.

‘I took out a photograph of my mother and asked for it to be shown to him. The bloke came back with a message from Van Morrison that I should leave my contact details and he would be in touch.’

She says that a few days later, Morrison turned up at her flat.

She recalled: ‘He was polite but seemed a bit distant. He asked me what I knew about my mother, and a few questions about myself.

‘He also asked me what I wanted from him. I told him I didn’t want anything.

I was just looking for some recognition of who I was.

‘He asked why I hadn’t got in touch before I was 18 and I told him I hadn’t felt the need to as my uncle Ronald had fulfilled the role of father. But he had just died and I was upset about that because I had adored him.

‘Throughout the meeting, which did not last long and was a bit awkward, he didn’t really say much but he took a few pictures of me as a teenager and said he’d be back in touch.’

She says he sent her a few telegrams and they spoke a number of times on the phone but, in 1987, the contact between them ended when she asked for a paternity test.

She said: ‘We’d had some kind of row. He said he wondered about the timing of everything.

‘He also told me he had lost all his records of what he had done in 1966. ‘But when I asked if he would take a paternity test, that was it – he didn’t want to know.

‘He said, “Why do you want to do that for? Is there something you want from me?” ‘All I ever wanted was to clear up whether or not he is actually my father. Van Morrison should have nothing to worry about getting a paternity test done.

‘He may genuinely believe that I am not his daughter but I want to find out once and for all.’

Last night, a spokesman for Morrison offered no detailed comment on the possibility.

A statement from Morrison said: ‘There has recently been a great deal of misinformation and rank speculation concerning me and my private life.

‘My private life is exactly that, it is private. I have, in my long career, never spoken about it and I’m not about to start doing so now.

‘My public communications will always be through my music which is what I am known for.’

Did you know Dee? If so – contact randomirishnews @ in confidence.

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