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LONDON (Reuters) - A 97-year-old document that contains clues to the identity of Eleanor Rigby, the subject of one of the Beatles' best-loved songs, is expected to fetch 500,000 pounds ($775,000) when it goes on sale this month.
The manuscript is a salary register from Liverpool City Hospital and features the name E. Rigby, a scullery maid who has signed for her monthly wage. Her annual earnings were 14 pounds.
According to its owner Annie Mawson, the document was sent to her in 1990 by former Beatle Paul McCartney when she wrote to him on behalf of her charity the Sunbeams Music Trust (www.sunbeamsmusic.org), which uses music to help people with special needs.
"I wrote ... to Paul and asked him for half a million pounds. But by the end of the letter I just said 'Look, I know you're a very caring person and I feel it's a privilege to share my story with you," she said on Tuesday.
"Nine months later, in June 1990, this amazing envelope arrived in the post. It was nine months after I'd written to him, which was part of the mystery because you always think it ended up in the waste paper basket," Mawson told Reuters.
She said the envelope containing the document dated 1911 featured an official Paul McCartney tour stamp. The singer was on a world tour around that time.
Mawson did not immediately realize the significance of the register until she read down the list of names and spotted E. Rigby.
The document could be of huge interest to Beatles collectors, because it offers one of the clearest clues yet as to the identity of Eleanor Rigby, the woman in the song of the same name who dies alone with no one to mourn her.
According to music Web sites, previously McCartney has said the heroine of the poignant song was fictional.
The grave of an Eleanor Rigby was also discovered in the churchyard of St. Peter's in Woolton, Liverpool, close to where McCartney met John Lennon in 1957.
"I wonder just how much Paul McCartney meant to unmask when he passed it on," said Ted Owen, managing director of the Fame Bureau which is selling the manuscript as part of a pop memorabilia auction on November 27 in London.
Mawson said she needed to raise around one million pounds to fund a center for her charity in Cumbria, northwest England.
"I thought this was the right time. I got the document out of the bank vault and decided I've got to go for it. We think McCartney might want to buy it back -- you never know."
Editing by Paul Casciato