An Interview with Jean MacColl

Will the Sec

Active Member
I'd mooted the idea of a brass band arrangement of the Fairytale of New York with Jean MacColl by email - I went to see her to discuss how it would help the campaign for 'Justice for Kirsty'.


Will Elsom: Hello, Jean, and thank you for taking the time to see me.

Jean MacColl: It’s a pleasure.

WE: Please tell tMPers about Justice for Kirsty – in case there are any who don’t know.

JM: Justice for Kirsty seeks Justice for Kirsty MacColl, for her family, for her friends, and for her fans. Simply put, Kirsty was killed by a motor boat in an incident that never should have happened. In campaigning we have discovered that there has been a cover up surrounding the incident. The person we believe to be guilty is one of the wealthiest men in Mexico, and is using his wealth to hide behind his lawyers. The campaign has shown that the person believed to be guilty has paid off or intimidated others to prevent their giving evidence.

WE: What progress is being made with the Mexican Government?

JM: Little. The person we believe to be guilty has friends in high places. In June 2005 the Mexican Government promised us a satisfactory resolution by November 2005, and 18 months on we are still waiting. They want us to go away, but irrespective of time, and indeed whether I live to see it, the campaign will carry on. To be honest, I don’t think they understand that we are not after financial recompense – if we were they would have paid us off long ago. The person we believe to be guilty has so far steered clear of any accusations, and has got away with what the Americans would call second degree murder. His ability to pass the buck, paying a young sailor to take the rap, and his influence of the judiciary to ensure that no independent witnesses were heard by the court based on Napoleonic law mean that we are still a distance from getting Justice for Kirsty.

WE: What help have you received from the Foreign and Commonwealth office?

JM: They have been very helpful of late. The British Consul to Mexico, Giles Paxman, (who has a famous brother) has been very supportive.

WE: At what point will you get closure?

JM: When Justice for Kirsty prevails. When a lack of justice is so close to home and family, you fight it.

WE: When people have read the detail on the website, what can they do to help?

JM: Send the postcards. Download the leaflets and pass them on. Mention the campaign whenever you hear a Kirsty song. The campaign is trying to clean up a little spot on a big world, but we’re having an effect. Divers have a better lot as a result. Although the diving associations were not interested, some individual instructors are telling their pupils of the dangers of diving near motor boats. To be fair to the Tourism Ministry in Mexico they have introduced a new law that requires buoys to have blinking lights atop them. This is known informally as “Kirsty’s Law”.

WE: What do you most miss about Kirsty?

JM Everything. She wasn’t just a singer, she was my daughter, and my friend. I miss her presence, and treasure our shared memories. Kirsty was a fighter for justice too – she spoke very eloquently for the cause of Cuban Solidarity, and achieved far more than the campaign expected to without her. I think, if Kirsty knew about our campaign, she would approve.

WE: What was it that prompted Kirsty to pursue a singing and writing career?

JM: She didn’t like the folk music that her father purveyed at the outset, but became enamoured with Bulgarian music that, although she didn’t realise it, had elements of folk in it. She began to experiment, and started writing. She was always a good singer.

WE: What is your favourite from songs written by Kirsty?

JM I don’t think I have one particular favourite. They all mean different things to me. Her first songs were exciting – songs like They Don’t Know and Terry. “England 2 Columbia 0” still makes me smile. If the intended target understood the record, I expect he will have changed!

WE: What was your reaction when you first heard The Fairytale of New York?

JM: I loved it. It was different, exciting, and it highlighted that Shane and Jem were fine and clever writers, and love him or hate him, Shane is an amazing performer. In tandem with Kirsty, the sum of the parts far exceeded the whole. These days, with Kirsty missing, I dislike the run up to Christmas, but Fairytale keeps me going, makes me smile. ‘White Christmas’ just doesn’t cut it any more.

WE: Talking of Shane McGowan – he is an interesting character – what’s he been like when you’ve met him?

JM: Shane has been exhausted after performances on the occasions that we’ve met, but he’s always been very kind to me. There’s no doubt he loved and respected Kirsty, and still does. Jem (Finer) is a lovely man too, with a warm heart and the soul of an artist. Don’t forget Spider, either! Spider always plays the Tin Whistle when he comes to see me.

WE: What did you think when I suggested a Brass Band Arrangement of FONY?

JM: I thought it was a great idea. Any way of getting the message out will help. Of course, with my father coming from Yorkshire, the Brass Band is a medium that I grew up with and approve of.

WE: With help and co-operation from Roger Thorne, Music Sales Ltd, and Jem and Shane, and selling at £20, we will be able to raise £14 a copy. How will this help the campaign?

JM: It will be a godsend. It matters little how much money a campaign might have, a new (and unexpected) source of revenue relieves pressure on the already very generous campaign team.

WE: What events do you have planned in support of the campaign? Anything a brass band might get involved in?

JM: We’re negotiating with the Theatre Royal at Stratford East to have one or two Kirsty evenings. A band playing at one or both of those nights would be fantastic. On a more general point, if a compère mentions the cause when the piece is played, and refer people to the website, more postcards of complaint might be sent, and pressure exerted on the Mexican Government. From small acorns do great oaks grow.

WE: Tell me about the book you’re writing.

JM: It’s about Kirsty, and about her death. It details the campaign, and will highlight all the problems we’ve encountered. It’s been hard to write, a real emotional roller coaster - but I’m nearly finished. I want it out as soon as possible, so I’m tied to publishers’ whimsies at the moment.

WE: What’s the book going to be called?

JM: We’re working on that. Haven’t decided yet, but if the go ahead comes, we’ll have to plump for a name. Probably a lyric of Kirsty’s, I expect.*

WE: Is there anything you’d like to add?

JM: Well, I can’t wait to hear the piece! It would be fantastic if we could get together a band to play Fairytale in Soho Square each year on the Sunday closest to Kirsty’s birthday.

WE: Jean, thanks for your time.

JM: Thank you.

* Jean has since titled the book ‘Sun on the Water’, and it will be published by John Blake Publishing Ltd on 7th April 2008. Amazon are accepting pre-orders.


It may be a bit late for your Christmas concert for 2007, but the arrangement will still be a show stopper whenever you use it. Please buy a copy for your band from
Thorne's Music. Thank you.