Kirsty MacColl: 'Fairytale of New York' star's songs, children, and tragic death explained

19 November 2020, 11:21

Kirsty MacColl
Kirsty MacColl. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Kirsty MacColl was one of the most exciting singer-songwriters of her generation, and was behind many beloved songs.

Her life was tragically cut short in the year 2000, robbing us of a true underrated talent.

Here are the big facts about Kirsty MacColl every fan should know:

  1. Who was Kirsty MacColl?

    Kirsty MacColl - Days

    Kirsty MacColl was a British singer-songwriter who had several hits in the 1980s and 1990s.

    She was born on October 10, 1959, and was the daughter of folk singer Ewan MacColl (1915–1989) and dancer Jean Newlove (1923–2017).

    She and her brother Hamish grew up with their mother in Croydon. At the time of her birth, her father had been in a relationship with folk singer Peggy Seeger since 1956, and already had a son with her.

    MacColl was noticed when Chiswick Records released an EP by local punk rock band the Drug Addix, with MacColl on backing vocals, under the pseudonym Mandy Doubt.

    Stiff Records chiefs were not particularly impressed with the band, but liked her enough to sign her up as a soloist.

  2. Kirsty MacColl songs: What are her biggest hits?

    The Pogues - Fairytale Of New York (Official Video)

    The Story of... 'Fairytale of New York' by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

    Among her hits include:

    - 'There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis'
    - 'A New England' (Billy Bragg cover)
    - 'Days' (Kinks cover)
    - 'Fairytale of New York' (with The Pogues)

  3. Kirsty MacColl husband and children: How big was her family?

    Kirsty MacColl with Steve Lillywhite in 1985
    Kirsty MacColl with Steve Lillywhite in 1985. Picture: PA

    From 1984 to 1994, she was married to renowned record producer Steve Lillywhite, and they had two sons, Jamie and Louis.

  4. Kirsty MacColl death: What happened?

    In 2000, following her appearance in a radio programme for the BBC in Cuba, she took a holiday in Cozumel, Mexico, with her sons and her partner, musician James Knight.

    On December 18, she and her sons went diving at the Chankanaab reef, at the National Marine Park of Cozumel, in a designated diving area that watercraft were meant to be restricted from.

    Along with them was veteran diver, Iván Díaz. As they were all surfacing from a dive, a powerboat moving at high speed entered the restricted area.

    MacColl saw the boat coming, and pushed her 15-year-old son Jamie out of the way, but she was struck by the boat. She suffered severe chest injuries and died instantly.

    The powerboat was owned by Guillermo González Nova, multimillionaire president of the Comercial Mexicana supermarket chain, who was on board with members of his family.

    Boathand José Cen Yam said that he was in control of the boat at the time. Eyewitnesses said that he was not at the controls, and that the boat was travelling much faster than the speed of one knot that González Nova claimed.

    Cen Yam was found guilty of culpable homicide, and sentenced to 2 years 10 months in prison. He was allowed under Mexican law to pay a fine of 1,034 pesos (about £61) in lieu of the prison sentence.

    He was also ordered to pay approximately $2,150 in restitution to MacColl's family, an amount based on his wages. People claimed that he received money for taking the blame.