Sunday, July 25, 2010

No More Rent Paid to the Electric Landlady

The other day I was listening to Kirsty MacColl's album, Electric Landlady, and I started thinking about her sad and untimely death.

For those who don't know about Kirsty MacColl, she was an English singer-songwriter who had made quite a few albums and had collaborated with many other musicians in her career. Kirsty is the female voice dueting with Shane Magowan on the Pogues' song, "Fairy Tale of New York".

Kirsty was on holiday in Mexico and enjoying a scuba dive with her children when she was run down by a careless powerboat driver and killed. The powerboat belonged to some rich guy who just paid off the local authorities and literally got away with murder. Her mother started up a website called: Justice for Kirsty. She campaigned for years, but gave up recently, exhausted.

RIP Kirsty, you have given me many happy hours of listening pleasure and you didn't deserve to go this way. Below is an excerpted piece from the website.

Campaign Logo -> home
Photo by Charles Dickins

Fast Facts

Kirsty was a 41 year old singer and songwriter.  She was born in Croydon, South London, the daughter of folk singer Ewan MacColl and choreographer Jean Newlove.  Kirsty married top producer Steve Lillywhite in August 1984 and had two children: Jamie was born on the 20 Feb 1985 and Louis was born on the 3rd Sept 1987.  She split up with Steve in 1994 but they remained friends.  In her latter days Kirsty was happily in a relationship with another musician, James Knight, who met her while teaching Louis to play saxophone. 
Kirsty was killed by a power boat whilst scuba diving with her sons in a restricted diving area off Cozumel, México. 
Note for researchers: Jean uses her maiden name of Newlove for her professional work in the theatre. Her married name is MacColl and she wishes to be called MacColl for the campaign, This is appropiate in her family role as mother and grandmother. The campaign is totally separate from her own professional career.

Here are the main points which were printed in the original "Mail on Sunday" article by Peter & Leni Gillman in 2004:
The powerboat (belonging to a the chairman of a large Méxican company) had apparently been travelling too fast in a National Park which bans such boats.  An inexperienced boathand (Cen Yam) was charged with causing her death and found guilty of negligent homicide (subject to confirmation by a judge), which carries a sentence of up to seven years.
The owner, Guillermo González Nova, and his family were on board, and claimed it was the boathand, Cen Yam, at the controls, and that they were outside the restricted area travelling at no more than one knot.  Witnesses said the boat was moving at high speed inside the National Park, its bow riding clear of the water. Kirsty would have died instantly. Jamie was struck on the head and side, without suffering serious injury.
The boathand's job was to carry out maintenance - he did not have a licence for such a powerful boat, and had never taken its helm before. Though he claimed to have taken a seaman's course he was unable to answer basic questions. The boat owner did not have the right powerboat licence either.
Port authority investigators found the dive boat had been flying a flag, but it did not conform to international regulations. It should also have had another crew member on board, and should have put out a marker buoy. However the ruling was that the powerboat had been in the prohibited area, the pilot had been negligent and violated navigation laws and the owner should not have let him take the controls.
Jean believes the person who carries the greatest culpability is the owner, who was not charged. She also questions who was actually at the helm, and plans to visit Cozumel soon to investigate further.
Initially "Justice For Kirsty" was financed from Kirsty's estate but Jean believed those bequests, which would mostly benefit her sons, should no longer be drained. She has been forced to draw on her savings but is also heavily reliant on donations. Many kind supporters have given to the campaign either through the campaign website or at fundraising events around the country, including the very popular Pogues tours which have taken place for the last three years. Other artists including Billy Bragg and Eddi Reader have been most helpful in raising funds and awareness.
'No one should be above the law,' she says. 'It's not a vendetta but I want the truth to come out. I am determined to see this through.'
Kisty's family
In happier days Jean, Kirsty, Jamie, Louis and a family friend, John Dalby (composer).
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