Who was singer Kirsty McColl and when did she die?

KIRSTY MacColl collaborated with Shane McGowan and the Pogues on what is generally considered the greatest Christmas song of all time.

Here we take a look at the singer’s life, music and tragic death.

Kirsty MacColl duetted with Shane MacGowan on the Christmas classic Fairytale of New York


Kirsty MacColl duetted with Shane MacGowan on the Christmas classic Fairytale of New YorkCredit: Redferns

Who was singer Kirsty MacColl?

Kirsty Anna MacColl was born in Croydon, south London on October 10, 1959.

She was the daughter of musical parents — her father Ewan MacColl was a folk singer, and her mother Jean Newlove a professional dancer.

By the time Kirsty was born, her parents had split up, with Ewan going on to marry another folk singer Peggy Seeger.

MacColl was married to Steve Lillywhite, a music producer, between the years of 1984 and 1994.

The pair ultimately divorced, but shared two children together, Jamie and Louis.

Kirsty sang on a number of tracks produced by Lillywhite while they were married, most notably the song she’s best known for — Fairytale of New York.

When did Kirsty MacColl die?

Kirsty MacColl died in a scuba diving accident off the coast of Mexico in December 2020.

A keen diver, MacColl brought her two sons on holiday for a well-needed break after a relentless 18 months of working.

The family travelled to Cozumel and it’s said Kirsty planned on introducing her two boys to scuba diving for the first time there.

While in the water, MacColl was tragically hit by a speedboat travelling illegally in an area designated for swimmers.

A statement at the time confirmed neither of her sons were injured in the accident.

In the statement, MacColl was described as a “bright, fun-loving person as well as a talented singer and writer who was loved by anybody and everybody she came into contact with.”

Shortly after her death, her body was returned to the UK where she was cremated close to her home town of Croydon.

At the time of her death, Kirsty MacColl was just 41 years old. 

What songs is Kirsty MacColl famous for?

Kirsty MacColl is best known for the ultimate Christmas song, ‘Fairytale of New York’, duetted with none other than The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan.

But MacColl’s musical career began long before the song hit the airwaves in 1988.

Over two decades and five albums, MacColl recorded over 160 songs, ultimately released in an eight-disc box set by Universal in October 2023. 

Among these tracks features ‘A New England’, a classic female rock song she recorded in her early twenties. 

However, none of her other works reached the same status as the drunken duet, ‘Fairytale of New York’.

Strangely, when first released the hit song didn’t even make it to the Christmas number one slot. 

Recorded with The Pogue’s original bassist Cait O’Riordan, MacColl stepped in for vocals when O’Riordan left the band in 1986. 

After test recording the vocals, it’s said the band fell in love with her voice and had to keep it on the track.

When did Shane MacGowan die?

MacGowan tragically died on Thursday November 30, 2023.

Shane passed away at the age of 65 following an eight year battle with encephalitis.

His wife Victoria shared a heartbreaking statement announcing the star’s death: “I don’t know how to say this so I am just going to say it.

“Shane who will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life and the most beautiful soul and beautiful angel and the sun and the moon and the start and end of everything that I hold dear has gone to be with Jesus and Mary and his beautiful mother Therese.

“I am blessed beyond words to have met him and to have loved him and to have been so endlessly and unconditionally loved by him and to have had so many years of life and love and joy and fun and laughter and so many adventures.”

She added: “There’s no way to describe the loss that I am feeling and the longing for just one more of his smiles that lit up my world.

“Thank you thank you thank you thank you for your presence in this world you made it so very bright and you gave so much joy to so many people with your heart and soul and your music.

“You will live in my heart forever.

“Rave on in the garden all wet with rain that you loved so much.

“You meant the world to me.”

Shane is survived by his wife, father Maurice and sister Siobhan.


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