Kirsty MacColl death: how did Fairytale of New York singer die, how old was she - do The Pogues still perform?

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Kirsty MacColl, best known for her 1987 hit Christmas song Fairytale of New York with The Pogues, died in controversial circumstances 22 years ago

British singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl died, aged 41, 22 years ago this month. Despite not being an official member of Irish punk band The Pogues, it is through her collaboration with the group that she is best known.

After performing a duet with lead singer Shane MacGowan on the 1987 Christmas song, Fairytale of New York, now one of the most iconic festive tunes, she joined The Pogues on their 1988 European tour. MacColl continued to find success away from The Pogues, performing with Billy Bragg, and featuring on sitcom French and Saunders. Her career was tragically cut short when she died on holiday in Mexico one week before Christmas.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Kirsty MacColl in the Fairytale of New York music videoKirsty MacColl in the Fairytale of New York music video
Kirsty MacColl in the Fairytale of New York music video | YouTube

How did Kirsty MacColl die?

MacColl was on holiday in Cozumel, Mexico, in December 2000 with her two sons and her boyfriend, musician James Knight. MacColl and her sons went diving at the Chankanaab reef on 18 December in a designated diving area where boats were restricted.

When MacColl and her sons were in the reef following a dive, a powerboat entered the restricted area at high speed, travelling towards the group. MacColl’s son, Jamie, was in the path of the boat, and MacColl pushed him out of the way. She was struck by the boat as it ran over her, and she died instantly.

The boat that was involved in MacColl’s death was controlled by the multimillionaire Guillermo González Nova, the president of a Mexican supermarket chain - he was on board the boat with his family. One of his employees, José Cen Yam, said that he was in control of the boat at the time of the accident.

Cen Yam was found guilty of culpable homicide - he paid a fine of 1,034 pesos (roughly £61) in lieu of a 2-10 month prison sentence, and was also ordered to pay $2,150 (about £1,760) in restitution to MacColl’s family. The circumstances of MacColl’s death have been brought into question, with witnesses suggesting that Cen Yam had not been in control of the boat at the time of the accident, others suggested that he had been paid for taking the blame.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

After her death, MacColl’s family launched the Justice for Kirsty Campaign in response to what they believed were failings of the Mexican authorities - the campaign ended in 2009, and the family said they had been successful in most of their aims.

Shane MacGowan performs in 2014Shane MacGowan performs in 2014
Shane MacGowan performs in 2014 | AFP via Getty Images

Do The Pogues still perform?

The Pogues broke up in 1996, with the three remaining members, Spider Stacy, Andrew Ranken and Darryl Hunt, playing together as The Vendettas for a short time. The band reunited for a Christmas tour in 2001, a year after MacColl’s death.

The band re-released Fairytale of New York in December 2005, and they played the song live on the Jonathan Ross Show - singer Katie Melua replaced MacColl. The band continued to tour in the 2010s, but their last performance to date came in 2014.

The Pogues lead singer Shane MacGowan, said of the band in 2015: “We’re friends as long as we don’t tour together. I’ve done a hell of a lot of touring. I’ve had enough of it"

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

MacGowan, 64, was rushed to hospital yesterday (5 December) and is believed to be receiving treatment. His wife asked fans to pray for her husband but added that she’s sure he will be fine. MacGowan has had mobility issues since a fall in 2015 in which he broke his pelvis.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.