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Joe Strummer's mother - a statement from her family, Oct. 17 2007
on October 17, 2007
This book has depicted Anna Mackenzie, Joe's mother, as an alcoholic and a depressive. Those of us who knew her as a sister or an aunt want to challenge this portrayal. She was a quiet, dignified and private person who was also to us unfailingly warm, welcoming, kind and tolerant.
She was the second child of nine, born on a croft and used to hard work from an early age. She became a nurse which in the 1930s was a job even more physically demanding than it is today. We are mystified by the references to her house as "shabby" and "run down". Neither she nor Joe's father Ron was interested in acquiring or flaunting household possessions. Nor did they sit about as if "they had been used to servants": Anna cooked and looked after the house while Ron was in charge of the garden and the DIY repairs and maintenance.
When we visited her in Warlingham or when she was at home in Bonar Bridge, there was no sign of her drinking excessively. She was a social drinker who had one or two gins in an evening - a habit which she probably picked up in India. She recalled with astonishment and disapproval the large amounts of drinking by others that she had observed in the diplomatic communities. At home, she'd usually go to bed early, leaving her nephews and nieces talking with Ron. He wasn't an alcoholic either though he drank more than she did. Nobody in Anna's family that we've spoken to can understand why she's been portrayed in this way. There's no drinking culture among the Mackenzie women.
Like most people, Anna had to cope with deaths in her family. Her older brother Donald died when she had just turned 17 and her older son David killed himself. She rarely referred to David and did not discuss how his death had affected her. That was not the Mackenzie way. She never struck us as depressed however; she was always reserved, content to lead a quiet life.
She loved and supported Joe; she approved of his principles; she worried about him. She admired Gaby and adored her granddaughters. Joe inherited many of her good qualities.
She was loved by us and greatly liked and respected by all those who really knew her. She deserves this to be known.
On behalf of Jessie Mackinnon, Iain Gillies, Anna Gillies, Mairi Macleod, Jan Macleod, Rona McIntosh, Alasdair Gillies, George Macleod, Jane Mackinnon.