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Tony Barrell was there when Isla St Clair finally heard ‘the Isla St Clair joke’


I met Isla St Clair when I was a busy journalist in the late 1990s. Millions of British people will remember Isla from her stint as co-host of the BBC show The Generation Game in the late 1970s and early ’80s, but she is also a fine singer and interpreter of traditional folk songs. When I met her, I found that she was just as charmingly Scottish and saintly as her name suggests.

If Isla St Clair married the singer Barry White…

As she was standing in front of me, I seized an opportunity: I had heard a joke about her, which had been doing the rounds for a good while, and I asked if she had heard it too. To my surprise, she hadn’t. “What?” she said. “There’s a joke about me?”

“Yes. Here it is. If Isla St Clair married the singer Barry White, then divorced him and married Bryan Ferry, she would be Isla White Ferry.”

Isla, the subject of the joke, threw her head back and laughed. “That’s very funny,” she said, blue eyes twinkling. She seemed honoured that someone had created a joke about her – and perhaps more than a little relieved that it was a perfectly wholesome and inoffensive one.

© 2023 Tony Barrell

Tony Barrell’s acclaimed book Beatlemania is available across the world. He’s always writing stuff.


October 9, 2023

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About the Author

Tony Barrell is a pop historian, journalist, editor and Londoner who has spent much of his life interviewing musicians. He has written many major articles for The Sunday Times and other publications. His 2017 work The Beatles on the Roof is the first book to be published about the Fab Four’s famous 1969 rooftop concert.

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