Jill Kirkland : U3A Guest Speaker
Jill Kirkland (Wells) is a well known South African artist / actress from the late 1960′s; she was known for her musical talents such as folk music and composing, as well as teaching and being a mother of four.
Her love of music started when she was a teenager. She used to practice playing the organ in the school chapel twice a week. “I went from a noisy classroom of loud boisterous girls to a very dark, quiet, cool and spacious chapel. The sound that filled the space around me would growl and create a huge crescendo of noise… which was totally satisfying.”
That was a huge turning point in her life because that is when she decided she was going to make a career in music.
In 1940, during the war, they had moved from Bloemfontein to Pretoria. “My first memory was of 51 Milner Road, Waterkloof. My parents were renting this large home, in the living room was this large battered old piano. I gravitated towards it, and I found I could make all these very pleasant and unpleasant noises.”
Their next door neighbour at that time was a retired music teacher, she suggested to Jill’s mother that she should have music lessons, and so it all began. She had learned to play her first Bach Minuet.
In 1947 Jill’s baby brother Tim was born. In that time she used to come home from boarding school and play her exam pieces for the family; it taught her how important audiences were and that you cannot perform when no-one is listening. In turn that gave Jill a lot of confidence.
The highlight for Jill in that year was the Royal Visit. Her father got the girls a spot to stand just outside the townhall which was just a metre away from where the Royal Family passes.
“I saw the King, who I thought, always looked worried, the Queen and princesses, who had the most beautiful smiles.”
In Jill’s final year of school her mom passed away due to an aneurysm which had occured after an operation. She was only 38 years old. Jill refers to the last summer she spent with her mom as “the summer which did not show its age”.
In her first year of university she met and married her first husband whom she had four children with. A friend of hers owned a restaurant in Hillbrow and was looking for folk singers; he approached Jill and she accepted. On her first night she only knew one song to sing to the audience and that was “Hush little baby”.
After that she added a new song to her list every week. She then discovered her signature song, which was a song about a dog called “Old Blue”. Jill then also started a childrens group called “The Little Weavers”; this came about because she wanted to spend more time with her children – especially her daughter.
In 1970 Jill made her first movie “Katrina”, followed by other movies such as Jannie Tot-Siens and Freddie in Love.
“I have had hiccups and disappointments in life but music has always been there for me.”
Jill and her second husband Mike Wells now have 18 grandchildren between them and couldn’t be happier.
She graced the Members and visitors of the U3A to classic piano pieces such as:
- Bach Minuet – in memory of her mother (it was really beautiful to listen to and almost made you feel like you had been taken back to that summer that Jill had spoken about)
- Blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover
- Piano Concerto no. 1
- Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland
- Theme song to “Katrina”
- Theme song to “Schindlers List”
Jill also played back several of her own songs from when she was singing folk music.
- When I was a child
- Donna Donna – Jill and “The Little Weavers”
- Signiture Song – Old Blue
- Fill the World with love – Goodbye Mr. Chips
This article was written by Christy Strever.