• Proceeds to Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust

Jackie Stewart's family launch charity record

Claire Furnell December 7, 2009
The Stewart family in 1969 © Sutton Images
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Normally if your father is turning 70 you might club together with your family and get him a nice watch, but not if your dad is three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart . If you're Paul and Mark Stewart you organise a lavish surprise party for 140 of his friends (70 couples for 70 years) and record a single, roping in guitar legend Eric Clapton.

The result is the track Fly Free, and Sir Jackie is so proud of it he has released it to the public all in aid of the Grand Prix Mechanics charitable trust. The lyrics are charming and have their routes firmly embedded in the history of this close knit family.

"I was really struggling with the lyrics," said Paul "I had this chord change in the middle of the music that really needed some nice words. So I thought it would be nice to use one of Dad's phrases - he has so many. I chose "If you fly with crows, you'll get shot at..."

It might sound like a strange phrase but when linked back to Jackie's game keeper father it makes perfect sense.

"My father was always out shooting crows," said Sir Jackie. "They are vermin. He used to tell me that you are judged by the crowd you hang out with, so if you are another bird and you hang out with crows in a field you will get shot at, and if in life if you hang out with the wrong people chances are things won't go well for you."

The answer to being shot at comes at the end of the track and gives the song its title - Fly free ... be strong. Former race driver and team manager Paul has certainly had to be strong in his life - beating Colon cancer in 2000.

Not only did Paul rope Eric Clapton in to help, he also employed the skills of his film-making brother Mark to create the video for the song - a treat for all fans of Jackie's era of motoring.

"I chose a scrap book theme for the video," Mark Stewart explained. "Our mum used to make a lot of scrap books throughout my father's whole career, both with racing and shooting. She has also gone on to document our family life too - I thought it was the perfect ground work for the video."

Although he had never made a music video before, Mark expertly weaves in period footage of Sir Jackie in his prime as well as their family and famous friends. The video is superb and a great addition to any motorsport fans library, with footage of Jim Clark , Graham Hill , Jochen Rindt and Francois Cevert - of course Eric Clapton puts in an appearance too. However, the main reason you should buy this track is the cause that it supports.

Sir Jackie Stewart on his way to Tyrrell's first grand prix victory in 1971 © Sutton Images
Sir Jackie set up the Grand Prix Mechanic's charitable trust 22-years ago to help mechanics through illness, financial difficulties and family problems.

"I do a lot of work for the dyslexia charity as Paul, Mark and myself are dyslexic. But that charity attracts a huge amount of attention, unlike the mechanics trust. I hope if nothing else us releasing this single will help raise awareness of the tremendous work the charity does."

Most recently the charity paid out £42,000 to help fly home a Honda mechanic who fell into a coma after a motorbike accident in Thailand.

"We flew him home so he could be treated by the NHS," said Sir Jackie. "He is still in a coma but staying in Thailand would have bankrupted his family"

Sir Jackie also recounts the story of the first person they helped, Jack Brabham's mechanic, who, after a stroke, was left without the ability to speak.

"That was really quite simple, we were able to get him a computer that would enable him to communicate, it only cost the charity £1,200 but it made a world of difference to him. We also have one guy who has a serious problem with his central nervous system - he was in constant pain and unable to work. The NHS couldn't help and his insurance company believed they had exhausted the options and deemed his condition incurable.

"Through Sid Watkins [the former FIA medical chief] who is one of our trustees, we found a specialist and he is now receiving special shock treatment. It's working but it's costing £30,000 - where else would he find that money?"

After hearing the song at his party Sir Jackie refused to let it be confined to the family scrap books "They worked so hard on it I just couldn't let it die and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to raise some awareness for the trust."

With all the attention lavished on him Paul seems a little un-easy; especially when his brother and father start winding him up about his future pop career.

Sir Jackie with Paul and Mark at the Goodwood Revival © Sutton Images
"I was nervous when he said he wanted to release the track," said Paul. "Obviously because I had got Eric [Clapton] involved I asked him how he felt. He just said that when you give someone a present they can do what they want with it - that's the point of a present. So I really had no option."

After all this work on their Dad's 70th, I wondered what he was going to get for his 71st... the answer was quick to follow from all parties - A book!

Fly Free is available from Amazon and at the iTunes store, priced 79p for the single and £1.79 for the video. All proceeds go directly to the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust.