‘I Thought A Baby Would Be Really Easy'
The Scotsman 23rd January 2002

This could go either way, says Lorraine McIntosh, all frightnight curls and watery eyes after battling the blustery winds to make it to rehearsals for her stage debut. She has performed on stage before, of course, as part of Scots rockers Deacon Blue. But this is different, this is acting.

"Either I’ll forget all my lines and turn white with panic and the rest of the cast will shake their heads and mutter to each other: ‘I knew we shouldn’t have let her do it.’" She removes her chewing gum to down a coffee. "Or I’ll get up there and think, ‘I can do this - brilliant!’ and really enjoy it."

McIntosh, 37, is still best-known as the wife of Deacon Blue leader Ricky Ross, and the "woo-hoo" girl on the band’s 17 Top 40 singles and five hit albums. She’s been acting for a while, in the film My Name Is Joe and telly dramas such as Psychos, and this spring will star in her first sitcom. But after only a few run-throughs of Mum’s The Word in a church hall in Glasgow, she has quickly learned that this is acting without a safety-net.

"I’ll probably never work in film or TV again after saying this, but stage work is much more thorough. I never thought I could do it; I thought it was only something a trained actress could take on. And already I’ve seen other members of the cast do things that have taken my breath away."

She may not be fully versed in the actor’s craft, but McIntosh knows about motherhood, the play’s theme, and in conversation confesses to her own failings in this department. In the play, devised nine years ago by a group of Canadian actresses who had all become parents, six women tell their own stories about children. Her character is quite pretentious and has a thoroughly cosseted existence and McIntosh admits she can empathise with her alter ego, after all those years of rock-star pampering.

But she is at her most revealing when talking about her own mother, who died of leucaemia when McIntosh was 11.

"I struggle to remember anything about my relationship with her. That’s awful, isn’t it? Maybe, at the time it happened, the shock caused me to blot it out. We went from being a normal family in Cumnock to my dad having to do extra shifts in the factory and the house being empty when I came home from school.

"I mean, I do remember her, but not a lot of instances of being with her, of things she said to me. It’s very sad because I wish she was still in my life. I’d love to go under hypnosis, you know, to see if that would bring her back to me. I’d tell the hypnotist: ‘Transport me back to when I was six or seven, I just want to talk about my mum.’ And I’d make sure I was taped so when I woke up I had this permanent record of what she was like."

McIntosh has three children by Ross - Emer, nine, Georgia, seven, and one-year-old Seamus. She was still gigging with Deacon Blue when seven months pregnant with Emer, but was bored with life on the road and eager to embrace motherhood - or at least her skewed concept of it. "I thought having a baby would be really easy, and Jill, my character in the play, is like that, too. Because we had money, I thought we could pay someone to look after it and my life wouldn’t stop. I had a drawer full of baby clothes from around the world which I’d picked up on tours and I was in that mindset of how she was going to be this beautiful girl, and she’d wear this pink dress to go out in, and so on.

"That sort of stuff shows you up in a way: a baby is not this accessory to be added to your lifestyle. Everything changed when I became a mum, but it took me a while to accept that."

She talks about celebrity mothers, about how a pregnant Demi Moore posing on the cover of Vanity Fair sends out the wrong signals to ordinary mothers, who must have limitless amounts of time, energy, patience and love, but don’t get the holiday in Mauritius after the baby is born - "to recover from their crackled nipples while someone else looks after the kid".

But wouldn’t she class herself as one of them? No, she says. Although Deacon Blue re-formed for an album last year, she counts herself among the ranks of the formerly famous, and was always self-conscious about her celebrity. "I was unemployed and Ricky was a teacher and suddenly, because of luck really, we were propelled into this whole different world," she says.

Once, Bruce Springsteen, a big hero, invited them to a barbecue at his house; feeling completely out of their depth, they declined the invitation.

Nowadays, McIntosh’s music takes second place to her family. "I’ve enjoyed every stage of motherhood. The just-born stage is the hardest, the toughest job you can ever do, but it’s also when you grow as a person."

The same goes for the acting, although she’s excited about the BBC sitcom Fran’s People as well as Mum’s The Word, in which she is starring alongside Taggart’s Blythe Duff.

Sadly, her own parents won’t be there to see her stage debut. McIntosh enjoyed a longer relationship with her father, who died 12 years ago, but believes her own children, and their cousins, miss the presence of grandparents. She tries to keep their memory alive, despite the void left by her mother, and is perhaps doing better at this than she thinks.

On her last birthday, one of her brothers gave her a copy of Seamus Heaney’s Clearances, a tribute to the poet’s mother. Alongside, he had written: "For keeping the story going ... "

  • Mum’s The Word, Dundee Rep, 30 January to 9 February; Gaiety Theatre, Ayr, 11-16 February; King’s Theatre, Glasgow, 26 February-23 March.