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Marion Skene: The Aberdeen nanny who died a year after David Bowie left her £700,000

David Bowie and nanny Marion Skene
David Bowie and Marion Skene, the Aberdeen nanny he bequeathed a fortune to. Image: Duncan Jones

It was early on the morning of January 11, 2016, that David Bowie’s death was announced.

There was a global outpouring of grief for the legend who touched countless lives across decades of musical genius.

Older fans dusted off LPs to relive the classics of their youth, while others deciphered the cryptic codes left in Blackstar – the poignant farewell album released just days earlier.

Bowie’s seminal releases like Aladdin Sane and Hunky Dory are a staple of many record collections. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

His death was keenly felt in the north-east of Scotland, the scene of some famous gigs and where his son attended school.

Many attending the Burning of the Clavie event in Burghead that night daubed Ziggy Stardust-style lightning bolts on their faces in tribute.

But in Aberdeen, lawyers were knocking doors trying to track down Marion Skene…

DJ Sara Cox told BBC Radio 2 listeners the sad news at 7.08am:

How did David Bowie meet Marion Skene?

Marion Skene was brought up in the Cornhill area of Aberdeen but moved to the bright lights of London to work as a nanny. 

She was hired to care for Bowie’s son Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones – now known as Duncan Jones and a famous movie director in his own right.

Black and white image of David Bowie with his then-wife Angie and their son Zowie - now Duncan Jones.
David Bowie with his then-wife Angie and their son Zowie – now Duncan Jones – in the 1970s.

She was taken on after the rock star split from wife Angie in 1975, while the boy was just four and Bowie’s cocaine habit was spiralling out of control.

With both parents mostly out of the picture, Marion helped raise him at homes in London, Berlin and the Vevey area of Switzerland.

David Bowie, a smiling Marion Skene and Duncan Jones sitting and eating breakfast together
Jamming good at the breakfast table: David Bowie, a smiling Marion Skene and Duncan Jones. Image: Duncan Jones

Angie has since admitted that as she and David were “away doing drugs”, Marion “effectively became Zowie’s mother”.

While David would say: “‘For the first six or seven years of his life I was around so infrequently I can’t imagine what an abyss that has caused.”

Film director Jones formed such a bond with her, he would later describe her as “essentially his mum”.

When his parents divorced in 1979, his dad was granted custody. And by the time he was 13, the youngster decided he wanted nothing to do with Angie.


Did Marion Skene enjoy celebrity lifestyle?

Bay City Rollers frontman Les McKeown, who died in 2021, made claim to a romance with the Aberdeen woman in an interview with the Rockpit website.

He became close with Bowie as the Rollers made their sixth album at a recording studio in Lake Geneva – close to his Swiss home.

The Bye Bye Baby singer said: “When we were recording I bumped into Bowie’s female, um… ‘kids-looker-afterer’ or whatever you call it!

“So I got a little involved with her and we stayed up at David’s house a few times, and he’d turn up with people like Iggy Pop and such like, so we had a few good chats.”

How did bond continue when rock star’s son was sent to Gordonstoun?

There can’t be much David Bowie had in common with a straight-laced disciplinarian like the late Duke of Edinburgh.

But the glam rock pioneer followed in the footsteps of the royals when he sent young Duncan to Gordonstoun, the exclusive boarding school near Lossiemouth known then for its traditional teaching methods.

King Charles was traumatised by bullies during his time at the Moray boarding school. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

During his five years there, he would “escape” by travelling 70 miles to Aberdeen at the weekends to spend time with Marion.

He spent “much of his childhood” in the high-rise block she called home.

The director recently credited his cooking skills to his time spent there, saying he “used to help Marion in the kitchen all the time”.

It’s also where he acquired a taste for a particular north-east delicacy… He’s a known buttery fanatic.

How much did Marion Skene receive in David Bowie’s will?

Marion Skene would remain close to the family as her charge grew up.

And her formative role in his son’s life was recognised when Bowie died aged 69 following an 18-month cancer battle.

In the weeks following his death, it emerged that the singer and actor pledged Marion Skene $1 million in his will, the equivalent of £700,000.

David Bowie in Ziggy Stardust guise at the Music Hall in Aberdeen.
David Bowie in Ziggy Stardust guise tries to win over a rather sceptical Aberdeen audience at Aberdeen Music Hall in 1973.

The generous bequest was revealed in a New York court, where it also emerged his personal assistant Corinne Schwab would be left £1.4 million.

Half of his estate went to supermodel wife Iman, along with the home they shared in London.

Son Duncan and daughter Alexandria Jones both inherited 25%, and the latter also received his mountain home in Ulster County, New York.

At the time of David Bowie’s death, it is believed Marion was living in his Swiss mansion.

When did Marion die?

Marion Skene died of cancer in March 2017, a little more than a year after Bowie’s death.

Duncan Jones broke the news to his followers on Twitter, calling her “a most incredible woman”.

A 2010 interview, the Daily Mail asked “how DID Zowie Bowie turn out so normal!?”

He’s happy to tell people the answer is simple: Marion Skene.

Jones has often paid public tribute to Marion, and in 2018 named his daughter Zowie Tala Mabsie Jones – the “Mabsie” in honour of his beloved nanny.

He said she was “the wonderful woman that raised me”.

His film Mute, released on Netflix the same year, was dedicated to both his father and Marion.

But little more is known about Marion Skene… And we wonder if our readers could help? Please respond in our comments section or email if you can shed more light on her extraordinary life.