Paul McCartney tells Quebec protestors to pipe down

Ex-Beatle says that anniversary appearance is a 'show of friendship'

Sir Paul McCartney has tried to defuse the row about his forthcoming gig in Quebec City by telling his critics to “smoke the pipes of peace”.

Referring to his 1983 song of the same name, the former Beatle told Quebec nationalists opposing his appearance at a concert marking the 400th anniversary of the city that it was a “show of friendship” and that they should let history remain in the past.

The controversy has arisen because of a British invasion of Quebec in 1790, with nationalists arguing that a performance by a UK artist was not appropriate.

In an interview with Radio Canada, McCartney said that the protesters’ attitude was comparable to him still refusing to play in Germany because of the world wars.

He said: “I think it’s time to smoke the pipes of peace and to just, you know, put away your hatchet because I think it’s a show of friendship.

“I’m very friendly with the French people that I know. I know people of all nationalities and, hey, I’m friendly with German people and, by that argument, I should never go to Germany or they should never come here.”

The argument began with an open letter to McCartney, printed in a local Quebec newspaper, calling for him to learn some French songs before the gig.

The letter read: “The presence of your English-language music on the most majestic part of Battlefields Park, as beautiful as it might be, can’t help but bring back painful memories of our Conquest.”

It also asked McCartney to extend the same sensitivity to “the people of French Quebec” as the ex-Beatle has already shown to “the fate of the seals”, a reference to McCartney’s support for ex-wife Heather Mills’ campaign against seal hunting.