9 Dec 2023

MacGowan's family dance to 'Fairytale of New York' at funeral

6:50 pm on 9 December 2023

Shane MacGowan has been hailed as a poet, lyricist, singer and trailblazer at his funeral ceremony in County Tipperary.

The acclaimed songwriter and lead singer of The Pogues died last week aged 65.

Hundreds of people gathered inside and outside the church in Nenagh to say their farewells.

Some of his famous friends took part in the ceremony including Nick Cave, Johnny Depp, and Bob Geldof.

Irish President Michael D Higgins was among the guests at the Saint Mary of the Rosary Church.

Fittingly, music played a huge part in the ceremony and the mood was celebratory rather than sad.

Mourners danced in the church as a host of Irish musicians played Fairytale of New York.

Musicians and celebrities paid tribute to frontman of The Pogues, Shane MacGowan, at his funeral in Ireland.

Irish musicians lined up in front of the casket to play Fairytale in New York, with MacGowan's family joining in to dance along Photo: Screengrab

"I think Shane would have enjoyed that, that's some send off for my brother," Siobhan MacGowan told the congregation.

In her eulogy, his widow Victoria Mary Clarke described him as "a genius and a beautiful soul".

Parish priest and keen rock music fan Father Pat Gilbert delivered the homily, describing MacGowan as "our modern-day bard".

"A poet, lyricist, singer, trailblazer, Shane reflected life as lived in our time, calling out accepted norms that oftentimes appear unacceptable," he said.

MacGowan, who is best known for his Christmas song 'Fairytale of New York', would have celebrated his 66th birthday on Christmas Day.

"Born on the birthday of Jesus and passing on the same days as Oscar Wilde and Patrick Kavanagh, and his funeral celebration Mass today on this great Feast of Mary and Sinead's [O'Connor] birthday, all seems right," Fr Gilbert told mourners.

Shane MacGowan of British group The Pogues performs on stage at the British Summer Time festival in Hyde Park in central London, on 5 July, 2014. MacGowan, songwriter and lead singer of folk-punk group The Pogues, has died aged 65 after a long illness, his wife announced on 30 November, 2023.

Shane MacGowan, playing at Hyde Park in London, in 2014 Photo: LEON NEAL / AFP

MacGowan had been unwell for some time before his death last week.

His most recent home was in Dublin but his funeral ceremony is being held 160km away in Tipperary, near where he spent part of his childhood.

Nick Cave, who arrived a little late, performed one of MacGowan's best known songs, 'A Rainy Night in Soho'.

Imelda May and Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam Ó Maonlaí led a rendition of MacGowan's ballad 'You're The One'.

Irish singers Mundy and Camille O'Sullivan sang 'Haunted' - a duet that MacGowan recorded with the late Sinead O'Connor who died earlier this year.

The musical performances were organised by Oscar-winning songwriter Glen Hansard, frontman of The Frames.

The actor Aidan Gillen and former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams were among the readers in the church.

U2 leader singer Bono was not able to attend in person but he sent a recorded reading for the funeral.

Musicians and celebrities paid tribute to frontman of The Pogues, Shane MacGowan, at his funeral in Ireland.

The funeral was held in County Tipperary in Ireland Photo: Screengrab

His widow recalled first meeting him when she was 16 and how they became a couple when she was 20.

"I think I fell in love with his soul," Clarke said.

She also spoke candidly about how drug-taking was a huge factor in his life, with people telling her for decades that "he would be dead within six months".

"His physical body lasted a very long time, considering what he did to it," she said.

But she hailed his talent and creativity, calling him a "brilliant artist" who "reinvented Irish music".

During the offertory procession a number of gifts were brought to the altar, each chosen to represent aspects of the singer's life.

The gifts included a vinyl copy of the album Led Zeppelin II, a Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) shirt and a copy of MacGowan's book Crock of Gold.

His former bandmates from The Pogues sang 'The Parting Glass' towards the end of the service.

Dublin's adopted son

Earlier, fans thronged the streets of Dublin to say their farewells as his funeral procession travelled through the Irish capital.

They sang along as musicians played some of his best known songs, while the horse-drawn carriage bearing his coffin made its way through the city.

When the Artane Band struck up 'Fairytale of New York' you could hear a pin drop - until the chorus when the crowd softly joined in:

"And the boys of the NYPD Choir still singing Galway Bay, and the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day."

Dublin was blanketed in a thick layer of cloud as the city paid tribute to its Kent-born adopted son.

It was probably fitting as weather was a theme of MacGowan's lyrics - you can't have that night in Soho without the rain, the morning light at Albert Bridge without the mist.

He was Irish after all.

'Shane was a poet'

The Pogues had international fame and many fans travelled from far afield to say their goodbyes.

Bruno and Pascal Kenard came all the way from Nantes, in France, to attend the procession.

"Shane was a poet. I think I know all his songs," Bruno said.

"There are lots of emotions today," he added. "The band playing, the singing - have to say it broke my heart."

At Tower Records in Dublin city centre, Pogues albums and merchandise have nearly sold out since his death.

Gerard O'Boyle said there was a great buzz around live gigs involving MacGowan

Gerard O'Boyle said there was a great buzz around live gigs involving MacGowan. Photo: Supplied/ BBC

"It was the same when Sinéad (O'Connor) died, there was a tremendous interest in everything," said Gerard O'Boyle, who works in the store.

"Some people are quite frantic to get it. We've had people on the phone wanting 'Haunted' (MacGowan's duet with O'Connor) but it's hard to get."

His band The Gorehounds supported the band during their 1980s heyday.

"They were brilliant, it was a great night. The records are good, but live - that was where the buzz was."

- This story was first published by BBC.

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