Shane MacGowan: ‘One of a kind’ and a send off like no other

by Rose Barrett
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The late frontman for the Pogues, Shane MacGowan never did things by half. Renowned for his talent as a songwriter and adaptations of iconic Irish songs, the late Shane was equally renowned for his excesses.

While he hated funerals, and avoided them if he could, his own was one he certainly would have enjoyed! It was not a maudlin affair, and ended up with the delivery of his immortalised Christmas song ‘Fairytale of New York.’  

Joining Glen Hansard on the alter as the familiar lyrics rang through the cathedral were Lisa O’Neill, John Sheehan of the Dubliners, Liam O’Maonlaí of the Hothouse Flowers, Imelda May, Declan O ‘Rourke, Nick Cave who sang in Soho, Bono (by recording) and former Pogues members Jem Finer, Terry Woods, Spider Stacey and James Fearnley, who delivered The Parting Glass, one of the final and equally emotive songs at his service. 

A procession marches down Westland Row in Dublin to bid farewell to Shane MacGowan before the hearse carries his coffin for burial in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.
Photograph: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

Other mourners included President Michael D Higgins, former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, and US actors Johnny Depp and Aidan Gillen, among others. If Shane MacGowan wasn’t there in person, he was certainly there in spirit!

Through the streets of Dublin, the crowds gathered in dull, cold weather and the Pogues songs were belted out in true bawdy and bold tones. Even in the  Church of St Mary’s of the Rosary Church in Nenagh,  mourners got up and danced in the aisle. It’s a funeral Shane MacGowan would have approved of. There was not a trad session in Ireland that didn’t cover Fairytale of New York last weekend and air the recording on social media.  

That song, well, it’s a bit like Shane MacGowan himself, loud, bold and forever embedded in the DNA of generations of Irish people, and for generations to come.

A procession marches down Westland Row in Dublin to bid farewell to Shane MacGowan before the hearse carries his coffin for burial in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.
Photograph: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

His sister Siobhán spoke tenderly of their childhood. She spoke of a quieter, shyer Shane, how he loved his literature – which he had in common with their dad – and how he loved returning always to Ireland where his heart was, and especially to his beloved Co Tipperary. 

His wife Victoria Mary delivered a lengthy eulogy and spoke of his compassion for the disadvantaged, the homeless.   She talked weightily of his experimentation with substances, and how at times, it led to his incredible creativity. He was, she claimed, a spiritual soul and in ways, his music was his religion, his God.

But she also described him as a forgiving man, who encouraged friends to always forgive others. During the ceremony, she alluded to Johnny Depp and reminded him how, despite the intensity and bitterness of his recent court case with his former wife, Amber, the late Shane also encouraged him to forgive his former spouse – which was followed by stifled laughter. 

Ironically, for a man who didn’t like to plan life and lived it dangerously (health wise) with his excesses, it almost seemed like he had organised it all from above, the tears, the tenderness, the talent acknowledged, the laughter, the music and dancing, the most wonderful funeral ever! 

Shane McGowan, may you party on wherever your journey takes you. 

Pictures Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

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