Ken Doherty: Singer, songwriter and poet – Shane truly was the last of the Irish Rovers

by Ken Doherty
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I was really sad to hear that Shane MacGowan, the songwriter, poet and singer extraordinaire had passed away last week.

I’m not sure if you know but my entry into snooker arenas is always accompanied by the sound of the Irish Rover, a song I think was the best Shane ever sang.

It is fitting that after missing out when first released that his song, The Fairytale of New York, will be the No 1 in the charts this Christmas. Most people agree that since its launch in the eighties, it has become the most played and most loved yuletide song of all time. 

I’ve always admired Shane and loved his concerts when I got the chance to attend them. I remember  one such occasion in the Olympic Theatre in Dublin when a packed crowd waited over an hour and a half before he walked out on stage with a bottle in his hand and that winsome smile across his face.

If some were a bit unhappy at his late appearance, by the time he had belted out the first verse of The Irish Rover, we were all rocking in the aisles and conclusively on his side again.

That was the magnetism of the man – he was a little flawed but that only endeared him more to our hearts. And as a writer of songs and deliverer of lyrics, he was in a league of his own.

I couldn’t get across from England to attend his funeral or line the streets of Dublin but I watched it all on television and well done to our capital city and to the people of  Nenagh, you certainly gave Shane a proper send off. Looking at the list of celebs from Bono to Johnny Depp who wanted to be part of the funeral process just goes to show how deeply he touched people. even those big names of the international stage and screen.

It hit me as I turned off the television after watching Shane’s funeral that it has been a rough year for Irish music lovers as  Aslan’s Christy Dignam and Sinead O’Connor also gone to perform in that stage up in the sky.

In terms of influence, those  two and Shane are musicians who have shaped many of our lives in the way they wrote and sung about the issues in life. Yes, we will miss them all but truthfully I can say they will live on forever through their music.

Although born in England, Shane’s love of all things Irish was there to see and his interpretations of his own lyrics and those of other writers, got Bruce Springsteen to suggest that 100 years from now, and long after other big names are forgotten, those future generations will be singing his stuff. High praise indeed and well deserved.

 Slán Shane, a chara, and for sure we can say you were indeed the last of the Irish Rovers.

 Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

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