Shane MacGowan: 'The voice of London for us Irish'

Shane MacGowan (Laura Lean/PA)
Shane MacGowan (Laura Lean/PA) Shane MacGowan (Laura Lean/PA)

The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan has died “peacefully” aged 65 with his wife and family by his side, a statement from his family said.

The Irish singer died at 3am on Thursday morning after being discharged from St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin last week where he had been receiving care for an infection.

MacGowan, who was best known for hit festive song Fairytale Of New York, had been due to celebrate his 66th birthday on Christmas Day.

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A statement shared on behalf of his wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, his sister Siobhan and father, Maurice, on The Pogues’ official Instagram said: “It is with the deepest sorrow and heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of Shane MacGowan.

“Shane died peacefully at 3am this morning (30 November, 2023) with his wife Victoria and family by his side.

“Prayers and the last rites were read which gave comfort to his family.

“He is survived by his wife Victoria, his sister Siobhan and his father, Maurice, family and a large circle of friends.

“Further details will be announced shortly but the family ask for privacy at this very sad time”.

English musician and singer Peter “Spider” Stacy has paid tribute to his fellow bandmate Shane MacGowan, sharing an image of him performing on a stage.

Taking to X, formerly Twitter, Stacy wrote: “‘O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done..'”

The line was accompanied by a black and white image of MacGowan smiling on stage.

Stacy co-founded The Pogues along with MacGowan, Jem Finer and James Fearnley and appeared on all of their recordings.

Irish folk group The Wolfe Tones said Shane MacGowan was a “lyricist supreme”.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the group said: “Shane MacGowan RIP, lyricist supreme, unbelievable talent, sincerest condolences to Victoria and Shane’s family and friends.”

The late, great Shane MacGowan
The late, great Shane MacGowan The late, great Shane MacGowan

Irish singer and actress Imelda May has thanked Shane MacGowan for sharing his “glorious talents”.

On Instagram, May said: “Thank you Shane. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing with us your glorious talents. We’ll never see the likes of again.

“Your genius song writing and poetry weaved of words and wisdom that made mortals feel seen, heard and moved from stoney stoicism to quiet tears.

“In a world of perfection bulls*** you were always real. You always lived your truth.

“Your defiance, passion, energy, self awareness, honesty, daring, anger, love was always inspiring.”

She added: “You loved your tribe and we love you.”

May had visited MacGowan while he was in hospital, and in a social media post his wife Victoria Mary Clarke said he was “so happy” to see her.

Derry Girls actor Siobhan McSweeney has said that Shane MacGowan “was the voice of London for us Irish”.

“When I was scared about moving here he lured me over with songs about chancers, drinkers, lovers, poets and scoundrels,” she said on the social media site X.

“That’s the place for me, I thought!

“He also taught me how to miss home, whatever that may be. Damn shame, Shane.”

Australian singer and actor Nick Cave paid tribute to Shane MacGowan saying: “A true friend and the greatest songwriter of his generation. A very sad day.”

TV presenter Dermot O'Leary talked about how Shane and the Pogues were a vital resource for the Irish population and Irish descendants living in London.

"The Pogues were our band," he said. "Shane's words were symbols of an Ireland I knew through sepia-worn pictures and endless summer holidays."

Author Tony Parsons posted on the X social media platform: "I remember Shane MacGowan when he was in his mid-teens and coming down the Roxy in Covent Garden to bang on unattended drums in his Union jack jacket.

"A crazy kid with a dream who grew into one of the greatest talents these islands have ever know. A creative giant. Sleep well, Shane and see you at number one for Christmas."

Singer Billy Bragg hailed the Irish star as “one of the greatest songwriters of my generation”.

He added: “The Pogues reinvigorated folk music in the early 80s and his songs put the focus onto lyric writing, opening doors for the likes of myself and others.”

The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess praised the Irish singer-songwriter as a “lyrical genius” and an “inspiration” to many up-and-coming artists.

“I followed The Pogues to far-flung places, met Shane a few times and watched some of the most exhilarating shows I’ve ever witnessed,” he added.

Music producer Jack Antonoff, who has worked with global artists including Taylor Swift and The 1975, said MacGowan made him “feel something” through his work that nobody else could.

He tweeted: “His way is something I feel inspired by everyday in the studio and on tour. Love to those close to him and for the rest of us who wouldn’t be here without his music it’s a sad day.”

A tribute to Shane MacGowan at the Mansion House in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)
A tribute to Shane MacGowan at the Mansion House in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA) A tribute to Shane MacGowan at the Mansion House in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Carol Vorderman said Shane MacGowan and fellow singer Sinead O’Connor were “the incredible rebels of my generation.”

The former Countdown star reposted a photo of the late musicians to X, formerly Twitter, following MacGowan’s death aged 65.

In the post, Vorderman said that, in her household, Christmas starts with the song Fairytale Of New York, by McGowan’s band The Pogues, featuring Kirsty MacColl.

She added: “Incredible photo here of a very young Sinead O’Connor and Shane MacGowan together. A loss of both this year… The incredible rebels of my generation.”

O’Connor died in July at the age of 56.

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Irish President Michael D Higgins said there was “particular poignancy” that the death of MacGowan had followed closely after that of Sinead O’Connor.

He said: “Born on Christmas Day, there was perhaps some form of destiny which led Shane to writing Fairytale Of New York, the timeless quality of which will surely mean that it will be listened to every Christmas for the next century or more.

“Likewise songs like Rainy Night In Soho, A Pair Of Brown Eyes, If I Should Fall From Grace With God and so many others will live on far into the years and decades to come.

“I think too of Haunted, and the particular poignancy that both Shane and Sinead O’Connor have left us in such quick succession.”

Mr Higgins added that it was a “great honour” for him to present the singer with a lifetime achievement award at the National Concert Hall in January 2018 to mark MacGowan’s 60th birthday.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has expressed his condolances at the death of Shane MacGowan.

“He was an amazing musician and artist,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.

“His songs beautifully captured the Irish experience, especially the experience of being Irish abroad.”

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald has described Shane MacGowan as “a poet” who was unique in how he told “the Irish story”.

She said that Ireland “has lost one of its most beloved icons and the world one of its greatest songwriters”.

“Shane was a poet, a dreamer and a champion of social justice. He was a dedicated Republican and a proud Irishman.

“Nobody told the Irish story like Shane – stories of emigration, heartache, dislocation, redemption, love and joy.

“Shane brought his musical unique style to all corners of the world, and his music will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

“Today we mourn his passing. He was one of the best of us. Ni bheidh a leitheid aris ann.

“I want to extend my deepest condolences to his wife Victoria, his sister Siobhan, his extended family and very wide circle of friends.”

Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin said he was devastated by the death of Shane MacGowan.

In a social media post, Mr Martin said: “Devastated by the passing of Shane MacGowan.

“An iconic musician talented in many genres, particularly influenced by his time in Tipperary.

“His passing is particularly poignant at this time of year as we listen to Fairytale Of New York – a song that resonates with all of us.”

Mr Martin added: “My deepest sympathies to his wife Victoria Mary and all the MacGowan family.”