Depp and Higgins join crowd in saying goodbye to Shane MacGowan

Victoria Mary Clarke, wife of Shane MacGowan, arrives for his funeral (Niall Carson/PA)
Victoria Mary Clarke, wife of Shane MacGowan, arrives for his funeral (Niall Carson/PA)

The small town of Nenagh in Co Tipperary had never witnessed anything quite like it before.

The attendance of both Hollywood star Johnny Depp and Irish president Michael D Higgins at St Mary of the Rosary Church on Friday was a tribute to how the music and personality of Shane MacGowan crossed boundaries and seemed to attract fans and friends from all walks of life.

More than an hour before the funeral was due to begin, devoted followers of MacGowan and The Pogues had gathered outside the church.

A handmade sign with “thanks for all the fairytales Shane” was placed on the side of the road. “RIP Shane” was written on the side of a haybale further along the road.

Shane MacGowan funeral
Victoria Mary Clarke, wife of Shane MacGowan, arrives for his funeral (Niall Carson/PA)

As the hearse carrying MacGowan’s remains arrived at the church, his widow Victoria Mary Clarke bowed her head as she touched the coffin of the man she has described as the love of her life.

Soon afterwards, Hollywood actor Johnny Depp waved to the crowds as he arrived. The 60-year-old Pirates Of The Caribbean film series star, a close friend of MacGowan, was dressed on Friday in a black suit, hat and wearing a scarf and dark sunglasses.

The procession of well-known faces kept on coming, Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave, Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam O’Maonlai, Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream, Game Of Thrones actor Aidan Gillen and former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Parish priest Father Pat Gilbert captured the mood when welcomed “the world” to the local church.

“We welcome the world of people this great man influenced, encouraged, entertained and touched,” he said.

“Your presence here is very important and a huge statement of the love and esteem we all have and had for this great man.”

MacGowan’s coffin was brought to the front of the church draped in an Irish tricolour flag and placed close to a large black and white photograph of the Pogues singer.

MacGowan’s widow Victoria Mary Clarke presented symbols of her late husband during the funeral mass which included a copy of a Depp album, whom she called a “massive fan” of The Pogues frontman.

A Led Zeppelin record, art and lyrics from MacGowan that form a Crock Of God book, a James Joyce novel, a hurling stick and a Tipperary flag were also among the items presented at Saint Mary’s of the Rosary Church in Nenagh.

While the occasion was always going to be tinged with regret, this was a funeral filled with music, laughter and appreciation.

Time and again the walls of the old church seemed to shake as spontaneous rounds of applause broke out.

Fittingly, there was dancing inside the church as MacGowan’s most famous song, Fairytale Of New York, was performed by Glen Hansard and Lisa O’Neill.

His sister Siobhan rose to deliver a eulogy after the performance.

Smiling, she told mourners: “Wow, I think Shane would have enjoyed that.

“That’s some send-off for my brother, so thank you.”