Ireland

Shane MacGowan funeral: Pogues frontman remembered as 'poet, lyricist, singer and trailblazer'

Flowers are thrown at the hearse as the funeral procession of Shane MacGowan makes its way through the streets of Dublin ahead of his funeral in Co Tipperary. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Flowers are thrown at the hearse as the funeral procession of Shane MacGowan makes its way through the streets of Dublin ahead of his funeral in Co Tipperary. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire Flowers are thrown at the hearse as the funeral procession of Shane MacGowan makes its way through the streets of Dublin ahead of his funeral in Co Tipperary. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Shane MacGowan has been described as a poet, lyricist, singer and trailblazer at his funeral.

Requiem Mass was celebrated this afternoon at Saint Mary of the Rosary Church in Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

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

Father Pat Gilbert welcomed “the world” to the funeral Mass.

“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.”

He added: “We gather together his life, his loves, his lyric, and his light, and his music before this altar and to pray for the eternal rest of his soul.”

Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams delivered a reading and so too did Game Of Thrones star Aidan Gillen. Imelda May, Liam O Maonlai and Declan O’Rourke performed You’re The One and Nick Cave performed A Rainy Night In Soho.  A recording of U2 frontman Bono delivering a reading was played at the funeral.

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The widow of Shane MacGowan has presented symbols of her last husband during the funeral mass which have included a copy of a Johnny Depp album who 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.

A rendition of Haunted by The Pogues was performed by Irish musicians. There was dancing too when the Pogues’ 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”.

Siobhan MacGowan said the Saint Mary of the Rosary Church in Nenagh, Co Tipperary is where she and Shane’s mother attended mass every Sunday.

She thanked many of the special guests for attending her brother’s funeral, including Irish president Michael D Higgins.

Recalling the end of Shane’s life, she said he spent the last six months of it in hospital, although noted with many friends visiting there was “hardly a dull moment”.

She also thanked the carers and health workers who looked after MacGowan, “always ensuring his comfort, which allowed us to share laughter and loving moments with them to the end”.

“We will be eternally grateful to you,” she told mourners.

While they were born in Kent, Siobhan said that her brother’s “veins ran deep with Irish blood”, and he found his spiritual home in Co Tipperary, their mother’s childhood home.

“Shane absorbed the magical mayhem of this place, and along with the musical talents of his mother, the literary leanings of his father, and their enduring love for their son, it would be the greatest influence on his life,” she said.

The funeral procession of Shane MacGowan arrives at Saint Mary's of the Rosary Church, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. Picture by Damien Eagers/PA Wire
The funeral procession of Shane MacGowan arrives at Saint Mary's of the Rosary Church, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. Picture by Damien Eagers/PA Wire The funeral procession of Shane MacGowan arrives at Saint Mary's of the Rosary Church, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. Picture by Damien Eagers/PA Wire

Referencing MacGowan receiving a lifetime achievement award for his outstanding contribution to Irish life, music and culture, from Irish president Michael D Higgins in 2018, his sister Siobhan said he cried because their mother had not lived to see it.

“Tipperary and Ireland gave birth to a dream, he dreamed of one day being the teller of stories, the singer of the songs, he dreamed of following in the footsteps of those great Irish lyricists and musicians he so admired,” she said.

“He dreamed of continuing this proud tradition. He dreamed that one day he might add his name to those who had gone before him. And so when the President put that award in his hand, he knew he had achieved that dream.”

Mourners cheered and applauded.

She added: “You did what you said you were going to do in those long ago days in Tipperary and you did it with such heart and fire.

“A fire that is not dimmed by death for you have lit that fire and it burns now in Ireland and all over the world. And so Shane, with words from dad and I, your little sister and your father, we are so proud of you. So very proud of you, our darling.”

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

In her eulogy to her husband Shane MacGowan, Victoria Mary Clarke told mourners that MacGowan was “so full of love”.

“He was very much a humanitarian and a socialist and he loved people, but he didn’t necessarily demonstrate that to his friends always,” she said.

“He could be quite cantankerous and rude and sometimes hostile, and I’m sure the Pogues will attest to that.

“But towards the end, he just told everybody how much he loved them, like nurses in the hospital were almost shocked because he would say ‘I love you’ and he’d never even met them before.

She added: “And I just think for so many people, he was just so full of love, and I’m feeling so much love now from him, that I don’t think he can go away.

“I don’t think love can go away, can it? I really just don’t.”

Clarke, said she felt “there was nothing more that my life needed in order to be complete than to be with him”.

“I loved his presence and I loved his smile and I loved his voice,” she said.

“And I love the fact that 50 times a day we would laugh at each other and smile with each other and say I love you to each other. And we used to say ‘I’m so glad to see you’ and like we said that even though we’d been in the room together all day, we’d still say ‘I’m so glad to see you’.

“And I have yet to meet a couple who have that gift. I still have not yet met a couple, no matter how successful or glamorous or whatever they are, good looking. I just haven’t met anyone else who has that connection. So it would be greedy really to want more than we got. We got so much.

“And I know of course I’m going to miss him and I’m going to be devastated and I’m going to be crying and crying and crying, but at the same time as crying and feeling devastated I think it’s possible to also feel that my heart has got bigger.

“And it’s got so much bigger as a result of a relationship that it can never really go back. I can never go back to being the kind of person I was before I met him.”

She described him as a “cosmonaut".

“When I say cosmonaut, what I mean is that he was a kind of person who wasn’t really that interested in living a normal life,” she said.

“He didn’t want a nine-to-five job or a mortgage or any of that stuff. He liked to explore all aspects of consciousness. He liked to explore where you could go within your mind.

“So he wasn’t like one of those people who climb mountains or drive racing cars or any of that stuff, but he did do the same, the equivalent with his mind, and obviously, he chose many, many, many mind altering substances to help him on that journey of exploration.

“And he really did live so close to the edge that he seemed like he was gonna fall off many times. I mean, me and Siobhan, and all the family we’ve kind of lived in terror, haven’t we, for a very long time.

“But on the plus side, I think that exploration led to a kind of creativity which may not have been possible without the use of all these substances.”

Father Pat Gilbert said Shane MacGowan had given the Irish “hope and heart and hankering” through his music.

Delivering the homily at the funeral mass in Saint Mary of the Rosary Church, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, Fr Gilbert said: “I grew up listening to the music of Lizzy, the Horslips, the Rats, the Undertones and The Pogues. As teenagers the music and the lyrics alerted us to what was happening around us. There was also the pride of being Irish, what they could say, sing and share was right and reasoned as far as we were concerned.

“In fact, Shane and the Pogues made it international and cool to play the tin whistle, banjo or accordion.”

He added: “As teenagers, not being able to verbalise our uneasiness, displeasure, our uncomfortable assessment of what was happening all around us, we found an outlet, a channel, a conduit in the music and lyric of the day.

“In the words of Dickens, ‘It was the best of times and the worst of times’. But the music and the lyric were tremendous, and Shane was the master of them all.

“As Brendan Behan did in prose, Shane MacGowan did in poetry. The raw vibrant energetic earthy soul-filled expression gave us hope and heart and hankering.”

Fr Pat Gilbert said Shane MacGowan’s widow Victoria had cared for him until his death.

The late Shane MacGowan with his wife Victoria Clarke (Liam McBurney/PA)
The late Shane MacGowan with his wife Victoria Clarke (Liam McBurney/PA) The late Shane MacGowan with his wife Victoria Clarke (Liam McBurney/PA)

He told his funeral Mass: “I know he adored you Victoria and you him, and you were so loving, supportive and kind throughout your lives together. You carried and cared and caressed him right to the very end.

“And I am also aware of the strong bonds of love and affection that knit you together as a family Maurice, Siobhan and Anthony. I know that you all will miss Shane terribly.

“A voice, a presence around you and with you, is suddenly silent – and coping with that loss is always difficult.”

He added: “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.

“Something seems right about all of this.”

Fr Pat Gilbert said mortality was at the heart of Shane MacGowan’s music.

He said: “A poet, lyricist, singer, trailblazer. He reflects life as lived in our time, calling out accepted norms that oftentimes appear unacceptable.

“But, in order to speak, to be heard, and to have that revolutionary edge to life, the first step is to listen. And Shane was a great listener.”

He added: “Your life gave growth to so many of us, Shane, and your bright light gave salvation to our often dark and empty skies.”

Earlier today mourners gathered in Dublin for a public procession ahead of the funeral.

The songwriter, who found fame as the lead singer of London-Irish punk/folk band The Pogues, died at the age of 65 last week.

Victoria Mary Clarke, wife of Shane MacGowan, pays respects to his coffin as it arrives for the funeral. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Victoria Mary Clarke, wife of Shane MacGowan, pays respects to his coffin as it arrives for the funeral. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire Victoria Mary Clarke, wife of Shane MacGowan, pays respects to his coffin as it arrives for the funeral. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

The procession travelled by horse-drawn carriage from South Lotts Road in Dublin’s southside, down Pearse Street and onto Westland Row.

Among those who turned out to pay their respects is Aidan Grimes, 60, who described MacGowan as an icon.

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He said: “I remember the first time I saw The Pogues in the Hammersmith Odeon in 1985. It is imprinted in my mind forever, just the madness and mayhem, the raucous nature of his singing and the music they were playing.

Actor Johnny Depp arrives at Saint Mary's of the Rosary Church, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary for Shane MacGowan's funeral. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Actor Johnny Depp arrives at Saint Mary's of the Rosary Church, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary for Shane MacGowan's funeral. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire Actor Johnny Depp arrives at Saint Mary's of the Rosary Church, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary for Shane MacGowan's funeral. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

“Through the years he evolved into a great poet and he will be sadly missed.

“I met him in Dublin about 15 years ago and he was a very charming, nice, friendly man. He talked about music and his time in London.

“I thought it was important to pay my respects. He was an icon of Dublin, just like Brendan Behan, Luke Kelly. His music will be listened to in 100 years’ time.”

Kevin Sexton from Co Fermanagh said MacGowan opened doors for Irish people living in England.

A woman holds up a pint of Guinness on Pearse Street as the funeral procession of Shane MacGowan makes its way through the streets of Dublin ahead of his funeral in Co Tipperary. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire
A woman holds up a pint of Guinness on Pearse Street as the funeral procession of Shane MacGowan makes its way through the streets of Dublin ahead of his funeral in Co Tipperary. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire A woman holds up a pint of Guinness on Pearse Street as the funeral procession of Shane MacGowan makes its way through the streets of Dublin ahead of his funeral in Co Tipperary. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

“He made Irish people proud to be Irish at a time in London when it was a very difficult time to be Irish.

“The Troubles were in full tilt. A lot of terrible things happened.

“Shane MacGowan opened doors. He introduced Irish culture and his own unique writing ability and voice and style that opened up a mix of Irish music plus rock plus punk, his whole unique persona transformed into song that enlightened the world.”

Josie Feeney from Co Leitrim travelled to Dublin to pay her respects.

She said: “My father’s family were from Tipperary, my grandmother was from Nenagh.

“We don’t always know all the lyrics but this week we know more of Shane’s lyrics, they are really very moving, they are poetry. He was a genius.

“His legacy will live on forever. Bruce Springsteen said in 100 years’ time we will be singing the words of his songs.”

Darragh McColgan from Dublin said MacGowan was a genius.

He added: “To me he was all about culture, the energy of it, it was representative to me of what being Irish is.

“It will be a day we knew was coming but it won’t be easy to deal with because of what a big impact he was.”

The funeral procession travelled across McMahon Bridge towards Pearse Street with the singer's remains carried in a horse-drawn carriage.

Hundreds of mourners lined the streets.

Victoria Mary Clarke (right), wife of Shane MacGowan, in the funeral procession as it makes its way through the streets of Dublin ahead of his funeral in Co Tipperary. . Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Victoria Mary Clarke (right), wife of Shane MacGowan, in the funeral procession as it makes its way through the streets of Dublin ahead of his funeral in Co Tipperary. . Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire Victoria Mary Clarke (right), wife of Shane MacGowan, in the funeral procession as it makes its way through the streets of Dublin ahead of his funeral in Co Tipperary. . Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The coffin was draped in a tricolour as it passed through Dublin.

His remains are being carried in a horse-drawn glass carriage adorned with photographs of the former Pogues singer.

Mourners applauded as the procession passed McMahon Bridge in Dublin.

The sounds of Fairytale of New York and A Rainy Night in Soho could be heard being played from speakers.

The Artane Band in Shane MacGowan’s funeral procession played Fairytale Of New York in Dublin in tribute to The Pogues frontman.

Musicians played A Pair Of Brown Eyes as the funeral procession for Shane MacGowan passed Sweny’s pharmacy in central Dublin, which featured in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Musicians also led the public in a rendition of Fairytale Of New York outside the pharmacy in central Dublin.

Mr MacGowan's wife, journalist Victoria Mary Clarke, followed the funeral procession in a car.

She “thanked” gardaí for helping to manage the crowd of fans in Dublin as the cortege makes its way to his funeral in Co Tipperary.

She wrote on Twitter: “Thank you so much @GardaTraffic for your help today and for the escort for @ShaneMacGowan.”

The coffin was transferred from a horse-drawn carriage to a car ahead of the service being held in Nenagh.

MacGowan’s public funeral Mass, which will be livestreamed, is taking place at St Mary’s of the Rosary Church in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, at 3.30pm.

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Republic of Ireland v Gibraltar – UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifying – Group B – Aviva Stadium President of Ireland Michael D Higgins is expected to attend the funeral of Shane MacGowan in Co Tipperary (Brian Lawless/PA)

Father Pat Gilbert told RTE  the funeral would celebrate the spiritual side of MacGowan.

He said: “It’s a side of him that’s not known but it’s a side of him we must celebrate. It’s a side that was important to him in the context of his living of his life.

“We will have the rite of reception, we’ll have mass and we’ll have the rite of final accommodation interspersed with pieces of his music which will be performed by some of his friends.

Crowds line the streets by Dublin Grand Canal dock as they wait for the funeral procession of Shane MacGowan to make its way through the streets of Dublin. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Crowds line the streets by Dublin Grand Canal dock as they wait for the funeral procession of Shane MacGowan to make its way through the streets of Dublin. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire Crowds line the streets by Dublin Grand Canal dock as they wait for the funeral procession of Shane MacGowan to make its way through the streets of Dublin. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

“I think that’s the right thing to do, that’s the way to celebrate the man, the faith, the music and the lyric.

“It’s the way to celebrate and remember the husband, the brother, the son and the brother-in-law.”

The procession for Shane MacGowan has driven through the Irish town of Nenagh following the end of his funeral mass.

Crowds of people lined the streets and some members of the public walked alongside the hearse.

People applauded and filmed the procession on their mobile phones.

Shane MacGowan funeral
Shane MacGowan funeral Shane MacGowan died at the age of 65 (Yui Mok/PA)

A private cremation will follow.

MacGowan was born to Irish parents in 1957 in Pembury, Kent, and he soon moved to rural Tipperary where he was immersed in a culture of ceili bands and showbands.

The Pogues frontman, best known for the hit festive song Fairytale Of New York, died “peacefully” at 3am on November 30 with his wife and family by his side, a statement from his relatives said.

He was due to celebrate his 66th birthday on Christmas Day.