Stars turn out for musical send-off at funeral of Shane MacGowan

Stars turn out for musical send-off at funeral of Shane MacGowan

CELEBRITIES and fans turned out in force on Friday for the funeral of singer Shane MacGowan, who passed away last week at the age of 65.

MacGowan's wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, revealed earlier this week that the singer hated funerals, and as such there was a celebratory rather than sombre atmosphere at his send-off.

Warm tributes were paid at St Mary's of the Rosary Church in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, complemented by musical performances from the likes of Glen Hansard and Nick Cave.

Meanwhile, MacGowan's family danced during a performance of Fairytale of New York, The Pogues' most successful song.

A young boy wearing a Pogues top at the funeral procession (Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

In the hours before the funeral, thousands of people lined the streets of Dublin to bid farewell to MacGowan, who had lived in the city until his death from pneumonia last week.

The funeral procession set off on a mile-long route through Ringsend from South Lotts Road before making its way over McMahon Bridge, bound for Denzille Road.

MacGowan's coffin — draped in an Irish Tricolour — was borne in a horse-drawn carriage, with the procession led by the Artane Band and a lone piper.

Those gathered joined in as the band played Fairytale of New York, before MacGowan's coffin was transferred to a car to take it to his public funeral in Nenagh.

Irish pride

Kent-born MacGowan spent part of his childhood in his mother's native Co. Tipperary and his parents later moved back to the county from England in the 1980s.

The gifts brought to the altar during the offertory procession at the funeral service reflected the singer's pride in his Irish and Tipperary roots.

They included a Tipperary flag, a Shannon Rovers GAA jersey and a selection of literary works by Irish writers.

The Artane Band led the funeral procession in Dublin (Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

One such work was by Irish-American JP Donleavy, whose book A Fairy Tale of New York inspired the title of the Pogues hit.

Meanwhile, former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who gave a reading at the service, said he was 'proud of how Shane deepened our sense of Irishness and our humanity'.

Actor Aidan Gillen and U2 frontman Bono also performed readings, the latter having pre-recorded his due to commitments in the US.

Among others, Prayers of the Faithful were offered by actor Johnny Depp and musican Liam Ó Maonlaí.

Meanwhile, Irish President Michael D. Higgins was among the mourners paying their respects in Tipperary.

Mourners displayed banners as the coffins passed (Image: Sasko Lazarov /

Family and friends gathered in a reserved section at the front of the church as Fr Pat Gilbert described the occasion as a celebration of 'the song, the story, the life, the lyrics, the living of Shane MacGowan'.

"Shane and The Pogues made it international and cool to play the tin whistle, the banjo or the accordion," said the priest, who revealed he grew up listening to the likes of The Pogues, The Boomtown Rats, Thin Lizzy and The Undertones.

"For a young fella who was after struggling to learn the button accordion, that was salvation!

"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 it was the worst of times' but the music and the lyric were tremendous and Shane was the master of them all."

Musical tributes

Befitting a musician of such renown, the event was a melodious affair.

Imelda May and Declan O'Rourke performed You're the One, a song MacGowan wrote and originally performed with Máire Brennan for the film Circle of Friends.

Another duet followed as Mundy and Camille O'Sullivan performed MacGowan's song Haunted, which the singer had previously sang with both Cait O'Riordan and Sinead O'Connor.

O'Rordan also performed at the service, being joined by John Francis Flynn for a rendition of I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day, a traditional folk song covered by The Pogues.

A standing ovation followed a performance of Fairytale of New York led by Glen Hansard and Lisa O'Neill, which promoted mourners to dance in the aisles and ended with a standing ovation.

"I think Shane would have enjoyed that actually," MacGowan's sister Siobhan said later during her eulogy.

Australian musician and friend Nick Cave took to the piano for a rendition of A Rainy Night in Soho, while the service was rounded off by a performance from some of MacGowan's former bandmates.

Jem Finer, Terry Woods, Spider Stacy and James Fearnley led a rendition of the traditional song The Parting Glass as they bade farewell to their friend.

'Achieved a dream'

In her eulogy, Siobhan MacGowan talked of her and Shane's childhood growing up together in England, painting a picture of him as a caring older brother who encouraged her artistic talent while nurturing his own.

"But Shane's veins ran with Irish blood and it was in Tipperary, our mother's childhood home, that Shane reunited with the land he loved, found his spiritual home," she said.

"Here in a small cottage heaving with 12 or more great aunts and uncles but somehow never feeling cramped.

"He listened to their stories, sang with them songs, sat by the fire as Auntie Ellen swang the concertina."

Huge crowds turned out at St Mary’s of the Rosary Church in Nenagh to pay their respects (Image: Eamonn Farrell /

She recalled MacGowan's pride in 2018 at receiving a lifetime achievement award from President Higgins for his outstanding contribution to Irish life, music and culture.

"He dreamed of one day being the teller of stories, the singer of the songs," she said.

"He dreamed of following in the footsteps of those great Irish lyricists and musicians he so admired.

"He dreamed of continuing this proud tradition.

"He dreamed that one day he might add his name to those who had gone before him.

"So, when the president put that award in his hand, he knew he had achieved that dream."

'Destined to be together'

Meanwhile, MacGowan's wife said that despite being told by others when they first met that he'd probably be dead within six months, the singer had an amazing love for life and others.

They're love for each other, however, was supreme.

"I think I fell in love with his soul straight away, I just saw this soul shining at me," said Clarke.

MacGowan’s wife Victoria Mary Clarke outside St Mary’s of the Rosary Church (Image: Eamonn Farrell /

"I felt like we were absolutely destined to be together.

"It took a few years because I met him when I was 16 and we didn't get together until I was 20 but there was just like a magnet pulling me to him."

As MacGowan's coffin was borne out of the church for a private cremation, those gathered stood and applauded as they bade the singer a final farewell.