Watch The Pogues reunite to perform at Shane MacGowan's funeral with special guests

Virgin Radio

9 Dec 2023, 13:26

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Shane MacGowan's funeral celebrated a punk icon's life in a rather fitting yet touching fashion.

In a poignant culmination of a day filled with emotional tributes, Shane MacGowan's family found solace in the familiar strains of The Pogues' Christmas classic, Fairytale of New York, as they bid a final adieu to the legendary Irishman at his funeral.

The bittersweet scene unfolded at Saint Mary's of the Rosary Church in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, where more than 30,000 mourners had gathered to pay their respects to the iconic frontman of The Pogues.

The mourners, captured in a moment of collective grief, cradled each other as they swayed, sang, and smiled along to a live performance of the festive anthem that forever remains intertwined with MacGowan's legacy. The Christmas classic itself surged into the UK Top 5, a testament to the enduring love and support from fans who sought to propel it to number one in homage to the punk rocker.

The day began with a poignant funeral procession through the streets of Dublin, where 30,000 fans joined together in a chorus of song and dance. Flowers were tossed at MacGowan's coffin, and pints of Guinness were raised in tribute as the casket, draped in the Irish tricolor, made its journey from Nenagh to Dublin.

MacGowan's widow, Victoria Mary Clarke, visibly distraught, shed tears as the coffin was solemnly brought into the church. The punk star, who succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 65, had been discharged from the hospital a week before, having battled viral encephalitis, a condition causing swelling on the brain.

The funeral procession, led by a horse-drawn carriage and accompanied by a band and piper, saw heartbroken fans reaching out to touch the casket. The star-studded send-off commenced with a heartfelt tribute from Nick Cave, followed by other luminaries such as Johnny Depp and Bob Geldof offering their condolences.

Inside the church, the haunting melody of The Pogues played by a collection of Irish musicians set the tone for a service filled with poignant moments.

Johnny Depp, a close friend of MacGowan, joined Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam O'Maonlai in reading the prayers of the faithful during the service. Depp, who attended MacGowan's wedding in 2018, was later seen placing his hand on the coffin, bidding his final farewell.

In a surprising revelation during her eulogy, MacGowan's widow, Victoria Mary Clarke, shared that her late husband had urged Depp to forgive his ex-wife, Amber Heard, during a difficult legal battle.

Clarke, addressing Depp directly, recounted the conversation, emphasising MacGowan's belief in forgiveness. She said, "I hope you don't mind me saying this Johnny, but when Johnny had a court case involving his ex-wife Amber and Shane had a long conversation with you, didn't he, and urged you to forgive Amber.

"He thought it was the best thing to do, because he believed, genuinely in forgiveness. And I'm sure you have by now - of course you have! Of course you have!"

Clarke continued, stating that MacGowan, in his final days, expressed love to everyone around him. Despite the unexpected nature of his death, she emphasised the profound impact their relationship had on her, describing how her heart had grown bigger.

Ms Clarke had been with MacGowan on-and-off since she was 16, and through tears, described how he 'told everybody how much he loved them' in his final days.

She also spoke of MacGowan's possessions displayed around the coffin, offering a glimpse into his eclectic tastes and interests.

These included a copy of the Buddha, a Led Zeppelin record, a DVD copy of The Godfather, along with a Tipperary flag. A Crock Of God book, a James Joyce novel and a hurling stick.

Among the emotional tributes, MacGowan's younger sister, Siobhan MacGowan, spoke passionately, expressing pride in her brother's achievements.

She said: "So Shane you did what you said you were going to do on 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.'

Quoting her brother, she ended with: "As a sunset came to meet the evening on the hill, I told you I'd always love you, I always did and I always will."

Irish President Michael D Higgins, visibly moved, attended the funeral, where former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams praised MacGowan's 'genius,' asserting that his music would live on 'forever.' Imelda May, Liam O Maonlai, and Declan O'Rourke delivered a heartfelt performance of You're The One.

Notably absent was Irish rock legend Bono, who, unable to attend, provided a recorded reading played for the congregation. Australian singer Nick Cave, in a poignant moment, performed A Rainy Night in Soho as part of the send-off.

During the service, Father Pat Gilbert acknowledged MacGowan's widow, highlighting her unwavering care for the punk icon until his final moments. He spoke of the profound loss felt by MacGowan's family and the sudden silence left by his absence. Reflecting on the timing of MacGowan's passing, Father Gilbert remarked: "Born on the birthday of Jesus and passing on the same days as Oscar Wilde and Patrick Kavanagh... something seems right about all of this."

As the day concluded with the haunting strains of Fairytale of New York echoing through the church, Shane MacGowan's funeral became a fitting tribute to a punk icon whose legacy will forever burn brightly in the hearts of his fans and loved ones.

It has been a year of terrible loss for the Irish music scene, with two of its brightest stars, MacGowan and Sinéad O'Connor both having passed.

More than a mere musical pioneer, Shane MacGowan was a complex character, whose influence extended beyond the punk and folk genres. His funeral, a poignant blend of sorrow and celebration, underscored the profound impact he had on those who knew him personally and the countless fans who revered him.

As Virgin Radio's soon to be host, Irishman Ryan Tubridy said, MacGowan was a: “fascinating figure” who, "had plenty to say and he said it.

"The country has lost intrinsically important artists and part of the fabric of who we are. But I will say one thing, heaven, or wherever they are, just got a hell of a lot more interesting."