Michael McDonagh fondly remembers Therese MacGowan and the Pogues manager Frank Murray
Born 1929 died January 1st 2017
Born 1950 died December 22nd. 2016
The first death on Irish roads in 2017 came when Shane MacGowan’s mother (82) crashed her car into a wall at Ballintoher, near Silvermines, Tipperary at about 3pm on New Years day. I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear this news, as I was very fond of this remarkable matriarch of the MacGowan family. Our thoughts are with her husband Maurice, Shane, and his sister Siobhan on their tragic loss.
As a young woman Therese was a Feis Ceoil singer and beautiful model when she married Maurice MacGowan back in the 1950s. Like so many young couples in Ireland at that time they could find no work so left to live in Tunbridge Wells in Kent in England as Maurice had found a job as a book keeper with the Belgian owned department store C & A Modes. Whilst working there Shane was born on Christmas day 1957 at Pembury in Kent and five years later daughter Siobhan followed. Shane won a scholarship to the prestigious Westminster School until being expelled when he was in his teens.
Therese dedicated her life to her children and was always supportive of Shane throughout his turbulent drug fuelled career, from his young days as a Punk in the Nipple Erectors and on through his time in the Pogues and later the Popes. She was always there for him with love and kindness in times of crisis. This must have been quite challenging and stressful for her especially in her later years but they were devoted to each other and she would do anything she could to help Shane through his problems and especially when going through periods of rehab and recuperation when he would return to her home near Silvermines.
I have very fond memories of her as she was always good fun at dinners after TV shows or after concerts with Shane and she was always full of stories of her days as a singer and Irish dancer in Dublin. In 2002 we were producing a live album with Shane in New York on St Patrick’s Day (Across The Broad Atlantic). That was the year of the foot and mouth disease epidemic so the March 17 St. Patrick’s day celebrations in Dublin were deferred to May which meant that Shane could actually record his St Patrick’s day concerts in both New York and Dublin in the same year which we mixed together as one live album.
For the Dublin show at the Olympia Shane brought on his 73 year old mother to duet with him on Fairy Tale of New York, singing the part that Kristy MacColl sang on the hit record. Therese has a good voice and both she and the audience loved her performance of the classic Christmas song with her recalcitrant son. The problem was that she was a bit out of practice with her microphone technique and for much of the time whilst cavorting on the stage with Shane, delivering the lines like “you scumbag you maggot” with great glee, the microphone slipped to her waist rather being held at her mouth. This caused us a problem when mixing the album so we decided to bring her down to the studio in Bantry to fix the dropped out parts of her vocals.
We were all ready at about eight in the evening waiting for them to arrive from Tipperary but Shane being a nocturnal soul delayed their departure so they finally arrived in Bantry at about 4.30 am, having stopped off for drink or two on the way. I had booked them into the West Lodge Hotel down the lane and figured it was now so late they should get some sleep before working the next day but Shane and Therese would have none of it and were keen to start.
After a cup of tea, which to my surprise Shane livened up a bit for his mum, they went into the studio and she did a great job on this classic song. By about 9 in the morning we had finished so I took them across the road for breakfast. Shane went to bed but Therese was still wide awake and excited to be singing and recording with her son so she kept me entertained with her wonderful stories until about lunch time. She was still on form but I was flaking out. It was extraordinary from a woman in her 70s and I could only imagine what a live wire she must have been as a young woman when Maurice met her in Dublin. Clearly Shane did not ‘lick his talent off the ground’ and I know he, Maurice and Siobhan will be heartbroken by this sudden tragic accident.
This year Christmas can’t have been a good for Shane as apart from reaching the age of 59 on Christmas day he also had the shocking news that Frank Murray the former manager of the Pogues had died suddenly on Dec 22nd aged 66.
It was Frank who guided the Pogues through to the peak of their successful career and he toured the world with them collecting countless fascinating often-unprintable anecdotes from their adventures on the road. Frank could be very funny relating these tales but he was also very serious and knowledgeable about music and will be a huge loss to the Irish Music Business.
It was Frank who put Kiristy MacColl together with the Pogues for their huge Christmas hit and I had worked with him in 1987 when we shot the commercial for the huge hit The Irish Rover with the Dubliners and the Pogues but I had actually known and been friends with Frank from when he was first in London as tour manager for Thin Lizzy. He also worked for a time for Elton John. I always respected Frank for his skill at nurturing and taking care of the talent he was representing and also for his ability to deal with adversity with a great sense of humour.
Touring with the Pogues across the world brought a great number of drama’s but it was not just in business that Frank showed this strength in dealing with problems. His young daughter Shannon had a bad accident whilst swimming on holiday and Frank had to support her courageously through numerous spine operations and then come to terms with her being wheel chair bound for the rest of her life. This and parting company with the Pogues were dark times for Frank but he had the character to pick himself up and went on to manage The Frames with Glen Hansard, spotting his fantastic talent way before anybody else. More recently Frank had been spending time in America working on film and theatrical projects.
I will personally miss bumping into him at airports and concerts being greeted by his wicked grin, laughing and sharing a story but more importantly his death is a huge loss to the Irish Music Scene.
Michael J McDonagh
Jan 2nd 2017