Home Lifestyle Entertainment President Higgins leads tributes to Shane MacGowan

President Higgins leads tributes to Shane MacGowan

The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has led tributes to Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan whose death, aged 65, was announced today (Thu).

MacGowan, who would have turned 66 at Christmas, had been ill for some time.

The Pogues said in a statement: “It is with the deepest of sorrow and heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of Shane MacGowan.

“Shane died peacefully at 3am this morning with his wife Victoria and family by his side.”

MacGowan had been receiving treatment at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin for several months. He was discharged from hospital, where he had been for several months, on 22 November to return home to spend time with his friends and family.

MacGowan’s wife, Victoria Mary Clarke wrote on Instagram: “There’s no way to describe the loss that I am feeling and the longing for just one more of his smiles that lit up my world.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for your presence in this world – you made it so very bright and you gave so much joy to so many people with your heart and soul and your music.

“You will live in my heart forever. Rave on in the garden all wet with rain that you loved so much”

At this time of year one of his best-known songs, Fairytale of New York, first released in 1987, gets a lot of airplay.

McGowan was born in Kent but like many British-born Irish people spent much of his childhood holidays in Ireland, in his case in Nenagh, Tipperary.

Aged 13, he won a scholarship to the elite Westminster public school although he did not finish his secondary education, dropping out to embrace punk rock.

- Advertisement -

With Jem Finer and Spider Stacey he formed the band Pogue Mahone which became The Pogues.

They produced a hybrid sound which resonated with their predominantly London based Irish audiences.

Their first album, Red Roses for Me was released in 1984, and they toured widely, including acts such as Elvis Costello. A second album, Rum Sodomy and the Lash, was both commercially and critically acclaimed for its mixture of classic folk songs, including Dirty Old Town and MacGowan’s new compositions.

The band’s biggest hit, Fairytale of New York, features Shane in a duet with the late Kirsty MacColl.

He and the band parted company in 1991, he joined a new band, The Popes, but eventually rejoined The Pogues in 2001.

His ill health and various addictions have been well chronicled and eventually rendered him unable to perform.

As a mark of the respect in which he was held by fellow performers a celebration was held at Ireland’s National Concert Hall in 2018 to mark his 60th birthday.

Performers included Bono, Sinéad O’Connor, Nick Cave and Glen Hansard

President Michael D Higgins presented MacGowan with a lifetime achievement award.

President Higgins said in a statement:

“Like so many across the world, it was with the greatest sadness that I learned this morning of the death of Shane MacGowan.

Shane will be remembered as one of music’s greatest lyricists. So many of his songs would be perfectly crafted poems, if that would not have deprived us of the opportunity to hear him sing them.

The genius of Shane’s contribution includes the fact that his songs capture within them, as Shane would put it, the measure of our dreams – of so many worlds, and particularly those of love, of the emigrant experience and of facing the challenges of that experience with authenticity and courage, and of living and seeing the sides of life that so many turn away from.

His words have connected Irish people all over the globe to their culture and history, encompassing so many human emotions in the most poetic of ways.

Shane’s talent was nurtured from a young age by his mother Therese, herself an award winning folk singer in her own right. Therese, who lost her life in such tragic circumstances on New Year’s Day 2017, inspired in Shane the love of Irish music and traditions which resulted in the wonderful music and lyrics which have been a source of such joy for so many people.

Born on Christmas Day, there was perhaps some form of destiny which led Shane to writing Fairytale of New York, the timeless quality of which will surely mean that it will be listened to every Christmas for the next century or more.

Likewise, songs like Rainy Night in Soho, A Pair of Brown Eyes, If I Should Fall from Grace with God and so many others will live on far into the years and decades to come.

I think too of Haunted, and the particular poignancy that both Shane and Sinéad O’Connor have left us in such quick succession.


Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for your presence in this world – you made it so very bright and you gave so much joy to so many people with your heart and soul and your music


It was a great honour for me, as President of Ireland, to present Shane with a lifetime achievement award in the National Concert Hall in January 2018 as we marked his 60th birthday. A richly deserved honour.

On behalf of Sabina and I, may I extend my deepest condolences to Shane’s wife Victoria, his sister Siobhán, his father Maurice, his bandmates in the Pogues and other projects, and to all his many friends and family.”

  • Shane MacGowan is survived by his wife Victoria, father Maurice and sister Siobhán.
- Advertisement -