A huge funeral is expected for the legendary singer and proud Irish patriot Shane MacGowan following his death aged 65. The former Pogues frontman died last Thursday with his wife and family by his side.
Born in London to Irish parents, his music has seen him compared with luminaries of Irish literature such as WB Yeats, Oscar Wilde and Brendan Behan.
Ireland’s president Michael D Higgins led tributes following his death, describing him as one of “music’s greatest lyricists”.
“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.”
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald described MacGowan as a poet who was unique in how he told “the Irish story”.
Ireland “has lost one of its most beloved icons and the world one of its greatest songwriters”, she said.
“Shane was a poet, a dreamer and a champion of social justice. He was a dedicated Republican and a proud Irishman. Nobody told the Irish story like Shane – stories of emigration, heartache, dislocation, redemption, love and joy.
“Shane brought his musical unique style to all corners of the world, and his music will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Shane was an ardent supporter of the Irish cause. Author Richard Balls spent hours interviewing him for his authorised biography ‘A Furious Devotion’, and said the conflict “preoccupied his mind since childhood”.
He said The Pogues singer counted Gerry Adams as a friend, and the ex-Sinn Féin president would often send letters to him.
Writing in his book two years ago, Mr Balls said: “Sit with Shane for any length of time and the conversation will turn to northern Ireland.
“For most of his life he has been both fascinated and pained by its bitter struggles, and it is a subject that can trigger the angry outbursts which have become part of his personality.
“This is safe ground for him. He knows his Irish history inside out and is a staunch republican who counts former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams as a close friend.”
In a tweet, Mr Adams said Ireland had “lost a great patriot, a poet and friend of the downtrodden and marginalised.
“Shane’s generosity and solidarity, his wonderful music and lyrics touched millions over the years and will continue to do so into the future.”
The singer’s late mother Therese, was from Tipperary and his father Maurice, originally from Dublin, still lives in the county. His sister Siobhan lives in Dromineer on Lough Derg.
He would make regular summer trips to the family home in Tipperary, named The Commons, in his childhood.
Mr Balls said: “It was on his holidays at The Commons that Shane heard about how his ancestors had fought for the cause and that a whole division of Black and Tans were killed and buried near the cottage.
“When he found fame with The Pogues, his family’s republican credentials came to form a keystone in his backstory.
“Although neither The Pogues nor The Popes were overtly political, Shane has made his own contributions to the rebel songbook.”
In 1988, his song, ‘Streets of Sorrow - Birmingham Six’ was banned in Britain. The song was written in support of the Birmingham Six, the victims of an infamous miscarriage of justice, and was banned under anti-terrorism guidelines.
It included the lyrics: “There were six men in Birmingham / In Guildford there’s four / Who were picked up and tortured / And framed by the law / And the filth got promotion / But they’re still doing time / For being Irish in the wrong place / And at the wrong time”.
At the time, Shane had no regrets and said he wrote the song to help to get the men released from prison for a crime which he believes they did not commit. Proceeds from the song went to their legal fund.
One of his most famous hits, ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, contains the line: “This land was always ours, was the proud land of our fathers / It belongs to us and them, not to any of the others.”
He once said his biggest regret was “not having the guts” to join the IRA. Another of his songs, Paddy Public Enemy No. 1, was inspired by Irish National Liberation Army leader Dominic McGlinchey.
In interviews to promote that album, he didn’t shy away from expressing his republican views. He said, “I think it should happen now — the English should get out. We’ve talked enough, they should let the Irish run their own country. I’ve always said that the Brits have no right to be there. I believe in a republic, a socialist republic.”
His life is to be celebrated at a funeral in Nenagh, County Tipperary this Friday after his remains are carried in a procession through Dublin, with very prominent figures expected to be in attendance.
The Artane Band and a piper will lead the horse-drawn carriage carrying his remains through Ringsend and Pearse Street in Dublin.
Requiem Mass will take place at the St Mary of the Rosary Church, Nenagh, at 3.30pm on Friday. The service is open to the public.