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Shane MacGowan RIP: the ‘voice of London for the Irish’

That Shane MacGowan, who died today, lived to be 65 was in some ways a surprise. His lifestyle, certainly when younger, was not conducive to longevity.

It remains a sadly early age at which he should lose his life and the world should lose a richly gifted songwriter whose raucous delivery of his own songs and others gave the Pogues such a distinctive sound.  He had been suffering from encephalitis.


Image: Masao Nakagami

The tribute from his widow, Victoria Mary Clarke, has immense poignancy.

She wrote: "I don't know how to say this so I am just going to say it. Shane... has gone to be with Jesus and Mary and his beautiful mother Therese."

MacGowan, she wrote, would always be “the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life and the most beautiful soul and beautiful angel and the sun and the moon and the start and end of everything that I hold dear’´.

Also from the BBC report of MacGowan’s death, I loved the way the Derry Girls actress Siobhan McSweeney  summed him up as ´´the voice of London for us Irish". When she worried about moving there, “he lured me over with songs about chancers, drinkers, lovers, poets and scoundrels".

With Christmas approaching, MacGowan will understandably be remembered most for his excellent Fairytale of New York, with Kirsty MacColl as his sparring partner. It’s already played too often so I will choose twot of the other outstanding songs he wrote, A Rainy Night in Soho and Aisling. And a third, probably the best, as suggested by Bill Taylor: The Body of an American …

I învite readers, here and at the Facebook groups where I’ll post a link to this article, to nominate their own favourite examples of MacGowan’s work. (Update: take a look at the comments below; the list is long.)

With thanks to an artist of great individuality, imagination and merit. RIP Shane.


* See the BBC report at


Bill Taylor

He wrote so many excellent songs. If I have to pick out just one...
"The Body of an American" is superb, multi-layered and full of raucous wit and mischief. Great lyrics, great music:

Stephen Blackwell

‘White City’. A wonderful lament for a London institution swept away for the sake of ‘progress’ with barely a second thought.

Bill Nevins

Back in the County Hell has always resonated with me for its subtle sensitivity and fierceness.

Colin Randall

When I get the chance , I’ll reproduce a great list of other suggestions made at the UK and Irish Folk Music 1960s 1980s Facebook group after I linked to this

Paul Stafford

Sick Bed of Cuchulainn, or the lovely Misty Morning, Albert Bridge

Colin Randall

These comments appeare when I posted a link at the UK and Irish Folk Music 60s-80s group at Facebook ( , inviting people to suggest their own favourites:

David Mitchell

It might be considered one of his lesser songs but a favourite of mine has always been Bottle of Smoke

Sean Kavanagh

The Old Main Drag. A true folk song of the exploited and written off. I couldn't and wouldn't try to sing it in McGowan's inimitable but sung in a less rumbustious style and it still holds its own with any song of protest.

Ed Jupp

Absolute legend. ‘Rainy Night In Soho’ is my favourite

William Kelly

He’s left a legacy that passed into tradition before his passing .. generations will still sing his lyrics and quote his words … amazing songsmith !!! May he sleep peacefully!

Colm Mulhern

Brown Eyes and Majestic Shannon are Shane at his poetic best. Still awful partial to Transmetropolitan. Yip Aye Yay!!!

Tim Carney

Another contender, broad majestic shannon.1st & favorite album, rum, Sodom & the lash, sick bed of cuchulainn & old main drag are great songs but, I'm trying to learn to play sit down by the fire from fall from grace.

Des Foley

For sure, a great catalogue of songs- Rainy Night in Soho, A Pair Of Brown Eyes, The Old Main Drag, Summer in Siam... the list goes on.

Ciaran Brauer

I think A Pair Of Brown Eyes is his best one. My favorite is probably Boys From The County Hell though.

Lisa Costantino

I love the rousing "If I should fall from grace with God."

Davy Kirkpatrick

One of the great poets from the last 50 years. His legacy is assured

Stephen Blackwell

Another one: I must have heard a thousand versions of ‘She moved through the fair’, but none so eerie and edgy at the same time.


Lend me £10 and I’ll buy you a drink … I lived off that line in the 80s

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