Thousands pay tribute in Dublin to the musician best known as the lead vocalist for The Pogues.
Thousands of people have lined the streets of Dublin to bid farewell to singer Shane MacGowan, the London-Irish punk who transformed Irish traditional music with The Pogues.
A marching band led his funeral procession through central Dublin on Friday as the crowd sang beloved songs like Dirty Old Town, the folk classic MacGowan and The Pogues helped make popular.
The funeral is scheduled to take place in St Mary of the Rosary Church in the town of Nenagh west of Dublin at 15:30 GMT, after which another procession will take place through County Tipperary.
MacGowan penned some of the 1980s’ most haunting ballads. He died on November 30 aged 65 after being in and out of hospital since July.
Fellow musicians last week led tributes to MacGowan, who became just as well known for his slurred speech, missing teeth and on-stage meltdowns as his drug and alcohol abuse took their toll from the 1990s on.
“Shane MacGowan, man, meant everything to me,” musician Roland Conroy told the Reuters news agency. “Irish punk rocker, he embodied everything: James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats. A poet. Just [brings] a tear to the eye. It’s a sad day. It’s a tragic day in Ireland. The world mourns.”
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called MacGowan “an amazing musician and artist” whose songs “beautifully captured the Irish experience, especially the experience of being Irish abroad”.
MacGowan co-formed The Pogues, which fused punk with Irish folk music, in 1982. He was born in England but spent much of his childhood in Ireland with his mother’s family.
The height of his success came in 1987 with Fairytale of New York, which MacGowan sang in a duet with Kirsty MacColl to create an instant Christmas classic in which an estranged couple exchange insults.
The song, which has returned to the UK Top 40 singles chart every year since 2005 but has never made it to number one, climbed to third position in the charts in recent days with a week to go before this year’s Christmas number one is decided.
The Pogues became an international symbol of Irishness, both at home and for the country’s sprawling diaspora, with MacGowan’s contribution recognised in a slew of tributes from political leaders.
The Pogues’ 1988 song Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six, which recounted the plight of six Irishmen wrongly imprisoned for deadly pub bombings in Birmingham, was banned from British airwaves.
Mary Lou McDonald, president of the republican political party Sinn Fein, called MacGowan “a poet, dreamer and social justice champion”.
“Nobody told the Irish story like Shane. He sang to us of dreams and captured stories of emigration,” she said.
Micheal Martin, Varadkar’s deputy, said he was “devastated” by MacGowan’s death.
“His passing is particularly poignant at this time of year as we listen to ‘Fairytale of New York’ – a song that resonates with all of us,” he wrote.