The Pogues star Shane MacGowan dies at 65 days after being sent home from hospital as he battled brain condition

30 November 2023, 11:59 | Updated: 30 November 2023, 12:58

Shane MacGowan has died
Shane MacGowan has died. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan has died at the age of 65.

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The Irish singer-songwriter died with his family by his side on Thursday morning, after being sent home from hospital in Dublin last week as he battled a brain condition.

His wife Victoria Mary Clarke said: "Shane will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life".

MacGowan, best known for the Pogues' Christmas song Fairytale of New York, had received treatment in hospital for encephalitis in December 2022, and was back in hospital in November.

Tributes came in from family, friends and Irish political leaders after MacGowan's death.

Read more: Pogues singer Shane MacGowan’s wife gives health update on frontman's condition after asking for ‘love and prayers’

Read more: Pogues singer Shane MacGowan 'so happy' after hospital visit from singer Imelda May

The Pogues were at their peak in the 1980s and 1990s, and also had hits with Dirty Old Town, The Irish Rover, A Pair Of Brown Eyes and A Rainy Night In Soho.

MacGowan was known for his wild lifestyle as well as his musical and lyrical talents, and had been a wheelchair user since 2015 after suffering a series of falls.

He and Ms Clarke married in 2018 after a long relationship, with Johnny Depp playing guitar at their wedding.

MacGowan was born in 1957 in Kent to Irish parents, moving back to Ireland until he was six. The family then came to England again, and MacGowan won a scholarship to the prestigious Westminster public school. But he was kicked out in his second year after being found with drugs.

He founded the Pogues in 1982, and left in 1991 after suffering from alcohol and drug problems. Fairytale of New York, performed with singer Kirsty MacColl, was released in 1987.

Shane MacGowan in October last year
Shane MacGowan in October last year. Picture: Getty

After leaving the Pogues, MacGowan founded the Popes, releasing three albums with the band. The Pogues reformed for a tour in 2001.

MacGowan was hospitalised with encephalitis in December 2022, and went back to hospital in July this year. He was discharged in November, before his death.

Speaking after her husband had died, Ms Clarke said: "I don't know how to say this so I am just going to say it. Shane who will 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 has gone to be with Jesus and Mary and his beautiful mother Therese.

Shane MacGowa performing with the Popes
Shane MacGowa performing with the Popes. Picture: Alamy

"I am blessed beyond words to have met him and to have loved him and to have been so endlessly and unconditionally loved by him and to have had so many years of life and love and joy and fun and laughter and so many adventures. 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"

"You meant the world to me."

MacGowan's family said in a statement: "Shane died peacefully at 3am this morning (30 November, 2023) with his wife Victoria and family by his side. Prayers and the last rites were read which gave comfort to his family.

"He is survived by his wife Victoria, his sister Siobhan and his father, Maurice, family and a large circle of friends. Further details will be announced shortly but the family ask for privacy at this very sad time".

Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan in 1987
Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan in 1987. Picture: Getty

MacGowan's bandmate Peter "Spider" Stacy paid tribute to him after his death. He said: "'O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done..'"

He accompanied the Twitter post with a black and white image of MacGowan smiling on stage.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar called MacGowan "an amazing musician and artist".

He added: "His songs beautifully captured the Irish experience, especially the experience of being Irish abroad."

Irish President Michael D Higgins called MacGowan a "genius".

He said in a tribute: "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.

Johnny Depp and Shane MacGowan
Johnny Depp and Shane MacGowan. Picture: Getty

"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 MacGowan
Shane MacGowan. Picture: Getty

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald, leader of the opposition in Ireland, called MacGowan "one of its most beloved icons" and one of the best songwriters in the world.

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.

Victoria Mary Clarke and Shane Macgowan in 2009
Victoria Mary Clarke and Shane Macgowan in 2009. Picture: Getty

"Shane brought his musical unique style to all corners of the world, and his music will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

"Today we mourn his passing. He was one of the best of us. Ni bheidh a leitheid aris ann.

"I want to extend my deepest condolences to his wife Victoria, his sister Siobhan, his extended family and very wide circle of friends."

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