Depp and Higgins join crowd in saying goodbye to Shane MacGowan
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The small town of Nenagh in Co Tipperary had never witnessed anything quite like it before.
The attendance of both Hollywood star Johnny Depp and Irish president Michael D Higgins at St Mary of the Rosary Church on Friday was a tribute to how the music and personality of Shane MacGowan crossed boundaries and seemed to attract fans and friends from all walks of life.
More than an hour before the funeral was due to begin, devoted followers of MacGowan and The Pogues had gathered outside the church.
A handmade sign with “thanks for all the fairytales Shane” was placed on the side of the road. “RIP Shane” was written on the side of a haybale further along the road.
James Grimes, who was wearing a The Pogues T-shirt and came from Longford to attend MacGowan’s funeral, said the singer was “life-changing for me” and that he named his first son after MacGowan.
“I can still remember when I first heard Fairytale Of New York,” he told the PA news agency.
“I pressed the two buttons on the tape recorder to listen to it one night, I had an Irish exam the next morning, and I listened to it until around 1.30am that night, just over and over and over again.”
He said MacGowan’s poetry “along with the music” was what made him special for people.
“I suppose if you weren’t feeling good about yourself, if you looked at him and said ‘Jesus, if he can do it, anyone can do it’.”
Trevor Hogan and his 14-year-old daughter Fiona both were at St Mary’s of the Rosary Church in Nenagh.
Fiona said she likes Fairytale Of New York and The Old Main Drag, and is trying to learn some of The Pogues songs on the fiddle.
Asked if she did not mind standing in the rain for his funeral, she said: “I don’t. I think it’s very cool to be honest, to get to see the funeral of the century.”
Mr Hogan said he had been a fan since he was very young and knew him as a local in the Nenagh area.
“There was a local guy in our town who passed away in a fire one time and he was a huge, huge Shane MacGowan fan and he was buried I think 10 years ago. And Shane turned up to the funeral and it was a big surprise and shocked everyone.
“I’ve been thinking about it the past couple of days, and he was like our generation’s Brendan Behan. He’s a poet, he’s a beautiful songster and his words and the honesty is amazing.”
As the hearse carrying MacGowan’s remains arrived at the church, his widow Victoria Mary Clarke bowed her head as she touched the coffin of the man she has described as the love of her life.
Soon afterwards, Hollywood actor Johnny Depp waved to the crowds as he arrived. The 60-year-old Pirates Of The Caribbean film series star, a close friend of MacGowan, was dressed on Friday in a black suit, hat and wearing a scarf and dark sunglasses.
The procession of well-known faces kept on coming, Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave, Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam O’Maonlai, Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream, Game Of Thrones actor Aidan Gillen and former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
Parish priest Father Pat Gilbert captured the mood when welcomed “the world” to the local church.
“We welcome the world of people this great man influenced, encouraged, entertained and touched,” he said.
“Your presence here is very important and a huge statement of the love and esteem we all have and had for this great man.”
MacGowan’s coffin was brought to the front of the church draped in an Irish tricolour flag and placed close to a large black and white photograph of the Pogues singer.
MacGowan’s widow Victoria Mary Clarke presented symbols of her late husband during the funeral mass which included a copy of a Depp album, whom she called a “massive fan” of The Pogues frontman.
A Led Zeppelin record, art and lyrics from MacGowan that form a Crock Of God book, a James Joyce novel, a hurling stick and a Tipperary flag were also among the items presented at Saint Mary’s of the Rosary Church in Nenagh.
While the occasion was always going to be tinged with regret, this was a funeral filled with music, laughter and appreciation.
Time and again the walls of the old church seemed to shake as spontaneous rounds of applause broke out.
Fittingly, there was dancing inside the church as MacGowan’s most famous song, Fairytale Of New York, was performed by Glen Hansard and Lisa O’Neill.
His sister Siobhan rose to deliver a eulogy after the performance.
Smiling, she told mourners: “Wow, I think Shane would have enjoyed that.
“That’s some send-off for my brother, so thank you.”