A star-studded congregation rose to its feet and danced to the Pogues’ classic Fairytale of New York as Ireland laid singer Shane MacGowan to rest on Friday.
Friends and family of the Pogues frontman – from the actor Johnny Depp to musicians Bob Geldof and Nick Cave, and even Ireland’s president – filled the Saint Mary of the Rosary Church in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, to pay their respects.
Many stood and swayed, as family members danced in the aisles to a rendition of MacGowan’s 1987 Christmas hit sung by Irish singer-songwriters and musicians Glen Hansard and Lisa O’Neil.
“Wow, I think Shane would have enjoyed that,” his sister Siobhan said as she stood to deliver a eulogy after the performance. “That’s some send-off for my brother, so thank you.”
The frontman, who died aged 65 last week after a fight with pneumonia, “dreamed of one day being the teller of stories, the singer of the songs, he dreamed of following in the footsteps of those great Irish lyricists and musicians he so admired”, Ms McGowan said.
“You did what you said you were going to do in those long ago days in Tipperary and you did it with such heart and fire,” she said, to cheers and applause from the church.
Gerry Adams, the former Sinn Fein leader, said MacGowan’s music would “live forever” as he addressed the funeral, which was broadcast live around the world.
“You are the measurer of our dreams,” he said. “My words are words of gratitude, gratitude for Shane’s genius, for his songs, his creativity and his attitude.”
Pirates of the Caribbean actor Johnny Depp, a close friend of MacGowan and his wife Victoria, read the Prayer of the Faithful in honour of the musician.
A record by Depp, who attended their wedding in 2018, was earlier placed as a symbol of MacGowan’s life at the altar. The musician loved his friend’s music and “guitar noises”, said Victoria Mary Clarke, MacGowan’s wife.
Almost everyone who attended their wedding was in attendance at the funeral, she added.
Also placed at the front of the church was the first Pogues record, a Led Zeppelin album, as well as a flag of Tipperary, which was met with a ringing applause.
The Casio keyboard MacGowan used to write his 1990 hit Summer in Siam was among the symbolic items brought in to celebrate his life.
Australian musician Nick Cave, 66, performed the classic Pogues love song Rainy Night in Soho, while Mundy and Camille O’Sullivan sang Haunted.
U2 frontman Bono, who could not make the service, had his recorded tribute to MacGowan played out to the church.
Delivering the homily, Father Pat Gilbert said MacGowan had made Irish music cool around the world.
He added: “As teenagers, not being able to verbalise our uneasiness, displeasure, our uncomfortable assessment of what was happening all around us, we found an outlet, a channel, a conduit in the music and lyric of the day.
“In the words of Dickens, ‘It was the best of times and the worst of times’. But the music and the lyrics were tremendous, and Shane was the master of them all.”
The funeral service was the culmination of a day of mourning across Ireland.
In Dublin, mourners gathered in their tens of thousands, singing the band’s songs as a glass horse-drawn carriage carried MacGowan’s remains through the city, his coffin adorned with the Irish tricolour and black-and-white photographs of the singer in his youth.
Among those who turned out to pay their respects was Aidan Grimes, 60, who described MacGowan as an icon.
He said: “I remember the first time I saw The Pogues in the Hammersmith Odeon in 1985. It is imprinted in my mind forever, just the madness and mayhem, the raucous nature of his singing and the music they were playing.
“I thought it was important to pay my respects. He was an icon of Dublin, just like Brendan Behan, Luke Kelly. His music will be listened to in 100 years’ time.”
The funeral took place on what would have been Sinead O’Connor’s 57th birthday. The Irish singer, who was close friends with MacGowan, died earlier in 2023.
Depp was among those given the responsibility of bearing MacGowan’s coffin from the church.
One of the final musical tributes fell to the former members of The Pogues – Jem Finer, Terry Woods, Spider Stacey and James Fearnley. They played The Parting Glass, a traditional Scottish song often sung in Ireland at the end of a gathering of friends.