The poetic genius of Shane MacGowan was evident from an early age, as a resurfaced 1971 local news article has shown.
The Pogues frontman, who died this week aged 65, took influence from Irish folk music but grew up in Tunbridge Wells – having been born in Pembury Hospital on Christmas Day, 1957.
His then local paper, the Kent and Sussex Courier, published a front page dated March 19, 1971, which was possibly one of MacGowan’s first ever print appearances. The article celebrated the fact he was named among the winners of the Daily Mirror’s literary competition.
The 13-year-old MacGowan was celebrated for his work To Mac a Bus, a short story that provides a social commentary on Irish life. The themes of drinking and being socially outcast that were present in this early work also continued into MacGowan’s music career when he founded The Pogues 11 years later in his 20s.
He is quoted as saying: “[My writing] started with stories of space and science fiction when I was five or six. When I was 10 I started getting some meaning into my work with the way of self expression and social commentary.”
The Courier article, which has resurfaced on Twitter, states that the Mirror competition had 33 winners from 55,000 entrants. MacGowan won £10 for his effort and saw his work published in a book called Children as Writers.
MacGowan was at this point a senior at Holmewood House, a prep school in Langton Green village that also counts actors Hugh Skinner and Dan Stevens among its alumni. Despite this achievement, MacGowan endured a troubled upbringing, moving from Kent to Ireland and back again. Works such as this short story helped him win a scholarship to the prestigious Westminster School but he was expelled only two years later after a drug incident.
The Courier states that MacGowan counts James Joyce as his favourite author, showing he had an understanding of works that adults famously struggle with, at a young age. The paper adds that MacGowan had hopes of studying philosophy at university. While he never achieved this dream, his five albums and legendary shows with The Pogues have endeared him to many, despite well-documented troubles with his health and personal life.