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Monday 20 May 2019

Shane MacGowan on turning 60: 'This will be my first Christmas without mam. So that's how I'll be spending my birthday'

Shane, Maurice, Therese and Siobhan MacGowan
Shane, Maurice, Therese and Siobhan MacGowan

Eugene Masterson

HE is the hellraiser who many predicted would never reach old age, but The Pogues legend Shane MacGowan said his 60th birthday today will be “just another day”.

Singer Shane was born on Christmas Day in 1957 and would go on to write what many consider the greatest ever Christmas song, Fairytale of New York, 30 years later.

Today he will defy the cynics who thought Shane might never see the milestone birthday after a lifetime of hard-living.

“It’s just another day to me and I don’t feel any different,” Shane told the Sunday World, when asked if turning 60 has any significance for him.

However, The Pogues frontman said today will also be tinged with sadness as it will be the first Christmas he will be without his beloved mother

Therese (87), was the first road traffic accident victim of 2017 when her car went out of control and hit a wall near Nenagh in Co. Tipperary on New Year’s Day.

“I am going down to Tipperary on Christmas day to see my old man [Maurice],” adds Shane. “This will be my first Christmas without my mam. So that’s how I will be spending my birthday.”

Therese, who was an award-winning singer, lived with her Dublin-born husband Maurice in the village of Silvermines, Co. Tipperary, after moving home from the U.K.

The MacGowans emigrated to England in the 1950s where they had two children, Shane and his sister Siobhan (55).

The family returned to Co. Tipperary, but again moved back to England when Shane was six to look for work.

Shane later went on to form The Pogues and in 1987 they released the now celebrated Fairytale of New York, which took Shane and Jem Finer two years to pen.

The track is widely regarded as the best Christmas song ever written. To celebrate its 30th anniversary, RTE gathered a litany of stars, ranging from Christy Moore to Bob Geldof as part of a documentary about the song’s history shown on Thursday.

On January 15 there will be a sold-out show in the National Concert Hall in Dublin, in which a slew of famous musicians will celebrate Shane’s 60th birthday.

They will include Johnny Depp, Nick Cave, Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, Glen Hansard, Camille O’Sullivan, Cerys Matthews, Carl Barat of The Libertines, Lisa O’Neill, Finbar Furey, Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols and Clem Burke of Blondie.

Asked by the Sunday World what he thinks of such a wide range of famous names paying tribute to him on the night, he replies: “It’s a great honour and I’m really looking forward to them singing the songs I wrote.”

Shane has not been touring of late and stayed out of the spotlight in recent years after he broke his pelvis getting out of a van two years ago and then later suffered a terrifying bout of pneumonia.

He has also had his dodgy teeth restored to their former splendour after extensive dental surgery.

His long-term girlfriend Victoria Clarke admits Shane may suffer from butterflies about taking to the stage on January 15.

“Oh Shane’s nervous about the concert – he’ll perform, so it’s nerve-wracking as he hasn’t done it for a few years,” she reflects.

“It’s amazing. I just called a few friends of Shane and they were all super keen. They haven’t decided who is singing what, but with so many musicians coming it’ll be a bit like Live Aid.”

Since his health scares Shane has eased back on the booze.

“In hospital he couldn’t get a drink, but he was fine just having cups of tea,” says Victoria.

“I think in Shane’s head he thought he needed it to survive as he’d been doing it for so long. But after a few months without it, he realised it was his choice.

“He drinks wine now, but is a lot less attached. He doesn’t need it all the time.

“Since coming out of hospital he’s been taking it much easier on the booze – a bottle of wine or two a day compared with bottles of spirits before he got ill.”

Vicky met Shane in a pub London when she was aged just 16.

She then fell in love with him for the first time when she and her then boyfriend went to see him and The Pogues in concert.

“He was standing on stage with his hands in his pockets and his eyes closed singing Dirty Old Town,” she recalls.

“I was totally mesmerised. I knew Shane, but I’d never really noticed him in that way before… I hadn’t thought about him sexually before but felt the need to be around him.

“I was attracted to his spirit and his energy more than anything. If I fancy someone it wears off after a period of time, but this was unusual, it never wore off.”

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