Shane MacGowan's family home in Tipperary hits the market for €230k
Tipp abode the scene of Christmas hooleys and Shane's songwriting
Can you imagine having Shane MacGowan spend Christmas Day in your house every year for 30 years? According to his sister Siobhan, also an accomplished singer and a writer, wherever he was in the world, Shane came back to the family homestead each and every year (Christmas Day is also his birthday) and on the big day, the entire family would always sing 'Fairytale Of New York' - the song for which he will forever be remembered.
"Sometimes we'd take the piss and parody it," says Siobhan. "Mum and myself would accompany him for female vocal, and I'd play guitar and Dad [Maurice is a poet] would play the piano. And we'd tell each other: 'Happy Christmas your arse.'"
Siobhan has the best of memories of MacGowan Christmases at Garryard East in Silvermines near Nenagh in Tipperary, where the MacGowan family have based themselves since returning from the UK in 1988.
However, Siobhan makes a few rather surprising revelations about the hard-living raucous legend himself. Despite often having many drinks arrayed about him in public - he can be seen with a gin and tonic, a pint of cider and a cup of tea all at once - it seems MacGowan only sips from them these last 10 years.
"Since he stopped touring, he drinks very moderately. He could have the same drinks in front of him for hours."
Another revelation is that the former Pogues frontman likes vegetarian moussaka rather than turkey for his Christmas dinner.
"Dad is a vegetarian and Shane is close enough to one, so I'd usually cook up a moussaka or something like that for Christmas Day," says Siobhan.
MacGowan stayed regularly at his family's home and, in the 1990s, started writing most of what would become Crock Of Gold - his last released album, which includes songs like 'Back In The County Hell' and 'Lonesome Highway'. "Shane usually used the upstairs bedrooms to do his writing," adds Siobhan.
"My mum and I picked the house. We told Dad he was buying it and that was that. I suppose we ganged up on him."
That was back in 1988, when 'Mac' (Maurice) McGowan and his wife, Therese (a multiple Feis Ceoil winner), were preparing to head back home to Ireland after 30 years living in the UK, near London, where Siobhan and Shane were born and raised.
"My Dad is from Dublin, but my Mum was from Carney and they always planned to return to Ireland when they retired," explains Siobhan. "Carney and Silvermines are both satellite villages of Nenagh, so although it wasn't exactly where she was from, it was close to her relations and family. Mum and I came over house-hunting and we spotted it. It's a 1940s house that was always known as 'the doctor's house'; it was built for a Dr Aherne and it came on the market after he died. We just fell in love with it instantly."
Siobhan was in her mid-20s when her parents bought Garryard East. She had already decided she felt more Irish than English and relocated to Dublin.
"We were raised very much with an Irish identity," she explains. "And while we were growing up, we spent as much time in Ireland as we could during school holidays. By the time my parents moved back to Ireland, I was living in Dublin and Shane was spending lots of time in Ireland, recording, writing and on the road with the band. It didn't feel like a big wrench when Mum and Dad left England."
The house at Garryard East is immediately attractive, set well back from the road on an acre of garden. The photos, say Siobhan, do not do the garden justice - "Oh my God, it's beautiful" - as a new lawn that was planted earlier this year is now well on the way to being established and the stands of mature trees are at their majestic best.
The four-bedroom house itself has simple, clean lines and retains some nice period features, including a Belfast sink and Aga in the kitchen.
"Even though I had left home by the time my parents moved to Silvermines, I spent lots of time there, as did Shane, who lived there for months at a time when he was writing. My parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in the house and there were always lots of parties with neighbours and friends.
"My Dad had his own bar in the den - we called it 'Mac's Bar', although all the locals called him George after George from Fair City, who also moved back from London. After the smoking ban came in, we used to say that it was the only smoking bar left in Ireland!"
Siobhan, who is currently working on a novel, and her brother clearly did not lick their creative talents up off the stones.
"My Dad is a poet and playwright," she says. "He is funny and sardonic and a real inspiration to me. And my Mum was a very talented singer - she used to win prizes at all the Feis Ceoils when she was younger - and Shane definitely takes after her."
Sadly, Siobhan's mum died early this year in a tragic road accident and the house is now too big for Maurice.
"It's a house for a family," says Siobhan. "I think a young family could have a wonderful home here, with plenty of space to run around and room for granny in the annexe. There's a shop in the village where you can pick up bread and milk and rashers, and there's also a pub, a church and a primary school - all the essentials."
For more extensive shopping, Nenagh is a 10-minute drive away. Peter Ward's Country Choice is one of the best specialty food stores in the country, drawing customers from all over the midlands.
For Siobhan, the nature trails and forest walks nearby are one of the area's main attractions. Silvermines has a history of - as its name suggests - silver-mining, going back to the 14th century, and there are plans to develop a museum devoted to this tradition in the village.
"Killaloe is 15 minutes' away," she says, "and it is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. It's beside the Shannon and near Lough Derg, and we have loved going over there for lunches by the water in the summer. It's a great part of the country."
Silvermines, Nenagh, Co Tipperary
Asking price: €229,500
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Talbot (067) 31496