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08 December 2023

Of lotus eaters, loofahs and singalongs – Dublin bids farewell to Shane MacGowan

08 December 2023

In front of the old pharmacy made famous by one of Ireland’s literary greats, hundreds congregated to pay tribute to another poet of a generation.

As Shane MacGowan’s coffin passed by Sweny’s – the Victorian chemist’s shop that featured in the “lotus eaters” chapter of James Joyce’s epic novel Ulysses – mourners applauded and tossed roses at the horse-drawn carriage bearing the remains of The Pogues frontman.

The music from the Artane marching band faded as the procession made its way onto Fenian Street, where the coffin was transferred to a hearse ahead of the songwriter’s final journey to his funeral in Co Tipperary.

But back on Lincoln Place, on the pavement outside Sweny’s, the songs played on.

Musicians who had gathered to acknowledge the passing of an icon led the crowd in an impromptu rendition of Pogues classics.

Gardai, who had closed the roads to traffic to allow the procession to pass, were in no rush to reopen them, as more and more people were drawn to a singalong touched with both melancholy and joy.

It began with A Pair Of Brown Eyes before a rousing airing of Dirty Old Town rang out around Dublin’s southside.

It concluded, as it was always going to, with Fairytale Of New York.

Some hugged, others danced.

Amid a sea of mobile phone videoing the scenes, a woman held aloft a black and white photograph of MacGowan. Another waved a record sleeve of one of his hit singles.

As the last bars played, a loud cheer erupted.

With that, the crowd dissipated, the road was reopened, and that historic corner of Dublin city centre returned to normal.

The earlier procession began in Ringsend before making its way over McMahon Bridge, along Pearse Street and then down Westland Row and onward to Sweny’s on Lincoln Place. Along the way the cortege paused several times, as the Artane Band played Pogues songs.

Those who lined the route are unlikely to forget Dublin’s farewell to Shane MacGowan.

Dubliner Darragh McColgan he captured the essence of what being Irish means.

“Outside of my family I think he has had more influence on the way I think about Irish culture and music than anybody else,” he said.

“The man was a genius really.”

Aidan Grimes, who watched from Pearse Street, recalled the first time he saw The Pogues at 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,” he said.

“Through the years he evolved into a great poet, and he will be sadly missed.”

Josie Feeney travelled down from Co Leitrim to pay her respects.

She also believes MacGowan’s lyrics were a form of poetry.

And, much like Joyce’s description of Sweny’s pharmacy, she is confident his words will endure.

“He was a genius,” she said.

“His legacy will live on forever.”

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