Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan was born in Pembury, Kent in the UK on December 25, 1957, to Irish parents Therese and Maurice MacGowan.

"I was born in England, but only because I was born on Christmas Day," MacGowan told The Telegraph in 2017.

"My parents lived in Ireland, but in 1957 they went over to visit my father’s eldest sister, and I ended up being born in a nearby maternity hospital, down in Kent.

"It’s a pain in the a*** being born on Christmas Day, so I celebrate it on Christmas Eve, if I celebrate it at all."

MacGowan spent the first few weeks of his life in England before being brought home to Co Tipperary. The future singer-songwriter was surrounded by music and literature at his family's Irish home, which he has described as an "IRA safe house."

In 1971, the MacGowan family moved back to England. Shane won a scholarship to Westminster School but was kicked out when he was 14 for drug possession.

Shane's younger sister Siobhan, a journalist, says that Shane "went to Art College for a while but that didn’t really work out either.

"He was 18 when punk broke. For him it was heaven-sent. He’d always been into music. In fact he was a devotee."

Shane and his girlfriend Shanne Bradley formed the Nipple Erectors (later the Nips) in 1977. About five years later, an early iteration of the Pogues played their first gig at the Pindar of Wakefield.

"From the underbelly of London, the Pogues rose like a flame," Siobhan writes.

Thanks to a "steadfast live following" as well as a tour with The Clash in 1984, the Pogues came to the attention of Stiff Records and they released their first album "Red Roses for Me" in October of that year.

In August 1985, the Pogues released their second studio album "Rum Sodomy & the Lash."

Produced by Elvis Costello, the album features the now iconic Pogues' songs "A Pair of Brown Eyes", "Sally MacLennane," and "The Sick Bed of Cúchulainn," as well as versions of Ewan MacColl's "Dirty Old Town" and Eric Bogle's "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda."

While "Rum Sodomy & The Lash" was both a critical and commercial success, it was the band's third album "If I Should Fall from Grace with God" that featured perhaps their most famous song, "Fairytale of New York," which featured Kirsty MacColl on vocals.

Siobhan writes: "The seeds of 'Fairytale' were sown in the bar of Dublin’s Blooms Hotel sometime after Elvis Costello bet Shane he couldn’t write a Christmas song and Shane grudgingly conceded that instead of killing Spider to garner publicity the band should try to write a Yuletide hit."

Of course, the Pogues found their 'Yuletide hit.' The third album also featured other Pogues' classics "Bottle of Smoke" and "The Broad Majestic Shannon."

The Pogues followed up with "Peace and Love" in 1989 and "Hell's Ditch" in 1990.

However, Shane's party lifestyle began to catch up with him, and in 1991, he exited the Pogues.

Though no longer a member of the Pogues, Shane continued in music. In 1993, he teamed up with Nick Cave for a collaboration, including "Rainy Night in Soho."

In 1994, Shane and his band The Popes released their first studio album, "The Snake." It famously features Johnny Depp on "That Woman’s Got Me Drinking," Sinéad O'Connor on "Haunted," and Moya Brennan of Clannad on "You're the One."

The Popes followed up their first album with "The Crock of Gold" in 1997. It was their last album with Shane at the helm.

In 2001, after ten years apart, Shane rejoined the Pogues. While they never recorded another studio album, the Pogues continued touring and went on to release several 'best of' compilations and live recordings.

In 2015, two years after celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Pogues, Shane told Vice that the band was no longer active, adding: "I went back with Pogues and we grew to hate each other all over again."

However, his parnter Victoria Mary Clarke insisted that Shane doesn't "hate them."

He agreed: "I don't hate the band at all—they're friends. I like them a lot. We were friends for years before we joined the band.

"We just got a bit sick of each other. We're friends as long as we don't tour together. I've done a hell of a lot of touring. I've had enough of it."

Later, in January 2017, MacGowan's 87-year-old Therese MacGowan was killed in a car accident in Co Tipperary. 

The following year, MacGowan married Victoria Mary Clarke, his partner of more than three decades, in a ceremony in Copenhagen.

In 2020, MacGowan's life was examined in the documentary "Crock Of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan."

In 2022, Shane's artwork was featured in an exhibition in London, and he published "The Eternal Buzz and The Crock of Gold," a book of his drawings and musings.

Unfortunately, later that year, MacGowan was admitted to hospital with an infection in his brain in the run-up to Christmas.

In July 2023, Shane's wife Victoria Mary Clarke revealed that the singer was back in hospital after a period in the ICU. He remained in hospital until November and died "peacefully at home" on November 30, 2023, less than a month before his 66th birthday.

Shane's funeral on December 8, 2023 was fitting of his quintessential rock-and-roll lifestyle, and featured several music performances, including a rousing rendition of "Fairytale of New York" that saw mourners dancing in the aisles at St. Mary of the Rosary Church in Nenagh, Co Tipperary.


— @victoriamary (@Victoriamary) December 12, 2023

*Originally published in 2018, updated in 2023.