seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Shane MacGowan, Lead Singer of The Pogues

shane-macgowanShane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan, Anglo-Irish musician and singer, best known as the lead singer and songwriter of Celtic trad punk band The Pogues, is born to Irish parents in Pembury, Kent, England, on December 25, 1957.

MacGowan spends his early childhood in County Tipperary, before his family moves back to England when he is six years old. He lives in many parts of the southeast of England, including Brighton and London.

MacGowan’s father, Maurice, works for a department store. MacGowan’s mother, Therese, is a singer and traditional Irish dancer, and has worked as a model in Dublin. In 1971, after attending Holmewood House School at Langton Green, Tunbridge Wells, MacGowan earns a literature scholarship and is accepted into Westminster School. He is found in possession of drugs and is expelled in his second year.

MacGowan gets his first taste of fame in 1976 at a concert by British punk band The Clash, when his earlobe is damaged by Jane Crockford, later to be a member of Mo-dettes. A photographer snaps a picture of him covered in blood and it makes the papers, with the headline “Cannibalism at Clash Gig.” Shortly after this, he forms his own punk rock band, The Nipple Erectors, later renamed The Nips.

MacGowan draws upon his Irish heritage when founding The Pogues and changes his early “punk” voice for a more authentic sound with tutoring from his extended family. Many of his songs are influenced by Irish nationalism, Irish history, the experiences of the Irish in London and the United States, and London life in general.

Between 1985 and 1987, he co-writes “Fairytale of New York,” which he performs with Kirsty MacColl. In the coming years MacGowan and The Pogues release several albums.

After The Pogues throw MacGowan out for unprofessional behaviour, he forms a new band, Shane MacGowan & The Popes, recording two studio albums, a live album, three tracks on The Popes Outlaw Heaven (2010) and a live DVD, and touring internationally. From December 2003 until May 2005, Shane MacGowan & The Popes tour extensively in the UK, Ireland, and Europe.

The Pogues and MacGowan reform for a sell-out tour in 2001 and each year from 2004 to 2009 for further tours, including headline slots at GuilFest in England and the Azkena Rock Festival in Basque Country. In May 2005, he rejoins The Pogues permanently.

The Pogues’ last performance on British soil occurs on July 5, 2014 at the British Summer Time festival in London’s Hyde Park.

For many years MacGowan suffers from binge drinking and heroin use. In 2001, Sinéad O’Connor reports MacGowan to the police in London for drug possession in what she says is an attempt to discourage him from using heroin. Initially furious, MacGowan later expresses gratitude towards O’Connor and claims that the incident helped him kick his heroin habit.

MacGowan has long been known for having very bad teeth. He loses the last of his natural teeth around 2008. In 2015, he has 28 new dentures on a titanium frame fitted in a nine-hour procedure which is the subject of an hour-long television programme. Dr. Darragh Mulrooney, the dental surgeon who carries out the procedure, comments that MacGowan recorded most of his great works while he still had some teeth: “We’ve effectively re-tuned his instrument and that will be an ongoing process.”

In the summer of 2015, MacGowan falls as he is leaving a Dublin studio, fracturing his pelvis. He is seen in public on crutches by December 2015, and continues to experience difficulty with general mobility.


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Death of Singer & Songwriter Kirsty MacColl

kirsty-maccollKirsty Anna MacColl, English singer and songwriter, dies on December 18, 2000, at the age of 41 after being hit by a powerboat while on holiday in Cozumel, Mexico.

MacColl records several pop hits between the early 1980s and the 1990s, including “There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis” and cover versions of Billy Bragg‘s “A New England” and The Kinks‘ “Days.” She also sings on recordings produced by her husband Steve Lillywhite, most notably “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues.

Early in her career, MacColl signs a solo deal with Stiff Records. She moves to Polydor Records in 1981 but they drop her just as she has completed recording the songs for a planned second album. She returns to Stiff Records however, following their 1986 bankruptcy, MacColl is left unable to record in her own right, as no record company buys her contract from the Official Receiver. She has regular session work as a backing vocalist, and she frequently sings on records produced or engineered by her husband including tracks for Robert Plant, The Smiths, Alison Moyet, Shriekback, Simple Minds, Talking Heads, Big Country, Anni-Frid Lyngstad (of ABBA), and The Wonder Stuff among others.

MacColl re-emerges in the British charts in December 1987, reaching Number 2 with The Pogues on “Fairytale of New York,” a duet with Shane MacGowan. This leads to her accompanying The Pogues on their British and European tour in 1988.

After the contract issue is resolved, MacColl returns to recording as a solo artist and receives critical acclaim upon the release of Kite in 1989. While continuing to write and record, she is also featured on the British sketch comedy French and Saunders.

In 2000, following her participation in the presentation of a radio programme for the British Broadcasting Corporation in Cuba, MacColl takes a holiday in Cozumel, Mexico, with her sons and her partner, musician James Knight. On December 18, she and her sons go diving at the Chankanaab reef, part of the National Marine Park of Cozumel, in a designated diving area that watercraft are restricted from entering. With the group is a local veteran divemaster, Iván Díaz. As the group is surfacing from a dive, a powerboat moving at high speed enters the restricted area. MacColl sees the boat coming before her sons. Louis, then 13, is not in its path, but 15-year-old Jamie is. She is able to push him out of the way but in doing so she is struck by the boat and dies instantly. MacColl’s body is repatriated to the United Kingdom and is cremated after a humanist funeral at Mortlake Crematorium in South-West London.

empty-bench-in-soho-squareIn 2001, a bench is placed by the southern entrance to London’s Soho Square as a memorial to MacColl, after a lyric from one of her most poignant songs: “One day I’ll be waiting there / No empty bench in Soho Square.” Every year on the Sunday nearest her October 10 birthday, fans from all over the world hold a gathering at the bench to pay tribute to her and sing her songs.

MacColl’s collaboration with the Pogues, “Fairytale of New York,” remains a perennial Christmas favourite. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, it is voted favourite Christmas song in a poll by music video channel VH1. The song is re-released in the United Kingdom in December 2005, with proceeds being split between the Justice for Kirsty Campaign and charities for the homeless. The re-release reaches number 3 on the U.K. charts, and spends five weeks in the top 75 over the Christmas and New Year period. It reaches the top 10 for the third time in its history in 2006, peaking at number 6, and charts yet again in December 2007. The song also makes the Top 20 in subsequent years, and has spent more time in the top 20 than any other song.