Opinion

Shane MacGowan stood for hope amid hurt and loss. In a tough year, his funeral moved millions

Shane MacGowan had a fine Irish funeral. The legendary musician stood for hope – something we need more than ever right now

Shane MacGowan

Shane McGowan of The Pogues at WOMAD festival, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan, 30 August 1991. credit: Masao Nakagami, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Shane MacGowan’s funeral got me.

I had work to get on with but thought I’d briefly watch. In a moment, when Nick Cave sat down to perform A Rainy Night in Soho, I was gone, singing along and smiling and fighting tears. All that heart and all that loss. By the version of Fairytale of New York, I was full-on blubbing. The regrouped remaining Pogues singing The Parting Glass for their leader as the service neared its end didn’t make this ease.

So a fine Irish funeral, then. Though the dancing in the chapel brought stern words from my mother.

The funeral led the 10 o’clock news in Britain. I’d imagine Forwarded Many Times was a leading WhatsApp message as clips were shared.

Quite why MacGowan’s send-off sent to many people over the edge is not clear.

There is much to be said about what he created. He articulated hope in the moment of the outsider’s hurt and loss. And clearly this soundtracked the lives of so many people globally. It continues to chime. His own ragged battle with mortality added a keen edge.

Change a Big Issue vendor’s life this Christmas by purchasing a Winter Support Kit. You’ll receive four copies of the magazine and create a brighter future for our vendors through Christmas and beyond.

But this doesn’t explain the connection and the community in the period following his death, and that emotion, at distance, generated by the funeral.

It’s been a hard, hard year for millions of people. The battle to remain above water as costs hammer is not over. Coupled with anger at things beyond control, there is a general sense of vulnerability. Christmas clearly exacerbates this. The best of Christmas songs frequently lead in a minor key.

It’s not always an easy time for a lot of people and I bet that is more-so this year.

At Big Issue we at least know there is a positive side to this as people are good. Many new readers join us over the Christmas period, keen to buy Big Issue, to support our vendors and to support the work we do.

In the teeth of national anxiousness there is compassion. Political leaders focused on their own campaign of self-preservation, that feels laced with cruelty, should take note.

At Big Issue we seek to redress inequity when we find it and when you tell us about it. There has been plenty around this year. Our resolve remains to carry this on next year. As does our focus on offering opportunity to those across society who have not had it in front of them for a while, or maybe ever.

So, thanks for being with us in 2023, through all that has been slung. Merry Christmas. If you’re feeling a little wobbly, that is OK. There is always hope.

Altogether now – it was Christmas Eve, babe…

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
One of the biggest crises facing the UK is barely talked about – the crisis of an ageing population
pensioner poverty ageing population
James Rose

One of the biggest crises facing the UK is barely talked about – the crisis of an ageing population

The new Labour government must make changes so disabled people can enjoy sport
disabled people sport
Chloe Schendel-Wilson

The new Labour government must make changes so disabled people can enjoy sport

With the new government comes a new opportunity to rethink welfare and benefits 
John Bird

With the new government comes a new opportunity to rethink welfare and benefits 

'I sofa surfed for four months': How 'out of control' renting crisis is hurting key workers
Unison key workers at a protest
Ben Twomey and Tilly Smith

'I sofa surfed for four months': How 'out of control' renting crisis is hurting key workers

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know

The Big Issue

Sign up to get your FREE Doctor Who Archive Special

Celebrate the 14th series with your FREE edition of the Dr Who Special Archives