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Shane MacGowan is getting one of the most poetically perfect send-offs in history – his favourite pub landlord has become his undertaker and funeral boss.
The lead vocalist of The Pogues frequented Phillip “Philly” Ryan’s pub in Nenagh, County Tipperary for two decades. He will be buried on Friday at the same location.
Six years ago, he informed Philly of his desired arrangements for his funeral.
The Independent spoke exclusively to Philly, the owner of JJ Ryan’s undertakers and bar, who had seen MacGowan shortly before his passing. Philly confirmed, “I am the sole undertaker responsible for Shane’s arrangements.”
On the day of his passing, we relocated him from Dublin to my custody. He is now under my care and will be given a proper farewell.
I have conflicting feelings about the situation. I visited him at his house on the day he returned from the hospital and I felt a great deal of sympathy for him. He was extremely ill.
The next day, he returned to the hospital. It can be a blessing to not have to struggle.
MacGowan passed away at the age of 65 on November 30, just weeks before his 66th birthday. His hit song “Fairytale of New York” will still be playing in millions of homes on Christmas Day.
He was undergoing treatment for viral encephalitis, a condition that causes inflammation of the brain. He was urgently taken to the hospital with his wife, Victoria Mary Clarke, by his side. He was later brought back home, where he passed away in the presence of his family.
Philly stated that he feels privileged to be arranging MacGowan’s final farewell and hopes to honor him well according to his last wishes.
Shane’s final desire, like many others, was to pass away in the company of their loved ones.
Philly, whose pub will host MacGowan’s wake, said the singer approached him in 2017 to talk about his funeral at his wife Victoria’s birthday party in Dublin.
He stated that Shane’s funeral followed his plans exactly. Shane desired to have private prayers with his family, a public mass, and a private cremation, and that is exactly what was carried out.
I receive verbal feedback from others, but it may not always align with their own thoughts and opinions.
“I can recall the date clearly – January 20, 2017. It was a celebration following Victoria’s birthday, after attending a Black Sabbath concert in Dublin.”
Shane was present in a wheelchair that evening, but he seemed to be in poor condition. I could tell he wasn’t feeling well. At one point, he signaled for me to come over and expressed his desire to resolve everything.
“I acknowledged Shane’s perspective, but I don’t think it’s necessary to discuss it at this moment.”
As an undertaker, it is common to hear such things. Surprisingly, having that conversation can be even more difficult than actually conducting a funeral. It can be challenging to have someone look at you and express their desires. This is something that may be difficult for others to comprehend.
“I didn’t require any written reminders. A spoken word between individuals holds more value than a written note.”
“He was aware of the inevitability of death and taxes, but he did not want to die. He made it clear to me that these were the only certainties in life. Despite this, his determination to live was what kept him going for such a long time.”
The name of Philly is displayed prominently at the Phil Ryan pub in Nenagh. It was a place where the singer spent numerous Christmases, either enjoying a drink, reading books, or playing pool on their own.
The funeral procession for MacGowan will go through the streets of Dublin and then he will be taken back to St Mary of the Rosary church, which is located across the street from his favorite pub.
Brendan Fitzpatrick, who has been MacGowan’s personal driver for two decades, will be riding in the hearse with Philly. He has driven MacGowan to performances in London and back home to his ancestral cottage in Tipperary.
There have been whispers that Bono and Johnny Depp may be organizing to join the occasion as well.
MacGowan’s initial six years were spent in his maternal family’s residence in Carney, County Tipperary, and he frequently revisited it even after his parents relocated the family to England.
Philly’s Pub in Nenagh became the singer’s preferred drinking spot as his parents relocated to Silvermines, also located in Tipperary, over time.
Philly mentioned the upcoming funeral plans, stating that there are talented artists scheduled to attend. It will be intriguing to see who actually shows up.