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Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
4 months ago

This article is laughably, hilariously wrong, in fact it couldn’t be more wrong if it tried. For Shane McGowan was not London-Irish, he was Kent-Irish, from the posh bit of Tunbridge Wells. His experience of London was the same as most upper-middle class Boys of Kent, a scholarship to Westminster School after a rural prep, and his experience with alcohol was much closer to the English aristocracy than rural Irish. Remember, Ireland in the 60s was an extremely abstemious place, with low levels of drunkenness and children raised with The Pledge. His Irish punk persona was an entirely English adaptation to his family heritage in posh surroundings.
I only saw McGowan once, a gig in Dublin in the 90s, when he started hours late and was in no fit state to perform, reduced by alcohol to disrespecting his audience. I don’t say this to speak ill of him, but rather to say that I think people’s indulgence of his artistic persona was literally fatal for him, and eulogising him in this way is part of the same uncomfortable attitude.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Well at least he died in the traditional manner….the demon drink!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago

It wasn’t just drink that rotted his teeth.

N Satori
N Satori
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Just as I suspected! Scrape the surface of any working class hero and underneath you’ll find a middle/upper class specimen eager to enjoy the rebel lifestyle and kudos. John Lennon (he who had an airport named after him by his adoring establishment fan base) was another example as is that superannuated ‘rebel’ Mick Jagger. The problem with the actual salt-of-the-earth working class is that they are not very creative.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Sure, like Jesus of Nazareth and Robert Burns. What a flailing generalization!
Are you trying to make some arch-conservative claim that all wealth and social position–and lack thereof–is warranted and earned, denying even strains of creativity to the masses?
Also, Paul McCartney isn’t working-class or creative enough for ya?
*I wonder if you’re among those who insist that Shakespeare couldn’t have been a commoner.

Last edited 4 months ago by AJ Mac
Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Jesus of Nazareth was of the house of David so he was royalty. Just because he worked in construction doesn’t make him working class.
I have not heard of Paul McCartney, is he famous? Whoever he is, he is not bigger than Jesus.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Wow. You buy Matthew’s genealogy, stretching back to Abraham? Ah, the ill-considered Jesus comparison–that was Lennon’s fault. I sense a little cheekiness on your part and fair enough.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Pontius Pilate would disagree.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

He is to me.

N Satori
N Satori
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Oops! I seem to have touched a class-sensitive nerve. Sorry, AJ Mac but I think you are the one flailing desperately around as you probably perceived a threat to the comforting ya-can-be-anything-ya-wanna-be egalitarian delusion.
Not sure how salt-of-the-earth working class Paul McCartney’s roots are but to my mind he was certainly the more consistently creative of that Beatles duo. If you are interested there is an excellent documentary available on DVD – Going Underground, Paul McCartney, The Beatles and the UK Counter Culture – which details the considerable musical inventiveness and experimentation he is rarely credited with while John Lennon, in the meantime, was grabbing all the kudos for his Lefty rebel posturing.
By the way, A recent documentary on Sky Arts made a very well argued case that Shakespeare’s plays may have been written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Circumstantial evidence but compelling nonetheless.
Do try to remember: with generalisations there are always plenty of exceptions.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Oops! Keep clutching your patrician pearls–if that’s what you’re wearing these days–and calling out the perceived class- sensitivities of anyone who calls out your specialty: broad generalizations presented as facts. Still, though your frequent reductions seem beneath your evident intellect, you often provide insights, or at least worthwhile provocations.
Thanks for acknowledging the creativity of McCartney, who was straight-up working class (look it up if you have enough time and interest).
My extended family roots are in farming, small-business, and skilled-trades contracting, kind of similar to the dairy farmers in Lennon’s line. I call it upper-lower middle class.
I think Lennon’s snarl and defiance were perfectly matched with McCartney’s tunefulness and tender heart. If forced to choose one I’ll go with Lennon, but I admire both and am glad they met all those Liverpudlian seasons ago.
How many exceptions does it take to make a generalization untrue? I’d venture not many. Sure, they often make decent starting points, or heuristic devices in a pinch or hurry, but they tend not to instruct of illuminate (I allow for exceptions here). Quite the opposite, as a rule. Do try to remember that.
*In my view the anti-WS case is far more compelling to class-system apologists and conspiratorial cranks than the sensible and fairminded. The years don’t even overlap with the earl. But I’ve looked through enough of the hoax literature and video–including claims about Francis Bacon and several others–for one readerly lifetime. Shakespeare observed and to some extent interacted with people of all social levels at the theatre (among the chief conspiracy-fixated objections: How did he understand the court and aristocracy?).
**I’ll try to watch the documentary you mentioned. I quite like Rick Rubin’s 3-part interview with McCartney on Hulu, though Rubin is a total gushing fanboy, and seems stoned to me.

Last edited 4 months ago by AJ Mac
N Satori
N Satori
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Oh Jeez AJ Mac! Why are you so long-winded? Do I really need to read that brief outline of your family roots? Yet again you seem unable to resist your habitual ‘restaurant critic’ style of reply before moving on to that patronising and lecturing final paragraph. “…try to remember that”? I’ll do my best to forget it!
Have you ever considered being brief, pithy and to the point, or would that not give you an opportunity to parade those debating society moves?
By the way, what exactly is a ‘decent staring point’? Is it something that makes people stop and look?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

You are not concise or self-restrained yourself, man. Your long and frequent posts are often preening and self-indulgent, filled with prejudice and preference (thinly) disguised as objective comment. Also, your near-default mode is denunciation and insult and you resist giving an inch even when your whole house of cards gets blown down, doubling down instead, as in this instance. Stop believing in everything you think, please.
If you don’t have the time and interest to hear some brief remarks about my actual background and prefer to make assumptions about my “class-sensitivities”, fine. Likewise, if you want to be patronizing–“Do try to remember”– and then get huffy when the same phrase is justly cast back at you, go ahead and huff away. But it is not a one-way street.
Nice parting shot on my obvious and quite minor, if mildly amusing typo, dude. I guess not much humility or self-awareness can be expected from someone whose screenname announces something close to N. Awakened One.
I challenge you to let me have the last word but anticipate another effusive outpouring, with cheap ingredients, bad aroma, and overwrought flavors. Get it? Restaurant review language. A pretty good crack on your part, though not after you’ve served it again and again as you now have, Mr. Wisdom.

N Satori
N Satori
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

OMG! A four paragraph answer. I should have expected it.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Yup.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Your last sentence sums it up.

Peter B
Peter B
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

You’re right this simply isn’t true:
“Shane was the archetypal poet of low birth, dwelling in an underclass”
Yet another basic factual error in an UnHerd article which undermines the entire point of the article.
“Fairytale of New York” is a work of genius. Even though there are fools trying to censor its words.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I keep trying to like ‘Fairytale of New York’ but it’s not happening for me, I don’t know why. Don’t you hate when that happens?

Last edited 4 months ago by Clare Knight
David Ryan
David Ryan
4 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Try “Rainy night in Soho” or “a pair of brown eyes”. If you still don’t like them after that, they’re probably not for you

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  David Ryan

I have favorites like ‘Dirty Old Town’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and I want to love ‘Fairytale Of New York’ but it’s not happening for me.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

You are not really right about this . Shane I knew well at prep school and he was very very unusual and precocious . He was extremely well read even at the age of ten and he formed a strange romantic attachment to the lifestyle of the Irish working man in the pubs of Kilburn , probably formed through the influence of his dad who was ,despite being a very successful manager and indeed mainstay of the Anglo -Dutch department store chain C and A , a bit of a literary bohemian manque’ . I’m sure Shane imbibed his love of hard drinking and books from his father , if only at that age through the ear rather than down the throat .
He was I suspect quite unintentionally set up for his lifestyle by his father’s romanticisation of writers like Behan . No aristocratic English debauchery needed as an explanation . He was also quite left wing and sent off for copies of chairman Mao’s thoughts from the Chinese embassy ( 1968) Shane was too intelligent to take them seriously and I doubt he even read them , finding the style uncongenial. My copy was certainly a very little read book

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

Perhaps he read: “culture that a peasant can’t understand just isn’t culture”.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
4 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Well he liked Joyce and Lawrence but the former may have been somewhat metropolitan in his interests for chairman Mao .Maybe he’d have got some thoughts on his relating to Mrs Mao from DHL ?

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
4 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

That is fascinating. I must admit that I had no idea of the father’s background, I imagined him a dentist or something conventional to be rebelled against. But surely, the lifestyle of Kilburn man must have been quite imaginary to a ten year old in deepest Kent? I doubt he met many at your prep school. To any London-Irish boy growing up in Camden of the time it would have been a lifestyle to climb out of. Only a wealthy neither-English-nor-Irish boy in Kent could have imagined his way into such an attachment.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Yes probably . I hadn’t realised a lot of his very early life was apparently spent with his Irish relatives in Ireland , up to the age of seven or so . From what I have read over the last few days some of these people were wild and rustic ( or rural at least ) living in a kind of ancestral farm house in Tipperary with republican forebears and stuff . Church pub and bookie and singing and dancing and all that . It may have been melded with the stuff of his reading and his father’s tales because these memories would have been very early .As for his dad the point is he was kind of respectable in profession , perhaps he felt bound to be as the father of a family , but he may have , perhaps unintentionally, started Shane in another direction , perhaps in accord with where he wanted to go as a young man . Bourgeoise respectability would have been anathema to the young Shane .
He (we) wrote a letter of protest to the Tunbrdge Wells Gazette in protest about a fox hunt setting off from the school grounds and it was printed on the front page to the fury of the head master Bairamian who had actually put up with our placards and boos with some good grace .

Bill Strahan
Bill Strahan
4 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

“Prep school…. …precocious” do not describe the beginnings of one from the underclass.

The truth honours the man more than the lie.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

That’s another interesting perspective.

Martin Dunford
Martin Dunford
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Like who cares? London-Irish or Kent-Irish, he was English-Irish, influenced by rural traditional Ireland and avant guard England spending time in both and reading widely and listening to music from both places.
As for Ireland ever being “abstemious”, you are joking. There were thirty odd pubs in small market towns like e.g Enistymon, Co. Clare, now there are maybe a dozen. The Guards (Police) literally never prosecuted drunk drivers, the only pastime in rural Ireland was drinking. Drinking a lot. Flann O Brien, Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh all died in the 60s. All alcoholics. Folk music circles were especially notorious, musicians were plied with alcohol. Luke Kelly did most of his destructive drinking in the 60s and 70s!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

I’m amazed to hear that McGowan was not authentic. How someone raised in the home counties could look like a creature from ‘Deliverance’ is a marvel. Regardless, his voice was well-suited to his band and a pleasure to listen to rather than to see.

Last edited 4 months ago by Clare Knight
William Shaw
William Shaw
4 months ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

There’s none so patriotic as the descendants of the ex-pat.
Biden with his English surname is also Irish don’t you know.

Last edited 4 months ago by William Shaw
Steven Carr
Steven Carr
4 months ago

Obviously, we won’t see somebody like Shane McGowan again.
Take his lyrics from ‘If I should fall from grace with God’
‘This land was always ours
It was the proud land of our fathers
It belongs to us and them
Not to any of the others’
That will soon be banned as Far Right hate speech by the Irish government.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
4 months ago

Well I like him. I don’t care what his roots were, I don’t want his as a guru, just a bloody good singer/songwriter. That’ll do me. RIP Shane

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Another one that metaphorically should have been shot?
He’s on record as saying he would have liked to join the IRA but didn’t have ‘the bottle’. How feeble is that I ask you?

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
4 months ago

You don’t hold a gun licence do you? Asking for a metaphorical friend

Martin Rossol
Martin Rossol
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Gun license? I apparently have much to learn about England yet. With our much-maligned 2nd Amendment Right to Bear Arms, I don’t think about needing a permit, although you need one to carry a concealed firearm in some states.. Sorry to get off on a tangent.
Getting back on track, Paul Kingsnorth mentioned Shane MacGowan today and his sadness at his death. RIP.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Rossol

I think one of the areas where Brits and Americans least understand each other is over guns, but RIP Shane indeed, I doubt there’ll be anyone like him for a long time, a huge talent.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
4 months ago

He was just saying what he thought people wanted to hear . Very gentle guy , would not have hurt anyone .

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Hooray. Twenty normal people on this thread like Shane too. Good to see that in this creche for angry blokes there are ordinary reasonable people as well.

Pedro the Exile
Pedro the Exile
4 months ago

 “The most important thing to remember about drunks is that drunks are far more intelligent than non-drunks — they spend a lot of time talking in pubs, unlike workaholics who concentrate on their careers and ambitions, who never develop their higher spiritual values, who never explore the insides of their head like a drunk does.”
Oh dear-the delusional drunk who justifies his problem by asserting that he exists on a higher plane-no Shane, they spend interminable hours mouthing garbage and slurring their speech as they bore the shit out of each other and struggle to control their bowels. The “glorious drunk”-oh yeah-watch past interviews with him in pubs and its tedious, self centred croap and you get to spend the last years of your shortened life with awful physical and mental impairments before you shuttle off this mortal coil prematurely.

Last edited 4 months ago by Pedro the Exile
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago

Too true. Some creative types use booze to turn up their inner flame but they burn out early as a result. And most of the brightest lights could have burned longer–perhaps even brighter at times–with better fuel. Quite a few drunken or drugged-out artists have sobered up and shown more overall brilliance and depth than they did as inspired inebriates.
Anyone want to build a list? Eugene O’Neill wrote his best plays during a dry period of more than decade and semi-famous country-folk-rock musician Jason Isbell writes better music (I think) now that he’s off the bottle.

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago

Just the sort of thing spouted by narcissistic drunks in their cups. Lucky for him (and us) he had plenty of talent to back it up. Most narcissistic drunks don’t. They are immature sad sacks who bore everyone with how special they think they are.

Martin Dunford
Martin Dunford
4 months ago

Well so long as you don’t include Dylan Thomas, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Behan and innumerable other great poets and artists in that list. Notorious drunks all of them. In fact there is a compelling argument the artistic persona is drawn to a vice or vices they seem to desperately need to release their creative energy.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Dunford

On the contrary, i’d argue they turn to drink to escape their creative energy, otherwise it’d drive them mad.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago

Exactly.

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago

My favourite quote about Shane McGowan: “ I knew him before he was Irish”.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago

I don’t think there’s a real chance that we’ve seen the last of dissolute, drunken dudes, especially among musicians. It may very well be that his level of sloshy abandon and dental disregard could be a rarity going forward. It was pretty outstandingly bad even “way back” about 1990, when McGowan had become a ghastly shadow of his former self by his early thirties. Granted: Wild indulgence was always part of his performer’s crutch–a lifelong act, so to speak.
I think it’s impressive that this man made some enduring music–though most of it doesn’t much appeal to me, despite my Celtic ancestry and liking for Irish music (and “downtrodden” folk tunes) overall–but we don’t need to romanticize his demons. May he indeed rest in peace.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago

Fortunately we still have The Wolfe Tones.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
4 months ago

One of whom, Fintan Warfield, a nephew of the original founder, is a serving Sinn Féin member of the Irish Senate, on the Cultural and Educational Panel (Irish Senate is indirectly elected with 43 members on corporate panels; 3 each by graduates of the University of Dublin and National University of Ireland; and 11 appointed by the Taoiseach)

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago

Fascinating!

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago

The children in the carriage were drawn to him like he was Santa Claus, and they broke out into excited giggling every time they heard his peculiar wheezing laugh. It struck me at the time that children instinctually trusted the authentic good nature behind his ragged and rough persona.

But enough about Jimmy Saville ……

Martin Dunford
Martin Dunford
4 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Jimmy Saville was not “ragged and rough”. He was the complete opposite of McGowan in every way from how he dressed to how he comported himself. Kids indeed do shy away from the ragged and different. Drunks mostly frighten them. So if indeed they were drawn to Shane some essential goodness must have shone very brightly indeed.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Dunford

Nicely said.

Robert Ballard
Robert Ballard
4 months ago

Ireland has just such a long and continuous native national aristocratic tradition from which to draw inspiration – consider Donleavy and Wilde amongst others.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
4 months ago

Very sad news about him dying. But it would be sad news to hear of the death of any chain-smoking pisshead who lived a life of heedless desperation. This guy just happened to do it in public, which is how he got to be famous. Had he been a middle class Irish folkie, with the same voice and talent but with the luck and self-respect to avoid the pitfalls, we wouldn’t have paid him much attention. It was his dissolution and unravelling which was the draw for most of his respectable salaried fans, and that tells us something about the nature of fame today.
Anyway, rest in peace.

Bill Strahan
Bill Strahan
4 months ago

This article sadly undermines the passing of a true great, however self destructive he may have been.

Shane Magowan was no “poet of low birth” and a little honesty about that fact would do a shed-load more respect to the man than this ill-researched or just dishonest drivel.

Correct me if I’m wrong.

I’ll wait.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

He tried to out-Behan, Brendan Behan but I think BB had other issues (diabetes etc) which contributed to his early demise. I consider him a poet as much as a musician, he had a fine way with words

JP Shaw
JP Shaw
4 months ago

Regardless his upbringing, there is no doubt Shane at one time felt and lived the despair and longing of the working class. If you haven’t lived it in some way or another you can’t evoke the emotion in others. Eg: Trump will never come across as a person who has felt deprivations in his life because he has never experienced it. I often think think upbringing is why McCartneys songs so ethereal and uplifting and Lennons are thoughtful, emotional and provocative.

Pat Davers
Pat Davers
4 months ago

I’m gutted. He’s been my pick for Celebrity Death List every year since about 1992 and now I’m going to have to try and think of somebody else.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Pat Davers

Taylor Swift perhaps?

Richard 0
Richard 0
4 months ago

The article doesn’t mention his well known bromance with civilian murderer, kneecapper, gangster and latterly politician, Mr Gerry Adams.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
4 months ago

What a godawful bunch of miserable preachers many of you lot are. ‘Merry Christmas your arse, pray God its our last.’ It will be, I wont be renewing my subscription, too much sanctimony round here.

Last edited 4 months ago by Doug Mccaully
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Vale!

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
4 months ago

I love you too, Charlie

Zaph Mann
Zaph Mann
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

It’s the lyric, twit. Or do you only like jolly words?

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
4 months ago
Reply to  Zaph Mann

I’m sure this means something in your head, but you’re having trouble converting this into meaningful speech

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Ok bye!

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
4 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

You’ve got me for a few months yet

William Shaw
William Shaw
4 months ago

Ireland’s punk poet… who was born in England.
There’s none so patriotic as the ex-patriot.

Last edited 4 months ago by William Shaw
Chris Hayes
Chris Hayes
4 months ago

https://holmewoodhouse.co.uk/….. Still offers very good music tuition….though not really for Nagle’s underclass

Last edited 4 months ago by Chris Hayes
Mike Downing
Mike Downing
4 months ago

Pissed, self-destructive two-hit wonder finally manages to slide into his personal pit.

What a star.

What an inspiration (zzzzzz).

D Walsh
D Walsh
4 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

It’s not Shane’s fault the radio stations only want to play one of his songs, and it’s not Shane’s fault you know nothing about music

Gerard A
Gerard A
4 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Some years ago I saw The Very Best of the Pogues on sale in HMV for £3.99. I can’t think I have had a better return on my money than that anywhere else. 21 brilliant tracks, most of them written by Shane, and even those he didn’t write, such as And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda he brought a new dimension to them.
To paraphrase, two-hit wonder my arse.

David Morley
David Morley
4 months ago
Reply to  Gerard A

Yes, it’s silly to say the songs weren’t good; clearly they were. The working class Irish bit was a bit phoney. And anyway it’s nothing new for the art to be a lot better and more interesting than the person who produced it. Rather it’s pretty much the norm.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Gerard A

One of my favorites along with ‘Dirty Old Town’.

Martin Dunford
Martin Dunford
4 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Stick with the sober and upstanding artists who lived long and healthy then. You won’t have many people borrowing your books or listening to your music ! You’ll be the big Z !

Last edited 4 months ago by Martin Dunford