Shane MacGowan’s cause of death revealed as world mourns irrepressible Pogues frontman

The world is mourning the death of Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan, the artist behind songs such as “Fairytale of New York” and “The Old Main Drag”.

Clarke said that MacGowan, 65, died from pneumonia, according to The New York Times.

The news of his death was confirmed by his wife, Irish journalist and author Victoria Mary Clarke, who said in a statement on 30 November: “Shane will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life”.

MacGowan suffered from periods of ill health for many years, including regular bouts of pneumonia that sent him in and out of hospital.

Last week, it was announced he was being discharged from hospital care ahead of what would have been his 66th birthday on Christmas Day.

In a post last Wednesday evening, his wife tweeted an image of him wearing a scarf and bobble hat, thanking the nursing staff for their support.

Last year, MacGowan revealed he was diagnosed with encephalitis in a video posted to social media on New Year’s Eve. He had been receiving care at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin after being diagnosed with the condition last year.

 (Victoria Mary Clarke)
(Victoria Mary Clarke)

Encephalitis is an uncommon but serious condition in which the brain becomes inflamed or swollen. It can be life-threatening and requires urgent treatment in hospital, with young children and the elderly most at risk.

It is not always clear what causes encephalitis, but it can be caused by viral infections, a problem with the immune system, or bacterial and fungal infections.

Many fans had feared for MacGowan’s health ever since he almost drank himself to death in his twenties. Yet he told The Guardian in one of his last interviews: “Of course I like life”.

Tributes have been pouring in fans, friends and admirers, including famous admirers such as Irish rock band U2, singer Imelda May, and Libertines star Carl Barat.

Shane MacGowan (PA) (PA Archive)
Shane MacGowan (PA) (PA Archive)

Irish premier Leo Varadkar said that MacGowan had “beautifully captured the Irish experience”, while his former bandmates shared a black and white image of MacGowan smiling on stage.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has described Shane MacGowan as “a poet” who was unique in how he told “the Irish story”.

She said that Ireland “has lost one of its most beloved icons and the world one of its greatest songwriters”.

“Shane was a poet, a dreamer and a champion of social justice. He was a dedicated Republican and a proud Irishman,” she added.

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