In her first interview since the passing of her husband, the Pogues' Shane MacGowan, Victoria Mary Clarke shared memories with the Guardian of her decades spent alongside the legendary singer-songwriter. Meanwhile, a Dublin museum has assembled a temporary exhibit to honor MacGowan's cultural contributions.
Speaking to the Guardian about dealing with the loss of the Pogues' frontman on Nov. 30, Clarke noted: "We're all going to lose people at some point. I'm just hopeful that people can take away the idea that you don't have to fall apart — that it's still possible to maintain your connection with them, even after they've gone. I'm sure I'm going to feel the loss at times, but I know that the connection I have to Shane will always be there."
MacGowan had long been suffereing from various ailments, including encephalitis and pneumonia, brought on by decades of hard drinking and drugs. Yet, when he received last rites and passed on Nov. 30, the outpouring of grief and celebration was felt not only in Ireland, but the world over. As an adopted son of the Celtic country (MacGowan was born in Kent, England to Irish parents, but spent his childhood in Tipperary before moving back), MacGowan's words struck just the right chord, as Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, noted at his funeral: "The genius of Shane's contribution includes the fact that his songs capture within them, as Shane would put it, the measure of our dreams."
Clarke also discussed the possibility of releasing MacGowan's unseen work, saying: “I guess at some point we will be doing a book of his unpublished stuff because there are quite a lot of unpublished songs.”
Clarke was 16 when she first met MacGowan in the early '80s. By January 1986, they were fully on as a couple. However, MacGowan's hard-living, rock and roll lifestyle pulled Clarke down a path she was not prepared for. During the Pogues' glory years, there would be drinking, smoking, screaming, snorting, fighting, much of which Clarke happily joined in with. When it got too much, she would attempt to meditate while on their tour bus. "A real challenge," she told the Guardian, "not as easy as doing it in a monastery or a cave."
She even revealed her initial reaction to one of the Pogues' most iconic songs: "I thought 'Rainy Night in Soho' was really cheesy at first. It was only when I heard the finished thing that it made sense."
Clarke is admittedly struggling with her loss, but coming into the holiday season she has given her heartfelt endorsement to the campaign to get the band's festive classic, "Fairytale of New York" to Christmas Number 1 in the UK. Addressing the possibility of the Pogues' song —finally — reaching No. 1 in the UK, Clarke was asked if MacGowan himself would have approved of the campaign.
"I think," she said, "he probably would."
In the meantime, and until January 31, EPIC, the Irish Emmigration Museum in Dublin is exhibiting They Gave The Walls A Talking, a collaborative effort with Hot Press to create a special temporary exhibition dedicated to the Pogues and Shane MacGowan. The exhibit illuminates the evolution of the Pogues, the rise of punk rock, and the role of the Irish diaspora on the British music scene – as well as the genesis of the iconic "Fairytale of New York."
Tickets for admission to the exhibit are included in the general admission fee. Book tickets here.