Fairytale of New York may be one of the great festive anthems, yet the heartbreaking story behind the song means it will be forever associated not just with Christmas, but also with tragedy.
Singer Kirsty MacColl, who duetted with Shane MacGowan in the festive hit, died aged 41 in 2000 after a horrific boating accident while scuba diving in Mexico with her two sons.
Her death came just seconds after she heroically saved the life of her son Jamie, who was 15. Her other son Louis, 13, also witnessed the tragedy but survived, as did MacColl’s musician boyfriend, James Knight.
As her close friend, MacGowan was among those left devastated by her untimely passing, with the Pogues frontman later admitting to feeling depressed when singing the tune in later years.
MacGowan himself died today aged 65 following an eight-year battle with a brain condition, prompting an outpouring of tributes from fellow celebrities and his millions of fans.
The punk icon had earlier lost his mother in shocking circumstances when she died after her car smashed into a wall on New Year’s Day 2017. Therese MacGowan, 87, was by driving alone and her death was treated as an accident.
The late Shane MacGowan pictured with Kirsty MacColl who died in December 2000. The pair sung together in the smash hit The Fairytale of New York
The song was released in 1988 and has become of the the great Christmas anthems. But it hides a darker story
MacColl and MacGowan pose with toy guns and an inflatable Santa in 1987 marking their hit Fairytale of New York
Before his death today, Shane had been in intensive care for months after being diagnosed with viral encephalitis last year, with his wife Victoria Mary Clarke regularly sharing updates of his condition to fans on social media.
The singer was diagnosed with the illness late last year and it was said to have exacerbated by shingles that spread to the eye.
Tragically, it was just the latest in a long list of medical mishaps the Celtic band star has suffered over the years.
In 2016 he fell and broke his pelvis while dancing and has had to use a wheelchair or Zimmer frame ever since.
Another fall left him with a broken right knee and torn ligaments around his left knee.
The series of falls has left his wife as his carer and the singer previously said he does not expect to walk again.
Earlier in his life, the lead singer overcame a heroin addiction, a high-speed fall from a car and numerous drunken fights.
Shane’s wife Victoria Mary Clarke shared the news of his death today in a post on Instagram. I don’t know how to say this so I am just going to say it,’ she wrote.
MacGowan has been in intensive care for months after being diagnosed with viral encephalitis last year
The English singer died aged 41 in 2000 after a horrific boating accident while scuba diving in Mexico with her two sons
MacGowan (centre) lying in his hospital bed in a photo shared by his wife, Victoria
‘Shane who will always be the light that I hold before me and the measure of my dreams and the love of my life and the most beautiful soul and beautiful angel and the sun and the moon and the start and end of everything that I hold dear has gone to be with Jesus and Mary and his beautiful mother Therese.
‘I am blessed beyond words to have met him and to have loved him and to have been so endlessly and unconditionally loved by him and to have had so many years of life and love and joy and fun and laughter and so many adventures.’
In a touching tribute, MacGowan’s sister Siobhan shared lyrics from the Pogues’ track, The Broad Majestic Shannon, in honour of her brother.
Taking to X she wrote: ‘So I walked as day was dawning; as small birds sang and leaves were falling, where we once watched the row boats landing on the Broad Majestic Shannon,’
A statement from MacGowan’s spokesperson confirmed he ‘died peacefully at 3.30am this morning with his wife and and sister by his side’.
‘Prayers and the last rites were read during his passing,’ he added.
MacGowan’s mother, Therese, (left) died in a car crash on New Year’s Day 2017. They are pictured with Shane’s father, Maurice
Mrs MacGowan, pictured with her son at a charity event in 2007, was a singer and traditional Irish dancer, and had worked as a model in Dublin