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Shane MacGowan’s wife joins calls for Fairytale Of New York to go to number one

Former Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan (PA)
Former Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan (PA)

Shane MacGowan’s wife says his song Fairytale Of New York “absolutely should” be the Christmas number one.

The Pogues’ frontman died “peacefully” at 3am on Thursday with his wife Victoria Mary Clarke and family by his side, weeks before his 66th birthday on Christmas Day.

Originally released in 1987, the band’s gritty festive song has never reached the top spot in the UK charts, peaking at number two and beaten to the Christmas number one spot in the year of its release by the Pet Shop Boys’ Always On My Mind.

Shane MacGowan death
The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan was due to celebrate his 66th birthday on Christmas Day (PA)

Following MacGowan’s death, there have been calls for it to finally claim the coveted Christmas title, with Coral bookmakers placing it top of their predictions with 1/5 odds ahead of festive juggernauts Wham!’s Last Christmas and Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You.

Clarke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday: “It would be nice, wouldn’t it?

“It should be the Christmas number one, it absolutely should. I’m very much in favour of that.”

The song was written by MacGowan with fellow Pogues founder Jem Finer and later rerecorded to have Kirsty MacColl duet with MacGowan, which led to the best-known version of the track.

It has returned to the UK Christmas top 40 every year since 2005 but never reached the top spot, according to the Official Charts Company.

MacGowan’s wife agreed his lyrics were often “very cynical” but said he was a “really romantic man”.

She said: “He was the kind of person that would tell you how beautiful you are every single day.”

The Irish journalist, 57, also compared the turbulent love story in Fairytale Of New York with her own relationship with MacGowan, who she first met as a teenager.

“It’s not (the romance that’s) gone wrong. In the song, they still love each other but life has gone wrong and I think that’s what’s probably a little bit similar to our story.

“We were both very much affected by his addiction, but you can still love even though you’re in that situation. And you can be very desperately unhappy as well as love.”

The Irish singer battled ill health in his later years after years of alcohol and substance abuse.

MacGowan was discharged last week from St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin after receiving care following another bought of ill-health after revealing last year that he had been diagnosed with encephalitis.

His wife said he died of pneumonia, according to the New York Times.

Discussing his drinking habits, Clarke said: “It was always difficult for me because I knew when I met him that he liked to drink but I didn’t understand that as being something challenging or difficult.”

She said he had not had a drink for the past six months but his previous habits “took a toll on his body”.

Clarke also said MacGowan could be “very contradictory” in that the couple would watch programmes about the royal family and he cried at the deaths of the late Queen, Duke of Edinburgh and Diana, Princess of Wales, despite being an “ardent Republican”.

Later on Saturday, Clarke told the Brendan O’Connor Show on RTE radio that she thought she was going to die after learning MacGowan was coming to the end of his life.

Discussing his last days, she said she had been giving him health drinks and trying alternative therapists, hypnotists and physios to try to help him.

She added: “He was putting up a really strong fight. He was trying very hard to breathe.

“He wasn’t ready to give up. He wasn’t ready to stop fighting – but his body did it for him.”