Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Craic

Photo:  Andrew Catlin

The passing of Shane MacGowan has upset me greatly.  I loved his fusion of punk and Irish music and whatever you may think of his lifestyle choices, he stuck by them, lived life on his terms and continued to write beautiful poetry throughout.  Hats off to him that despite being dogged by rumours of only having 6 months left since the late 1980s, he made it to 65.  

Now whilst I could never adopt his chosen lifestyle, I defend his right to do so.  We now seem to live in a world awash with meaningless inspirational quotes from bland celebrities and "influencers" and where the endless pursuit of physical perfection, identikit gym honed bodies and superficial attributes - new nails, brow trends etc etc...are too often prized above great conversation.  Yet, even in his drink and drug fuelled state, I'm betting that polymath Shane's company was more interesting and enlightening than most.  He also believed in unity, love and compassion and would never judge or pass a homeless person in the street.  He devoured literature and truly believed that drink and drugs stimulated his imagination and creativity.  Given his legacy, who are we to argue?

I also totally understand his attachment to Ireland, having visited numerous times. I am now feeling desperate to return. 

It's the people that make Ireland so unique, and this year, they've lost a couple of greats.  RIP Shane.  I know his influence was far reaching (tagging Beate in this as she was first to pay her tribute in blogland here: RAILWAY KEEPER'S COTTAGE : WINTER HOUSE. SNOW. LEGENDS. (

Digressing slightly, fellow hibernophiles and/or comedy lovers may also have heard of the cult TV series Father Ted, a 1990s hit show detailing the shenanigans of three dishonourably discharged priests exiled to a remote corner of the far west coat of Ireland, aka "Craggy Ireland."  

The central characters were Father Ted Crilly, Father Dougal McGuire and Father Jack.  Ted was the sensible senior (his questionable handling of charity funds aside), Ted his dim sidekick (26 going on 6) and Father Jack was a hopeless alcoholic who, throughout the entire three series, uttered only the following words:  "Feck", "Girls" (pronounced ger-uls), "Drink" and in a rare moment of coached semi-sobriety: "That would be an ecumenical matter."  

One of the most memorable episodes features a rebel priest, Father Damo, who leads Dougal astray with his smoking, drinking, ear piercing and talk of Oasis, before stealing a groundskeeper's whistle ("It's only a bleedin' whistle!")  Father Damo was played by comedian/actor/writer Joe Rooney, who is more widely known in Ireland.

In a strange twist of fate, I recently spotted that Joe Rooney was touring "A Celebration of Father Ted" and immediately booked tickets.  We were promised (and Joe more than delivered), music, insights into the filming of the series, extracts from the Father Damo episode (The Old Grey Whistle Theft), some great Irish storytelling and a Lovely Girls Competition (another episode storyline).  

To cut a long story short, I made the fatal mistake of answering a question posed by Joe at the event and ended up being chosen by him to enter the Lovely Girls Competition.  The criteria myself and my fellow contestants were judged on?

1.  A lovely walk. (I won).

2.  A lovely laugh (I didn't win).

3.  Making the loveliest sandwich (I won).

Ultimately, I was chosen as the winner and awarded the coveted prize, a whistle blown by Father Damo himself, handed over with one instruction "Never wash that!"

Even more surreal, I was approached after the show by a mother and daughter, who asked me for my details as she was planning to marry in the next couple of years, the Father Ted connection being evidently important to her.  Quite a night!

But over the last few nights, some of my favourite Shane MacGowan lyrics have been playing on a loop in my head.

I'm not singing for the future

I'm not dreaming of the past

I'm not talking of the first times

I never think about the last.

Beautiful huh?  I take them to mean live in the moment.

So for me, photography enables me to truly live in the moment.  Take these recent portraits from a walk around the vintage fairground at Stourport on Severn and on a shopping trip to Stourbridge.

I challenged myself to approach people I found interesting, engage them in conversation, before asking permission to photograph them.  I could have just walked past them and never thought about them again...entirely forgettable moments, but that pause and the resulting images enabled something more from those fleeting encounters.

Arlo, Hook a Duck stall holder

Jonas, Fairground Worker

Kai, friend of Arlo

Retro Toy Store Owner, Neil

Furniture Store Owner, Lynne

In the last 7 days, the weather has delivered Fairytale of New York festive vibes with freezing temperatures, "wind that blows through you", sparkling frosts and ice.  I've yet to decorate the house for Christmas, but have consumed a couple of Irish coffees and the odd pint of Guinness in Shane's honour - and to keep out the cold.

And, just as night follows day, as soon the temperature rises, in rolls the mist and rain.  I prefer the former, as captured here, just beyond the garden gate.

So, I've very much been focusing on work recently; forever trying to challenge and push myself in different directions.  I have a couple of exciting projects lined up for 2024 and have been framing some prints to offer for sale in a couple of local small businesses - Archie's Attic, a popular cafe in Enville and Eco Maniax, a plastic free shop in Stourbridge.  

But right now, December is a time to assemble and celebrate the people in our lives and I intend to do just that.  Cheers!


  1. wonderful post - and wonderful tribute to shane macgowan!!
    why wanting a long life that is hollow and plain - if one can have a short one full of love, art, poetry and friends! and not drinking does not make a good person.....
    thanx for the tagging!!
    your experience at the Joe Rooney event sounds like great fun - and how fab that you found new clients there.
    the fairground photos belong in a fat coffee table book - gorgeous work! and i love your frosty & misty nature shots too.....
    stay warm & dry and cheeeers*****

    1. Thank you Beate and I totally agree with your comment about a life full of love, art, poetry and friends!
      I really appreciate your kind words about the fairground portraits too. A coffee table book would be the dream!
      Wishing you warmth and festive cheer. xxx

  2. What a lovely post, and a wonderful tribute to the inimitable Shane MacGowan. A Rainy Night in Soho is one my favourites of his, so those lyrics have been playing on a loop in my head ever since I learned of his passing too. Incidentally, he passed away on my late Mum's birthday, making that date doubly poignant.
    Although I never watched Father Ted, I was aware of the series. What a stroke of luck that you won Father Damo's whistle (still chuckling about The Old Grey Whistle Theft!).
    Brilliant photos as always, Claire. Those black and white portraits are really striking and your frosty and foggy photos are very atmospheric, catching the mood of the season perfectly! xxx

    1. Thanks Ann. Oh, I can imagine you shed a few tears then. Very sad. Hugs to you.
      Taking photos definitely helps adjust to the change in seasons. xxx

  3. Although I saw The Pogues play in the 1980s I must have been drunk 'cos all I can remember about the gig was Kirsty McColl climbing out of a wardrobe and duetting with SM for A Fairytale in New York.
    I was part of an audience with Julian Cope a few years back, he described himself as a "Rock and Roll underachiever", not giving a toss about making it big, just remaining true to who he is and living each day at a time. i was nodding all the way through as they are words that could have described my life. I'm sure Shane McGowan felt the same way.
    I loved your challenge of chatting to people and taking their photos, I really get a sense of who they are in these fantastic photos. Well done on getting commissions with those two local businesses, great stuff!
    I have never watched Father Ted! xxx

    1. Thanks Vix! Yes, I think SM was a true artist and a real rarity.
      It's surprising how people are initially wary, but quickly warm to the idea of being photographed. :-D
      You need to watch Father Ted. It's so good, trust me! xxx

  4. My husband Logan and I are both huge fans of Shane McGowan, and spent a weekend listening to the Pogues and the Popes. "Fairytale of New York" is such a glorious song!

    How cool that you got to participate in that show! I always dread being noticed at one of those things...

    Your photos are amazing, thank you for sharing them with us!

    1. You both clearly have great taste in music! His voice was unique.
      I think I'm getting braver the older I get. I would have been mortified 10 years ago. I just embraced the whole experience this time!
      Thanks for the photo love. Glad you liked them. x

  5. What a lovely post Claire. Very sad news of Shane Macgowan - a true poet. Your Father Ted night out sounds like such a hoot! Well done on the walk, sandwich making (what variety?) and being the overall winner. A very well deserved whistle! :) :) :) Love the out & about black and white shots xXx

    1. Thanks Lulu! I fashioned my sandwich into the shape of a woman's bosom after Joe's talk of teenage angst in rural Ireland. I later realised that he might have preferred one in the shape of an aeroplane (as per the episode where Ted climbs out of the plane to fix the engine). Oh well, he seemed to appreciate the gesture. :-D


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