As seemed to be the rule in those days, Shane MacGowan‘s stage appearance was over in minutes. After incomprehensibly muttering the lyrics to a new song, a couple of roadies carried off the singer, who was much too drunk to make it to the end of the set – or the back of the stage. Lyrical intelligibility increased greatly when one of the other Pogues took over the singing. But it wasn’t until after the festival that I discovered that what had sounded like “Mnnng hhmn hfwmg hmmm ghm hnng hmsn” actually was “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”, the title of the new Pogues album. Which places the event in 1988.

In 2000, Tim Bradford wrote a book about Irish culture, entitled “Is Shane MacGowan still alive?” A pertinent question. The singer had been fired by the rest of the band in 1991, and had slipped into obscurity. But he hadn’t fallen from grace with God. MacGowan, the drunkards’ drunkard, his rotten row of teeth resembling an ancient graveyard, became legendary as much for his self-destructive antics as for his singing and songwriting. But he survived, re-joined the Pogues (in 2001) and to date is still touring with them.

These pictures are the front and back of a t-shirt for the 2008 Pogues US tour, and together they form a world map according to the Pogues. The quotes are all taken from Pogues lyrics, and reflect the world as seen through Irish eyes, with an emphasis on lands important to the Irish diaspora. These include

  • the United States (where, according to some estimates, over 36 million Americans claim Irish ancestry – 12% of the total population and 6 times the current total population of Ireland)
  • the United Kingdom (over 6 million Brits, or 10% of the total population, is of Irish descent. Shane MacGowan, for example, was born in Kent).
  • Australia (almost two million Australians, or 9% of the population, has Irish antecedents).

Lyrics on the front cover:

  • Greenland Whale Fisheries
  • The Western Ocean
  • A Land of Opportunity
  • Boston and PA
  • Fairytale of New York
  • He Fought the champ in Pittsburgh
  • Those Old Cotton Fields Back Home
  • She Left Me Drunk in New Orleans
  • Havana to Seville
  • ‘Round Cape Horn
  • The Wake of the Medusa
  • Girl from the Wadi Hammamat
  • Sketches of Spain
  • Frank Ryan bought you whiskey in a brothel in Madrid
  • Night train to Lorca
  • Until we see Almeria once again
  • A trip to Lourdes
  • Paris St. Germaine
  • Pont Mirabeau
  • You pissed yourself in Frankfurt
  • Got syph down in Cologne
  • Flanders Oh
  • The rosy parks of England
  • White City
  • Dark streets of London
  • In Guildford there’s four
  • Birmingham Six
  • The booze ran out at Crewe
  • Dirty old town
  • The leaving of Liverpool
  • Dear old Ireland
  • Star of the county Down
  • Boat train
  • There’s fighting in Dublin to be done
  • Wildcats of Kilkenny
  • Their hearts in Tipperary
  • People from Cork City
  • In Newcastle West I spent many a night
  • The Limerick Rake
  • Galway Bay
  • Galway races
  • THe broad majestic Shannon
  • The road leading up Glenaveigh
  • Passengers from Nenagh
  • Seen the carnival at Rome

Lyrics on the back cover:

  • South Australia
  • To the Dusty Outback
  • The Battle of Brisbane
  • From the Murray’s Green Basin
  • As our Trip pulled into Circular Quay
  • Macao to Acapulco
  • I am bound for California
  • Summer in Siam
  • My brother earned his medals at My Lai in Vietnam
  • She gave me Mekong whiskey
  • She gave me Hong Kong Flu
  • Hanging out on Pattaya Beach
  • Ended up in Nepal
  • Put me on a breeze to Kathmandu
  • Stepped over bodies in Bombay
  • The Lebanon Line
  • Billy’s Bones
  • Turkish Song of the Damned
  • We sailed off for Gallipoli
  • The hell that they called Suvla Bay

Two final points:

This celtocentric worldview not only emphasises certain countries important to the Irish Diaspora, it also enlarges them. Ireland and Great Britain dominate the front of the t-shirt (in a way reminiscent of the Tory Atlas of the World – #105). And I’m pretty sure Australia has also been inflated.

The lyrics that don’t refer to Irish emigration destinations tend to reflect theatres of war (the Middle East, Gallipoli in Asia Minor, the Spanish Civil War, etc.)

The t-shirt mentions the original name of the band, Pogue Mahone, which is a rude expression in Irish. The band shortened the name after complaints the BBC received complaints from Scotch-Gaelic viewers.

Many thanks to Liam Flanagan for sending in these images, who asks to confirm whether this map consists entirely of lyrics. As far as I can tell (and as far as I can rely on Mr MacGowan’s elocution), I think it does.