New York – magnet for Irish immigrants

Greatest Christmas song ever? ~ How it was written ~ Painful birth of classic ~ Shane as Sinatra
Producer Steve Lillywhite ~ Kirsty MacColl vocals ~ Kirsty MacColl stage fright
Unofficial NYPD choir ~ Lure of Big Apple ~ Not just for the Irish ~ Alternative Christmas
Most played Christmas song ~ Lyrics censored ~ The video ~ Lyrics and chords

Statue of Liberty - welcome image to immigrants to America

Statue of Liberty

One of the key ingredients of Fairytale of New York is the city itself – a magnet for immigrants from all over the world for 200 years.

Mass Irish emigration to New York began in the 1840s after the Great Famine in Ireland. The arrival of thousands of Irish immigrants changed the face of the city forever. It went from being a largely English one culture city to a multicultural city in the space of a few years. The Irish continued to go there throughout the 20th century.

These immigrants quickly became loyal to their new country America, but that didn’t mean they forgot their old country. Many held on to their Irish heritage and passed it on to succeeding generations.

Shane MacGowan said: “When Irish people get to another part of the world, they just bring everything with them. They bring their culture, they bring their music, their games, they bring the attitude. They colonise other parts of the world. We’re better colonialists than the British ever were – in our own way.”



MacGowan felt a sense of exile

MacGowan was born in Ireland but brought up in England where he often felt a sense of exile. This unease is part of the back story to Fairytale of New York. MacGowan’s co-writer, Jem Finer, said: “He was always writing here from the point of view of someone outside his country so that’s very difficult.

Final-version

The Pogues could never have happened in Ireland. The songs that Shane wrote that pertain to Ireland could never have been written in Ireland. They’re always from the immigrant’s point of view.”

Guitarist Phil Chevron believes the sense of being outsiders was essential to the success of The Pogues, particularly in Fairytale of New York. “There was so much of having been this London Irish band that could only ever have occurred in London. In other words, we were one step removed from being an Irish band. To then take another step and go to America, inevitably it had an effect on us.”

Sense of isolation in Fairytale of New York

It was a hundred times more exciting in real life than we ever dreamed it could be! It was even more like New York than the movies!
Shane MacGowan

The sense of being isolated in a new country, in a huge city is an important factor in Fairytale of New York. The audience could identify with it.

The Pogues first went to New York in 1986, a time when the city had experienced a wave of immigrants coming in from Ireland. Mike Farraher, entertainment editor of the Irish Voice newspaper in New York, said the band were a welcome reminder of home for many people. “I think the essence of a Pogues audience would be Irish Americans who found their culture because of the Pogues, and then you have Irish immigrants who were here illegally for whom this was a very much needed taste of home. That’s what you would find in a Pogues show. “

Brian McCabe, who’s a friend MacGowan and a former New York police officer, believes the song will retain its popularity in the city. “We’re right in the middle of another bit of an immigrant boom again. Ireland is in such dire straits at the moment. You have a lot of people coming over here again. There’s going to be a new generation of people who are homesick and this song is going to hit them right in the heart in the way it did 20 years ago with all the people I knew when they first came over.”

Greatest Christmas song ever? ~ How it was written ~ Painful birth of classic ~ Shane as Sinatra
Producer Steve Lillywhite ~ Kirsty MacColl vocals ~ Kirsty MacColl stage fright
Unofficial NYPD choir ~ Lure of Big Apple ~ Not just for the Irish ~ Alternative Christmas
Most played Christmas song ~ Lyrics censored ~ The video ~ Lyrics and chords

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