Belfast Telegraph

Viewers accuse Philomena Begley of 'butchering' Fairytale of New York

Shane MacGowan singing Fairytale of New York with Philomena Begley
Shane MacGowan singing Fairytale of New York with Philomena Begley
Ivan Little

By Ivan Little

Country and western star Philomena Begley has been criticised for stumbling over the words of a classic Christmas song during a duet on television with wild-man singer Shane MacGowan.

Viewers of RTE'S Late Late Show took to Twitter to claim the 77-year-old Queen of Irish country had 'butchered' and 'murdered' Fairytale of New York.

The song was co-written by MacGowan, who was the subject of a special tribute hosted by Ryan Tubridy.

Gerry Adams was spotted in the audience, which heard stars like actors Patrick Bergin and Aiden Gillen pay homage to McGowan. The hard-drinking, hard-living former Pogues frontman, who will be 62 on Christmas Day, has been ill for some time.

Producers of the show had resisted pressure to 'bleep' out the word 'faggot' from Fairytale because it has been branded homophobic.

A number of radio stations have recently banned the entire song after claiming it made their gay employees uncomfortable.

On the original recording, MacGowan, who is reputed to earn half a million pounds a year in royalties from the song, duetted with the late Kirsty MacColl, who sang the 'offending' section on Fairytale.

Her role was taken by Philomena Begley, from Co Tyrone, who was regarded by some viewers as a surprise choice to sing the song on the show.

Insiders later revealed she was invited because MacGowan name-checked her and her one-time singing partner Ray Lynam in a song called A Pair of Brown Eyes. Philomena clearly struggled to deliver the words of Fairytale but she and Shane MacGowan were later given a standing ovation by the audience.

When show host Ryan Tubridy asked MacGowan how he felt about the row over the controversial word in the song, he replied: "I've been told it's insulting to gays. I don't understand how that works."

When Tubridy tried to explain the concern, MacGowan said: "F*** that. Nobody in the band thinks that's worth a second thought."

After the show, dozens of viewers complained on social about Philomena forgetting the words.

Some described the performance as 'a calamity', saying it was obvious that Philomena simply didn't know the lyrics.

Other viewers leapt to the singer's defence, though, claiming there were problems with an autocue and that anyone would have had problems trying to sing along with the temperamental MacGowan.

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