I guess for most of us the news of Shane MacGowan’s death was received with sadness but not with surprise. Shane seemed ill for a long time. The drink and the drugs took their toll. 

In among all his demons Shame MacGowan was a great songwriter, literate, deeply emotional and mostly with some sense of Irishness. He was born in London and had a lot of London inside of him but being Irish was his grá. Sometimes it was too Republican for some. 

At times his music was a little raucous and raw for my soft ears. Beneath the din though there great songs.

I first realised such through the work of Peter Case. Peter covered A Pair Of Brown Eyes on his record The Man With the Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar. It was a revelation and soon augmented by Christy Moore’s Aisling from Smoke and Strong Whisky. 

In between I think Peace and Love might have been my first Pogues’ purchase. How I loved Misty Morning, Albert Bridge, somewhere between Ray Davies and Patrick Kavanagh. 

Of course then there is Fairytale In New York, not only my favourite Christmas song but one of my all time favourite songs. Some of my friends could not disagree more. They hate it.

For me it gives Christmas some authenticity. As someone sick to his back teeth of manicured sheep, soft clean straw and a beautifully wall papered stable, I want the kind of broken world that the baby Jesus arrives in. MacGowan certainly gives us that.

As I have listened to it, to blog, these past hours I have come to think that it might be introspective. Here at the heart of the song is drunkenness and relational chaos BUT also there these moments of beauty and deep emotion. Is that not Shane MacGowan in one great song:


The boys in NYPD choir

Still singing Galway Bay

And the bells are ringing out

For Christmas Day


It’s sentimental, it’s Irish and Christ has arrived in the midst.











HAUNTED (with Sinead O’Connor)

YOU’RE THE ONE (with Maire Brennan)





A FAIRYTALE IN NEW YORK (with Kirsty McColl)

WONDERFUL WORLD (with Nick Cave)


Sun sets over golf

(This is the script of my Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2 on the Owain Wyn Evans show on November 29, 2023. The Theme was How I'm Saving Planet Earth...)


My wife Janice’s Grandad was a sea captain and later in life the Harbour Master here in Belfast. His hobby was building little model ships. These were the days before Air Fix. These models needed more skill… and love.

Captain Gordon has left us hundreds of such models. Small to quite big. The detail is staggering.

Needless to say his grand children, all now in their 50’s, love them. They all have them on show. 

They are also carefully cared for. I took one of ours to show the children in church and I carried it like it was the most valuable thing in all there world.

I like to think of the earth as God’s art. I am fascinated that, maybe before time, God imagined. Colours for instance. Green. Once there was no green. No blue. God imagined. 

I sometimes think of my favourite scene in the world. Ballycastle beach. Walking out towards Fairhead, with Scotland beyond, I look to my right and there’s the lush green of the golf course. To my left the deep blue of the sea. In the middle Janice, Jed our dog and me on a narrow stretch of golden sand. 

At sunset the sky goes all kinds of colours and I ask how God can paint such beauty, different every night, with the same piece of sky and the same time of day.

For me as a believer, the planet is God’s art. In prayer I call him Father. I love my Father’s creation. Like those model ships I carry it carefully.

BUT do I, this week theme is like a sermon that cuts through my soul. What am I doing to save God’s art. Far too little.

BUT as we wait for COP 28 to help save our earth I am delighted that this very week The 4 Corners Festival of which I am a co-chair have declared that we will be carbon neutral. 

We have worked out the footprint of last years festival and will invest in trees to offset it. Surprisingly it didn’t cost us that much but it would cost the earth much more if we didn’t. 

So I am now looking at holidays and other ventures that I can offset to sustain my Father’s masterpiece. 


Bob Budokan

To the tune of an Ulster Rugby crowd chant I want to shout “Stand up for The Budokan”. Bob Dylan’s live album Live At Budokan album from back in 1978 is getting re-assessed or re-trashed as a box set called The Complete Budokan which has just been released. I want to defend it because of how crucial it was in my personal discovery of Bob Dylan.

I wasn’t a Bob fan in 1978 though I was on the cusp. Baby Stop Crying from 1978’s Street Legal was a favourite song and after my intrigue about Hurricane from 1975’s Desire, showcased in my favourite TV music programme The Old Grey Whistle Test. 

I remember the fuss about the Budokan record. Supposed to be a Japan only release in August 1978, a guy in school (Frank Delargy me thinks!) had bought it at a ridiculous price on import only to be rather annoyed at a world wide release in 1979 that we could all afford. 

Just a few months later Slow Train Coming arrived and Bob had come to a Christian faith, almost at the exact same time as I had too. That common faith caused me to play that one until I had acquired the taste for Dylan’s voice and set off in looking back across the 17 years of records that I had missed.

In that time of research Live at Budokan was a gift. It allowed me to grab almost 22 songs from every era of Bob on one double album.

More than that the very accessible way that Dylan arranged those songs at Budokan, made them easier for a young fella to hear them rather than say the much raw and rougher edged Hard Rain live album from 1976. 

I am not sure what Bob was wanting to do with this particular line up. The fiddle had encroached towards centre stage on The previous Rolling Thunder tour. Now, though the fiddle stayed, Bob had added flutes and particularly a saxophone. 

If 1978 Dylan fans were unsettled by this I wasn’t. As a Moody Blues and at this stage Horslips fan I was more than up for a few flute riffs. The saxophone though was put Bruce Springsteen. The Big Man Clarence Clemons was Springsteen’s foil and a very big presence on the cover of that iconic 70s record Born To Run.  Why shouldn’t Dylan give it a try. 

Reggae versions too. Again I was used to such arrangements. Bob Marley had become another of the rock icons of the 70s. Eric Clapton had covered Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff and even done his own reggae version of Knockin On Heaven’s Door that Dylan repeats here.

Above all of this. As Bob looks back and around for his Budokan muse so too he looks forward. The female Gospel vocals would become the major feature of the next few years of Dylan’s live shows. Where he is with Jesus at Budokan is anyone’s guess but the Gospel singers are ready!

So, why shouldn’t Bob Dylan bring a plethora of contemporary ideas into a career known for its reinvention. For me there is a hint of musical snobbery in those who dismiss these Budokan concerts.

So, I was thrilled that there would be a box set of the complete Budokan. Now we can hear 1978 versions of songs like Ramona, I Threw It All Away, The Man In Me and Tomorrow Is A Long Time as well as rarities Repossession Blues and Love Her With Feeling 

With such releases I quickly glance across the track listings and the prices to see which I will purchase. As I am currently buying vinyl I am going to actually buy the double vinyl Another Budokan 1978 at £35 as I think £190 is utter madness for 4 CDs especially when fans have almost two of them. 

In the next few weeks I am looking forward to listening to 1978 Bob Dylan. I hope at times it will take me back to my teens and those early Bob loving days but also back into that Dylan catalogue in which I am always discovering.  


Christ The King 2

"The blessed ones are those who have seen a King who is not like the kings of this world."

This quotation from  New Testament Professor Carla Works was the key refrain in my sermon on Christ The King Sunday.

I shared my own obsession about Jesus that was not instigated by a fear of any afterlife our any burden I was feeling from sin as a relatively innocent 17 year old.

I shared how as a 25 year old I would have concentrated I=on the judgement side of the Parable of the Sheep and Goats but now saw it as a reminder about the different kind of King Jesus was.

We follow the King of the Manger, the Donkey, the Towel and the Cross. Jesus is a King who is not like any of the Kings of this world... and he invited us to follow him.

Hear the entire sermon here:






Christ The King Sunday

(Prayer prayed in Fitzroy on Christ The King Sunday, November 26, 2023)



On Christ The King Sunday

We worship Jesus as our King

We remember those words 

From his own prayer

“Thy Kingdom come

Thy will be done

On earth

As it is in heaven”.


So God, we pray for Christ The King’s reign

His kingdom and will


In our parliaments

In our cabinet offices

In our war rooms

In our refugee camps

And hostage prisons


In our cities

Our towns

Our villages

On our streets

Up our alleyways

Across our housing estates

Along our Avenues

And into our cul-de-sacs


In our factories

In our shopping malls

In our school

And Universities

Our call Centres


In our gyms

Our golf clubs

Our sports pitches

And hotels and bars


In our homes

In our families

Our Residential homes

Our homeless shelters

In our Churches 


God, we long for Christ The King’s will



Shining light

Holding out hope


So, King Jesus show us a vision

Of how the world looks to you

And how it might look here and now

Lift us off our knees

To follow you 

In bringing it in.


In Christ the King’s name