THE ashes of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt will be scattered today at a very special location in his adolescent life in the Limerick countryside.
In his blockbuster Angela’s Ashes, McCourt told of walking to Carrigogunnell Castle near Clarina as a teenager and seeing a beautiful girl and the effect she had on him.
At the unveiling of a bronze bust to McCourt in Limerick last evening, his actor brother Malachy said: “I have brought some of his ashes and we will spread them tomorrow at Carrigogunnell. With the unveiling of this statue of Frank at Leamy’s school where we were taught as children, Limerick is making amends and Limerick is saying ‘welcome back Frank’.”
Some of Frank McCourt’s ashes will also be placed near the bronze bust.
Malachy said Frank would have liked the bust unveiling.
His widow, Ellen, unveiled the sculpture outside the old Leamy’s school building where Frank attended as a child and which figures in his international bestseller, Angela’s Ashes.
Ellen McCourt travelled from New York with Frank’s brothers, Malachy, Michael and Alfie, and a large group of friends for yesterday’s ceremony.
Michael McCourt said: “This is unbelievable, it really is. I am speechless and very touched. It’s too bad Frank isn’t here but I know he is in spirit. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. His presence is still around.”
Michael said yesterday was the first time he had gone in the front door of the Leamy school building.
He said: “When we went to school here, we had to use the back door. One of the teachers, Mr O’Halloran, used send me to the shop every morning for the London Times.”
The bronze bust is the work of west Clare sculptor Seamus Connolly and took six weeks to complete.
The bust of the author, who was 78, was commissioned by Limerick artist Una Heaton, a friend of Frank McCourt.
She said: “I wanted to do something to have Frank remembered in his own city. I did not wait around for the city council to do something. It’s great Ellen has agreed to unveil it.”
Frank McCourt was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Irish immigrant parents.
Unable to find work in the depths of the Depression, the McCourts returned to Ireland to live in Limerick when the young Frank was four years old. The deprivation which the family endured during his formative years would later form the basis for his award-winning Angela’s Ashes.
The situation was so bad that three of his six siblings died in early childhood. He dropped out of school at 13 and delivered telegrams and earned extra income writing letters for a local landlady.
In one interview some years ago, Mr McCourt said he would not like to die of a slow disease.
He said: “I don’t want to be beholden to anyone or have anyone wiping my mouth if I’m drooling. I’d just like to go. I don’t want funeral services or memorials. Let them scatter my ashes over the Shannon and pollute the river.”
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