“ASTOUNDING” — that was the verdict of Malachy McCourt as he walked back into his family’s impoverished childhood, as depicted in Angela’s Ashes.
That grim past can now be approached through the doors of the Frank McCourt Museum, officially opened in Limerick’s Harstonge Street yesterday by Malachy McCourt.
In the replicate bedroom of the McCourt’s tenement home in Roden Lane, Malachy, 79, questioned one small detail — peeling flaky wallpaper.
He observed: “We had no wallpaper. The walls were covered in something they called blue wash. But I see the Child of Prague up there in the wall. We had a Child of Prague which we got from our grandmother.”
The author of the worldwide bestseller, Frank McCourt, who died in July 2009, and his brothers all went to Leamy’s School in Harstonge Street, just yards from Roden Lane.
Malachy said Frank would have been delighted with the museum created in his memory, although he did not seek adulation.
He said: “Fame was not his thing. He was quite pleased to get the Pulitzer Prize because it brought him a lot of rewards very late in his life. Frank always wanted to be known as a teacher, not as a writer or a celebrity.
“What he would like is that no child would be deprived of words, education, the pursuit of the path of discovery that children have, the beauty of language — and that is what he would he like his legacy to be.”
He said it was confusing now, as he neared his 80th birthday, to look back to a time when he and Frank left Limerick in complete anonymity with a sense of rage, injustice, misery, poverty and uncaring bureaucracy.
Malachy said: “Some people felt Frank’s book brought disgrace to Limerick. But that is the old axiom that the prophet is without honour in his own time; it also applies in Limerick. But the thing to do is not to come back once, don’t speak honourably once. Keep at keep coming back and then you’ll be honoured. They will get used to you.”
Una Heaton who with her husband, John, created the museum in the former Leamy’s School, said it will honour Frank McCourt and enable visitors get a glimpse of the Limerick he grew up in.
She said: “This great project has been a passion with me and John.”
Riverdance composer Bill Whelan was among the guests who attended yesterday’s opening.
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