Francis "Frank" McCourt (August 19, 1930 - July 19, 2009) was an Irish-American teacher and writer best known for Angela's Ashes, a tragicomic memoir of the misery and squalor of his childhood for which he won a Pulitzer Prize.
1 Life and Works
1.1 Early years,
1.2 Early career,
1.5 Personal life,
5 External links,
Life and Works:
Frank McCourt was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 19 August 1930 to father Malachy McCourt, an ex-IRA man from Ballymoney, Antrim (1901-1985), and Irish Catholic mother Angela Sheehan from Limerick (1908-1981). Frank McCourt lived in New York with his parents and four younger siblings: Malachy, born in 1931; twins Oliver and Eugene, born in 1932; and a younger sister, Margaret, who died just seven weeks after birth. In the midst of the Great Depression, the family moved back to Ireland. Unable to find steady work in Belfast or Dublin and beset by Malachy Senior's alcoholism, the McCourt family returned to their mother's native Limerick, where they sank even deeper into poverty. They lived in a rain-soaked slum, the parents and children sharing one bed together, McCourt's father drinking away what little money they had. The twins Oliver and Eugene died in early childhood due to the squalor of their circumstances, and two more boys were born, Michael, who now lives in San Francisco, and Alphonsus, who lives in Manhattan. Frank McCourt himself nearly died of typhoid fever when he was 11.
McCourt related that when he was 11, his father left Limerick to find work in the factories of wartime Coventry, England, rarely sending back money to support his family. Eventually McCourt recounts that Malachy Senior abandoned Frank's mother altogether, leaving her to raise her four surviving children, on the edge of starvation, without any source of income. Frank's school education ended at age 13, when the Irish Christian Brothers ejected him. Frank then held odd jobs and stole bread and milk in an effort to provide for his mother and three surviving brothers.
In October 1949, at the age of 19, McCourt left Ireland, using money he had saved from a post office job. Alternatively, in a TV interview McCourt says that one of the people to whom he delivered telegrams was a female moneylender from whom, after her death, he stole the £55 for the trip. He took a boat from Albany to New York City with a priest he had met on the ship, who got him a room to stay in and his job at New York City's Biltmore Hotel making about $26 a week and sending $10 of it to his mother in Limerick. Brothers Malachy and Michael followed him to New York and so, later, did their mother Angela. In 1951, McCourt was drafted during the Korean War and sent to Bavaria for two years initially training dogs, then as a clerk. Upon his discharge from the US Army, he returned to New York City, where he held a series of jobs on docks, in warehouses, and in banks.
Using his G.I. Bill from the US Army, Frank talked his way into New York University by claiming he was intelligent and read a lot and was allowed in on one year's probation provided he maintained a B average. He graduated in 1957 from New York University with a Bachelor's degree in English. He taught at a range of six New York schools, including McKee Vocational and Technical High School in Staten Island, New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn, Stuyvesant High School, Seward Park High School, Washington Irving High School, and the High School of Fashion Industries, all in Manhattan. In 1967, he earned his Master's degree at Brooklyn College, and in the late 1960s he spent 18 months at Trinity College in Dublin, failing to earn his PhD before returning to New York City.
In a 1997 New York Times essay, McCourt wrote about his experiences teaching immigrant mothers at New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn.
McCourt won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography (1997) and one of the annual National Book Critics Circle Awards (1996) for his 1996 memoir Angela's Ashes, which details his impoverished childhood in Limerick. It was a bestseller and made him a millionaire. Three years later, a movie version of Angela's Ashes opened to mixed reviews. Northern Irish actor Michael Legge played McCourt as a teenager. McCourt also authored 'Tis (1999), which continues the narrative of his life, picking up from the end of the previous book and focusing on life as a new immigrant in America. Teacher Man (2005) detailed the challenges of being a young, uncertain teacher.
McCourt was accused of greatly exaggerating his family's impoverished upbringing by many Limerickans, including Richard Harris. McCourt's own mother had denied the accuracy of his stories shortly before her death in 1981.
McCourt wrote the book for a 1997 musical entitled The Irish ... And How They Got That Way, which featured an eclectic mix of Irish music; everything from the traditional "Danny Boy" to U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."
McCourt was married first, in August 1961 (div. 1979), to Alberta Small, with whom he had a daughter, Margaret. He married a second time in August 1984 (div. 1985) to psychotherapist Cheryl Floyd. He married his third wife, Ellen Frey McCourt, in August 1994, and they lived in New York City and Roxbury, Connecticut.
In his free time, McCourt took up the casual sport of rowing. He once sank his WinTech recreational single scull on the Mohawk River in New York, and had to be rescued by a local rowing team.
It was announced in May 2009 that McCourt had been treated for melanoma and that he was in remission, undergoing home chemotherapy. On July 19, 2009, he died from the cancer, with meningeal complications, at a hospice in Manhattan.
He is survived by Ellen, his daughter Maggie, his granddaughter Chiara, grandsons Frank, Jack, and Avery, and his three brothers and their families.
McCourt was a member of the National Arts Club and was a recipient of the Award of Excellence from The International Center in New York. In 1998, McCourt was honored as the Irish American of the Year by Irish America magazine. In 2002 he was awarded an honorary degree from The University of Western Ontario.
In October 2009, the New York City Department of Education, along with several partners from the community, founded the Frank McCourt High School of Writing, Journalism, and Literature, a screened-admissions public high school. The school is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on West 84th Street. The Frank McCourt School is one of four small schools designated to fill the campus of the former Louis D. Brandeis High School. The Frank McCourt High School began classes September 2010. The first principal of the school is Danielle Salzberg, who previously served as acting principal at Khalil Gibran International Academy and as an assistant principal at Millennium High School in New York. Among the many community partners of the Frank McCourt school are the Columbia Journalism School and Symphony Space.
The Frank McCourt Museum was officially opened by Malachy McCourt in July 2011 at Leamy House, Hartstonge Street, Limerick. This Tudor-style building was formerly known as the Leamy School, the former school of Frank and his brother Malachy. The museum showcases the 1930s classroom of Leamy School and contains a collection of memorabilia, including items such as school books of the period and old photos, all donated by former pupils of the school. As well as having a large selection of Angela's Ashes memorabilia, the museum has recreated the McCourt home as described in the book using period pieces and props from the Angela's Ashes motion picture. The downstairs of the museum houses the Dr. Frank McCourt Creative Writing centre.
Angela's Ashes. A memoir. Scribner. 1996,
Die Asche meiner Mutter. Irische Erinnerungen. (in German). Luchterhand Literaturverlag. 1996. ISBN 978-3630869452. ,
Die Asche meiner Mutter. Irische Erinnerungen. (in German) (Paperback ed.). Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag. 1999. ISBN 978-3442723072. ,
Cendres D'Angela (in French). Editions Flammarion. 1997. ISBN 978-2714433237. ,
Las cenizas de Ángela: Una Memoria (in Spanish). Demco Media. 1999. ISBN 978-0606160834. ,
Las cenizas de Ángela: Una Memoria (in Spanish) (Paperback ed.). Touchstone. 1999. ISBN 978-0684859330. ,
'Tis. A memoir. Scribner. 1999,
Lo es: Una memoria (in Spanish). Touchstone. 2000. ISBN 978-0743204231. ,
Ein rundherum tolles Land. Erinnerungen. (in German). Luchterhand. 1999. ISBN 978-3630870342. ,
Ein rundherum tolles Land. Erinnerungen. (in German) (Paperback ed.). btb Verlag. 2008. ISBN 978-3442737819. ,
Frank McCourt (chapter) (2001). Joseph O'Connor, ed. Yeats Is Dead! A Mystery by 15 Irish Writers. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 978-0224061759. ,
Frank McCourt (chapter) (2001). Joseph O'Connor, ed. Yeats Is Dead! A Mystery by 15 Irish Writers. Knopf. ISBN 978-0375412974. ,
Frank McCourt (chapter) (2002). Joseph O'Connor, ed. Yeats Is Dead! A Mystery by 15 Irish Writers (Paperback ed.). Vintage. ISBN 978-0375727566. ,
Teacher Man. A memoir. Scribner. 2005.,
Tag und Nacht und auch im Sommer (in German). Luchterhand Literaturvlg. 2006. ISBN 978-3630872391. ,
Tag und Nacht und auch im Sommer (in German) (Paperback ed.). btb Taschenbuch. 2008. ISBN 978-3442737505. ,
Frank McCourt; Loren Long (Illustrator) (2007). Angela and the Baby Jesus (Adult Edition). Scribner. ISBN 1416574700. ,
Frank McCourt; Raul Colon (Illustrator) (2007). Angela and the Baby Jesus: (Children's Edition). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0545127820. ,
Frank McCourt; Malachy McCourt (2011). Couple of Blaguards, A. Samuel French. ISBN 978-0573699634.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license