Frank McCourt’s world famous novel Angela’s Ashes, which was later made into a movie, showed the humour and hardship of growing up in Limerick in the 1930’s. Many of the sights and businesses described in Angela’s Ashes can still be found and visited in Limerick. UL student Sabrina Siqueira has found herself in Limerick and at UL because of Frank McCourt. Here she gives a little history behind what brought her here and of course one of Limerick’s most famous sons.
I’m a Literature post-graduation student from Brazil, studying humour in Frank McCourt autobiographies. And because of him I’m here in Limerick, spending a couple of months at UL to study Irish Literature and to research about Irish humour and culture. So I thought I had better give an introduction to the man who brought me here.
In his autobiographies Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis: a memoir, Frank McCourt articulates his memories from childhood until adult age. In his first book, the American-Irish author tells the story of his life in Limerick with his parents until his arrival in the United States, when he is eighteen years old. Most of story takes place in Limerick, Ireland. In ‘Tis: a memoir, the second book of the author, the story continues from the moment Frank goes back to USA.
A Son of Irish parents, Frank McCourt was born in New York, in 1931. When he is four years old, the family goes back to Ireland, to his mother’s city, Limerick. Frank spends the rest of his childhood in Limerick before returning to the USA in 1949, where he goes to college and becomes a teacher of English and Literature. In 1996, he publishes Angela’s Ashes – memories, which wins a Pulitzer. The second book follows in 1999.
Words were an important feature of Frank’s life. Since he was a child, when sometimes his family had nothing to eat, Frank used to sit and look at the words on their table cloth, which was actually old newspapers. As soon he learns how to read, Frank becomes a literature fan and used to read until late at night under a public lighting pole, books from public library. At school, when he was only 11 years old, he writes “Jesus and the Weather”, a composition so good for a child that age that allowed him to jump to a forward class. Still very young, he used to earn some money reading to an old man. When he was 14 years old, he finished primary school and starts to work as messenger boy for the Post Office, distributing words to the whole Limerick. When he moves to USA, he becomes English and Literature teacher, and then a life-writer. So, we can say Frank used to feed himself with words all his life.
In Limerick, McCourt and his brothers went to Leamy School, where now is the “Frank McCourt Museum”. The Museum is at Hartstonge Street, Limerick, and it’s open Monday to Friday between 11 am to 4.30pm, and on Saturdays from 2pm to 4pm. There, you can take a Angela’s Ashes Tour and experience a vivid reconstruction of life in the lanes of Limerick and at Leamy School, with memorabilia from the life and time of Frank McCourt, as depicted in Angela’s Ashes. With his powerful life narrative, McCourt can make you laugh and cry, and sometimes both at the same time.
To learn more about things to do in Limerick visit Limerick.ie