McCourt escapes Sandy to launch book in Limerick

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan

SUPERSTORM Sandy has wrought devastation across the American north-east, but it failed to stop Limerick’s famous McCourt clan from travelling home this week.

SUPERSTORM Sandy has wrought devastation across the American north-east, but it failed to stop Limerick’s famous McCourt clan from travelling home this week.

Alphie McCourt, 72, the youngest brother of Frank, will launch his first collection of verses and songs in his late brother’s former school, which is now the Frank McCourt museum, this Saturday in the city.

Alphie, his wife Lynn, and Frank’s widow Ellen managed to avert the travel chaos in New York, and flew in to Limerick this Monday night, after their earlier flight was cancelled.

Entitled Heartscald, his new collection of work, has been dedicated to all at the Christian Brothers school in Sexton Street. “Education opens a window. Our teachers opened a thousand,” he wrote.

A number of pieces in the collection were penned in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, including Promise of the Leaves.

“Today, the leaves fall. Last week, last year, or was it yesterday, the towers taking in their thousands, our sisters and our brothers, all tumbled into crush and burn, to ache, forever, in the shifting gravel pit of memory.”

Other subjects are less sombre, and display the quintessential McCourt wit, such as the poem Woman.

“So beautiful she’d keep an Englishman from washing his car, make him turn away from the telly, make a Paddy forgo a trip to the bar, and a middle-aged man suck in on his belly.”

There is even an ode to a pint of stout, and songs inspired by emigration, and the birth and death of the Celtic Tiger.

Alphie’s previous work is A Long Stone’s Throw - the sixth memoir from the McCourt brothers, following Frank’s Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis, Teacher Man, and Malachy’s A Monk Swimming, and Singing my Him Song.

The family will travel to Derby in England this Friday to see the first musical stage production of Angela’s Ashes.

Angela’s Ashes: A Musical will be staged by the Uncontained Arts in association with Derby Theatre Arts in the UK from November 1-3.

“I imagine Frank would be delighted. I have had it in my head for years. Charles Dickens was born two hundred years ago. We’ve had Oliver, the musical, so why not Angela’s Ashes,” said Alphie.

Artist Una Heaton, who runs the Frank McCourt museum in his former school on Hartstonge Street, said it would be great to bring the production to Limerick at a later date, and possibly New York. “I haven’t heard any of the scores or music yet, but the cast are very excited about it. It’s a brilliant idea. Any tourists I’ve told about it in the museum have been greatly excited about it and want to see it for themselves and the numbers of people coming on the tour have doubled recently,” she said.

Adam Howell, artistic director of Uncontained Arts, composed the music and lyrics for the production, while the script has been adapted from the book by collaborator Paul Hurt. Mr Howell visited the McCourt museum in Limerick earlier this year, as well as locations in the city which were referenced in the Pulitzer Prize winning book. Heartscald will be launched in the Frank McCourt Museum, Hartstonge Street, this Saturday, November 3, at 3pm.