Malachy McCourt opens museum dedicated to his late brother

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

“Frank, welcome to your new Limerick home,” proclaimed Malachy McCourt in the city last week, as a museum dedicated to his famous brother Frank was officially opened.

“Frank, welcome to your new Limerick home,” proclaimed Malachy McCourt in the city last week, as a museum dedicated to his famous brother Frank was officially opened.

Local artist Una Heaton was the driving force behind the museum, which is dedicated to the early life of the Pulitzer Prize winning author of ‘Angela’s Ashes’.

Ms Heaton said it was a “dream come true” to open the museum, which was the product of six months work.

An emotional Malachy McCourt, 79, was treated to a journey back through the early years of his life, and said he was “absolutely astounded” by the level of work which went in to creating the museum in their old school, Leamy’s on Hartstonge Street.

However, he struggled to predict how his late brother might feel about this honour, saying Frank’s work was his pleasure, not “outside adulation”.

“He would be either highly amused or highly embarrassed,” he said with a laugh.

Malachy, whose own memoirs have also been highly lauded, was accompanied on this trip down memory lane by his wife Diana, son Cormac and grand-daughter Adrianna.

He said Frank’s “spirit never left this place and will always linger here”, noting that his brother once said: “Limerick is in my bones, just like my marrow.”

Limerick, Malachy said, is an “exasperating place” and “has its snobs.”

But it also has compassion, generosity and decency, he added. “Remember you can rise from the ashes,” he told the crowd.

The timing of the opening was perfectly auspicious as it was held just days before the two-year anniversary of Frank McCourt’s death, this Tuesday, July 19. He died after a battle with the skin cancer melanoma, which left his weakened immune system susceptible to meningitis.

Gathering inspiration from his famous first memoir, Ms Heaton collected extensive memorabilia relating to his life, including a bicycle used in the filming of Angela’s Ashes. In fact, she received so much that she had to donate some of the items to Saint Vincent de Paul.

The museum showcases his classroom of the 1930s, as well as segments of the family home.

However, parts of the museum proved incongruous with McCourt’s recollection of their life here, before leaving for America.

“We had no sink! No feckin’ sink. Now that’s upgrading us,” boomed Malachy, as he saw the upstairs.

He then tested the bed.

“It’s far more comfortable than we had. Ours was concave and you fell in in the middle.”

Some of his ashes have been kept in a secure location at Leamy’s, while another segment has been buried near their home in Roxbury, Connecticut.

Mick O’Donnell, the walking tour guide of Angela’s Ashes, said the museum is “absolutely fantastic” and will be a focal point and a “bonus” for those going on the tour.

Built in 1843, Leamy’s closed as a school in 1952 and has since re-opened as an art gallery, creative writing centre and now a museum in honour of one of Limerick’s most famous sons. There is a €3 entry charge to the museum.