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Francis "Frank" McCourt

McCourt in 2007 at Housing Works bookstore in New York City
Born August 19, 1930(1930-08-19)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died July 19, 2009 (aged 78)
Manhattan, New York, United States
Occupation Memoirist, writer, teacher
Nationality Irish, American
Spouse(s) Ellen Frey (1994 – 2009), 3rd wife
Children Margaret McCourt (daughter)
Relative(s) Malachy, Michael, and Prescott (brothers), Angela (mother), Malachy (father)

Francis "Frank" McCourt (August 19, 1930 – July 19, 2009) was an Irish-American teacher and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, best known as the author of Angela’s Ashes.

His brothers Malachy McCourt and Alphie McCourt are also autobiographical writers. In the mid-1980s Francis and Malachy created the stage play A Couple of Blaguards, a two-man show about their lives and experiences.


Early life

Frank McCourt was born in Brooklyn, New York on 19 August 1930, the eldest son of Malachy McCourt (1901-1986) and Angela Sheehan (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 a few weeks after birth, in 1935. Following this first tragedy, his family moved back to Ireland, where the twin brothers died within a year of the family's arrival and where Frank's youngest brothers, Michael (b. 1936) and Alphie (b. 1940), were born.

Unable to find steady work, in the depths of the depression, the McCourts returned to their mother's native Limerick, Ireland in 1934, where they sank deeper into poverty. McCourt's father, from Toome in County Antrim, was often without work, but drank with the little money he did earn. When McCourt was eleven, his father left with other Irishmen to find work in the factories of wartime Coventry in England. He sent little money to the family, leaving Frank's mother to raise four surviving children, often by begging. Frank's public education ended at age 13, when the Congregation of Christian Brothers rejected him, despite a recommendation from his teacher. Frank then held odd jobs and stole bread and milk in an effort to provide for his mother and three surviving brothers, Malachy, Michael (who now lives in San Francisco), and Alphonsus ("Alphie") (who lives in Manhattan); the other three siblings had died in infancy or early childhood in the squalor of the family circumstances. Frank McCourt himself nearly died of typhoid fever when he was ten.[1] In Angela's Ashes, McCourt described an entire block of houses sharing a single outhouse, flooded by constant rain, and infested with rats and vermin.[2]



Early career

At age nineteen he left Ireland, returning to the United States where, after a stint working in New York City's Biltmore Hotel, he was drafted during the Korean War and was sent to Germany. Upon his discharge from the US Army, he returned to New York City, where he held a series of jobs.


He graduated in 1956 from New York University with an MA degree in English. He taught English at McKee High School in Staten Island. Frank McCourt taught across a range of five New York schools, including McKee Technical and Vocational High School and Stuyvesant High School.

Mr. McCourt also taught in the English department of New York City Technical College of the City University of New York. In a 1997 NY Times Op-Ed essay, Mr. McCourt wrote about his experiences teaching immigrant mothers there.[3]


He received the Pulitzer Prize (1997) and National Book Critics Circle Award (1996) for his memoir Angela's Ashes (1996), which details his impoverished childhood in Limerick. He 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 a member of the National Arts Club and was a recipient of the Award of Excellence from The International Center in New York. In 2002 he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Western Ontario.

Personal life

Frank McCourt was married first, in August 1961 (div. 1979), to Alberta Small, with whom he had a daughter, Margaret. He married second, in August 1984 (div. 1985) to psychotherapist Cheryl Ford. He married his third wife, Ellen Frey McCourt, in August 1994, and they lived in New York City and Roxbury, Connecticut. He is survived by Ellen, his daughter Maggie, a granddaughter Chiara, grandsons Frank and Jack, and his three brothers and their families.

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 he had been treated for melanoma and that he was in remission, undergoing home chemotherapy.[4] On 19 July 2009, he died from the cancer, with meningeal complications, at a hospice in Manhattan.[5]



  1. ^ Frank McCourt; Angela's Ashes, 1996; 2005 Edition; page 218;Harper Perennial, London. ISBN 0.00.721703.x
  2. ^ McCourt - woe became literary gold, British Broadcasting Corporation, July 20, 2009.
  3. ^ "Mother's Who Get By". Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  4. ^ 'Angela's Ashes' author Frank McCourt has cancer, USA Today, 20 May 2009, retrieved 22 May 2009
  5. ^ Grimes, William. "Frank McCourt, Author of 'Angela's Ashes', Dies at 78". The New York Times19 July 2009 (The New York Times). Retrieved 19 July 2009. 

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