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The McCourt brothers: Malachy and Frank
The McCourt magic

Brothers making most of memories

Web posted on: Wednesday, January 13, 1999 12:45:06 PM

From Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist

NEW YORK (CNN) -- "Angela's Ashes," Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir about life in the slums of Ireland, has sold more than two million copies. The book's success inspired a film version that director Alan Parker just wrapped in Dublin. It also landed Mccourt's brother, Malachy, his own book deal.

Now, the story of the two men's lives has made it to the New York stage.

"A Couple of Blaguards" -- running at the Triad Theatre -- chronicles the lives of the McCourts as they grew up in the slums of Ireland. The house they once lived in is gone, but not the memories, they say.

"We were always cold and we -- Malachy and I and our brother Mike, and later Alphie -- slept in the same bed and that bed was collapsing and we'd all roll into the middle -- the hole -- to be joined there by about one million and one fleas," recalls Frank.

The brothers' stories have been turned into a play

'I went cuckoo'

The play revisits Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Angela's Ashes" and Malachy McCourt's current best-seller "A Monk Swimming" -- an account of Malachy's return to the United States.

"Coming here, to me, was just an explosion of licentiousness and license and freedom and God knows what else," says Malachy. "I went cuckoo when I arrived."

The brothers were born in Brooklyn, New York, into a family of seven children. The family moved back to Ireland but their father could not find work so the family landed in Limerick.

"An Ireland during the Depression is what made America look wealthy, because we went to the bleakest city, Limerick," says Frank.

"The McCourts of Limerick" Courtesy Conor McCourt/New Video
View early photos of the McCourts (requires JavaScript)

'Turning over in her grave'

Frank left Limerick at age 19, bound for America and a career as a schoolteacher. Malachy was not far behind.

"I became an actor. I became a saloon keeper. I was a dock worker. I was a concrete inspector on the Jersey Turnpike," says Malachy.

Their father died in 1986 in Belfast. Their mother, Angela, died in 1981 in New York. Her ashes were returned to Ireland.

When asked, the McCourts admit that their mother might not approve of them revealing family secrets to the masses, for a living. "She's probably turning over in her grave right now," says Frank.

But that's not slowing down the McCourts. "Angela's Ashes," the movie, is scheduled for release this fall, and the play is winning audiences in New York.

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