Malachy McCourt

On this date in 1931, actor-writer Malachy Gerard McCourt was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., one of seven children born to Irish immigrants Malachy and Angela (Sheehan) McCourt. The family moved back to Ireland during the Great Depression, with the children growing up in poverty due to their father’s frequent absence and alcoholism — a disease his namesake would later fall prey but not succumb to — and their mother’s subsequent depressed state. At age 20, McCourt returned to New York.

After an Air Force hitch, he worked as a laborer, dishwasher, longshoreman and concrete inspector for the New Jersey Turnpike. He started the first singles bar in Manhattan, then began a tumultuous radio talk show career in 1970, which ended six years later with his firing. He had some success as a stage and TV actor and eventually made several movies. After divorcing his first wife Linda Wachsman after they had two children, he married Diana Galin in 1963. They have two more children together. He took his last drink of alcohol in 1985.

While his late brother Frank is the more acclaimed writer (particularly for his Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela’s Ashes), McCourt has also written extensively, including his own best-selling memoir A Monk Swimming (from his mishearing as a child the Hail Mary’s “Blessed art thou amongst women”). He has written about being molested by two priests and in Death Need Not Be Fatal takes the Catholic Church to task for failing him personally and the poor and impoverished generally. He was the 2006 Green Party candidate for New York governor, losing to the Democratic candidate Eliot Spitzer.

PHOTO: By David Shankbone under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Freedom From Religion Foundation