Frank McCourt Gets His Final Wish as His Ashes Are Scattered in Limerick – Frank’s wife Ellen McCourt scattering his ashes at Carrigogunnell Castle
Frank McCourt Gets His Final Wish as His Ashes Are Scattered in Limerick
The last wish of Angela’s Ashes author Frank McCourt was for his own ashes to be scattered in Limerick, his home which propelled him to literary stardom.
Eight years on since his death in New York, his wife Ellen, daughter Maggie and two of his grandsons, Jack, age 14, and Avery, age seven, flew across the Atlantic and saw that his wish was finally fulfilled this week.
The three generations dispersed his ashes in two locations close to his heart in Limerick in “emotional” moments as they struggled to hold back the tears.
The private family ceremony occurred with some serendipity, just in advance of the eighth anniversary of his death, at the age of 78, this Wednesday, July 19th.
When asked about his thoughts on his own mortality, the Pulitzer Prize winner famously and irreverently quipped to the Limerick Leader: “I don’t want funeral services or memorials. Let them scatter my ashes over the Shannon and pollute the river.”
Side by side, wife and daughter each paid tribute to Frank McCourt at the respective sites – the ruins of Carrigogunnell Castle, overlooking the River Shannon, and Mungret Abbey – as they looked up in the sky and flung his ashes to the heavens.
Ellen McCourt said that following his death, she, Maggie, and each of his surviving brothers – Michael, Alphie and Malachy – received a portion of his ashes after he was cremated, while his urn is buried in a plot in Connecticut, in the same graveyard as playwright Arthur Miller.
“Frank had always told me he wanted them scattered at Carrigogunnell, as he used to cycle out there with his friends, and would look out over the River Shannon and dream of going all the way to America,” said Ellen.
“You’ve made it, Frank,” she whispered to him, as she stood in the ruins of the 13th-century castle, just outside Clarina.
Daughter Maggie, his only child, born to his first wife, brought her portion of her dad’s ashes with her on her first visit to Limerick in over 30 years.
“It’s the first time Maggie and I have been in Limerick together, so it seemed fitting,” explained Ellen.
“I was very happy to have done this, as it was something I told Frank I would do, and the opportunity did not present itself until now, even though I have been here on several occasions since [his death].”
Maggie added that before he died they asked him what his wishes were and “whether he wanted us to take his ashes to the family graveyard in Limerick, and he looked up at me with big, sad eyes and said ‘That would be too much trouble’.”
In contrast to the constant rain which has since become synonymous with ‘Angela’s Ashes Limerick’, they said they were greeted with a perfectly clear blue-sky day as they remembered him before the weather turned on Frank’s anniversary.
“It was almost as if that day was sent to us, it was so beautiful. It’s very emotional to be here,” said Maggie, a 46-year-old mother of four.
“I’m grateful that we’re here, as this is something we have been planning to do for quite some time.
Ellen’s portion of her husband’s ashes remains in New York, as she said: “I don’t want to part with them.”
Carrigogunnell is referenced on a number of occasions throughout McCourt’s break-through 1996 work, which Ellen, his third wife, from California, insisted that he had to write.
It shot him to literary stardom in his 60s while he was an English teacher beloved of his students in New York, and led to a cannon of memoirs and a children’s book, which have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
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