Ireland's debt to Frank McCourt
Niall Burgess pays tribute to a true Irish emigrant
Bill Clinton, speaking at a memorial for Frank last week, said that everyone has a story to tell and each story is unique and important. But few ever tell their story – and few tell it as well as Frank McCourt.
Frank came to the US in 1949, served in the US military and took a variety of jobs before settling into his chosen profession of teaching. His account of those experiences in his memoirs "‘Tis" and "Teacher Man" is even more important because it refects the experience of the thousands of others whose stories are untold.
Sean O Faolain’s story "The Silence of the Valley" records the passing of Tim Buckley of Gougane Barra, a man whose recorded words captured the experience of an earlier generation and a way of life that was passing.
Describing the mourners at Buckley’s funeral, O Faolain wrote: “they dispersed slowly, as if loath to admit that something final had happened to them all”.
There is a sense of finality too about Frank’s passing; a sense that we have lost the man who, better than any, described what it felt like to be an Irish emigrant to the United Stated in the middle years of the 20th century.