Friends of the celebrated Irish writer Frank McCourt have been gathering at his bedside as the author is close to death.

McCourt's brother Malachy said his faculties are shutting down.

The author of "Angela's Ashes" is being watched over by his devoted wife Ellen and other family members.

Several leading Irish American writers including Colm McCann and Peter Quinn have been among the visitors.

The writer recently suffered a recurrence of melanoma cancer which has not responded to treatment and now has spread to several organs.

He also developed meningitis.

"Frank was okay for a bit and we had hopes for a while after the treatment for melanoma, but the meningitis turned it all around, turned it topsy-turvy," said McCourt.

The friends who have come to say their poignant farewells say the Pulitzer Prize winner is still in good spirits and battling bravely.

However, sources say that the Limerick writer may not have long left. He has battled cancer on two other occasions in his life and overcome it. This time however, it is proving very difficult.

Mc Court made his own end-of-life wishes plain in an interview with his hometown newspaper the Limerick Leader recently

"I wouldn't like to be incapacitated, or handicapped, or die of a slow disease. I don't want to be beholden to anyone or have anyone wiping my mouth if I'm drooling," he said.

"I'd just like to go. I don't want funeral services or memorials. Let them scatter my ashes over the Shannon and pollute the river."

“If you live past 65 you’re responsible to the rest of humanity to pass on your insights, that’s why you're allowed to live a little longer. So if I’m here, there’s a reason I’m here.”

McCourt became famous relatively late in late at the age of 66 when Angela’s Ashes, his remarkable, searing memoir, was greeted with near universal acclaim by critics.

The book quickly became a New York Times bestseller, selling over four million copies (the book has been published in 27 countries and has been translated into 17 languages). It won McCourt the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

During a recent trip to his home city McCourt said he still has “unfinished business with Limerick,” and believes there is still another book yet to be written about his relationship with the place.

“Some day I’ll have to write the real book and then watch out,” he said.

McCourt lives with his wife Ellen in New York City and also in Connecticut. He has a daughter, Maggie, with his first wife, a granddaughter, Chiara, and two grandsons, Frank and Jack.