Limerick Increasingly Resembling Angela’s Ashes, Admit McCourt Critics

Limerick – Since the publication in 1996 of Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela’s Ashes, which details the grim horrors of growing up in Limerick in the 1930s and 1940s, defenders of the city have lined up to attack McCourt for misrepresenting the beauty and charm of Limerick.

Memories of his miserable childhood's runaway success always brought a smile to McCourt's face.

Memories of his miserable childhood's runaway success always brought a smile to McCourt's face.

In recent days, however, even McCourt’s fiercest critics have started to admit that his memoir may have been prophetic.

“I’ve always been one of McCourt’s fiercest critics,” said Dave Farrell (53), a local Limerick journalist who has written numerous chronicles of the ‘real’ Limerick to counteract the bad publicity generated by Angela’s Ashes.

“I was fully behind Gerry Hannan when he said: ‘The book was vindictive towards Limerick and it’s people. There were plenty of scurrilous lies about innocent people and a lot of facts about the McCourt family were conveniently omitted. It’s a fairy tale disguised as fact.’ I agreed completely there.”

“But now I wonder if the book was less a memoir than a prophecy,” mused Farrell, looking reflectively out the window at a gang of teenagers shooting heroin in a burnt-out Toyota.

“Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood,” wrote McCourt famously in the opening sentences of his famed memoir.

"Actually, conditions in Limerick may be worse than McCourt let on," said Farrell.

"Actually, conditions in Limerick may be worse than McCourt let on," said Farrell.

“I used to think that was a load of bollocks,” said Farrell, puffing on his pipe. “My childhood in Limerick was very happy. But for these kids today, I don’t know, maybe McCourt was on to something,” he said with a shake of his head, watching through the window as a young man berated his 14-year-old daughter for smoking in front of her baby.

Limerick was originally founded by Vikings back in the first millennium, and as we enter the third millennium the Viking spirit is alive and well in the old town, which has become notorious for unprecedented levels of murdering, raping and pillaging.

“Don’t forget drug-dealing and gang violence,” added Farrell. “There are quite a few books on the subject now.”

One recent international guidebook curtly reviewed Limerick as “best seen through the rear view mirror.”

We joined Farrell on his daily walk into town, accompanied by 200 other citizens of Limerick, scurrying in a large group past estates with blank windows staring soullessly out at the deserted streets.

A typical Limerick Monday morning.

A typical Limerick Monday morning.

“There are still some parts of the city that retain the old beauty and charm of the city,” said Farrell, casting glances around for any sign of gang activity. “But to see them it’s best to move in broad daylight in large numbers.”

McCourt famously wrote about the small lanes of Limerick, stuffed with overcrowded and unsanitary tenements where alcoholism ran as high as unemployment and grinding poverty was the norm.

“Well, I’m not sure about the 1930s and 1940s,” said Farrell. “Plenty of older people here say it just wasn’t like that.”

“But it’s a pretty accurate description of today,” he said, looking around at the ruins of another closed factory currently being used as a back-alley abortion clinic.

"Totally unrealistic, there's no way two children would be let onto Limerick's streets on their own," said Farrell.

"Totally unrealistic, there's no way two children would be let onto Limerick's streets on their own," said Farrell.

Recent figures show that single men living in a council house in Limerick have the lowest life expectancy of anyone in Ireland. The Guardian in England reports, “So numerous are the inhabitants who carry the white wormy scar from a knife blade that Limerick’s enduring monicker remains Stab City.”

With recession driving unemployment to unprecedented levels, and drug-related gang violence reaching uncontrollable levels, the situation on the ground has now gone far beyond anything envisaged by Angela’s Ashes.

“Well, in any event, it all shows that I was right and Frank McCourt really was making it all up,” declared Farrell, as he watched a group of six men raid the public library for something to keep the hearth burning.

“He made this place out to be an awful lot better than it actually is.”

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