Malachy McCourt, Actor, Memoirist and Gadabout, Dies at 92

Malachy McCourt, Actor, Memoirist and Gadabout, Dies at 92

As a young student, he would also escape into books. He read voraciously, but he failed the basic primary certificate at Leamy’s National School. (In 2002, the Irish Department of Education and Science awarded Mr. McCourt its first honorary primary school certificate. He called it “the only academic honor I’ve ever gotten.”)

At 15, he enrolled in the Irish Defence Forces School of Music in Dublin, but for Malachy, the military and the trumpet were not harmonious. He left for England, where, Frank McCourt recalled, he was hired as a custodian in a wealthy boarding school, “and he walks around cheerful and smiling as if he’s the equal of any boy in the school and everyone knows when you work in an English boarding school you’re supposed to hang your head and shuffle like a proper Irish servant.” He was fired.

He then welded wheels at a bicycle factory and shoveled coal at the gas works in Coventry until his brother Frank had saved up $200 to bring him to America. There, he washed dishes, worked on the docks, sold Bibles on Fire Island, served in the Army and, as the novelist Frank Conroy wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “became a professional Irishman, for which he can hardly be blamed,” since “his Irishness was all he had.”

Among Mr. McCourt’s other exploits: smuggling gold bars from Switzerland to India; auditioning cold for an Off-Broadway production, which led to his first stage role, in “The Tinker’s Wedding”; being cast in “Reversal of Fortune,” “Bonfire of the Vanities” and other movies; playing Henry VIII in commercials for Imperial margarine and Reese’s peanut butter cups; and doing stints as a radio and television host (“I couldn’t wait to hear what I had to say next”).

His first marriage, to Linda Wachsman, ended in divorce. His second, in 1965, an on-again, off-again, on-again love affair with Diana Huchthausen Galin, resulted in marriage in 1965.

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