Thomas D. Clark Lecture offers humor, humility



For one man, the luck of the Irish need not apply to his life.

Malachy McCourt, best-selling author, actor and spokesman visited Lexington Thursday to deliver this year’s Thomas D. Clark Lecture, and said he does not want luck ascribed to his success.

The lecture coincides with the Mary C. Bingham Seminar, a class for which faculty compete every other year to teach a subject of their choice within the humanities. This year’s seminar is titled “Across the Atlantic: Exploring Irish Immigration to the U.S.” Diana Haleman, lecturer of family studies and this year’s Bingham seminar lecturer, invited McCourt to speak at UK.

“I hesitate to designate this as a lecture as I have absolutely no qualifications to be lecturing to anybody about anything,” McCourt said. “Even my own children.

“Thinking is very dangerous for me, because when I get into my own head, I am behind enemy lines.”

McCourt read a passage from his book, “A Monk Swimming,” a title he explained is from his mishearing of a line from the Hail Mary, “Blessed art thou amongst women …”

McCourt, who said he is happy to consider himself an American, said his outlandish actions in earlier life are derived from some innate desire to be noticed. Having grown up poor in Ireland and facing death within his family, he said he believes each person has the right to fulfill his or her dreams and should not be told otherwise.

“We were humiliated so many ways when we were kids,” McCourt said. “Poverty was the order of the day. Death and despair were the delightful fruits.”

McCourt detailed the deaths of his baby sister, Mary Margaret, and brothers Eugene and Oliver, all of which occurred within two years. McCourt’s brother, Frank, famed author of “Angela’s Ashes,” died last year.

“Death to me is a total absurdity,” McCourt said. “Here we are, with the exception of myself, with a 100 percent mortality rate. We’re all going to die no matter how old we are.”

Having found poverty and strife to be hindrances on his desire to succeed academically, McCourt left school at age 13. He credits his love of reading to his success as an author, but with an undeniable air of humility. Recently, McCourt received an honorary grade school certificate from the Irish government.

“We all have a story,” McCourt said. “And I urge everybody, no matter who or what you are, tell your story … Live every day as if it is going to be your last, because one day, you’ll be right.”