Charm and wit were two attributes which most exemplified Irish writer, Frank McCourt, who has died of complications due to cancer, aged 78, in New York City. McCourt shot to fame (and fortune) in his late 60s with the publication of his tough but endearing autobiography, Angela’s Ashes. The Angela of the title was his mother, a woman left penniless when her husband walked out on her and her seven children in Limerick in the early 1930s. Angela was a troubled soul, and her children bore the brunt of the poverty and lack of opportunities. In his late teens McCourt escaped this life when he caught a ship to New York, first working in a pub before being drafted to fight in the Second World War. Upon discharge he gained a degree and became a teacher, retiring after 30 years. Within this profession he began to craft his writing skills. He took a while to find his writing voice, but when he did, readers loved it. He received the ultimate accolade, the Pulitzer Prize, in 1997 for this book. McCourt was a master of language and telling compelling stories. More than this, he seems to have escaped a brutal upbringing with no measure of resentment or need to blame. Instead he recognised that rare thing – the beauty within the struggle for a better life.