Malachy McCourt Dies: ‘Ryan’s Hope’ Actor, Brother Of ‘Angela’s Ashes’ Author Frank McCourt Was 92

Malachy McCourt, the Irish-American actor, raconteur and author best known to TV audiences for his long-running role as Kevin the bartender on ABC’s soap Ryan’s Hope, died today in Manhattan after battling a heart condition and cancer. He was 92.

His death was announced by his wife Diana McCourt to The New York Times.

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The brother of Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela’s Ashes memoirist Frank McCourt, Malachy McCourt left an indelible mark on New York City’s Irish American community. As the owner of the quintessential 1950s Irish pub Malachy’s on Third Avenue in Manhattan – McCourt would often call it the city’s first singles bar, since he welcomed unaccompanied women to the establishment – the Brooklyn native became one of the city’s great story-tellers, regaling patrons from longshoremen to the actor Richard Harris with blarney, rugby talk and biographical anecdotes.

His way with words would hold him in good stead through a wide-ranging career path that included acting, writing, talk-show hosting and politics.

Born Malachy Gerard McCourt in Brooklyn on September 20, 1931, McCourt and his siblings were uprooted by parents Malachy and Angela McCourt to Limerick, Ireland. When his alcoholic father, a former member of the IRA, deserted the family after two years, leaving mother Angela to raise four of their surviving seven children in poverty, a harrowing tale detailed in Frank McCourt’s 1996 memoir Angela’s Ashes. (Frank McCourt died in 2009)

Malachy McCourt, who returned to New York at age 20, would later write his own memoirs including A Monk Swimming (1998), an account of his life in Limerick that picks up where Angela’s Ashes leaves off, and in 2000, Singing My Him Song, which recounts his later (sober) life as a husband and father. Other writing includes a history of the Irish ballad “Danny Boy.”

Earl Hindman, Malachy McCourt, Helen Gallagher on St. Patrick’s Day 1983 episode of ‘Ryan’s Hope’
Earl Hindman, Malachy McCourt, Helen Gallagher on St. Patrick’s Day 1983 episode of ‘Ryan’s Hope’

An occasional guest on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show and sometime host of New York radio programs, McCourt also acted on stage (he co-wrote and co-starred in A Couple of Blaguards with brother Frank); movies The Molly Maguires (1970), The Brink’s Job (1978), Brewster’s Millions (1985), Starman (1987), and The Devil’s Own (1997), among others; and such TV series as Oz, Tales of the Unexpected and Remember WENN.

McCourt appeared on numerous New York-based soaps, including One Life To Live, Search For Tomorrow and Another World, but will best be remember for his annual Christmas appearances on All My Children as the possibly angelic Father Clarence and, most especially, in the recurring role of bartender Kevin MacGuinness throughout the entire 14-year run of Ryan’s Hope.

Bringing a outsized touch of Irish authenticity to the Washington Heights-set soap, McCourt’s Kevin was best friend to bar owner Johnny Ryan (Bernie Barrow) and truth-telling thorn-in-side to the trouble-making family in-law Delia (Ilene Kristen). In all, McCourt appeared in 217 episodes of the 1975-1989 series.

Offscreen, McCourt waged a high-profile, if ultimately losing, political battle in 2006 when he ran for governor of New York as a Green Party candidate. An outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq, McCourt was an early and vociferous proponent of allowing gay and lesbian groups to march in New York’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

In addition to wife Diana, McCourt is survived by daughter Siobhan McCourt; sons Malachy Jr., Conor and Cormac; stepdaughter Nina Galin; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

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