Christy Brown
Christy Brown was an Irish author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

, painter
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 and poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 who had cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement....

. He is most famous for his autobiography My Left Foot
My Left Foot (book)
My Left Foot is the 1954 autobiography of Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy on June 5, 1932 in Dublin, Ireland. As one of 13 surviving children, Brown went on to be an author, painter and poet.-Childhood:...

, which was later made into an Academy Award-winning film of the same name
My Left Foot (film)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown is a 1989 drama film directed by Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Day-Lewis. It tells the true story of Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, who could control only his left foot. Christy Brown grew up in a poor, working class family, and...



Christy Brown was born in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin in the summer of 1932 to a working-class Irish family. After his birth, doctors discovered that he had severe cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement....

, a serious neurological
Neurology is a medical specialty dealing with disorders of the nervous system. Specifically, it deals with the diagnosis and treatment of all categories of disease involving the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems, including their coverings, blood vessels, and all effector tissue,...

 disorder which left him almost entirely paralyzed by spasticity in his limbs. Though urged to commit him to a convalescent hospital, Brown's parents were unswayed and subsequently determined to raise him at home with their other children. During Brown's adolescence, social worker Katrina Delahunt became aware of his story and began to visit the Brown family regularly, while bringing Christy books and painting materials as he had, beginning years earlier, demonstrated keen interest in the arts and literature and also extremely impressive physical dexterity since, soon after discovering several household books, Christy had learned to both write and draw himself with the only limb over which he had unequivocal control — his left leg. Brown quickly matured into a serious artist.

Although Brown famously received almost no formal schooling during his youth, he did attend St Brendan's School-Clinic in Sandymount
Sandymount is a coastal seaside suburb in Dublin 4 on the Southside of Dublin in Ireland. It is in the Dublin South East Dáil constituency and the East Pembroke Ward. It was once part of Pembroke Township, which took its name from the fact that this area was part of the estate of the Earl of...

 intermittently. At St. Brendan's he came in contact with Dr. Robert Collis, a noted author. Collis discovered that Brown was also a natural novelist and later Collis helped use his own connections to publish My Left Foot
My Left Foot
My Left Foot may refer to:* My Left Foot , an autobiography by Christy Brown* My Left Foot , a film based on the book...

, by then a long-gestating autobiographical account of Brown's struggle with everyday life amidst the vibrant culture of Dublin.

When My Left Foot became a literary sensation, one of the many people who wrote letters to Brown was married American woman Beth Moore. Brown and Moore became regular correspondents and in 1960 Brown holidayed in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and stayed with Moore at her home in Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

. When they met again in 1965 they began an affair. Brown journeyed to Connecticut once more to finish his "magnus opus," which he had been developing for years. He finally did so in 1967 with help from
Moore, who introduced and administered a strict working regimen, mostly by denying him alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

 (on which Brown was dependent) until a day's work was completed. The book, titled Down All the Days, was published in 1970 and was inscribed with a dedication to Moore that read, "For Beth, who with such gentle ferocity, finally whipped me into finishing this book..." During this time, Brown's fame continued to spread internationally and he became a prominent celebrity. Upon his return to Ireland, he was able to use proceeds from the sales of his books to design and move into a specially constructed home outside Dublin with his sister's family. Though Brown and Beth had planned to marry and live at together at the new home, and though Moore had informed her husband of these plans, it was around this time that Brown began an affair with English-woman Mary Carr, who he met at a party in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. Brown then terminated his affair with Moore and married Carr in 1972. They moved to Kerry
County Kerry
Kerry means the "people of Ciar" which was the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The legendary founder of the tribe was Ciar, son of Fergus mac Róich. In Old Irish "Ciar" meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective...

 and then to Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

. He continued to paint, write novels, poetry and plays. His 1974 novel, A Shadow on Summer, was based on his relationship with Moore, who he still considered a friend.


While living in England, Brown's addiction to alcohol became more pronounced as his marriage to Mary Carr had, reportedly, become unhappy, and he died suddenly at his home in 1981. The coroner
A coroner is a government official who* Investigates human deaths* Determines cause of death* Issues death certificates* Maintains death records* Responds to deaths in mass disasters* Identifies unknown dead* Other functions depending on local laws...

 recorded a verdict of death by misadventure, stating that Brown had succumbed to the effects of shock as a result of asphyxiation while eating a pork chop. Accusations were made by Brown's family that implied his death was precipitated by neglect that contributed to both his ill health and his demise. He is buried in the Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

Literary Legacy

Brown's self-proclaimed masterpiece Down all the Days was a project drawn largely from a playful expansion of My Left Foot; it also became an international bestseller and published translations exist in fourteen languages. The Irish Times reviewer Bernard Share claimed the work was "...the most important Irish novel since Ulysses
Ulysses (novel)
Ulysses is a novel by the Irish author James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. One of the most important works of Modernist literature,...

." Like Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

, Brown employed the stream-of-consciousness technique and sought to document Dublin's culture through the use of humor, accurate dialects and intricate character description. Down All the Days was followed by a series of other novels, including A Shadow on Summer (1972), Wild Grow the Lilies (1976) and A Promising Career (published posthumously in 1982). He also published three poetry collections, including Come Softly to My Wake, Background Music and Of Snails and Skylarks. All the works are now available in the compendium
A compendium is a concise, yet comprehensive compilation of a body of knowledge. A compendium may summarize a larger work. In most cases the body of knowledge will concern some delimited field of human interest or endeavour , while a "universal" encyclopedia can be referred to as a compendium of...

 The Collected Poems of Christy Brown.

In Pop Culture

A film adaptation
My Left Foot
My Left Foot may refer to:* My Left Foot , an autobiography by Christy Brown* My Left Foot , a film based on the book...

 of My Left Foot directed by Jim Sheridan
Jim Sheridan
Jim Sheridan is an Irish film director. A six-time Academy Award nominee, Sheridan is perhaps best known for his films My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, Get Rich or Die Tryin and In America.-Life and career:...

 was produced in 1989 from a screenplay by Shane Connaughton
Shane Connaughton
Shane Connaughton is an Irish writer and actor, probably best known as co-writer of the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for My Left Foot. He also co-wrote the screenplays for the Academy Award-winning 1980 short film The Dollar Bottom and 1992 film The Playboys, as well as other screenplays and...

. Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis is an English actor with both British and Irish citizenship. His portrayals of Christy Brown in My Left Foot and Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood won Academy and BAFTA Awards for Best Actor, and Screen Actors Guild as well as Golden Globe Awards for the latter...

 starred as Brown and Brenda Fricker
Brenda Fricker
Brenda Fricker is an Irish actress of theatre, film and television. She had appeared in more than 30 films and television roles...

 as his mother; both won Academy Awards
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

 for their performances. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards in total, though it did not receive awards for Best Picture, Best Director, or Best Screenplay Based On Material From Another Medium.

The Irish rock band The Pogues
The Pogues
The Pogues are a Celtic punk band, formed in 1982 and fronted by Shane MacGowan. The band reached international prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. MacGowan left the band in 1991 due to drinking problems but the band continued first with Joe Strummer and then with Spider Stacy on vocals before...

 paid tribute to Christy Brown with a song titled "Down All the Days". It is the seventh track on their 1989 recording, Peace and Love. U2 released a song titled "Down All the Days" in their 20th aniversary edition of Achtung baby, as part of their record sessions/rare/unreleased songs for the album.

External links

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