Angela’s Ashes

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The old, severe mother of Angela McCourt, and Frank McCourt’s grandmother, Margaret Sheehan plays an important role in Frank’s growth and development. It is Margaret who first arranges for Angela and Malachy Sr. to travel from Brooklyn to Limerick, bringing Frank and his siblings along. Although Margaret despises Malachy Sr. for being lazy, drunk, and a Northerner, she gives Angela’s family food, money, and shelter long after they’ve settled in Limerick. One could say that Margaret Sheehan is the embodiment of Limerick itself: she’s strict, she’s cold, and she’s fiercely religious (and has no patience for Frank when he’s reluctant to embrace Catholicism), but she’s also extremely loyal to her family.

Margaret Sheehan Quotes in Angela’s Ashes

The Angela’s Ashes quotes below are all either spoken by Margaret Sheehan or refer to Margaret Sheehan . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of Angela’s Ashes published in 1999.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The minute she losses one child there is another one on the way. We don't know how she does it. She's married four years, five children and another on the way. That shows you what can happen when you marry someone from the North for they have no control over themselves up there a bunch of Protestands that they are. He goes out for work every day but we know he spends all his time in the saloons and gets a few dollars for sweeping floors and lifting barrels and spends the money right back on the drink. It's terrible, Aunt Margaret, and we all think Angela and the children would be better off in her native land. We don't have the money to buy the tickets ourselves for times is hard but you might be able to see your way. Hopping this finds you in fine form as it leaves us thank God and His Blessed Mother.

Related Characters: Delia Fortune (speaker), Philomena Flynn (speaker), Malachy McCourt Sr. , Angela Sheehan McCourt, Margaret Sheehan
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Angela's cousins, Delia and Philomena, write a letter to Angela's mother, Margaret, who lives in Ireland. They use the letter as an opportunity to air their grievances with regard to Angela's husband, Malachy Sr. Malachy Sr. is a drunken, lazy man—but even worse (in Delia and Philomena's eyes), he's from Northern Ireland, the part of the country that's usually associated with British culture and Protestantism—everything that Angela's Catholic family despises.

The quotation is important because it also establishes a hierarchy of loyalty—family comes even before religion and nationality. In spite of Delia and Philomena's hatred for Malachy Sr., they know that Angela is bound to stay married to him forever (due to her strong Catholic convictions), so Malachy is family now. As a result, Delia and Philomena feel a sense of duty to take care of Malachy Sr. and his children (including Frank), and ask Margaret for her help in bringing the family to Ireland. Delia and Philomena seem not to have much affection for Angela or Malachy; rather, they're acting out of a strong sense of obligation to "blood."

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Chapter 2 Quotes

Grandma whispers to Aunt Aggie, Who'll put the child in the coffin? and Aunt Aggie whispers, I won't. That's the job for the mother.
Uncle Pat hears them. I'll put the child in the coffin, he says. He limps to the bed and places his arms around Mam's shoulders. She looks up at him and her face is drenched. He says, I'll put the child in the coffin, Angela.

Related Characters: Margaret Sheehan (speaker), Aunt Aggie (speaker), Patrick Sheehan / Uncle Pat (speaker), Angela Sheehan McCourt, Oliver McCourt
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

After the death of her child Oliver (Frank's little brother), Angela and the rest of the family attends the funeral. Angela, it's agreed, has a responsibility: bury her child in a coffin. Angela finds herself unable to perform this task, however, as she's too miserable. And yet Angela at least recognizes that she has a duty to place Oliver in the coffin. Her grief and misery contrasts markedly with her husband Malachy Sr.'s drunkenness during the even. Whereas Malachy Sr. escapes or represses his grief with drinking, Angela faces her feelings head-on, painful though this is.

The quotation also demonstrates the power of family in Ireland. When a family member is too weak or sad to perform a duty, it's the responsibility of someone else in the family (here, Uncle Pat) to carry it out. Not for the last time in the novel, another Sheehan will give aid and comfort to Angela and her children.

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Margaret Sheehan Character Timeline in Angela’s Ashes

The timeline below shows where the character Margaret Sheehan appears in Angela’s Ashes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...Oliver and Eugene, who are three years younger. Frank also had a younger sister named Margaret McCourt, who died as a small child. Frank notes that his childhood was “miserable”—so miserable... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...later, Malachy Sr. comes home after a day of looking for a job. He holds Margaret McCourt, the new baby (born a few months before). He sings her a song about... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...to Freddie, Angela wakes Frank up, explaining that something is horribly wrong with the baby, Margaret McCourt—she’s very sick. A doctor is called to the house, and he examines Margaret. The... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
As the day draws to a close, Angela gives a cry: Margaret McCourt has died, mysteriously. Mrs. Leibowitz, Freddie’s mother, rushes down the hall of the apartment... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
In the days following Margaret McCourt’s death, Malachy Sr. is barely present, and Angela barely leaves her bed. Frank tries... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...family. With Delia’s help, Philomena writes a letter to Angela’s own mother, whose name is Margaret Sheehan. Together, they write about their own husbands, criticize Malachy Sr. for his laziness, and... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
Shortly after the letter is sent, Margaret Sheehan sends money for Frank and his family to travel to Ireland. Everyone boards a... (full context)
Chapter 2
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
The McCourts travel by train to Limerick with the last of their money. In Limerick, Margaret Sheehan is waiting for them, already seeming furious with Angela and Malachy Sr. She criticizes... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
In the evening of their first day in Margaret Sheehan’s house, Frank begins to see how packed his new living situation is. Margaret, his... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...to the local Quaker church, run by Mr. Quinlivan. Angela tells Quinlivan that her daughter, Margaret McCourt, died only a few months ago. Quinlivan promises to send people to Angela’s house,... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...bed. Malachy Sr. retreats to the pubs, just as he did when Oliver died. Eventually, Margaret Sheehan has to convince Angela to get out of bed in the morning. Margaret explains... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...aunts and uncles he’s never met before. Malachy Sr. shows up drunk for the funeral. Margaret is furious with him, and she hisses that his own child deserves his dignity. (full context)
Chapter 4
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...the traditional wafer, and swallows it without problem. Later, Frank goes to eat breakfast with Margaret Sheehan, his grandmother. He’s so excited that he throws up his breakfast. Furious that Frank... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
In the evening, Margaret Sheehan, still angry about Frank’s “sinful” vomiting, forbids Frank to see a film at the... (full context)
Chapter 5
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
After Frank’s vomiting, Angela and Margaret Sheehan barely talk—Angela is furious with her mother for being so harsh to Frank. Frank... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Margaret Sheehan gets word that a man named Bill Galvin needs a place to stay. Bill... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Margaret Sheehan offers to pay Frank six pence a day for bringing Bill his dinner. Frank... (full context)
Chapter 7
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Margaret Sheehan tells Angela that Frank is now old enough to begin working for the family.... (full context)
Chapter 10
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...ill. She’s bedridden all day, and yells out for her dead children: Eugene, Oliver, and Margaret McCourt. Desperate and hungry, Frank steals two bottles of lemonade and a loaf of bread... (full context)
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...and his siblings are taken care of while Angela recovers. Frank does so, and at Margaret Sheehan’s house Margaret yells at him for being filthy. Frank leads Margaret back to his... (full context)
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
At Frank’s home, Dennehy explains to Margaret Sheehan that someone needs to take care of Frank and his siblings. Margaret agrees that... (full context)
Chapter 12
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
As Frank turns thirteen, several tragic events occur. Margaret Sheehan dies of pneumonia, along with a number of Frank’s uncles and aunts—as a result,... (full context)
Chapter 14
Irish Social Tensions Theme Icon
Poverty, Survival, and Morality Theme Icon
Catholicism, Sexuality, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Misery, Drunkenness, and Escape Theme Icon
...only other clothing he can find in Ab’s home—an old dress that once belonged to Margaret Sheehan. The next morning, he wakes up to find that his clothes still aren’t dried—as... (full context)