Christy Brown (June 5, 1932 – September 7, 1981) was an Irish writer and painter who had cerebral palsy and was able to write or type only with the toes of one foot.
His most recognised work is his autobiography; titled My Left Foot, it was later made into an Academy Award-winning film of the same name.
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 and stayed with Moore at her home in Connecticut. When they met again in 1965 they began an affair. Brown journeyed to Connecticut once more to finish his magnum 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 (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 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 Englishwoman Mary Carr, whom he met at a party in London. Brown then terminated his affair with Moore and married Carr at the Registry Office, Dublin, in 1972. They moved to Stoney Lane, Rathcoole, County Dublin (now site of Lisheen Nursing Home), to Ballyheigue ‘ Kerry and then to Somerset. He continued to paint, write novels, poetry and plays. His 1974 novel, A Shadow on Summer, was based on his relationship with Moore, whom he still considered a friend.
Brown’s self-proclaimed masterpiece, Down All the Days, was an ambitious project drawn largely from a playful expansion of My Left Foot; it also became an international best-seller, translated into fourteen languages. The Irish Times reviewer Bernard Share claimed the work was “the most important Irish novel since Ulysses.” Like James Joyce, Brown employed the stream-of-consciousness technique and sought to document Dublin’s culture through the use of humour, 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: Come Softly to My Wake, Background Music and Of Snails and Skylarks. All the poems are included in The Collected Poems of Christy Brown.
A film adaptation of My Left Foot directed by Jim Sheridan was produced in 1989 from a screenplay by Shane Connaughton. Daniel Day-Lewis starred as Brown and Brenda Fricker as his mother; both won Academy Awards for their performances. The film also received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Daniel Day-Lewis prepared for the film by spending time at Sandymount School Clinic in Dublin getting to know several people with disabilities. He later took the Oscar back to the School spending a whole morning there accompanied by his sister Tamasin.