Christy Brown, writer and painter who has cerebral palsy and is able to write or type only with the toes of one foot, is born into a working-class Irish family at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin on June 5, 1932. His most recognized work is his autobiography, My Left Foot, which is later made into a 1989 Academy Award-winning film of the same name, starring Daniel-Day Lewis as Brown.
After his birth, doctors discovered that he has severe cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder which leaves him almost entirely spastic in his limbs. Though urged to commit him to a hospital, Brown’s parents are unswayed and subsequently determined to raise him at home with their other children. During Brown’s adolescence, social worker Katriona Delahunt becomes aware of his story and begins to visit the Brown family regularly. She brings Christy books and painting materials as, over the years, he has shown a keen interest in the arts and literature. He has also demonstrated extremely impressive physical dexterity since, soon after discovering several household books, Christy learns to both write and draw himself using his left leg, the only limb over which he had unequivocal control.
Brown quickly matures into a serious artist. Although Brown famously receives almost no formal schooling during his youth, he does attend St. Brendan’s School-Clinic in Sandymount intermittently. At St. Brendan’s he comes in contact with Dr. Robert Collis, a noted author. Collis discovers that Brown is also a natural novelist and later uses his own connections to publish My Left Foot, by then a long-gestating autobiographical account of Brown’s struggle with everyday life amidst the vibrant culture of Dublin.
In 1965, after My Left Foot has become a literary sensation, Brown meets and begins corresponding with Beth Moore, a married American woman, and they begin an affair. She helps push Brown to complete his book Down All the Days, which is published in 1970 and includes a dedication to Moore.
During this time, Brown’s fame continues to spread internationally and he becomes a prominent celebrity. Upon his return to Ireland, he is 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. It is around this time that Brown begins an affair with Englishwoman Mary Carr, whom he marries in 1972 at the Registry Office in Dublin. He continues to paint, write novels, poetry, and plays. His 1974 novel, A Shadow on Summer, is based on his relationship with Moore, whom he still considers a friend.
Brown’s health deteriorates after marrying Carr. He becomes a recluse in his final years, which is thought to be a direct result of Carr’s influence and perhaps abusive nature. Brown dies in Parbrook, Somerset, England on September 7, 1981, at the age of 49 after choking during a lamb chop dinner. His body is found to have significant bruising, which lead many to believe that Carr has physically abused him. Further suspicions arise after Georgina Hambleton’s biography, The Life That Inspired My Left Foot, reveals a supposedly more accurate and unhealthy version of their relationship. The book portrays Carr as an abusive alcoholic and habitually unfaithful. Brown is buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.