Upon their arrival in Ireland, the McCourt family goes to Malachy’s parents in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Grandpa seems considerate of Angela, but Grandma greets her son’s family coldly; Frank’s aunts only nod when introduced to their brother’s family. Grandma tells her son that there is no work in Ireland, and Grandpa advises him to go to the IRA and ask for money in recognition of his service.
The next morning, the family takes a bus to Dublin. Frank’s father points out Lough Neagh, the lake where Cuchulain used to swim. Upon arriving in Dublin, Malachy takes Frank to the office of a man in charge of IRA pension claims. The man refuses to give the McCourts any money, saying he has no record of Malachy’s service. After Malachy asks for enough money for a pint, the man refuses to give him even enough money for bus fare home. Night has fallen, and the family sleeps in a local police barracks, where the kind police and their prisoners joke with the children. The next day, the sergeant’s wife tells Angela that the police have raised a collection to pay for the McCourts’ train fare to Limerick. Frank’s father shows Frank a statue of Cuchulain outside Dublin’s General Post Office.
Frank’s family receives another stony welcome when they arrive in Limerick, this time from Grandma, Angela’s mother. Angela’s sister, Aunt Aggie, is living with her mother because she has had a fight with her husband, Pa Keating. The next day, Grandma helps the McCourts find a furnished room on Windmill Street. The family must share one mattress, but they are grateful for it after nights of sleeping on floors. That night, however, they discover that the mattress is infested with fleas.
A few days later, Angela has a miscarriage and must go to the hospital. Malachy finds out that his dole is only nineteen shillings a week; to supplement that money, Angela goes to the St. Vincent de Paul Society for charity. Although the other women waiting for money are initially suspicious of Angela, with her American coat and Yankee children, they warm to her after she tells them of the loss of her baby. Angela receives a docket for groceries and befriends a kind, funny woman named Nora Molloy. Nora accompanies Frank’s mother to the grocery store to make sure the saleswoman does not cheat Angela. The two women sit outside smoking cigarettes while Nora tells Angela about her husband, “Peter Molloy, champion pint drinker.”
Soon Frank’s one-year-old brother Oliver becomes ill, and his parents take him to the hospital. Grandma takes Frank and his brothers, Malachy and Eugene, to their Aunt Aggie’s, where the boys eat porridge. Uncle Pa holds Malachy on his knee, a sight that makes Aggie cry, because she has no children of her own. The children return home to find that Oliver has died. At his brother’s burial, Frank throws stones at the jackdaws that perch on trees all around the burial site. The next day, Frank’s father spends all of his dole money on drink.
The McCourt family moves into a room on Hartstonge Street. Angela shames her husband by collecting his dole from the Labour Exchange to prevent him from drinking it away, and Frank and Malachy start school. The narrator describes Leamy’s National School as a hard place where you “must not cry” if you want to earn the respect of your peers. Frank’s master in the fifth class is called Mr. O’ Dea, a man who can always wring tears from his students.