The Yew Tree at the Head of the Strand is an affectionate and humorous memoir of growing up in Newry – ‘predominantly Catholic and sometimes fiercely Nationalist’ – in the 1940s and 50s. From the lively atmosphere of his father’s pub to the broadening of horizons at The Queen’s University Belfast, Brian Cosgrove evokes a childhood and adolescence enlivened by comics, story books and films, seaside summer holidays in Warrenpoint with his brothers and sisters, and visits to his Uncle Johnny’s farm at Lislea. Along the way he reflects on the culture that he grew up in, where every aspect of life –education, sport, politics, sex – was experienced under the pervasive influence of a Catholic/Nationalist ethos.
Central to the story are the figures of his father, a hard working and deeply thoughtful family man, and especially his mother – an ‘ordinary/extraordinary’ woman. Brian Cosgrove writes poignantly about his mother’s serious illness and death from cancer when he was nineteen, and of its impact on himself and his father; and he reflects on the process of grieving and its effects.
Lighthearted and serious in turn – perceptive and full of insight into the social and political issues of twentieth century Irish history – this book is a vivid picture of growing up in Northern Ireland.
1. A Public House
4. Imaginary Worlds
5. Summers in Warrenpoint
8. Sport, Politics and the ‘Other Side’
9. Queen’s University
10. The Circle Broken
In this elegant narrative of an ordinary growing-up, the extraordinary makes itself felt by the ease with which the story shifts from the everyday to major issues in literature and theology and philosophy, all mediated through a self-mocking wit at once doleful and affectionate.
…This is yet another wonderful Irish bildungsroman.
239 x 163 mm
November 1, 2001