Eden Halt: An Antrim Memoir
By: Ross Skelton
Publication Date: May 2013
Eden Halt describes a childhood spent on a remote coast of Northern Ireland, in the shadow of the Second World War. With his father absent in the African campaign, the constant companion of a young Ross Skelton is his taciturn grandfather, a UVF veteran and caretaker of the local big house. His father, Tom Skelton, returns, troubled by malaria and nightmares. An aspiring writer, with connections to Louis MacNeice in nearby Carrickfergus, and to the artist Raymond Piper, he deserts the civil service for the life of a navvy, given to sudden absences, tramping the roads and sleeping rough, as the family falls from comfort to extreme poverty. They live off fishing and beachcombing in a tiny community of wooden bungalows on the wild Antrim coast, inhabiting a ‘land that God forgot’. Despite primitive surroundings, the family is highly literate, with Ross’s mother an avid reader, while his father writes at night.
The memoir sensitively evokes a boyhood spent in a ceaseless quest for driftwood by a sea in its restless and violent moods, escaping to the hills on his home-made bicycle and raising racing pigeons in a make-shift loft. Reconstructing a time and place long gone, its sounds, smells and echoes, Ross Skelton pieces together the fragments that constitute a life, and gave rise to his career as a psychoanalyst and writer.
‘Psychoanalyst and Trinity academic Skelton has written a compelling and often wryly funny account of his Antrim childhood.’ – The Irish Times
‘We read, as if memory is being assembled in front of us. It is this precision, the beautifully executed detail, that makes Eden Halt a deeply moving memoir.’– Roddy Doyle
ROSS SKELTON, born in 1941, attended Belfast High School, Guildford Technical College in Surrey and Trinity College Dublin. He returned there to lecture in philosophy in 1971, setting up degree courses in clinical and theoretical psychoanalysis by 1980. He has published numerous articles on psychoanalysis and logic as well as studies on Louis MacNeice. His Edinburgh International Encyclopaedia of Psychoanalysis (2006) took seven years to write and won the Distinguished Academic Publication Choice Award. An Associate Professor of Philosophy (emeritus), he is currently a practising psychoanalyst and lives in Dublin.