Eden Halt: An Antrim Memoir

By: Ross Skelton

Publication Date: May 2013

(9 customer reviews)


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.

Also available as an ebook

9 reviews for Eden Halt: An Antrim Memoir

  1. Lilliput Press

    “An enjoyable cross between Proust and Roddy Doyle.

    Elegiac, evocative, funny and poignant – Skelton brings to life a boyhood of curious circumstances with a pleasing supporting cast of very (Northern) Irish characters brought to life with a deft touch.” NICK M

  2. Lilliput Press

    “What a great read! For the first time in the many years I have being interested in books I finished “Eden Halt: An Antrim Memoir” and started it all over again.
    I did not want to let go of the smell of the sea and the stories of the people living around it. As opposed to the book critic or the many other stories of Irish childhoods I did not find the book to be about the economic difficulties of the family but about a lost world. The new bride walking to the top of the big old house by candle light, the loosely sketched love of the people, in an subtle old fashioned way, it is there, but one can only feel it because in typical Irish fashion is not spoken about.
    The strong father looking for his own identity after “The War”, the artistic resilient mother, the light of the sea and the smaller characters floating in the memory.
    You will have a lovely time reading it too.” AURORA ALESON

  3. Lilliput Press

    “I highly recommend this book, especially to any with an Ulster background…. Ross Skelton is a real joy to read.
    As a child I was one of those “down from Belfast” every summer holidays and knew the beach area he writes about really
    well and being a bit younger than Ross I remember hanging out with his brother Joss and others..Jimmy Orr and Errol Grey
    are a few names I remember. Playing footie or rounders on the grassy bit to the left outside the Skeltons,just by where
    “The Point” began. (and the “blunt end”..which was always full of water!)
    The picture on the front cover was a meeting hut for the local kids where we would plan our next game of “Hounds and
    Hares” through and over the fields and usually up to the deserted WW2 fort on the headland….a fantastic place with gun
    emplacements,trenches,hidden underground rooms and watchtowers.
    Though Ross’s beach with its row of wooden bungalows and it’s characters (old chap would sit all day shooting at seagulls
    with a .22 bored LeeEnfield..think he lived on’em)….. has gone now…..eaten by the Kilroot Power Station development…
    But just as with the author…it is still there in my memory as clear as it was yesterday. When I had to return to town at the end of
    the summer…I was always envious of Joss and his chums who stayed there all year..they had the sea and the storms and
    the steam trains.

    But there is much more than “youthful memories” in this work, Ross’s relationship with his father and mother as he grew
    and left home, is full of perspectives most readers would recognize and it seems to me that Ross’s father was a pilgrim
    who knew absolutely there was a quest to be made…but like many of us…didn’t quite find a starting point …. and this is
    where I think that Ross is onto something ….that is… if you feel a bit lost in life…it is always good idea to go back to the
    beginning…to when and where you didn’t feel so lost!
    Access to the railway line where we flattened so many pennies is all wired off now, the walk in the book, up to the road at Downshire is gone, replaced by a massive concrete breakwater……..but we knew the very rocks on the that beach and..hey Ross…they are still there along with the path over the “wooden bridge” that now leads…..sadly…… nowhere.

    Read this book folks and I feel that this author, who has travelled a very long way in his days….has much more material and
    will be back.” JOHN JO

  4. Lilliput Press

    “I bought the book because it was written by a man same age as me and from same part of the world. the book was about his childhood memories growing up in our hometown. he reminded me of people and so many other things i thought I’d forgotten.” J CAMERON

  5. Lilliput Press

    “I really enjoyed reading this book as I grew up in this village and knew many of the characters mentioned in its pages. It really took me back to another era, a better era when people lived less complicated lives and socialised with their neighbours-much different than the world today. Ross Skelton writes this book as life was in those days and for that I thank him.” ISOBEL MCKILLEN

  6. Lilliput Press

    “I started reading ‘Eden Halt’and read it right through in three hours – I literally could not put it down!. It recreates, beautifully, the Carrickfergus (Co Antrim) of a bygone era not long after the war. Although poignant and enthralling, it does not slip into sentimentality. I particularly love that it really does appear to be the ‘child’ who is writing. Although this book has local interest for me personally, it is so much more than this and I would strongly recommend it to anyone.” R COWAN

  7. Lilliput Press

    “I liked this book so much that immediately upon finishing it I began it again. The writing was beautiful and the characters could only be described as “interesting”. You began to care about them which is saying something when their stories were told in a very basic, matter of fact, way. They weren’t charming enough to be endearing or awful enough to be despicable – they were simply normal people doing their best in a tough era. The writer didn’t over sentimentalise his childhood or make it out to be worse than it was like some misery memoirs. I loved it.”

  8. Lilliput Press

    “Clear surface detail grabs the reader of this memoir right from the strange
    opening incident. From the narrative point of view, this is a recent
    occurrence, but it also serves to illustrate a particular necessity repeatedly
    imposed on the author throughout his life. He had to hold his
    own extremely logical and rational disposition together with a conscious recognition of
    the existence of an Otherness, starting with his father whose deep core was
    mystical. With humour and without sentimentality, the reader
    is told how the child held parental and other conflicts, learning of
    the co-existence of BBC English with the flavoursome speech of Antrim,
    of arcane ideas with practical skills, and of differing social customs and values
    while living on the liminal shore that was the ground of his existence. Against this
    complexity, the process of constructing an individual identity is vividly portrayed,
    incorporating eloquent images from the lived life. Mice are brought to notice
    combined with pianos; treasured pigeons and their carefully constructed loft are
    thoughtlessly disposed of, conveying failure to acknowledge their subjective
    value to the author. Very insightful and well-written.” T O’BRIEN JOHNSON

  9. Lilliput Press

    ‘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

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 136 × 215 mm
Publication Date

May 2013