John McCullagh February 25, 2004

‘The Yew Tree at the Head of the Strand’ was published in 2001 by Liverpool University Press and, a paperback of about 200 pages, retails [or it did when I purchased my copy] at the hefty price of around


It is a memoir of early life in Newry of the 40s and 50s by Brian Cosgrove, brother of Art Cosgrove, 1997 President of UCD and one of the four people principally featured on Haughey’s Folly [Millennium Monument] close to the Five Ways Roundabout. 

Brian is Professor of English at Maynooth – and has to incessantly illustrate that fact with innumerable and tiresome references to literary greats throughout his reminiscences. 

I find Cosgrove’s style of writing most annoying.  I want to read his stories of the O’Hare yacht disaster in Warrenpoint, for example, (dismissed in three short sentences, including an unwarranted speculation as to the cause of the fatalities!) but consider it irksome in the extreme to find it prefaced with a Latin quote, Et in Arcadia Ego which Cosgrave conjures for presumed relevance to his own view of a world overshadowed by death.  This tragic tale, infamous at the time remains largely untold (Who were they?  How many perished etc?)  but for a young Brian "far, far worse was the death of a neighbouring toddler in a road traffic accident! " (Why was that worse?  How many remember that, compared with the O’Hare disaster?)

I feel, though a literary person myself, that this man’s lectures would bore me stiff!  He spoils every good story by wrapping it in such pomposity and pretentiousness. 

Even his stories about serving in his father’s pub [then just Cosgrove’s, later the Wander Inn – which we suffixed with and Stumble Out – now Soho Place, the best meal in town!] smack of a smart-alec student whom none could like.  I find him a boring guy who led a boring childhood, watching others have a good time while, cold-eyed, passing critical judgement on their life styles.

Others I know [our Bishop, for example] enjoyed his book. 

Make your own judgement.  Find out for yourself. 

But I’d respectfully suggest you browse it in the library before purchase. 

I don’t feel I got my money’s worth!

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