Eamonn McGrath

1929-2008 ; b. 14 June; Taghmon, Co. Wexford, in a small farming community; ed. Augustinians Good Counsel Sch., Wexford; grad. B.A. in English and Irish literature from University College Galway, 1952; suffered TB and spent three years in a Brownswood sanatorium, Co. Wexford; taught at Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan; acquainted with Patrick Kavanagh in Monaghan pubs; m. Joan Fahey, 1956; appt. to a teaching post at Clonakilty, Co. Cork, 1963; set Leaving Cert exams for Dept. of Education; published Honour Thy Father (1970), follows Wexford boy’s passage to manhood and relationship with drinking father; The Charnel House (1990) is set in Irish TB sanatorium of the 1950s; The Fish in the Stone (1994), chronicles Mary Ennis in shadow of parents loveless marriage in small-town Ireland; taboos of silence and ignorance surrounding incest; d. 5 May 2008, at Clonakilty Hospital; bur. St. Mary"s Cemetery. DIL [WIKI]


Honour Thy Father
(Dublin: Allen Figgis 1970), Do. (Belfast: Blackstaff 1990), rep. as The Clay Grew Tall (NY: Herder & Herder 1972), 245pp.; The Charnel House (Belfast: Blackstaff 1990); The Fish in the Stone (Belfast: Blackstaff 1994), 240pp.

Fiction notes:

Honour Thy Father (US title: The Clay Grew Tall) is set in 1950s rural Ireland where John Foley, the son of an alcoholic father, struggles to follow an academic path in a house where farming and the priesthood are the only respected professions. The story follows him through boarding school and examines the changing relationship with his father as adulthood approaches. Reprinted after serialised version on RTÉ Radio.

The Charnel House (1990) deals with the life of Richard Cogley, ayoung engineering student in a TB sanitarium from which sees little chance of escape. Lyrically written and one of the few novels that examines the social effects of the white plague in Ireland a central theme being the indifference of society to the suffering of others.

The Fish in the Stone (1994) focuses on incest in rural Ireland, following the life of Mary Ennis, aughter of an estranged couple who is subjected to abuse by her father which continues unnoticed by her pious mother whose position in the community takes precedence over the needs of her family. The novel traces a tale of self-deceit and emotional blackmail to its ugly end. [Notes based on Wikipedia - available online; accessed 18.11.2023].


D. J. Taylor, ‘Heading for the Troubles’, review of The Fish in the Stone, in Sunday Times (1 May 1994), [q.p.]; finds it ‘a story of incest, scarred by a loveless marriage and captivated by the bucolic frenzies of his youth, an emotionally damaged shopkeeper becomes obsessed with his teenage daughter ... relationship convincingly outlined, a succession of tiny steps instinctively taken, probable consequences cancelled out by naiveté and psychosis ... conclusion - a tumult of violence and implausibility - overdone but there is a great deal of shrewd observation and delicate writing along the way.’

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