Image -- cover art for A Celtic Childhood

Published in the U.S. by
Ruminator Press, 1999
ISBN: 0732268583

Buy a signed copy direct from  Bill -- $26 including postage

Hardcover:  $27.00 +s/h
Softcover: $16.00 +s/h
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Published in the U.K by
Souvenir Press Ltd, May 2000
ISBN: 0285635611
Hardcover: 16.99
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Published in Australia by
Harper Collins, September 2000
Buy it from The Well

Roger and me c.1958

Reviews of A Celtic Childhood

Editorial Reviews

It's a brave act to publish a book that will inevitably be compared with Angela's Ashes in the same season as Frank McCourt's eagerly awaited sequel, 'Tis. Yet Watkins's demurely titled, rollicking memoir of his boyhood in postwar Ireland and England can bear the comparison, and it deserves to be read for its own brilliance, rhythm and structure. Laugh-out-loud funny, with an eccentric cast of characters (including a "spheraphobic" uncle who wouldn't eat anything round), Watkins's embellished childhood tales make for pure reading pleasure. Language lovers will be charmed by his expressions ("a great feast of a woman") and the glossary of such exotic terms as doolally (to get mad at someone) and Adam and Eve it (believe it). Born in 1950 in Limerick, where, according to his mother, "you can't spit without hitting a piece of history," Watkins inherited the bardic and musical talents of his parents. Mam was gregarious, beautiful and staunchly Irish and Catholic, always ready with a ballad. His Welsh father was raised in Britain and grew up to be an agnostic and freethinker given to drinking and good-natured fighting. The family lived happily in various places: a caravan (trailer), public housing and with his father's family in Birmingham, England. Covering the first 17 years of his life, this first installment in a projected trilogy is a fine coming-of-age story, woven from tales of Watkins's family, school days and boyish adventures, as well as of Catholicism, ghosts and his rambles as a teenage musician. Though it is laced with deprivation and pathos (including the loss of two babies), Watkins's story isn't permeated with the sadness of McCourt's work, though it's equally memorable.
-Publishers Weekly

Bill Watkins should receive credit for re-associating the words "humorous," "thoughtful," and "educational" with the term "Irish memoir."  -Missoula Independent, September 16-23, 1999
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This book represents another variation on the currently popular theme of Irish childhood memoirs. Unlike the troubling Angela's Ashes, most of this memoir consists of happy childhood tales. The book begins in 1955, when a five-year-old Watkins moves with his parents (his mother is Irish, his father, Welsh) to England. Readers then journey with Watkins through his childhood in the British Isles. The book is filled with entertaining anecdotes and information about Celtic history and language--readers learn about Celtic euphemisms, curses, blessings, and songs. (There's even a complete glossary of vocabulary and lyrics.) It should be noted, however, that Watkins fails to cite any historical or scholarly references; the stories that populate this book appear to have been handed down orally through Watkins's family. Recommended for larger libraries serving patrons interested in modern Celtic themes.--Angela M. Weiler, SUNY Libs., Morrisville Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
-Library Journal

Amazon.com readers gave the book an overall 5-star rating. Here are a few of their commments:

Irish Wit and Charm at it's Best!, December 20, 1999
Reviewer: Louise Duncan from Minnesota
Bill Watkins book is a charismatic blend of personal history, Celtic spirituality, and humor. While it resonates with the almost mythical beauty (and hardships) of growing up in post-war Ireland, it avoids the mistake of becoming maudlin. Watkins coming-of-age tales are lessons for us all in the "joy of life." It's use of Gaelic history provides a strong base for a brilliant book. What a good read!

A "couldn't put it down" Book!, April 20, 2000
Reviewer: Wendy from New Jersey
Bill Watkins' humorous and fascinating memories of his childhood in Ireland and England make this one of those books that you just can't seem to stop reading. I kept telling myself, "Just ONE more chapter, then I'll put it down and go to sleep." Even the hard times are told with wit and good humor and with a real love for the people, surroundings, and music that influenced him so much. Am looking forward eagerly to the next one!

A book that will resurrect the spirit of impish youth, November 23, 1999
Reviewer: Donal McQuat from Dublin, Ireland
I was first recommended this book by a friend. Having already read Frank McCourt's 'Angela's Ashes' I was wary of what I assumed to be something of a similar subject matter. However I was pleasantly surprised. Rather than attempting to invoke a feeling of guilty depression upon the reader, Watkins book celebrates both the joys of growing up (many of us share the memory of a childhood that was poor AND happy) and the tenacious nature of the Celtic spirit without falling into the repetitive downward spiraling plot of AA. The overall mood is a positive one that involves the reader through rich descriptions and even a glossary to help with the cosmopolitan use of language. It is certainly a book that you can go back to and as a good book of this type should do, it leads the reader to fresh ground. I found myself wanting to know more of the historical and mythical characters alluded to in the text. If this is to be the first work of a trilogy I can only hope the best is yet to come!