Ulster inspiration of the magical land of Narnia

East Belfast author Sandy Smith with his new book which reveals CS Lewis's early life in Belfast and his strong Ulster Scots links, pictured with his wife Norma Smith
East Belfast author Sandy Smith with his new book which reveals CS Lewis's early life in Belfast and his strong Ulster Scots links, pictured with his wife Norma Smith

A new book has been published which collects all CS Lewis’ references to his Ulster childhood and the possible role of such places in inspiring many of his greatest works.

CS Lewis – And The Island Of His Birth, by Sandy Smith, lifts the lid on CS Lewis’ early life in Belfast and allows the reader to walk in Lewis’ footsteps on a journey that covers Belfast and Ireland north and south, encapsulating the places that many believe were the inspiration for some of his greatest works.

Lewis mentioned parts of Northern Ireland at various times in his writing. “That part of Rostrevor which overlooks Carlingford Lough is my idea of Narnia,” he wrote to his brother.

While living in England he wrote: “I yearn to see County Down in the snow, one almost expects to see a march of dwarfs dashing past. How I long to break into a world where such things were true.”

He also wrote: “I have seen landscapes, notably in the Mourne Mountains and southwards which under a particular light made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge.”

Belfast man Sandy has been interested in CS Lewis for a lifetime, initially attracted to his books on “life’s intractable problems” while a student at Queen’s University.

After the 1998 centenary celebrations of CS Lewis he became involved in a CS Lewis association and Belfast City Council asked him to write a script for tours of the many sites associated with the author.

Because of the complexities, he ended up taking the tours himself.

“To my surprise they were terribly good fun,” he said.

Eventually he went to give a series of talks in Milwaukee and was asked to record his knowledge by Wheaton College, Massachusetts, which has a particular specialism in Lewis.

“The book retells all his references to places in Belfast and Ireland and supplies images associated with them. It also tells how he came to be born in Belfast.”

Jim Millar, director of education at the Ulster Scots Agency, said: “Sandy Smith’s book is well written, being both interesting and enjoyable, revealing as it does a broader picture of a Belfast man and his Irish and Ulster-Scots connections.”

Aubrey Irvine from Tourism Ireland said: “In recent years Sandy Smith’s tours have intrigued growing numbers of international visitors to Belfast. By capturing this insider knowledge in a beautifully illustrated book that will become a reference for Lewis fans everywhere Tourism Ireland anticipates further interest in the places throughout Ireland that stimulated his magical stories.”

l The book can be purchased at www.laganpress.co.uk