28 June 2000

"Over to Strandtown and Downpatrick"

Day 3

After taking my shower and getting dressed, I had a brief quiet time, and then we went over to the other side of the inn and had breakfast. It was included as part of our hotel accommodations and really was quite an experience, our first opportunity to feast over what is called "a full English breakfast." We started off with a buffet of breads, fresh fruit, cereals and juices, and then, if you wanted a cooked breakfast, you could order from the menu. When our waiter came to take our order, I asked him what "black pudding" was. He said that it was a food made from "blood." We both decided to pass on that particular choice. Jeremy ordered fried eggs and bacon, something which looked more like what we call Canadian bacon. I chose scrambled eggs and sausage. It was pretty good. The sausage was somewhat bland, more so than I had expected. I also tried some tea with brown sugar as I tried to finish my English muffin. 

After finishing our breakfast, we walked out into the area just behind the inn and strolled through a beautiful rose garden. Each flower was extremely large. I do not think that I ever remember seeing that many large roses all together in one place. We also had our first glimpse of the white "honeymoon" cottage behind the Old Inn where C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham had stayed for their own "belated honeymoon" for two weeks in July of 1958. We left the inn about 9:15 a.m. But before we headed for St. Marks Dundela Church, (Clicking here will open new window.) following Tony’s directions from last night, I suggested to Jeremy that we turn off the main road and drive down to the Crawfordsburn Country Park. The park was really nice and had lots of trails in it, plus a beach. We had hoped to go back to it to walk along the beach before we left Northern Ireland, but we never did find the time. We met Tony at 9:45 a.m. and went on into the church with him to begin the tour near the baptistry. The church itself was designed by the well-known English architect, William Butterfield. Tony explained to us many of the details about the church’s history, its architect and its relationship to C.S. Lewis. He seemed quite knowledgeable and was very friendly. I had read most of what he told us in David Bleakley’s book and in the C.S. Lewis Trail brochure (Clicking here will open new window.) published by the C.S. Lewis Centenary group from Northern Ireland, but is was much more meaningful coming from him and seeing the church in person. (Be sure to visit the C.S. Lewis Centenary website (Clicking here will open new window.) where you will find pictures and further information on many of the places that we saw on our tour with Tony.)   My camera’s counter was still acting up, but it still sounded like the film was moving forward, just not changing the counter. 

The first thing Tony showed us was the baptistry where C.S. Lewis and his brother Warnie had been baptized by their maternal grandfather, Thomas Hamilton, the church’s first rector. We then walked about half-way up the middle aisle and, on the right, came to the Lewis memorial stained-glass window, given by Jack and Warnie, in remembrance of their parents. Tony explained all of the symbolism to us and translated the Latin inscription for us. It read "To the greater glory of God and dedicated to the memory of Albert James Lewis, who died on the 25th September 1929, aged 67, and also of his wife, Flora Augusta Hamilton, who died on the 23rd August 1908, aged 47." We then walked up to the front where he showed us the brass memorial lectern that the Lewis family had given to the church as a memorial to Albert’s father, Richard Lewis. Up near the communion table we also read the memorial placed in memory of William Ewart, who was a first cousin to Lewis’ mother Flora. The Ewart family owned a linen company in Belfast, becoming quite wealthy, and had actually donated the money to build the church’s original building. Tony also gave us the details about two other beautiful stained-glass windows given by the Ewarts and then took us over into the vestry room where he showed us the ledger that contained the original written baptismal records that listed Jack and Warnie’s baptism. While in the vestry, we were privileged to meet Mrs. Betty Bole, one of the churchwarden’s who was preparing the silver vessels to be used for that day’s communion service. These vessels had also been given to the church by Albert Lewis, along with his brothers and sisters. As we were coming out of the vestry, we met the current rector, James Campbell, to whom Tony introduced me as a "C.S. Lewis expert from Kentucky." To say the least, I was both honored and humbled by his introduction. After receiving a few brief words of welcome, Jeremy and I headed with Tony to the back of the sanctuary where Tony generously gave us several brochures and some note cards with the Lewis window printed on it.

We then went outside, took a few pictures of the church building itself and walked by the original rectory and then over to the educational and fellowship hall. Inside one of the rooms in the hall there was a portrait of Thomas Hamilton that had been given to the church by C.S. Lewis through his will. It was a portrait that had hung in his rooms at Oxford and probably at Cambridge as well. Just from a layman’s perspective, its features were very dark, and the whole thing, both the frame and painting, looked as if it had been severely smoke-stained. When we next went back out of the hall and walked over to the door of the old rectory where Lewis’ grandfather Thomas Hamilton had lived, Tony pointed out to us the original lion-head doorknob (Clicking here will open new window.) which Jack Lewis would have seen over and over again just at eye-level each time he would visit his grandfather. "Who knows," Tony said, "this may have been the lion Lewis had seen in his mind’s eye when it came to him to place the lion Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?"

For our next stop Tony drove us to the grounds of "Leeborough House", or "Little Lea" as Lewis spoke of his childhood home so many times in his letters, and to "Bernagh," the childhood home of Arthur Greeves. Built on Circular Road as one of the "Big Houses" in Strandtown, East Belfast, for Lewis’ father Albert in 1905, Tony told us that the present owner, Mrs. Dorothy Rogers, had given him permission to bring visitors onto the property to show the house to those interested in C.S. Lewis. As we walked up the drive, the nameplate, "Little Lea" was at the entrance. We could also see the light blue historical plaque that had been placed outside near the third floor "little end room" window in which Jack and Warnie had spent so much of their childhood. We continued walking around to the front and saw the front porch entrance where a well-known Lewis family picture had been taken. This is the one that looks like there are two huge bowling balls or canon balls sitting on the brick posts built at the bottom of the steps. Jeremy and I took some pictures and then walked back down the driveway to go across the street to "Bernagh" to take some more pictures. No longer a one family home, it is now called "Red Hall" and is a residence home for the mentally challenged. Here is where Lewis spent many a joyful holiday visit with his friend, writing his first Christian book, Pilgrims’ Regress, here over a two-week vacation period in 1932.

Before long we walked back over to the car, and Tony told us that he was going to drive us further up into the Holywood Hills to the Glenmachen area. Glenmachen was another Strandtown "Big House" as well as the former home of the already mentioned Ewart family. The house has been torn down and replaced by a sub-division of new homes. We did see another "Big House" with a similar name that still stands, higher up the hill. It is named Glenmachen Towers, and was at times also visited by C.S. Lewis when it functioned as a hotel. Tony next took us further up the hill and through some hedges to a gravel road. Here we left the car and walked several yards up the road. What a beautiful view we had of Belfast and its shipyards even though the warm weather made the air somewhat hazy. Tony had thoughtfully brought his binoculars with him, pointing us toward St. Mark’s Church and then back to the two large cranes (named "Samson" and "Goliath") at the Harland and Wolff shipyards. While we took in the scenery, Tony told us that we had to be on the same road that Jack and Warnie would have walked on and that we were looking out over the same landscape that they would have seen, as we looked out over the Belfast Lough toward Antrim and then back south toward the hazy outline of the Mourne Mountains. Here they could have also watched the S.S. Titanic being built. Actually, we were near the home of Bill Henderson and his wife Primrose who was a granddaughter of the William Ewart, already mentioned in relationship to St. Mark’s Church. He is a local newspaper publisher and a former member of the Northern Ireland Parliament. Our next stop was Campbell College, a set of red brick residential school buildings near the Holywood area. Lewis attended school there for about six months in 1910. We did not have a chance to go into the buildings, but I am glad that we stopped to see it.

Before we went back to the church to pick up our car, Tony had one more special place that he wanted to take us. He drove us down to the end of Holywood Road to what is called the Holywood Arches. It is a shopping area with businesses all up and down both sides of the street. Here we also saw the Strand Theatre which our seat mate on the plane from London to Belfast had mentioned to us. I was somewhat familiar with the area because David Bleakley had written a chapter on it in his book. Tony drove us over to the Holywood Road Branch Library, where, just in front of the library, was a life-sized bronze sculpture of a man opening the door of a large Victorian wardrobe with his other hand on the back of a standard Edwardian kitchen chair. Although this sculpture does honor and symbolize Lewis and was done for his centenary in 1998, it more properly represents Digory Kirke, the main character in Lewis’ Narnian book, The Magician’s Nephew, who made a magical wardrobe from a fallen tree that had originally grown from the seeds of an apple that Digory himself had brought back from Narnia. Tony told us that the chair had been incorporated in this sculpture by Ross Wilson in order to symbolize how the viewer may sit down in it and become part of the sculpture, too. After we had seen the sculpture, read the plaques on it and sat in the chair, we then went inside the library and were given a tour of it by Tony. Looking first at some paintings of Strandtown done by a local artist, we then went upstairs to see a special C.S. Lewis Memorial Meeting Room. Up there we saw several large-display picture frames which included brochures, pictures and presentations that had been used during the dedication of the Ross Wilson sculpture back in 1998. Also, we noticed that in the room on the bulletin board were several renditions of pictures done by elementary school children of some of the Narnian characters. These reminded me of some of the posters and pictures that had been drawn by the 5th grade students in Cumberland County following my presentation to them back in November, 1998. (Clicking here opens new window.) Coming back down I made sure to pick up several brochures printed by the Belfast Public Libraries that were designed to help library patrons become more familiar with Lewis’ biography and the books that he had written.

Later, upon returning to the States and preparing to type up my journal, I discovered a March 1998 letter describing the origin of this same sculpture that Jeremy and I had been privileged to see. Written from Ross Wilson to my new friend, James O’Fee, the letter had been printed online in the summer 1998 issue of Kathryn Lindskoog’s The Lewis Legacy, and I have reproduced it below as it was published (http://www.cslewisonline.org/76-16statue.htm):


Dear James [O'Fee],

The sculpture concept came from a letter that C. S. Lewis wrote to a little girl called Anne Jenkins in 1961. She was upset that Aslan had died (in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe ) She stopped reading and wrote to C. S. Lewis. He replied explaining why Aslan had died and told her to read on, that Aslan came back to life. I discovered this letter while in conversation with Douglas Gresham one day in his study... I was impressed that [Lewis] took time to write back and didn't write to her as a child but as an important person... I became inspired [by this] reply written over 37 years ago. I have traced and found Anne Jenkins, almost 50 years old now. She could not believe the events that are now beginning to unfold. She plans to attend the sculpture unveiling.. The letter will be reproduced in bronze on the back of the wardrobe. People will not only be able to look at the sculpture but read the words of Lewis himself explaining the need to find Aslan and the meaning behind the Chronicles of Narnia; Lewis still speaking after all these years. The image of the man walking towards the wardrobe is a stylized heroic image of C. S. Lewis representing the searcher: an almost 'everyman' setting out to find Aslan. I hope it will be seen as a pointer as well, to show that sometimes the greatest things can be found in the unlikeliest of places, a wardrobe, a world beyond a wardrobe. The finished figure will hold a chair and not a book. The chair may be used as a vehicle of transport; as the viewer is seated on the bronze chair they travel through Lewis via imagination to Narnia. A way of helping people to re-view things... I hope this helps.

Best Ross Wilson.

P.S. This is precisely what Christianity is about. "This world is a great sculptor's shop, We are the statues and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life." --C. S. Lewis


Tony then took us back to the church so we could get our car. Before we left we also decided to walk across the street and try to take a better picture of the church. By now it was getting close to lunch time and Jeremy and I had been so blessed by our morning tour that we decided to invite Tony to be our guest for lunch. We followed Tony over to the Stormont Hotel where we had a very simple but filling lunch of Irish vegetable soup and bread with a cheesecake for desert. For the three of us it cost 18 pounds, 60 pence plus 2 pounds for a tip. During lunch Tony suggested that for the afternoon that we might like to drive down to the millennium exhibition on Christianity at Downpatrick. Just a little after we left the restaurant, he signaled from his car for us to stop at the entrance to the Stormont parliament building. The building itself looked as if it might be about a half mile away, up through the entrance with no turning space in front of the security gate; so, we just parked for a moment at the entrance along with many other tourists, got out and took some pictures.

It was near 3:00 p.m. when we started on our one hour drive to the town of Downpatrick, the burial place of Saint Patrick. As we drove around town trying to find the right road to the church, we could see the cathredral's impressive steeple from almost any point in town. The problem was that we had missed a turn and had to backtrack. Also, we needed to stop and buy some film. While Jeremy waited in the car, I went into Boots variety store and bought three rolls for the price of two. It cost 7 pounds for those three 36 exposure rolls. That is about $11.60 in our money. We finally found the road to the cathedral, and just down that same road we also found the Down Heritage Museum where we would be going to view the millennium exhibition. We parked the car and walked up to the cathedral, went in and took some pictures. Tony had told us that he thought that Patrick had been buried underneath the cathedral instead of under the memorial stone in the cemetery that was next to the church. We looked around for awhile, and Jeremy bought some postcards, while I bought a booklet about the cathedral. When we read some of the information in the booklet, we discovered that the most recent restoration of the cathedral had started in 1790, but was not completed until 1987. Over the years before 1790 it had been built, plundered and rebuilt several times. We went back outside and went over to the memorial stone in the cemetery. Before we left we took some more pictures of both the memorial stone and the church.

With time now becoming an issue, we made it down to the heritage museum, about 100 yards away from the cathedral, just before it closed. It had been built in 1796 and had originally served as the old county jail; plus, it was also the governor’s residence. The jail became the Down County Museum in 1981, serving as a place to share about the history, culture and environment of the Down region. Tony had suggested that we ask to meet the director, Leslie Simpson, when we arrived. We met her as we began to walk through the exhibit buildings. She was very helpful and directed us to the various galleries, especially the millennium exhibition on Christianity, entitled "Spreading the Word." When we reached this special exhibit, we discovered that it started with Patrick, going back to 432 when he first landed in County Down, and ended with C.S. Lewis, sharing in between them about others who had been gifted witnesses for Christ from County Down over the last more than 15 centuries. After we had seen this exhibit, we went on to check out the jail itself with its cells and the other galleries of exhibits relating to County Down. We finished at 5:00 p.m. closing time, and began our trip back to East Belfast.

Our next appointment was with Mrs. Dorothy Rogers with whom we were looking forward to a personal tour of Lewis’s childhood home, "Little Lea." We arrived right on time, and I told Jeremy that I hoped that she would let us take a picture of her with me out on the front porch where the Lewis family portrait had been taken. Her husband, Denis, is a retired building contractor and they travel a lot, all over the world. She told me that they have had mixed feelings about the house being connected to C.S.Lewis, as many tourists have arrived unannounced, rudely expecting her to let them in and show them around. She told us that she had opened the house more to groups during the 1998 centenary and that she was pleased to show it to people like us who contacted her in advance of their arrival to make an appointment with her ahead of time. She was very gracious in letting us see her house. The first thing we did was to walk up to the third floor "little end room" where Lewis and his brother Warnie had spent so much of their early years. Here they had been cared for by nannies and servants. Within the room itself there was another even smaller room under the roof eaves, a kind of a storage area that looked like it could have also been a play area. Mrs. Rogers opened the little door in the wall and showed it to us. This "little end room" is where Walter Hooper had his picture taken while he narrated much of the movie, Through Joy and Beyond. I took Jeremy’s picture in the room and at the door. Next we were led to another little window room at the other end of the 3rd floor where we looked out and saw the steeple of St. Mark’s in the distance.

We then went down to the second floor where we saw Flora Lewis’s bedroom. We continued downstairs and were shown the dining room, sitting room and Albert’s personal study, just a few steps on the right and down a little below the ground floor level. Mrs. Rogers made some comments to us about the windows in the dining room, telling us that they were the originals from when the house had been built in 1903 and were now in need of being replaced. Also, she said that the picture rail on the wall was original with the house, but I seemed to remember reading that Lewis said that the house had no pictures in it, mostly books, books everywhere. In the sitting room some damage seems to have been done to the alcove by a previous owner, but the Rogers had tried to restore it as best they could. She was very proud of the Dutch-tiled fireplace in the first front/entry room. It still had its original tiles and had never been damaged.

When we went outside, we visited some with Mrs. Rogers about the movies that had been made about Lewis and the requests that had been made to have "Little Lea" in them. She again had mixed feelings about them, but willingly allowed the movies to be taken at the house. I then asked her if I could let Jeremy take our picture together on the front porch, and she seemed very delighted and pleased. Jeremy and I then left and headed back to Crawfordsburn, hoping to get something light to eat. When we went into the bistro in The Old Inn to check out a light supper meal, there was neither a "light" meal, nor a "light" cost for a meal. The menu said that a dinner for 2 people was 30 pounds. We decided to drive back up to Bangor where we stopped at another small restaurant across from the marina where you order inside and then eat outside at some tables on the sidewalk. Jeremy had a calypso burger with a coke, and I had a steak burger with lettuce on it, also with a coke. The menu, with some exaggeration, called my lettuce a "salad." The cokes were 70 pence a piece. While eating my sandwich, I went back in and bought some chips, what we call french fries. My total came to 3 pounds and 9 pence. While it may not have been as gourmet as the meal at The Old Inn would have been, it was quite a bit less than 15 pounds and probably just as filling, if not as tasty.

When we arrived back at The Old Inn, we talked a little about the day, and I changed into my blue sleeping shorts. What should happen, but that James O’Fee showed up at our door. What a wonderful surprise! I was hoping that I might be able to meet him, too. He came in and visited with us for quite a while. It seems that he had already talked with Tony and had told him that maybe he had made our schedule a little tight by keeping us too long at the church. But we told James that we enjoyed it, everything that he showed us. He then asked me about the George MacDonald part of our trip. We talked a little about Huntly and about Windermere/Grasmere. James told me that Cecil Harwood’s son, Lawrence, lived in Grasmere and that he would be glad to give me his address before we left for England. 

David Bleakley called shortly after James arrived, and he told me of his most recent trip to London and the Jesus 2000 celebration that he had attended at Prince Albert Hall. Evidently the Belfast young people did a wonderful joy representing their region. We made an appointment to meet him at 10:00 a.m. the next morning in the lobby of The Old Inn. His plan was to drive over, pick us up and take us to Bangor to visit the North Down Heritage Centre at Bangor Castle. It sounded like it would really be a special day. I think that Jeremy has been impressed by the people that we have met (like Tony, James, Mrs. Rogers and, I am sure, David), and so am I. Each one has added so much to our trip.

Before he left, James asked me some more questions about Lewis's The Great Divorce, George MacDonald and Sara Smith, one of the characters in the book. Really what it all ended up being was a question about "Golders Green," a Jewish ethnic community in London where Sara Smith had lived. I was a little tired and at that moment my mind had embarrassing gone almost blank about the details of the story. I remembered the general theme and some of the characters, but had forgotten some of things that I had read that had been written recently by James O’Fee on the MereLewis listserv about 2 weeks before. Anyway, as he left he handed me an envelope that had both an article in it written by Kathryn Lindskoog, quoting James O’Fee about "Golders Green" and a copy of the very email he had sent to MereLewis. What a nice addition to my bibliography of writings about Lewis! Plus, I am so pleased with our busy day: a tour with Tony, a visit with Jeremy to Downpatrick, the tour of "Little Lea" with Mrs. Rogers and, after dinner, the phone conversation with David Bleakley and the visit by James O’Fee. Can day number 4 top today?

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Last Updated: Saturday, December 10, 2005