by STACEY HEANEY
Ross Wilson's sculpture 'The Searcher'.
THE mystical world of Narnia is closer than
you may think; and local people now have the opportunity to
explore it to their hearts' content.
Follow in the footsteps of Lucy, Peter,
Edmund and Susan, and discover the local links to Narnia that
you may never have known existed with the C.S. Lewis Bus Tour.
C.S. Lewis has brought joy to millions of
children and adults alike through his novels, and the recent
Disney adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia, with The Lion,
the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2005 and now Prince Caspian, which
opened in cinemas last weekend, has seen interest in his life
and his work like never before.
Clive Staples (Jack) Lewis was born in
Belfast in 1898, and this two hour tour takes travellers through
his world and into Narnia to discover the local places and
people that influenced some of the most popular books in
The tour begins outside the Linen Hall
Library, before travelling up Royal Avenue, past number 83 where
his solicitor father, Albert, had his office and the site of the
old Royal Avenue Hotel where his parents held their wedding
Along the way tour guide Sandy Smith filled
everyone in on titbits of information about Lewis, where he
shopped, his ancestors' arrival in Ireland from Wales, and his
relationship with his older brother Warnie (Warren).
We passed where his father grew up, before
coming to Dundela Avenue, the site where Lewis was born. It may
be a world away now than it was then, but this was the beginning
of his, and our, journey.
We heard about his life in his first home and
his apprehension at leaving when his family moved to a new home,
'Little Lea, on the Circular Road, when he was five years old.
Lewis later described the home, with its myriad
of rooms and attics to explore as "more like a city than a house
to a small child", and soon the two Lewis boys and their cousins
were exploring the spacious rooms and attic space, forming the
beginnings of Narnia even back then.
We learnt about the famous wardrobe, that was
the opening between this world and Narnia, which had actually
been explored by the Lewis siblings when it had to be taken
apart by their paternal grandfather, Richard Lewis, in order to
get it into the house.
The life of young Jack Lewis, so-called after
seeing the twinkle in the eye of his much-loved nanny Lizzie
Endicott for a train driver named Jack, was changed forever one
night in August 1908 when his mother Flora had been unable to
attend him when he called for her with a toothache. Instead,
Flora, who had cancer, had been being operated on in the
kitchen, and she unfortunately passed away from the disease.
Shortly afterwards, nine-year-old Jack was
sent to boarding school in England, before returning to Northern
Ireland to attend Campbell College, the next stop on our
journey, where the famous lamp-post, the reference point between
this world and Narnia, is still placed
It really is thrilling to see the actual
sights, that later became Narnian landmarks, and it was on the
next stop on the tour that we came across Asian, or 'The Lion on
the Hill', in the form of St. Mark's Church, Sydenham Avenue,
where his grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Hamilton, was the Rector
at the turn of the century and where he baptised his grandson.
It is also here, at the Rector's home, that
we see what a four-year-old Lewis would have just about been on
eye level with, a brass door knocker in the shape of a lion's
Coming to the end of the tour we passed the
superb sculpture, 'The Searcher' by Ross Wilson, outside the
Holywood Road Library. The sculpture shows a man opening the
door of a wardrobe. On closer inspection, the wardrobe has the
head of a lion on the back and a reproduction of a letter from
one of Lewis' young fans. Many may think the person opening the
door is Lewis himself, it is however, his tutor, W.T.
Kirkpatrick, who, like Lewis, grappled with his own belief in
Christianity. The sculpture acts as a metaphor for Kirkpatrick,
and perhaps some of those taking the tour, that the door to
faith in another world, or Narnia, is not quite open.
For those who will watch the spectacular
movie version of the book this summer, or who will once again
read Lewis' books, this tour is a must. It allows the visitor to
immerse themselves in his world and discover what influenced
such iconic figures in his literature. Other places may try to
say he picked up his inspiration elsewhere in the world, but
Lewis' story, and that of Narnia, began in Belfast, and now you
can take that journey into Narnia with him.
Tours, which cost �8 for adults/ �5
concession, run every Sunday from 2pm during July and August.
Early booking is advised to avoid disappointment and tickets are
available from the Belfast Welcome Centre on telephone 028
90246609 or visit the website at