Irish Centenary Group; From Idea to Reality

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 75, Winter 1998 The C. S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

In the summer of 1994 a Franciscan Friar named Finbarr Flanagan returned from his post in South Africa to his native Belfast for a visit. He looked for C. S. Lewis memorials and found none. Resolving to light a candle rather than curse the darkness, he wrote a leaflet, “C. S. Lewis and Belfast,” noting the Centenary in 1998 and suggesting that Centenary celebrations should be held in Ulster.

Finbarr visited North Down Heritage Centre, and its director told him about James O’Fee, a former local Council member who had once tried to interest others in honoring Lewis. Finbarr called O’Fee and sent him the leaflet before returning to South Africa.

James O’Fee had grown up in the Belfast area in the 1950s, attended University in the 1970s, and chosen economics for his profession. He became a Christian seeker and Lewis enthusiast in the 1980s. When he read Surprised by Joy he discovered that Lewis was from Belfast. “He mentioned places like the Holywood Hills, which were part of my everyday experience.”

So it was that in 1994 O’Fee seized upon the Centenary celebration idea, formed a committee, and began making contacts. The results are laid out in the colorful brochure enclosed with this issue of The Lewis Legacy. O’Fee is also editor of C S Lewis News, newsletter of the C S Lewis Centenary Group. For a free e-mail subscription contact O’Fee at There is also a website at

O’Fee quotes Rt Hon David Bleakley:

“On one of our walks (Lewis asked) what was my idea of Heaven. I tried hard to put some definition together, but he soon interrupted my theological meanderings. “My friend, you are far too complicated; an honest Ulsterman living in Oxford should know better. Surely, David, Heaven is Oxford lifted and placed in the middle of the County Down.'”