MacPhee the Ulsterman

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 82, Autumn 1999 The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

Lewis used the term Ulsterman only seven times in all his published writings, and five were in positive references to MacPhee, as if to emphasize that MacPhee was an Ulster Scot, not a real Scot.


“I am very’ glad to see you, Mrs. Studdock,” he said in what Jane took to be a Scotch accent, though it was really that of an Ulsterman.


The Ulsterman eyed the last speaker with an unaltered face while producing a small pewter box from his pocket and helping himself to a pinch of snuff. “What are you waiting for anyway?” said Mrs. Maggs.


“You’re still thinking about that?” said the Ulsterman.


Grace Ironwood who had been sitting with her eyes half closed suddenly opened them wide and fixed them on the Ulsterman, and Mrs. Dimble leaned her head towards Camilla and said in a whisper, “I do wish Mr. MacPhee could be persuaded to go to bed.


The Ulsterman’s mouth was shut like a trap, his expression hostile and afraid. Dimble was open-mouthed. Then, forcing her tired limbs to run, Jane got up beside them and saw what they saw.

C. S. Lewis was born in Belfast, the main city of Ulster (Ireland’s northern province); thus an Ulsterman. But he was schooled in England and reacted against his Ulster origins. This shows in his diary entry for 9-23 September 1922 in All My Road Before Me: “W was in good form and he and I did a lot of motor-biking. Besides short rides over the hills to Holywood… he took me to Island Magee, to Newcastle, and to Browns Bay… The country is very beautiful and if only I could deport the Ulstermen and fill their land with a populace of my own choosing, I should ask no better place to live in…”

Five years later, Lewis started a novel that would vividly depict certain Ulstermen.