Carrying the Fire on the Emerald Isle

By

On the north coast of Ireland there’s a town called Castlerock, where I left a bit of my heart. I’ve thought about it every day since our return to Nashville. In fact, if ever go missing from the States for a few years and you need to find me, it should be the first place you look. You may see me happily repairing an old boat on the beach, just like Andy Dufresne. The town rests on the white shores of the North Atlantic between crags and green fields. It’s flanked by the mouth of the River Bann on the right and an old castle ruin called Downhill Estate on the left. After a few days there my geek bells rang when I discovered that dear old C.S. Lewis came there regularly as a boy on holiday.

Since Northern Ireland is proud (and rightly so) of its connection to C.S.L. many places there claim to be the inspiration for Narnia, but none have as strong a claim as quiet little Castlerock, where a train pulls into the station every two hours then disappears into a deep tunnel at the edge of town; or where you can still see the window where as little boys he and Warnie likely watched the train steam past; or where you can still walk the path to Downhill and encounter castle ruins, or a tangle of forest called the Black Glen. “This is Narnia,” said my new friend Mark proudly as he talked about his family’s front yard: a field of waving wheat with Downhill castle off in the distance. In fact, here’s a great picture among many that Mark took just a short walk from his house.

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That building out on the headland is called Mussenden Temple, which the owner of Downhill Estate built to house his library back before the United States was a country. Crazy. We made several new friends while we were there–the aforementioned Mark and his family, artist Ross Wilson (who sculpted the famous C.S. Lewis centenary statue in Belfast), Alan and Tracy (who graciously let us stay at their place in town) and Jonny and his family (who had us over to play some songs one night). We spent a fine day with Heidi Johnston and her family down in Newtownards (Heidi is the author of an excellent book called Life in the Big Story). One of the folks we met was a filmmaker named Clive McLaughlin, who arranged to shoot this video while we were in town. We met at Downhill Estate for some of the footage, then took a 10 minute drive to Benevenagh, one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen (pictured in the header). It overlooks the green fields where St. Aidan’s bones lie. (Yes, I took my son Aedan there to pay his respects.)

After all our lovely travels this summer, where Swedes, Brits, and Irish alike welcomed us like kin, it felt as though God had Castlerock waiting for us—a place of history, rest, great beauty and great scones. I wrote a significant portion of The Warden and the Wolf King sitting out on those cliffs. We were humbled and blessed by this place and its people, and it delights me that we had time to shoot this video there.

Many, many thanks to Clive and the good people of Derry, who welcomed my family and I like one of their own. Truly, I pray that we’ll come back for a visit. For a year or two next time, maybe?

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


29 Comments

  1. Brenda Branson

    Oh, this just takes my breath away–the lyrics and the scenery! I began thinking of Becca’s dream to go to Ireland and your desire to return, and then imagining a whole bunch of rabbits following close behind. It would be the most glorious Hutchmoot!

  2. Alan Johnston

    Thanks Andrew for sharing this. We are so happy you look back with happiness at your stay in Castlerock. We think and pray for you guys often and as you know, you are always welcome at Le Onde. Blessings Alan and Tracey.

  3. Barbara McDade

    Today is my birthday, what a treat! Thank you Andrew for shooting this video here among our green hills. Blessed over and over a again by your visit. I can’t wait for you to come back, always a warm welcome for you here.

  4. Sarah

    What a really neat visual souvenir to take home! I can see why C. S. Lewis liked to hang out there. Especially in contrast to the other other horrid places of his youth, like school and the army, this looks like paradise. Thanks so much for sharing, Andrew.

  5. Paul Hutchinson

    Great job on the video Andrew!
    Good old North Coast – drink in the scenery, and it never leaves you šŸ™‚

  6. Dawn

    Thank you for this. It’s wonderful to see places still green and full of grass and rocks. No power lines, no cars. Just open. Makes anyone think better. Andrew, your song ministered to me today as I have some friends going through a tough time right now. I will sing on. Jesus, I look forward to you coming…

  7. dawngreen

    Thanks for sharing this lovely moment.
    I sometimes need the reminder to “sing on” when it seems that my hope is indeed gone.
    Blessings to you and your family always.

  8. Diane

    Wow…..This is my son Ethan’s favorite song on this album. I’ve made the chorus his ringtone on my phone. May we all Carry the Fire.

  9. PaulH

    This is my favorite song off the album. It is so solemn resolve, heavy with a deep truth of courage and call. This video couldn’t have been done any better.

  10. JD

    Fantastic! I love hearing about Ireland. Something in me, perhaps my Irish ancestry, would love to visit that land.

  11. Hannah

    For those of us in the US who have been steeped in the literature and great imaginations of the old country, it is as if part of the heart belongs there even though we don’t really, and it feels even more true that “this is a far country, not my home…” (at least it is for me) Thank you for sharing this! The song was already one of my very favorites, and this makes it even better. =)

  12. bren j.

    Truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I have good memories of my own time there. Thanks for posting the video!

  13. Samuel Ross

    Wow, superb video! And I can’t believe you were in Ireland, Andrew! The next time you come, we would absolutely love to have you visit West Cork, an area of stunning natural beauty on the south-west coast, to play some concerts, and soak in some more incredible Irish scenery. You would be more than welcome to stay with my family and our church (Bantrychristianfellowship.ie). We feel a fresh move of God in our area, and would be thrilled to have an artist such as yourself come and minister here. Please get in contact with me if you would be interested! Thank you for your post here, and all your music that continually challenges me, and stirs up the deepest places in my life.

  14. Janet Comby

    Oh Andrew! Narnia indeed! This song goes to the heart of me, makes me long for Home! Thanks so much for this!!!

  15. Ryan Szrama

    Andrew, this is probably my favorite song on the new album and the one the makes me cry the easiest. All I need is the first couplet to imagine holding my wife’s or daughter’s hand and squeezing tight one last time before life just gets too overwhelming to go on. And yet the song moves toward such hopefulness that I can’t help but have my faith reinvigorated. This song builds a yearning in my heart for heaven like no other.

    Thank you, and thanks for sharing the wonderful video and story of your adventures in Ireland. Christina and I can’t wait to go some day. : )

  16. Carrie Luke

    Thank you again, Andrew for taking us there. šŸ™‚ I may never get to see this place with my own eyes-one can hope-but this was almost enough to satisfy me forever.

    Such a beautiful song captured in an other worldly setting. I am so thankful your family got to share it together.

  17. Paul M

    Andrew, I love this song and I’ve really been enjoying the album since that night at Jonny’s in Castlerock. (I was one of those random blokes!) It was a special night and one I think I’ll never forget. Sing on, sing on!

  18. Helena

    This is great. I’d like to sit in that ferny place for a good long time. What is it about Ireland? I’ve never been anywhere else that seems to know itself so well. The water, the stones…they tell their story.

  19. James Witmer

    I love this song, and I agree with @Hanna:

    How is it that I feel like I’ve been there before, or should have been there all along? Is that what arriving in heaven will feel like?

    I don’t know if I could pick a favorite song off LFTLB, but @PaulH got this right

    …Solemn resolve, heavy with a deep truth of courage and call.

    Thanks for sharing, Andrew.

  20. Sheila

    Could you please make this available for purchase/download (perhaps on iTunes?) An incredible song and beautiful scenery. . .Thanks for everything you to edify the body of Christ!

  21. David Brownlow

    A great song, with the most magnificent backdrop! The years I spent in Castlerock with my wife and children – walking through the sand-hills, trekking to the castle via the Black Glen, catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights, standing on a moonlit beach, listening to the ocean waves last thing at night – these are among my most treasured memories. So it wouldn’t really be a surprise if this little piece of heaven on earth served to inspire our good friend CSL.

  22. Julie

    This entire album is basically on repeat everywhere I am: cooking, cleaning, running, driving….each listen yields more riches. I just finished The Yearling and can’t stop humming the Ballad of Jody Baxter. Thank you. (Carried Along still speaks to me. And Slugs, Bugs, and Lullabies is routinely belted out on road trips. Such a gift.)

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