Saturday, 31 December 2011

Come to Bethlehem - 7

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown;
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly and the ivy
Now both are full well grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Come to Bethlehem - 6

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Come to Bethlehem - 5

Away in a manger,
no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus
lay down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky
looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus,
asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing,
the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus,
no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus,
look down from the sky
And stay by my bedside
till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay,
Close by me forever,
and love me, I pray!
Bless all the dear children
in Thy tender care
And fit us for heaven,
to live with Thee there.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Come to Bethlehem - 4

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

It is worth recording that Her Majesty The Queen quoted from the final verse of this lovely hymn at the end of her Christmas Broadcast this year.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Come to Bethlehem - 3

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”


Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.


Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.


Monday, 26 December 2011

Come to Bethlehem - 2

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of angels;


O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo, He abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God,
Begotten, not created;


See how the shepherds,
Summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh with lowly fear;
We too will thither
Bend our joyful footsteps;


Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God,
In the highest;


Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing.


Sunday, 25 December 2011

Come to Bethlehem - 1

O Holy Night! The stars, their gleams prolonging,
Watch o'er the eve of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error, longing
For His appearance, then the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hears the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was Born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts we stand by the Babe adored.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
And come now, Shepherds, from your flocks unboard.
The Son of God lay thus within lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our Lord.
He knows our need, our weakness never lasting,
Behold your King! By Him, let Earth accord!
Behold your King! By Him, let Earth accord!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Long live His truth, and may it last forever,
For in His name all discordant noise shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise us,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

A highpoint of Christmas Day for many people is the Christmas Message of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II - which is broadcast at 3.00 pm. For the benefit of those readers who do not receive this broadcast, I am enabling you to watch it now. It is marvellous having a leader who is not afraid to declare their Christian faith so openly. Her Majesty thanks God for sending us a Saviour, and so I pray - God save our gracious Queen!


Saturday, 24 December 2011

O come, O come, Emmanuel - 7

Just one more day of purple!

Come, Thou Redeemer of the earth,
And manifest Thy virgin birth:
Let every age adoring fall;
Such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will,
But of the Spirit, Thou art still
The Word of God in flesh arrayed,
The promised Fruit to man displayed.

The virgin womb that burden gained
With virgin honour all unstained;
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in His temple dwells below.

Forth from His chamber goeth He,
That royal home of purity,
A giant in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now His course to run.

From God the Father He proceeds,
To God the Father back He speeds;
His course He runs to death and hell,
Returning on God’s throne to dwell.

O equal to the Father, Thou!
Gird on Thy fleshly mantle now;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
And darkness breathe a newer light,
Where endless faith shall shine serene,
And twilight never intervene.

All laud to God the Father be,
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete.

Friday, 23 December 2011

O come, O come, Emmanuel - 6

One can never go wrong with a hymn by Charles Wesley!

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

O come, O come, Emmanuel - 5

Today's Advent hymn focusses on John the Baptist.

On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh;
awake and hearken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings.

Then cleansed be every breast from sin;
make straight the way for God within,
prepare we in our hearts a home
where such a mighty Guest may come.

For thou art our salvation, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward;
without thy grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.

To heal the sick stretch out thine hand,
and bid the fallen sinner stand;
shine forth and let thy light restore
earth's own true loveliness once more.

All praise, eternal Son, to thee,
whose advent doth thy people free;
whom with the Father we adore
and Holy Ghost for evermore.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

O come, O come, Emmanuel - 4

Today is the shortest day of the year. We pray for Christ the Light of the World to come and shatter the darkness of sin.

Creator of the stars of night,
thy people's everlasting light,
Jesus, Redeemer, save us all,
hear thou thy servants when they call.

Thou, sorrowing at the helpless cry
of all creation doomed to die,
didst save our lost and guilty race
by healing gifts of heavenly grace.

Thou cam'st, the Bridegroom of the bride,
as drew the world to eventide;
proceeding from a virgin shrine,
the spotless Victim all divine.

At thy great Name, exalted now,
all knees in lowly homage bow;
al things in heaven and earth adore,
and own thee King for evermore.

To thee, O Holy One, we pray,
our Judge in that tremendous day,
ward off, while yet we dwell below,
the weapons of our crafty foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three in One,
laud, honor, might and glory be
from age to age eternally.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

O come, O come, Emmanuel - 3

Let's focus today on the Second Coming - a good excuse for us to sing my favourite Advent hymn!

Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,
once for our salvation slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Christ the King returns to reign.

Every eye shall now behold him,
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at nought and sold him,
pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.

Those dear tokens of his passion
still his dazzling body bears,
cause of endless exultation
to his ransomed worshipers;
with what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
gaze we on those glorious scars!

Now redemption, long expected,
see in solemn pomp appear;
all his saints, by man rejected,
now shall meet him in the air:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
See the day of God appear!

Yea, amen! let all adore thee,
high on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory;
claim the kingdom for thine own:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.

Monday, 19 December 2011

O come, O come, Emmanuel - 2

Drop down ye heavens, from above,
and let the skies pour down righteousness:

Be not wroth very sore, O Lord,
neither remember iniquity for ever:
the holy cities are a wilderness,
Sion is a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation:
our holy and our beautiful house,
where our fathers praised thee.

Drop down ye heavens, from above,
and let the skies pour down righteousness:

We have sinned, and are as an unclean thing,
and we all do fade as a leaf:
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away;
thou hast hid thy face from us:
and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

Drop down ye heavens, from above,
and let the skies pour down righteousness:

Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord,
and my servant whom I have chosen;
that ye may know me and believe me:
I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Saviour:
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Drop down ye heavens, from above,
and let the skies pour down righteousness:

Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,
my salvation shall not tarry:
why wilt thou waste away in sadness?
why hath sorrow seized thee?
Fear not, for I will save thee:
for I am the Lord thy God,
the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.

Drop down ye heavens, from above,
and let the skies pour down righteousness.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

4th Sunday of Advent

Today we focus on Mary, the Mother of Our Lord.

My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

O come, O come, Emmanuel - 1

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Friday, 16 December 2011

C S Lewis - 11

"There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are — as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands — dead. The term is over; the holidays have begun. The dream is ended; this is the morning." (C S Lewis)

Well, the 12 week teaching term at The Queen's University of Belfast finishes today. The students will not return until Monday 9 January 2012 when they will face 3 weeks of assessment. Our hymn is a traditional one for the end of term.

Lord, dismiss us with thy blessing,
thanks for mercies past receive;
pardon all, their faults confessing;
time that's lost may all retrieve;
may thy children,
ne'er again thy Spirit grieve.

Bless thou all our days of leisure;
help us selfish lures to flee;
sanctify our every pleasure;
pure and blameless may it be;
may our gladness
draw us evermore to thee.

By thy kindly influence cherish
all the good we have gained;
may all taint of evil perish
by thy mightier power restrained;
seek we ever
knowledge pure and love unfeigned.

Let thy father-hand be shielding
all who here shall meet no more;
may their seed-time past be yielding
year by year a richer store;
those returning,
make more faithful than before.

Eight days on intense preparation for Christmas will begin tomorrow!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

C S Lewis - 10

During the Battle of Britain, in the suburb of Finchley near London, Great Britain, the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, are endangered by an attack of numerous German Heinkel He 111 bombers. They are evacuated to the country home of Professor Digory Kirke.

While they are getting used to the house, Lucy discovers a wardrobe and enters a wintry fantasy world called Narnia. She spends a few hours in the home of the faun, Mr. Tumnus, who explains that Jadis, the White Witch, cursed Narnia, and it has been winter for one hundred years. If a human is ever encountered, they were to be brought to her. Tumnus likes Lucy and cannot bring himself to kidnap her, so he sends her home. When she returns hardly any time has passed in the normal world, and nobody believes her story since that when they look in the wardrobe, it has a normal wooden back.

Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
Thought he not too long.

And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took,
As clerkës finden written
In their book.

Nor had one apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Then had never Our Lady
A-been heaven's queen.

Blessed be the time
That apple taken was.
Therefore we may singen
Deo gratias!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

C S Lewis - 9

“But do you really mean, Sir," said Peter, "that there could be other worlds-all over the place, just round the corner-like that?"

"Nothing is more probable," said the Profesor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, while he muttered to himself, "I wonder what they do teach them at these schools.”

― C.S. Lewis

There is a land of pure delight,
where saints immortal reign,
infinite day excludes the night,
and pleasures banish pain.

There everlasting spring abides,
and never-withering flowers:
death, like a narrow sea, divides
this heavenly land from ours.

Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
stand dressed in living green:
so to the Jews old Canaan stood,
while Jordan rolled between.

But timorous mortals start and shrink
to cross this narrow sea;
and linger, shivering on the brink,
and fear to launch away.

O could we make our doubts remove,
those gloomy thoughts that rise,
and see the Canaan that we love
with unbeclouded eyes!

Could we but climb where Moses stood,
and view the landscape o'er,
not Jordan's stream, nor death's cold flood,
should fright us from the shore.

Smashing! Obviously some schools teach the right stuff!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

C S Lewis - 8

The central table in the reading room depicts a map of Narnia.

A total of eleven named humans from Earth have entered Narnia, four boys, two men, four girls, and a woman.

The four Pevensie children are the best known: Peter Pevensie (High King Peter the Magnificent), Susan Pevensie (Queen Susan the Gentle), Edmund Pevensie (King Edmund the Just), and Lucy Pevensie (Queen Lucy the Valiant). All of them appear in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and in Prince Caspian. Edmund and Lucy appear in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and all of them appear (but Peter, who is out fighting giants on the northern frontier) as adults in The Horse and his Boy.

Others from our world include King Frank (who had been a cabman in London) and his wife Queen Helen, who were the first King and Queen of Narnia and whose descendants lived in Narnia for many generations. They, together with Uncle Andrew Ketterley, Digory Kirke, and Polly Plummer appear in The Magician's Nephew. Eustace Scrubb, a cousin of the Pevensies, appears in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair, and Jill Pole, a schoolmate of Scrubb's, also appears in The Silver Chair. All of these except for Susan Pevensie and Uncle Andrew appear in The Last Battle.

There were also about a dozen unnamed humans from our world (six pirates and their women) who repopulated the unpeopled land of Telmar and founded the race of the Telmarines. As Aslan says in Prince Caspian, they accidentally found in a cave "one of the chinks or chasms between that world and this" (i.e. between our world and Narnia), and he adds, "There were many chinks or chasms between worlds in old times, but they have grown rarer. This was one of the last: I do not say the last." So quite possibly others came to Narnia from our world as well, but Lewis did not record their histories for us.

Humans from Earth are sometimes referred to as Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve by Narnians, a reference to C. S. Lewis' Christian worldview.

Although he is not a human, Strawberry, the cabman's horse, also entered Narnia from our world and there was chosen to be a talking beast and transformed into the winged horse Fledge.

During this Advent Season, we are preparing for Christ to enter our world.

When came in flesh the incarnate Word,
the heedless world slept on,
and only simple shepherds heard
that God had sent his Son.

When comes the Saviour at the last,
from east to west shall shine
the awful pomp, and earth aghast
shall tremble at the sign.

Then shall the pure of heart be blest;
as mild he comes to them,
as when upon the virgin's breast
he lay at Bethlehem.

As mild to meek eyed love and faith,
only more strong to save;
strengthened by having bowed to death,
by having burst the grave.

Lord, who could dare see thee descend
in state, unless he knew
thou art the sorrowing sinner's Friend,
the gracious and the true?

Dwell in our hearts, O Saviour blest;
so shall thine advent's dawn
'twixt us and thee, our bosom-guest,
be but the veil withdrawn.

Monday, 12 December 2011

C S Lewis - 7

The magnificent C S Lewis Reading Room didn't come cheap - but generous gifts were given towards the cost.

An important part of the Archbishop of Canterbury's public engagement is through his relationship as patron or president to over 300 organisations.

In addition to national charities and institutions, he is involved in a wide range of interests and good causes within the Church of England, the worldwide Anglican Communion and in secular and civic life.

In this way the Archbishop is able to support public and voluntary service and to affirm the work and achievements of these organisations. A substantial proportion reflects the Archbishop's particular interest in environmental issues, in education, medical and spiritual healing, homelessness, music, poetry and the links between art and religion.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

3rd Sunday of Advent

John the Baptist may have a stern message, but today is a day for clapping hands and jumping for joy!

I will sing, I will sing a song unto the Lord
Alleluia, Glory to the Lord.

Alleluia, Alleluia, glory to the Lord,
Alleluia, glory to the Lord.

We will come, we will come as one before the Lord.
Alleluia, Glory to the Lord.

Alleluia, Alleluia, glory to the Lord,
Alleluia, glory to the Lord.

If the Son if the Son shall make you free
You shall be free indeed.

Alleluia, Alleluia, glory to the Lord,
Alleluia, glory to the Lord.

Thy that sow in tears will reap in joy
Alleluia, Glory to the Lord.

Alleluia, Alleluia, glory to the Lord,
Alleluia, glory to the Lord.

Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess,
That Jesus Christ is Lord.

Alleluia, Alleluia, glory to the Lord,
Alleluia, glory to the Lord.

In his name in his name we have the victory
Alleluia, Glory to the Lord.

Alleluia, Alleluia, glory to the Lord,
Alleluia, glory to the Lord.

Happy Gaudete Sunday!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

C S Lewis - 6

Well, what did you expect to find - Aslan or something?

Just one word comes to mind as I look at this lovely photo.

Friday, 9 December 2011

C S Lewis - 5

Please watch this short video clip first!

Yes, we are invited to open this door on the first floor of the new library - what will we find inside? Come back to this blog tomorrow, for I can promise you a wonderful surprise.

Advent is a time for us to open the door to Christ - a theme taken up in our hymn for today.

Hark! the glad sound! the Saviour comes,
the Saviour promised long:
let every heart prepare a throne,
and every voice a song.

He comes the prisoners to release
in Satan's bondage held;
the gates of brass before him burst,
the iron fetters yield.

He comes, the broken heart to bind,
the bleeding soul to cure;
and with the treasures of his grace
to enrich the humble poor.

Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace,
thy welcome shall proclaim;
and heaven's eternal arches ring
with thy beloved Name.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

C S Lewis - 4

Well we are now back at Queen's and are standing outside the new library building.

We are about to go inside and visit a room on the first floor of the tower - we are in for a surprise!

The McClay Library brings together wide-ranging library, computing and media services in a single location, blending the best features of a traditional library with the latest technology.

Study facilities inlcude both places for quiet study and significant provision for group work, allowing students to follow their own individual learning style. Training provided by Information Services is also based in the building.

The library's extensive book and journal collections support teaching and research in the arts and humanities, science and engineering, the social sciences and law.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

C S Lewis - 3

Not far from Queen's is this beautiful statue of C S Lewis.

Sculpted by Ross Wilson, the statue is a life-sized figure of C S Lewis opening a Victorian wardrobe, a gateway to Narnia. The statue was unveiled in November 1998, the centenary of the birth of C S Lewis.

Charles Staples, or 'Jack', Lewis was born in Ballyhackamore, east Belfast, in 1898 and spent his formative years in the city. Living on the city’s Circular Road he attended nearby Campbell College, but was sent to boarding school in England after the death of his mother.

After serving in the First World War, where he was injured, he settled at Oxford University where he was to tutor medieval and renaissance English literature.

Here he wrote the six-book Chronicles of Narnia, which have gone on to sell some 65 million copies worldwide. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is the second in the series and traces the fortunes of a group of Second World War evacuees who discover a fantastical world through a wardrobe in their new home.

When the Pevensie family are evacuated out to the country, they are unaware of the adventure they will encounter. During a game of hide and seek, the youngest daughter, Lucy discovers a wardrobe which transports her to the land of Narnia. Covered in snow, Narnia is full of weird and wonderful creatures, but is watched over by the evil White Witch, Jadis. When all four Pevensie children end up through the wardrobe, they discover that it was meant to be, as two daughters of Eve and two sons of Adam must join with the mighty lion, Aslan to defeat the evil White Witch.

Tomorrow, we shall be back to Queen's University.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

C S Lewis - 2

I had been Lecturer in Economics at Queen's between 1979 and 1990, and many things have changed since I left.

In 1990 there was no organ in the Great Hall - so I was pleased to see the addition of the instrument on the South Gallery. Nevertheless, I wasn't all that impressed with the instrument. I rather like a fanfare on the tuba when I arrive and there seemed little chance of that!

For future reference, I provide the following example of the sort of thing I expect.

Fantastic! Well, tomorrow we are out on the streets of East Belfast!

Monday, 5 December 2011

C S Lewis - 1

On Friday 2 December I paid an official visit to The Queen's University of Belfast where I was received by Dr John Stannard. One of the highlights of the tour was a visit to the magnificent Great Hall. The hall was laid out ready for a banquet, presumably in my honour. I had my speech all ready.

Queen's University Belfast is a public research university in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The university's official title, per its charter, is the Queen's University of Belfast. It is often referred to simply as Queen's, or by the abbreviation QUB. The university was chartered in 1845, and opened in 1849 as "Queen's College, Belfast", but has roots going back to 1810 and the Royal Belfast Academical Institution.

Queen's is a member of the Russell Group of leading research intensive universities, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the European University Association, Universities Ireland and Universities UK. The university offers academic degrees at various levels and across a broad subject range, with over 300 degree programmes available. The university's current President and Vice-Chancellor is Professor Sir Peter Gregson, and its Chancellor is the current Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Kamalesh Sharma.

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of my Father, Ronnie Simpson. When my Mother came to my Primary School to tell me the sad news, my first words were 'Oh dear! Will we still be able to have a turkey for Christmas dinner?' Fortunately my Father had a sense of humour, so our reunion in heaven should not be too embarrassing!

I am pleased to record that I was served turkey for my dinner both on 25 December 1961 and on 2 December 2011.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

2nd Sunday of Advent

Unfortunately, this blog has just received a complaint. A certain John the Baptist has sent a message saying that although he has no objections to wild honey, he wants no more references to Scotch whisky! It is time to sober up.

1. Hark! a herald voice is calling:
'Christ is nigh,' it seems to say;
'Cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day!'

2. Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

3. Lo! the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heaven;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven;

4. So when next he comes with glory,
Wrapping all the earth in fear,
May he then as our defender
On the clouds of heaven appear.

5. Honour, glory, virtue, merit,
To the Father and the Son,
With the co-eternal Spirit,
While unending ages run. Amen.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Hot Toddy

Traditional Scottish preparation of a hot toddy involves the mixture of whisky, boiling water, and sugar or honey. Additional ingredients such as cloves, a lemon slice or cinnamon (in stick or ground form) may be added.

Depending on preference, the cloves and cinnamon stick can be removed before drinking, although leaving them in is often said to make a toddy even better for clearing a blocked nose and relieving a head cold.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Gaelic Coffee

A wonderful way to end a meal!

Black coffee; freshly made
Scotch whisky
Demerara (raw brown) sugar
Double (heavy) cream; whipped until slightly thick

Pour the coffee into a warmed glass.
Add the whisky and the sugar to taste.
Stir well.
Pour some lightly whipped cream into the glass over the back of a teaspoon.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


Cranachan is a fantastic Scottish dessert. Originally a celebration of harvest, there are many versions of this traditional Scottish pudding, the simplest being a stir-up of toasted pinhead oatmeal, whisky, honey and cream. Modern versions make the most of Scottish raspberries by folding them in at the last minute.

The recipe

40g medium or coarse oatmeal
200g raspberries
400ml double cream
2 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp malt whisky

Scatter 40g medium or coarse oatmeal on a baking sheet then toast it under a hot grill for a couple of minutes until it smells warm and nutty (some prefer slow toasting in the oven). Crush 100g of raspberries with a fork. Whip 400ml of double cream until thick, then stir in 2 tbsp each of runny honey and malt whisky. Add the crushed raspberries, stirring gently, then the same weight of whole raspberries. Lastly, fold in the toasted oatmeal and spoon into small glasses. Serves 4.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 17

What a lovely sight on this St Andrew's Day - bottles of Dallas Dhu whisky!

A hundred years of whisky making at Dallas Dhu came to an end in 1983, but that was not the end of Dallas Dhu.

Thanks to the generosity of Scottish Malt Distillers, and its parent company, the Distillers Company Ltd, the pretty distillery complex on the southern fringe of the town of Forres came into Historic Scotland's care - a perfectly preserved time-capsule of the distiller's art.

Over the next three days we shall look at some recipes which make good use of Scotch whisky.

Jesus calls us over the tumult
Of our life’s wild, restless, sea;
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth,
Saying, “Christian, follow Me!”

As of old Saint Andrew heard it
By the Galilean lake,
Turned from home and toil and kindred,
Leaving all for Jesus’ sake.

Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world’s golden store,
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying, “Christian, love Me more!”

In our joys and in our sorrows,
Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still He calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love Me more than these!”

Jesus calls us! By Thy mercies,
Saviour may we hear Thy call,
Give our hearts to Thine obedience,
Serve and love Thee best of all.

Happy Feast!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 16

The new barrels of whisky were rolled from the filling store along the iron rails at the end of the bonds. When stacking the barrels, the warehouseman took pride in getting each barrel positioned with the lettering the right way up.

The different colours on the ends of the barrels indicated how many times the barrels had been used for whisky. Whisky from a barrel that had only been used for sherry before would be more stongly flavoured than whisky matured in a barrel that was being used for the third time. Knowing the history of each barrel was therefore vitally important when it came to blending the whisky before bottling.

The bonds are built with an earthen floor to keep the space cool. the spacing of the roof slates allows for plenty of ventilation because the barrels gradually sweated out a small amount of whisky, known in the trade as 'the angels' share'. Now you know why the angels sing so well!

Our hymn today is sung for us by Brother Alphonsus Mary.

Ye holy angels bright,
who wait at God's right hand,
or through the realms of light
fly at your Lord's command,
assist our song,
for else the theme
too high doth seem
for mortal tongue.

Ye blessed souls at rest,
who ran this earthly race
and now, from sin released,
behold your Saviour's face,
his praises sound,
as in his sight
with sweet delight
ye do abound.

Ye saints, who toil below,
adore your heavenly King,
and onward as ye go
some joyful anthem sing;
take what he gives
and praise him still,
through good or ill,
who ever lives!

My soul, bear thou thy part,
triumph in God above:
and with a well-tuned heart
sing thou the songs of love!
Let all thy days
till life shall end,
whate'er he send,
be filled with praise!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 15

In the filling store the barrels were filled from the main store, the entire operation overseen by the exciseman.

Each barrel was weighed empty and full and a sample of the whisky measured to check it alcohol content (normally about 60 per cent by volume). These measurements allowed the exciseman, working from his little booth in the corner, to calculate how much alcohol had been produced by the distillery.

The warehouses, or bonds, were strictly controlled by the exiseman. Until the tax was paid on a barrel of whisky (normally when it was bottled), it was the exciseman's job to ensure that none of it left his control; if it wasn't under lock and key in the bond, then he had to accompany it at all times.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

1st Sunday of Advent

We get a real wake up call at the Eucharist this morning - no fewer than three times does the Gospel tell us to 'stay awake'!

Nevertheless, for our hymn today we shall sing a lovely evening hymn!

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

It is interesting to note that Queen Victoria chose this hymn to be sung at the 60th anniversary of her reign in 1897. I wonder whether Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will do likewise in 2012?

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 14

We now move to the fourth and last stage in the whisky-making process.

The spirit is matured in oak barrels to creature the flavours of the whisky.

The spirit is put into oak barrels to age for at least three years, maybe far more. The barrels give the whisky its colour and much of its flavour.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 13


We are now gazing at the spirit safe.

The spirit safe was invented in 1825 to make sure that the distillery workers never got their hands on the spirit! They were prevented from tampering with the spirit by the two locks, the keys for which were held by the exciseman.

The products of each still poured through the spirit safe, enabling the still man to test the spirit as it came out to see if he wanted to keep it or not. At the left-hand end, the still man checked to see when the low wines were complete and the wash still was just producing water so that he could end the distillation.

On the right-hand side, he watched the output from the spirit still. The first liquid out of the spirit still was called the 'fore shots'; considered too volatile for whisky - it was run back in with the low wines for redistillation.

When the still man judged that the still was producing the right quality of alcohol, the 'middle cut', he turned the handle on the top of the spirit safe to run it into the oak vat called the spirit receiver.

Towards the end of the distillation he watched again to divert the 'feints', the spirit too heavy for whisky, back in with the low wines.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 12


Here we see one of the two great stills - each with a capacity of 2,295 gallons.

Dallas Dhu has two stills - the wash still and the spirit still.

The stillman's job was carefully to control the heat of the stills. He also had to make sure that the wash still, containing the yeasty brew, did not overflow. The neck of the wash still contains two glass windows so that the height of the froth in the still could be monitored; if the still man saw froth in the top windows, the heat was too high.

The shape of thee still is is very important, because it is the shape that affects the character of the spirit produced; any change in shape would change the final flavour of the whisky.

The still man opened a valve to fill the wash still with wash. He gradually raised the temperature of the still while the vapour rose up the neck and out of the worm outside. The still relied on the different ingredients of the wash evaporating at different rates, allowing the alcohol and other chemicals in the wash to be separated from the water. The product from the wash still, was called 'low wines'. What remained in the still (mainly water and yeast) was called 'pot ale' and was run into the sewers!

The low wines were then distilled again in the spirit still. This produced a cleaner spirit which the brewer drew off into the spirit safe.

Just a word about the worm tubs. There were two worms - the low wine worm and there spirit worm. Two tubs held the worms, long spirals of copper pipe attached to the stills. When the stills were working, cool water was kept flowing into the tubs. As the hot vapours coming from the stills entered the worm, the cooling water condensed them so that they could flow back to the still house.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 11

The third stage of the whisky making process is that of distillation. The brew is distilled to extract the alcoholic spirit.

The wash is distilled first in the wash still, and then again, for the sake of purity, in the spirit still, to extract just the right strength of spirit for the whisky - nothing too light, nothing too heavy.

The still house is very much the spiritual heart of the distillery, for it is here that the weak brew from the wash backs was transformed into fiery spirit!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 10

The tun room houses the six great wash backs, or brewing vats.

The wort and yeast were piped into the vats where the yeast fermented the sugars into alcohol, called wash. This produced a fair amount of heat and a high froth on the top of the vats. When Dallas Dhu first opened, the mash men would keep the froth down with heather brooms.

The froth was made up of carbon dioxide produced by the yeast. Being heavier than air, this used to fill the ground floor of the tun room, making it impossible to breathe down there. For this reason a lifeline and breathing equipment were kept in a locker nearby in case of emergencies.

After a couple of days, when the wash had reached a level of between 5 and 10 per cent alcohol by volume, it was passed through to the still house.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 9

Here we see the inside of the mash tun in the mash house.

The mash tun has a perforated base, allowing the sugary liquid, or wort, to be drained off for brewing. One load of grist was drained several times to get all the sugars out. the remaining mushy husks, or draft, were removed on the draft conveyor and sold as cattle feed.

When the wort came from the mash tun, it was too hot for brewing; the heat would kill the yeast. so the wort went into a cooler room before moving to the tun room.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Feast of Christ the King (34th Week of Ordinary Time)

Today we hear the familiar parable of the sheep and the goats. Well, which are you? I rather like the goat - only kidding!

Christ is the King! O friends rejoice;
brothers and sisters with one voice
tell the whole world he is your choice.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

O magnify the Lord, and raise
anthems of joy and holy praise
for Christ’s brave saints of ancient days.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

O Christian women, Christian men,
all the world over, seek again
the Way disciples followed then.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Christ through all ages is the same:
place the same hope in his great name,
with the same faith his word proclaim.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

So shall God’s will on earth be done,
new lamps be lit, new tasks begun,
and the whole church at last be one.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

I love hymns with lots of alleluias!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

St Delia's Day

Today we celebrate the Feast of St Delia!

She has been credited with changing the cooking - and shopping - habits of a nation, and the Delia effect has become accepted as common parlance.

And now, Delia Smith's efforts to culinary greatness are to be recognised with a day specially dedicated to her this weekend.

Following a huge surge in sales of a packaged Christmas cake ingredients box devised by Delia, Waitrose is declaring this Sunday to be Delia Day.

Sales of the cake are up almost 97 per cent on this time last year, with customers coming into the store to buy the product, which includes fruit soaked in brandy, buying the equivalent of 56 tonnes of fruit.

Delia Day is timed to tie in with Stir Up Sunday, traditionally the last Sunday before Advent when Britons prepare Christmas cakes and puddings.

Delia's much-loved Christmas cake recipe has been used by British cooks for over 40 years - but until now, they had to pound the aisles of the supermarkets to collect up the ingredients themselves.

The £10 prepared box contains all the dry ingredients needed to make Delia's Classic Christmas cake - and all have been prepared and weighed out in advance.

Waitrose launched the Delia prepared cake boxes into branches earlier than last year, and due to increased demand has ordered almost three times as many.

The box contains dried fruit mix pre-soaked in brandy, soft dark brown sugar, flour, chopped almonds, black treacle and mixed spice with nutmeg plus instructions penned by Delia. Home cooks simply add their own eggs, butter, orange and lemon zests to the dry ingredients then mix everything together and bake.

Not only is it simpler, but on average the box ensures a saving of around £10 on buying the individual ingredients as full packs.

Waitrose home baking buyer Jo Maclaine said: 'The Delia Christmas cake boxes have proved to be incredibly successful, with a huge rise in sales this week.

Delia says: 'This, my original classic Christmas cake, is possibly the most popular recipe I've ever done.

Let us pray:

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people:
that, richly bearing the fruit of good works,
they may by you be richly rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

On second thoughts, if the Vatican sees the following video, Delia may have to wait a very long time after her death before she is canonised.

It looks to me as if most of the brandy has gone into her glass - not into soaking the fruit for the Christmas cake!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 8

The mash house is dominated by the mash tun, a great cooking vat.

The mash man mixed the grist with hot water to form a mash which was stirred slowly in the mash tun to release the sugars and starch from the first. This was hot and potentially dangerous work with the mash heated to around 65 degrees centigrade.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 7

The second stage of whisky-making is basically a brewing process. In brief, the malt is brewed to turn the sugar into alcohol.

The grist is mixed with hot water in the mash tun to dissolve the sugar. This sugary liquid (wort) is the piped into wooden vats called wash backs. The wort in the wash backs is mixed with yeast to turn the sugar into alcohol. This produces a weak beer (wash) which is then taken to the stills.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 6

Here we see the malt kiln with its pagoda-shaped roof.

The malt kiln worked by drawing the heat from the fire in the base up through the perforated floor on which the damp malt was spread and out through the vent in the roof. One malt man stoked the fire with coal or coke and a little peat - to give that slightly smoky flavour to the malt. To avoid scorching the malt, he regulated the heat and air flow with the iron shutters around the hearth.

Other malt men worked up above on the perforated steel floor in the heat of the kiln, turning the malt to ensure that it dried evenly. When the malt was completely dry, the malt men shovelled it into wooden bins, called the malt deposit.

Once the dried malt had rested in the malt deposit for a few weeks, the brewer's team took over. The mash-man let the malt fall into the mill where it was cracked between steel rollers. He had to adjust the rollers precisely to ensure that the crushed malt, or grist, was neither too fine more too coarse.

This concludes the first stage of whisky-making - there are three more stages to come!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 5

The barley is soaked in water and allowed to start sprouting (malting).

When the malt-man judges that the sprouting has produced enough sugar in the grain, he transfers the malted barley (or malt) to the kiln. The heat in the kiln dries the malt and stops is sprouting further. The malt is then passed through a mill to break it up into grist, a very course flour.

The proverb "all is grist for the mill" means "everything can be made useful, or be a source of profit." This is very much in keeping with the parable of the talents which we heard on Sunday.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Dallas Dhu Distillery - 4

Barley is a grass with a swollen grain that is similar to wheat that can be ground to produce a flour suitable for the production of bread. However unlike wheat, barley has always been particularly important in the production of beers and ales. Barley is the second most widely grown arable crop in the UK with around 1.1 million hectares under cultivation and today's varieties trace their origins back over 10,000 years to the first farmers.

Barley has remained a successful cereal crop because of its short growing time and ability to survive in poor conditions. Although it is grown throughout most of the UK it is often the dominant arable crop in the north and west of Britain where growing conditions are most difficult and less favourable for wheat.

Each year the UK produces around 6.5 million tonnes of barley. Roughly 1.5 million tonnes are exported, 2 million tonnes are used in the brewing and distilling trades with 3 million tonnes being used for animal feed.

Barley is striking because of the long spikes that emerge from the end of each grain. These are known as awns. Barley is also easily identifiable on breezy days in the early summer when "waves" blow through the crop.

Although barley is versatile and tolerant it is not as productive as wheat. As a result it is often grown as the second cereal in a rotation where potential yields are lower; for example a field might first grow wheat, then barley, then a break crop like sugar beet or peas before returning to wheat. Barley can also be grown continually in the same field, a process known as continuous cropping. This was relatively common in the 1970s and 1980s but is rarely if ever practiced now.

Barley can be sown in either the autumn (this is known as winter barley) or in the spring. The proportion of each varies from year to year but is generally around 50:50. Winter barleys are higher yielding but of poorer quality and are mostly used in animal feeds whereas the spring varieties are often used for malting. The winter crop is normally harvested in July with those spring sown following about a month later.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today we year the familiar parable of the talents.

Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Happy Sunday!