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Back Then: Belfast inspired the tall tale of Gulliver's Travels

Cavehill and Lilliput Street provided the spark for Swift to pen classic novel

By Eddie McIlwaine

I'm convinced that Dean Jonathan Swift took his inspiration for his classic Gulliver's Travels from the mountain Napoleon's Nose. He spotted the bulging cliff face overlooking Belfast from high on Cavehill one summer afternoon as he was borne into the city from his parishes in Ballynure and Kilroot in his horse-drawn carriage.

Later his grey mare galloped him up Lilliput Street and suddenly another flash of inspired thinking crossed his mind. He would call the little folk of his classic The Lilliputians. This was 1720 and the book came out in 1726.

I only mention those results of my research today because I've chanced on a young mother who has had her baby son baptised as a Gulliver. Her husband pointed out that he would be a laughing stock as he grew older so she compromised and agreed on Claude Gulliver.

Now here's a confession: I've never read Gulliver's Travels. I can't abide stories laced with satire and whose characters are outrageously unreal. Or else I'm just plain thick.

There's a Gulliver's Travels film too, in 2010, starring comedian Jack Black and Amanda Peet, who was the only reason I went to see it. Amanda, whose husband was the producer of Game Of Thrones, is beautiful so I put up with the rest of the cast.

I'm told that this Gulliver bears little resemblance to the original novel, as you might imagine. Instead, it uses the premise as a backdrop for a series of set pieces.

Black is Lemuel Gulliver, a mailroom worker with a crush on his company's travel editor, Darcy Silverman (Peet).

Swift, who lived from November 1667 until October 1745, was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. He is remembered for Gulliver's Travels and A Tale Of A Tub.

He did a lot of travelling all over Ireland and was quite a character in the pulpit. Down in Kilroot and Ballycarry they still talk about his sermons as if the present church-goers were there to listen to them.

Titanic tomes take total number of books about doomed liner to 584

Just when I thought the fascination with Titanic had begun to wane slightly, along come two more books about her.

I can't believe it - but by my reckoning that brings the total of Titanic tomes since 1912 to about 584. There's even one which claims it wasn't Titanic that hit the iceberg.

Spirit Of The Titanic (O'Brien Press) by Nicola Pierce, who lives in Belfast, is described as a dramatic, haunting story. Thank goodness it's a novel. You get tired reading new theories about the tragedy.

It's all about 15-year-old Samuel Scott who plunges to his death while working on the construction of the liner. He ends up on board - as a ghost.

In On The Eve Of The Titanic Disaster (Amberley), WB Bartlett traces the lives of some third-class passengers through the tales of survivors, including a few who experienced tragedy.

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