World-famous children’s book by Lisburn author inspires new public art and literature trail

A much-loved children’s book by a local author is the inspiration behind a new interactive public art and literature trail which has opened in Lisburn.
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Author and lifelong Lisburn resident, Sam McBratney wrote the international bestseller Guess How Much I Love You in 1994.

It tells the story of Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare, who are trying to measure their feelings for each other. At last, Big Nutbrown Hare declares that he loves Little Nutbrown Hare ‘to the moon - and back’.

Sam McBratney died in 2020 and the following year, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council secured funding to create a public art and literature trail based on the children's classic to help celebrate his legacy.

Pictured at the bronze sculpture of the two Nutbrown Hares from Guess How Much I Love You are: (l-r) Sarah McBratney; Councillor Thomas Beckett, Communities & Wellbeing Chairman; Mayor Councillor Andrew Gowan; Councillor Tim Mitchell, Vice-Chair of Regeneration and Growth Committee; David Burns, Chief Executive Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council and Maralyn McBratney. Pic credit: Lisburn & Castlereagh City CouncilPictured at the bronze sculpture of the two Nutbrown Hares from Guess How Much I Love You are: (l-r) Sarah McBratney; Councillor Thomas Beckett, Communities & Wellbeing Chairman; Mayor Councillor Andrew Gowan; Councillor Tim Mitchell, Vice-Chair of Regeneration and Growth Committee; David Burns, Chief Executive Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council and Maralyn McBratney. Pic credit: Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council
Pictured at the bronze sculpture of the two Nutbrown Hares from Guess How Much I Love You are: (l-r) Sarah McBratney; Councillor Thomas Beckett, Communities & Wellbeing Chairman; Mayor Councillor Andrew Gowan; Councillor Tim Mitchell, Vice-Chair of Regeneration and Growth Committee; David Burns, Chief Executive Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council and Maralyn McBratney. Pic credit: Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

Thanks to £132,000 in funding from Tourism NI, the Guess How Much I Love You-themed trail is free for the public to enjoy and can be accessed via a digital app or followed on a map collected from the local visitors’ centre in Lisburn.

One version of the trail is suitable for ‘little hares’ and another for older children. They will collect 16 brass rubbings along the way: together they make up iconic imagery featured in the book.

In addition to the interactive element of the project, a series of public artworks has been commissioned to help bring the book to life.

A 4 foot high bronze sculpture of two hares, created by sculptor Trudy Burke will grace Castle Gardens. Dotted across the trails are wooden Nutbrown Hares and three hand carved benches by artists Charlie Haag, Matthew Crabbe and James Elliott which feature scenes inspired by Guess How Much I Love You.

Maralyn McBratney officially opened the Guess How Much I Love You Public Art and Literature Trail in Lisburn City Centre with the assistance of Big Nutbrown Hare and Litlle Nutbrown Hare. Pic credit: Lisburn & Castlereagh City CouncilMaralyn McBratney officially opened the Guess How Much I Love You Public Art and Literature Trail in Lisburn City Centre with the assistance of Big Nutbrown Hare and Litlle Nutbrown Hare. Pic credit: Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council
Maralyn McBratney officially opened the Guess How Much I Love You Public Art and Literature Trail in Lisburn City Centre with the assistance of Big Nutbrown Hare and Litlle Nutbrown Hare. Pic credit: Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

The author’s widow, Maralyn McBratney, is confident Sam would have been both humbled and delighted by this new attraction in the city.

She said: “When we were on book tours, it didn’t matter where we were in the world – he was always happy to return to his home town, Lisburn.

“Our family is very proud to see the installation of the Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare trails across the city centre.

"We were really moved to see street art of the book’s illustrations in Haslem’s Lane earlier in the year. Anita Jeram did the beautiful drawings and it’s so lovely to see them provide pleasure to shoppers and passers-by. And it was an honour to see a ‘Guess’-themed Children’s Art Festival in the city too.

Pictured with the bronze sculpture as part of the new interactive Guess How Much I Love You trail are: (l-r) Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare; Maralyn McBratney; Trudy Burke, sculptor; Olive McKeown, Tourism Northern Ireland and Councillor Thomas Beckett, Communities & Wellbeing Chairman. Pic credit: Lisburn & Castlereagh City CouncilPictured with the bronze sculpture as part of the new interactive Guess How Much I Love You trail are: (l-r) Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare; Maralyn McBratney; Trudy Burke, sculptor; Olive McKeown, Tourism Northern Ireland and Councillor Thomas Beckett, Communities & Wellbeing Chairman. Pic credit: Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council
Pictured with the bronze sculpture as part of the new interactive Guess How Much I Love You trail are: (l-r) Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare; Maralyn McBratney; Trudy Burke, sculptor; Olive McKeown, Tourism Northern Ireland and Councillor Thomas Beckett, Communities & Wellbeing Chairman. Pic credit: Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

“Sam started writing as a student. His first published work was a series of articles on the history of Lisburn and he had many books published over the years, some based on family anecdotes and others springing purely from his imagination.

"The success of Guess How Much I Love You was a pleasant surprise for all of us and the book holds a special place in our hearts. It opened up new opportunities for Sam and at the same time gave parents, carers and teachers a book they could read to children to help express feelings and emotions.”

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Councillor Thomas Beckett, Chair of the council’s Communities & Wellbeing Committee added: “We look forward to residents and visitors of all ages and nationalities enjoying this new tourist attraction that highlights the significant contribution Sam made to children’s lives worldwide.”

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