Belfast – Titantic, "Troubles", and More (9/3/2012)

Today was our all day tour with Susie Millar, great granddaughter of Thomas Millar, engineer for the White Star Line that sailed on Titantic. Weather was fine. Tour was shared with a couple from San Francisco.

The day started with a short trip down the Coastal Route to Carrickfergus (fort of Carrick) to see the thatch roofed cottage where Thomas Millar’s son watched his dad sail away from Belfast Lough never to return. This son, named William, went on to be an acclaimed writer in NI.

Belfast Lough – Titantic sailed past this point.

We then went to the Harland and Wolff shipyards and saw the slipway where Titantic and sister ship Olympic slipped down the gantries into Belfast Lough. We were able to look into the windows of Drawing Office #1 where the final plans were rendered. Olympic set the class standard for Titantic and was turned over the day Titantic was launched. Additionally we saw the Nomadic, tender to Olympic and Titantic, in restoration dry dock. It is the only surviving ship in the White Star Line.

Offices of Harland and Wolfe when Titantic was built.
Drawing Rooms #2 at H&W where plans for Titantic were completed.
Titantic Belfast – the new visitor center – notice it looks like a ship’s bow and is as tall as Titantic
Slipway where Titantic launched into Belfast Lough

We went to the house of Thomas Andrews, Naval Architect of Titantic (essentially the project manager). His former home is now the headquarters of the NI national football (soccer) team but the stained glass, main staircase, and plaster work are still in the house. You could see the possible influence of his personal residence on Titantic. He died a hero on Titantic and is well regarded by the folks from Belfast.

Stairway at former home of Thomas Andrews

From here we went to Cathedral Quarter and passed St. Anne’s and had lunch at a modern locally sourced pub. The pub name was literally “Made in Belfast”. Very good. It should be noted that Belfast has five quarters – Titantic, Cathedral, Linen, Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) and Queen’s. Confusing math to say the least.

We rode through the IRA and the Loyalist sections of the city. I actually knew about the Red Hand of Ulster (Loyalists) from reading the history of the McHenrys. We saw many murals and it was interesting to put a visual location to all the things you read in the news over the years. While much calmer now, there continue to be occasional flare ups. Our guide said now this is more like gang activity like we hear about in the States. And around the word. Sad but it is everywhere.

We drove up to Stormant Estate where the NI Parliament meets. And the went to Bell Cave Country Park and Belfast Castle. Both of these were private properties that were not able to be kept up by the owners and were transferred to the NI people. I asked did they fly the flag over parliament when in session. The answer is no since what flag would you fly since the factions are all trying to live in harmony. Interesting that like in Mississippi, the flag is an issue.

Stormant Estate – Home to NI’s Parliment
Windy afternoon

From there we went to Belfast Castle – the estate is a venue for weddings, receptions, etc.

The gardens had a “cat” theme.
Belfast Castle

Tomorrow to Bushmills and Causeway Road to find our cottage, the local grocery, and recover from a day of driving on the wrong side of the road. Things are good.

I find it interesting that regardless of where we are, there are folks with issues. I have been encouraged here by the number of what appear to be active churches. I thought today often about the songs “Revival” and “Days of Elijah” from Robin Marks’ album Revival in Belfast. How I pray that is true and will be true in the hearts of the folks at FBCJ.

More tomorrow.

Still Choosing Joy