Greater love has no man than this, that man lay down his life for his friends.
~ John 15:13
Our last day in Belfast was a leisurely walk around the main shopping area, Town Hall, and the Titanic Memorial Garden.
Belfast city has two main shopping centers, Castlecourt and Victoria Square. The huge Castlecourt glass fronted building is situated on Royal Avenue, the main shopping area. Victoria Square is the newer of the two shopping centers. It’s easily recognizable by the 35 meter glass dome that covers the public square.
If visiting the city, don’t forget to climb the stairs or take the lift to the view gallery in the atrium of Victoria Square for 360 degree views of the area. We didn’t get a chance to this time round, although we have in the past.
A walk along Donegall Place to City Hall takes us past the White Star Line Masts, eight sculptural lights inspired by the ship building heritage of the city and each named after a ship built by Harland and Wolff:
The masts are 3.5 tons in weight and 16.2 meters tall. They curve backward from the street to the buildings and it takes about 17 tons of re-enforced foundation concrete to support each of them. There is a backlit plate embedded at the base of each mast to tell a brief history of the ship and the copper used is expected to oxidise over time with exposure to the elements.
Plans to build a City Hall began in 1888 when Queen Victoria conferred the title of city on Belfast. It is mostly constructed of Portland stone(the same material used to build Buckingham Palace), with a distinctive copper dome which has oxidised and turned green over time.
The site was once occupied by The Linen Hall, an international Linen exchange and sits on the edge of the Linen quarter. This inspired the name of ‘The Bobbin’ coffee shop inside. At the end of service, each lord mayor has the right to commission their choice of painter and the portrait is then hung on the walls inside City Hall. During The Belfast Blitz of 1941 the dining hall was destroyed. Approximately 1,500 injuries were reported and 900 people lost their lives in one night. Half the homes in the city were destroyed. The dining hall has since been rebuilt.
The grounds and surrounding areas are popular among locals and tourists as a meeting spot and for taking an outdoor lunch in summertime.
Among the many statues and monuments erected on the site are Queen Victoria, Sir Edward Harland, the Titanic Memorial, The Garden of Remembrance and Cenotaph where wreaths are laid on Remembrance Day.
To the east of the building is The Titanic Memorial.
Proposals were made in 1912 to commemorate the deaths of those from Belfast. It was funded by donations from the public, the employees of Harland and Wolff, the family of Thomas Andrews(Chief designer who went down with the ship) gave £365, and White Star Line gave £105. Construction was delayed due to war breaking out and the dedication finally happened in 1920.
The marble statue is of a female figure, thought to be death, holding a black wreath over the head of a man held up by two mermaids.
The inscription on the front of the plinth:
“Erected to the imperishable memory of those gallant Belfastmen whose names are here inscribed and who lost their lives on the 15th April 1912, by the foundering the Belfast-built R.M.S. Titanic, through collision with an iceberg, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.”
Other inscriptions on the plinth:
“Their devotion to duty and heroic conduct, through which the lives of many of those on board were saved, have left a record of calm fortitude and self-sacrifice which will ever remain an inspiring example to succeeding generations.”
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
The names of the twenty-two men from Belfast who died when the Belfast built ship hit an iceberg in 1912, including Thomas Andrews and the nine employees of the ship builders, Harland and Wolff, aboard to identify and fix any issues that occurred during the maiden voyage.
The Memorial Garden was opened earlier this year to mark 100 years since the disaster. The small landscaped area contains the above monument and a nine meter long wall plinth holding five bronze plaques listing the names of all 1,500 men, women and children who died that night. It’s the only monument to list all victims of the disaster. Many previous monuments failed to mention either members of the band or crew.
With that, it was time to leave Belfast.