Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Titanic and the Irish

When I was in Ireland in 2010, there was a T-shirt for sale in the trinket shops in Belfast that said, "The Titanic: Built by the Irish, but Sunk by the English" or others that said, "Titanic – she was alright when she left us.”

Of course, such joking is only possible 100 years from the event and after all the survivors have died. The relationship of the Irish with the Titanic is more complicated than Brit bashing humor.

There are stories galore.

Addergoole in North Mayo had 14 of its residents on the maiden voyage of the Titanic and 11 of those perished. They started an annual bell ringing ceremony to commemorate that tragic loss of their brethren.

Annie McGowan, only 15 years of age at the time, was one of the few third class passengers to survive. Despite the loss of 11 of her fellow emigrants from Addergoole, and though without funds on arrival in New York, she survived and settled in Chicago. Her story is amazing.

When I was in Belfast in 2010, someone pointed out the tall yellow cranes with the initials "H & W" on them down at the docks. I was told the initials stood for Harland and Wolff. Although they didn't literally hold the Titanic until its launch, as they were constructed subsequently, they are in approximately the same area. I was also told the pair of gantry cranes were known as "Samson and Goliath," names which were derived from the bible, of course, and showed the colorful streak of the Irish. They were were constructed in 1974 and 1969 respectively. The residents of Belfast have grown attached to them and protested their proposed removal in recent times.

Also, in 2010 people were saying some sort of exhibition was already under construction which would serve as a museum to the ill fated ship.

The Titanic Visitor Center was completed in time for the centenary and it appears to be quite something, which you can learn about here.

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