Welcome to Brilliant Belfast
Well, it’s been quite some 400 years. Back in 1613, Belfast had a population of just several hundred people living in rough dwellings built on a sandbank. But on April 27 that year it was granted its first charter by James I, marking the birth of what is our capital city today. Now, it is home to almost 300,000 people and is the commercial and political hub of the province. During the past four centuries it has been an eyewitness to industrial revolution, great inventions and wonderful artistic endeavour. Its people have made their mark all across the globe. Of course, there has been conflict and heartbreak, too. But the story of Belfast, as it marks its 400th anniversary this month, is essentially one of celebration and pride for us all. That’s why we’ve produced two terrific Brilliant Belfast supplements, of which this is the first.
Editor: GAIL WALKER Design Editor: HEATHER BYRNE Editorial: LAURENCE WHITE, MATTHEW McCREARY, JANE HARDY, MICHAEL CONAGHAN, STEPHANIE BELL, UNA BRANKIN Pictures: PAUL CARSON Design & Production: ROBERT DOHERTY With thanks to: Belfast 400: People, Place and History by SJ Connolly. Published by Liverpool University Press, £14.95
APRIL 22 2013
DRAMA PACKED WEDDING DAY
Actress Maggie Cronin, known for her writing, plays and for her roles in Oscar-winning short film The Shore and as Kate Maguire in the BBC's popular long running daytime soap Doctors, made sure her wedding day was particularly memorable when she got married on the main stage at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre. While her husband in Doctors was played by Christopher Timothy, the former star of hit TV show All Creatures Great and Small, in real life Maggie wed BBC producer Frank Martin.
HOW WE WALK ON WATER
Belfast’s High Street owes its curved appearance to the fact that it follows the course, and indeed covers over, the River Farset. This was done in the early 1800s when the city was expanding as fast as the burgeoning economy.
A STAGE IN LIFE OF OUR CITY
The Lyric, a landmark on its attractive site in Stranmillis overlooking the Lagan since 1968, was founded by Mary and Pearse O'Malley who were passionate about supporting local actors and writers. That tradition, evident in the collection of production shots in the now revamped theatre, continues. Actors like Ciaran Hinds, Liam Neeson and Adrian Dunbar got early breaks here and now Mr Neeson OBE is the theatre's patron. When the Lyric reopened two years ago, The Crucible was the first big production, featuring Northern Ireland theatrical talent including Paddy O'Kane, Ruairi Conaghan and Roma Tomelty. It has also built a reputation for leftfield Christmas productions.
RISE OF THE BELFAST SINK
A traditional Belfast sink is also known as a butler's sink, and was normally found in the butler's pantry of grand houses from the late 17th century. Each major city at the time had a sanitation officer responsible for the ordering of sinks, basins etc, who decreed their size and style. The Belfast butler sink was different from the London sink as it had what are called Weir overflows to help drain the water better. It’s very fashionable again now.
A CENTRE OF ATTENTION
CastleCourt shopping centre on Royal Avenue is one of the biggest shopping centres in the province. With approximately 16 million visits a year and sale density (ie the money made for a given area of retail space) ranking in the top 10% in the UK, it is one of Belfast’s real retail success stories. When it opened in 1990, fashionistas were thrilled to have a sizeable Debenhams. Now there’s a range of outlets from Gap to jewellery outlets. The centre was built by John Laing on part of the site of the former Grand Central Hotel. Unfortunately, it became an instant target for the Provisional IRA; the centre was bombed five times during its construction, four times after it opened, and suffered a number of incendiary bomb attacks.
WE DID IT BEST...
'Maradona good, Pele better, George Best.' This handy summation neatly encapsulates Best's status as Belfast's greatest ever sporting legend. Born on May 22, 1946, he honed his playing skills on the streets of the Cregagh estate in east Belfast, before being spotted by Manchester United's legendary scout Bob Bishop. He was signed by the club at the tender age of 15, and after an initial bout of homesickness, went on to become the most famous British footballer of his generation. Best was blessed with unique skills, good looks, and an unusual degree of articulateness for a sportsman and earned the nickname ‘the fifth Beatle'. It was true that as time went on Best's life — and relationships with first wife Angie, mother of his son Calum, who divorced him in 1986 and his second wife Alex (they divorced in 2004) — were blighted and cut short by alcoholism, but local affection has not dimmed since his death at the age of 59. While he had a stellar footballing career, there are many who feel
he did not fulfill his real potential due to his hedonistic lifestyle. There is the famous story of a night porter in an upmarket hotel who went into Best’s room to find him lying on bed sipping Champagne and with a wad of notes, winnings from the casino, scattered on the bedclothes. The porter remarked: “Where did it all go wrong, George?" Best's life which ended on November 25 2005 after his transplanted liver failed, has been turned into a TV film, a musical, and perhaps most appropriately of all, a ballet — for no one could slalom through a defence with such grace. But, as he wished, we remember him for his football.
Belfast’s student quarter in south Belfast has had a chequered history in recent years. The socalled Holylands, earning their nickname from the street names (Jerusalem Street, Palestine Street, Damascus Street, Carmel Street and Cairo Street) around Queen's University, are noticeable during term time for al fresco beer and wine parties in the front gardens of the rented properties but also for scenes of disorder during recent St Patrick's Days. However, determined efforts by the two universities, the police and Belfast City Council had a quietening effect this year compared to previous holidays when confrontations with the police took place.
Founded nearly 80 years ago, Belfast Zoo is currently home to over 1,000 animals (like other zoos, they conduct an annual audit, to make sure no marsupials have gone AWOL) ranging from the anteater to Asian (ie small eared) elephants and the Andean goose. The architecture is ornate, and the zoo
THE MULHOLLAND ORGAN
The Ulster Hall's Mulholland Grand Organ is one of the oldest and best examples of a functioning classic English pipe organ. It was donated to the people of Belfast by Andrew Mulholland, a wealthy industrialist and former Lord Mayor of Belfast when the Ulster Hall in Bedford Street officially opened in 1862. Mulholland said his wish was "to give an opportunity to the working classes to hear from time to time the best music from a truly splendid instrument, at such a rate as would enable the humblest artisan to enjoy advantages which even the opulent could rarely purchase until now”. Built by William Hill & Son at a cost of £4,000, the organ is made up of
over 6,000 pipes, with the biggest measuring 32ft and the smallest around half an inch. During World War II the organ was put to good use providing entertainment for troops. In the late 1970s, it was extensively restored to William Hill's original design and Andrew Mullholland's great-greatgrandson, Henry Mulholland, 4th Baron Dunleath oversaw the work. After further restoration, it was reintroduced to an Ulster Hall audience in 2010 during a special concert by city organist Colm Carey.
THE THIN GREEN LINE
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is the successor to the Royal Ulster Constabulary which in turn, was the successor to the Royal Irish Constabulary in Northern Ireland. The RUC was renamed on November 4, 2001, as a result of a 10 year reform plan for policing set up under the Belfast Agreement and overseen by former Tory minister Chris Patten. In recent years, there have been moves to rebalance the police force to better reflect the political and religious make-up of Northern Ireland. More Catholic officers have been recruited but this is still a sensitive issue. Although new recruitment policies led to almost 30% of the force being designated as Catholic, dissident republicans, in particular, have singled out Catholic officers as targets in a bid to reverse the process.
became famous after World War II because of the way one of the zookeepers looked after Sheila the elephant by allowing her to stay overnight at her house on the Antrim Road. Today, children can enjoy special creepy crawly days and the zoo also focuses on ape conservation.
SO, WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The name Belfast was coined in the 17th century and comes from the Irish Béal Feirste, which literally means “mouth of the sandy ford” — the city sits comfortably on the flood plain of the River Lagan. Other names given to the city over time include Linenopolis in the 19th century, referring to the linen industry that underpinned the local economy. It’s also been called the Old Smoke, the Athens of the North because of its civic sophistication (although Edinburgh also claims the title) and even the Hibernian Rio because of the vibrancy linking it to Brazil’s second largest city.
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HOW HITLER BLITZED BELFAST As one of the UK's leading manufacturing cities Belfast wasn’t likely to escape the ravages of the Blitz. And during the night of April 15-16, 1941, German bombers pounded the lightly defended city, with over 900 deaths in one brutal session. It was the highest loss of life recorded by any city outside London on a single night. Accusations of complacency were levelled at the Northern
Ireland government who were said to be more concerned about preserving Lord Carson’s bronze statue than providing air raid shelters. Many victims were laid out in St George's Market for identification. As one of the nurses on duty, Emma Duffy, wrote later: “Hitler had made even death grotesque”.
MILLIES & SPIDES
Now firmly established in the Belfast lexicon, these terms reflect the droll streak which runs through the city’s sense of humour. The former goes back to the days when women worked in the city’s numerous linen mills. Millworker became corrupted to ‘millie‘ but has now lost its once affectionate association to become a derogatory put-down. The male equivalent is ‘spide’, thought to have derived from the so-called ‘tartan’ gangs of the Seventies, whose patterned trousers could have been said to resemble Spiderman costumes.
OUR NUMBER WASREALLYUP...
In 1831, Belfast had 53,000 inhabitants, but by 1901, that figure had risen like a Belfast bap to 349,000. In fact, Ulster’s first city was the fastest growing metropolis in Europe in the late 1800s, expanding more rapidly than London and Paris. This led to the rapid proliferation of the characteristic red brick terraces that spread from the centre to the city’s outer limits from the mid-19th century.
STILL USING THE OLD BAP
This round loaf with its crisp crust is a thing of beauty. The bap’s history dates from the middle of the 19th century when philanthropist and master baker Bernard ‘Barney’ Hughes, who was originally from Armagh, made up and distributed bap consignments to feed the poor of Belfast during the Irish famine (18451849). The bap was a standard loaf at the time and was referred to as the Belfast bap. Nowadays used as a basis for sandwiches, or filled with sausages or a fried egg, it remains very popular and cheap.
IN THE BEGINNING Although the Belfast area was inhabited from the Bronze Age, it only received its Royal Charter and city status from James 1 on April 27, 1613, 400 years ago. At the same time, Belfast gained a mayor and the right to send MPs to Westminster. The original ancient looking document is on display at the City Hall and its stirring Latin proclamation, possibly a canny move by the British to keep Ulster, starts (in English translation): “To all men to whom these presents shall come, greeting, know ye that we, for and in consideration of the manifold great and good services done unto its and our crown, by our well-beloved subject and servant, Arthur Lord Chichester ... have given, granted, released and confirmed ... all that the castle or mansion house of Belfast, with the appurtenances in the county of Antrim...” followed by a list of everything handed over.
Possibly one of the most famous movies set in Belfast, Odd Man Out was censored before its release in 1947. James Mason played IRA leader Johnny McQueen, and the scene where he dies in a Victorian snug in The Crown Liquor Salon is famous, although much of the rest of the movie was shot in England. The opening scene tells us that the story concerns political unrest in a city of Northern Ireland and continues: “It is not concerned with the struggle between the law and an illegal organisation, but only with the conflict in the hearts of the people when they become unexpectedly involved.”
Born: 1973 Who? TV and radio presenter The man behind the mic of ‘the biggest show in the country’ hails from the Ballygomartin Road, was educated at Royal Belfast Academical Institution, and studied French and Business Studies at Queen's University, Belfast. Since 2003, he’s presented The Stephen Nolan Show on Radio Ulster, and more recently the Nolan TV show on BBC NI. One of the few local broadcasters to have made the transition to mainstream presenting, Nolan also presents a phone-in show on Radio 5 Live.
SIR JOHN BETJEMAN & A LAMP-POST THE QUEEN VIC
TAKING A RISE OUT OF US Belfast residents love nicknames, especially mildly irreverent ones. So the large modern sculpture of a silver girl with a hoop that looks across the Lagan towards the Odyssey isn't known by the sculptor's original title, Beacon of Hope, but as Nuala with the Hula. And the large abstract piece situated in Corn-
market, just outside Victoria Square shopping centre, isn't known either by its original title, The Spirit of Belfast, dreamed up by its creator Dan George, but as The Onion Rings. Mind you, at £180,000, they must be the dearest onion rings in the history of fast food.
Belfast is unusually blessed with parks. It has more than 40 green spaces, and Victoria Park in the east has an interesting history. Opened in 1906, park users in the 20th century could enjoy a dip in its 1930s seawater lido. Although often chilly, the facility was nonetheless enjoyable for the children who crammed the edges of the pool. Closed in the late Seventies, the boating lake remains and there is a bird sanctuary, although the feeding of geese is discouraged because of the promixity of Belfast City Airport.
Sir John Betjeman, Poet Laureate from 1972 to 1984, loved Belfast and its architecture, describing it as the finest Victorian city in Europe. In 1976 he made a film for BBC Northern Ireland in which he extolled the virtues of a list of local buildings and landmarks. The great wordsmith described St Malachy’s Church facade in Alfred Street as “cheerful Gothic”, appreciated an “unusual lamp-post” outside St Anne’s Cathedral and compared the intricate interior of the Crown Liquor Saloon to the Arabian nights.
APRIL 22 2013
k c a b s e k i r t s e r Empi
In the mid-Eighties, Belfast was a city sorely in need of a laugh or two. Then in 1987 the Empire bar came along with its distinctive classical features based on its origins as a Victorian church. Whether the congregation would have been party to the kinds of goings-on which light up the place now is highly debatable though. Having quickly established itself as an effective small music venue hosting the likes of Ash and an about to conquer the world Snow Patrol, It became chiefly known for its wild and edgy comedy nights on a Tuesday evening, which brought to our attention the cast of Hole in the Wall gang and Patrick Kielty. Under the current stewardship of hosts Colin Murphy and Jake O'Kane, it threatens to provide many more.
OUR FIRST FIRST CITIZEN
cted was Sir Daniel Dixon, ele Belfast’s first Lord Mayor Mayor in ple sim as run dry a had in 1893, although he’d onet of Ballythe job as the First Bar 1892. He clearly liked again from and 903 1-1 190 from menock, served again shes over Cla . all plain sailing 1905-1906. But it wasn’t ’s political ant rch me ber tim d the labour relations marre flamboyhis and from 1905-7) career (he was a UUP MP of cony wa and ” rals mo x “la ant lifestyle, allegedly make n’t did n h superstitio necting Catholicism wit rma ond sec his l, Stil r. him universally popula desired the ed duc pro nie An to riage Thomas. son and next baronet,
YOU MUST BE JOKING!
Sometimes the situation in Northern Ireland, especially during the Seventies, was considered too black even for black humour, but somehow it found a way. There was often a kind of brutal logic to the jokes, like the classic one about the unfortunate soul who is stopped in a backstreet one night by a masked man. Asked whether he is a Catholic or a Protestant, the quick-thinking victim says: “Neither, I’m a Jew”. His attacker thinks for a minute before replying:“Aye, but are you a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew?” Another version of the joke has the masked man turning to an unseen accomplice and shouting “Abdul, I’ve got one!”. Other examples rely on that old Irish trope, wordplay. The drunken journalist Miller bicycles between atrocities in Colin Bateman's Cycle of Violence as the atrocities mount, so his steed becomes the 'endless cycle of violence’.
A VERY POOR WAY TO END UP
WHAT A PICTURE...NOT One of the glories of Belfast’s City Hall is the gallery of portraits of Lord Mayors from the 17th century to the present, illustrating shifts in artistic style and formality. But there is one gap in the Mayoral beauty parade. The portrait of Sir James Johnston, Lord Mayor of the city from 1917 to 1918, was damaged when Belfast City Hall was struck by a bomb during the German air raids of 1941. Henrietta Rae was the artist, also responsible for a rather romantic account of another Belfast Mayor, Lord Beeforth.
It's a truism to say that little has changed, but the rhetoric surrounding the building of Belfast's first official poor house makes the point. Its opening in 1774 at the other end of Donegall Street from the Assembly Rooms, sounds distinctly contemporary. “To provide for the real helpless objects of distress among the begging poor” and “banish vagrant sturdy beggars” and “compel those who are able to apply to useful industry”. One John Wesley, visiting in 1778 described the poorhouse as “airy, sweet and clean ... and having a beautiful prospect on every side over the whole country”. Whatever the view, it was declared that able-bodied beggars were to be confined in a “black hole”.
THE RIVER OF ... NIGHTMARES
The Blackstaff is the Lagan's ghostly sister river, rising in the bog meadows, flowing alongside the M1, then piped via an urban underground system before joining its sibling at the Albert Bridge. Previously described as “the greatest eyesore in the town”, it recently had its revenge. On August 16, 2008, during a period of heavy rain, the Westlink flooded to a level of 20ft with the water apparently coming from the Blackstaff. It had made its presence felt once again.
THEY LIKE THEIR DROPOFSCOTCH
AIRPORT THAT SAYS IT’S THE (GEORGE) BEST
Liverpool set the trend by naming its airport after a dead superstar, John Lennon, and Belfast followed suit by immortalising its favourite footballing genius. The airport was established by Shorts at Sydenham in 1937. This became Belfast's main civilian airport from 1938 to 1939. The airfield was requisitioned by the Royal Navy during the Second World War
and named HMS Gadwall. Rebranded in 2006, the City Airport handled over 2.7 million passengers in 2010. Flybe arrived at the airport in 1993 and serves a large number of UK regional destinations, and Aer Lingus and British Airways fly to London. The airport shares the east Belfast site with the Bombardier plane making facility.
The distinctive character of Belfast’s residents reflects many influences. Initially there was much settlement from Britain, with “English, Scotch, and some Manksmen” to the fore, but in the early 18th century the population sucked in newcomers from rural areas, despite the culture shock and health implications of a polluted urban landscape. The city's ties to places like Glasgow remain, particularly among local fans of that city’s Old Firm football clubs. As Charles Dickens was to observe about her citizenry, “they seem all Scotch but in a state of transition”. Others noticed the Scottish influence and this resemblance was underlined that the people were mainly speaking an early Ulster-Scots. When Amyas Griffith came to Belfast in 1780 as Surveyor of Excise he noted that “the common people speak broad Scotch”.
WHAT A TRULY TITANIC JOB
The tragedy that overtook Titanic shouldn’t be allowed to completely obscure the achievement and pride that the Harland & Wolff builders took in building the ship. They were using the best materials available, many had craftsmen status, and did a brilliant job on features like the grand staircase with carved oak posts that played a starring role in James Cameron’s movie about the disaster. It wasn't their fault that the metal used to fashion the boat's rivets may have contained too much sulphur or indeed that thousands of them popped when the Titanic hit the iceberg.
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FROM TAX TO TOM JONES: IT’S THE CUSTOM The neo-classical Custom House building in the centre of Belfast is one of Sir Charles Lanyon's finest. The man who created the way the city looks used what's called the High Italian Renaissance, or Palazzo style, complete with carved angels. On the side facing the Lagan there are deities rep-
resenting some of the Victorian gods — Manufacture, Commerce, Industry and Peace. Posing nicely in the centre are Britannia, Neptune and Mercury. It once served as the tax-gathering HQ for Belfast’s port (only London collected more) but today often resonates to the sound of some extremely loud music when
the Belsonic Festival is held in the square it overlooks. So Lanyon's finest building not only rocks architecturally — in recent years, it's also rocked to the likes of Tom Jones and Primal Scream.
ISRAELI LEADER FROM BELFAST
Belfast's Jewish community expanded with the arrival of the escapees from Eastern European pogroms in the late 19th century, but there was a Jewish presence in Ulster as far back as the 17th century. Otto Jaffe became Lord Mayor of Belfast twice, first in 1904, and helped to found a synagogue in Annesley street, off Carlisle Circus. During the Second World War, a refugee camp was set up at Millisle to help those Jewish children who had managed to flee from the Nazis via the Kindertransport. Prominent Jewish figures to emerge from Belfast include Chaim Herzog, the future president of Israel. Jewish people claimed a kinship with Belfast, leading to links with the Unionist cause which endure to this day.
HOW THEY ALL STOOD UNITED
OF BIBLICAL STRENGTH The two yellow cranes, symbols of Harland & Wolff's shipbuilding pride and instant shorthand for Belfast, are respectively 96 and 106 metres tall. Built by the German firm Krupp, they were installed in 1969 and 1974 and used in ship
repair. Named after the Old Testament Biblical figures, they are the city's most identifiable pieces of industrial heritage.
The clue is in the title. The United Irishmen organisation was founded in Belfast in 1791 to challenge the authority of an Ascendancy-dominated government, resistant to the new philosophies outlined by the likes of Thomas Paine in his pamphlet The Rights of Man. A key point to emerge from that first meeting was that “no reform is just which does not include Irishmen of every religious persuausion” and indeed the core energisers of the movement believed both in Catholic emancipation and dissenting Protestants. They first wanted reform via parliament but events in France and America produced a more revolutionary mindset, leading to the 1798 uprising.
EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY
As Belfast evolved, the great and good wanted a record of its prosperity. One of the unluckiest artists was Sir Robert Ponsonby Staples. Although he was asked to capture nothing less than the city's prosperity and magnificence, which he did via industrial images of proud shipbuilding. However, this Protestant baronet with the cranky ideas wasn’t a typical Belfast resident. Popularly known as the “barefoot baronet”, he preferred not to wear shoes when possible, believing that the leather prevented the wearer getting a beneficial surge of the earth's electricity. He'd walk barefoot on the tramlines in Belfast to get an extra boost. In any event, his famous painting The Ideal Cricket Match hangs in the Long Room at Lords.
WE’RE DIVIDED EVEN IN DEATH
Cemeteries sometimes provide an alternative history of a city. In Belfast, cemeteries may mean religious segregation, as Christina Reid notes in her successful 1982 play Tea in A China Cup where mother and daughter are discussing the Ma's final resting place. The mother insists she must be laid to rest in the right part, which shocks her daughter who says she didn’t realise the afterlife was segregated. The city cemetery, opened in August 1, 1869, occupies around 11 acres and 225,153 people are buried there. Although intended as a mixed burial ground, with a clear division, Catholic burials never took place. The first burial was of Annie Collins, aged 3. Designed by Englishman William Gay, it’s in the shape of a bell, possibly a reference to the Bel in Belfast.
HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD
of the lyneux (later a Fellow In 1708 Dr Thomas Mo s most wa and d lan Eng m fast fro Royal Society) visited Bel very “a s wa it nd, writing that taken with what he fou ny new ma d goo a n; tow led ll-peop handsome, thriving, we had his pick in it”. He would have houses and good shops Belfast was as s ium por em h street of the 18th century hig and wool e hid ing goods made of a merchant town, sell ing ort exp and ain Brit m that were imported fro would have tor doc d goo The . linen in return clothes, eat a pie and been able to purchase in White’s for a ter por of t drink a pin nie few pen s.
Although the Troubles of the 1970s and 1980s altered the cityscape so, too, did the Second World War. In fact, one razed piece of Belfast at the corner of Bridge Street and High Street was known as Blitz Square. Historians noticed that the terraced houses which were destroyed by German raids didn't possess basements — probably because they'd been constructed rapidly in Belfast's biggest growth spurt during the late 1800s — and hoped for evidence of a medieval city beneath. They were disappointed. Nothing was found although they made several excavations.This suggests that medieval Belfast was located elsewhere.
APRIL 22 2013
THE DADDY OF US ALL
MUMMY DEAREST Arguably Belfast's oldest citizen, the mummy Takabuti, resides in the Ulster Museum where she has long been the subject of morbid fascination for gaggles of visiting schoolchildren over the years. She died in around 660BC and has been here since 1835, having been secured by one Thomas Greg, of Holywood, from an Egyptian auction where stolen artefacts were sold to Western collectors. It's
If modern Belfast could be said to have had a founding father, it would have to be Sir Arthur Chichester, who inherited the site of the castle and the Lands of Belfast in 1603. A veteran of Elizabethan wars, he was a key player during the Plantation era. As befitted a veteran with expensive tastes and huge debts, he saw Belfast as a money making venture, intending to raise capital via trade. A proper infrastructure in Belfast's harbour would have helped but Sir Arthur decided to leave all that to his other town, called Carrickfergus, where he was eventually to retire. Perhaps the city charter went to the wrong town?
thought she was between 20 and 30 when she died and had been mistress of a great house, according to Edward Hincks, leading Egyptologist and a former Rector of Killyleagh. Expert pathologists in Manchester recently set about reconstructing her face.
LOTTA BOTTLE Of all the memories of a Northern Ireland childhood, perhaps one of the most popular is the phenomenon of the bottle of brown lemonade, courtesy of Cantrell and Cochrane, whose factory in the Castlereagh Road provided this local delicacy. Almost as powerful in the nostalgia department was the TV advert that backed it. ‘Big, big bottle’ was the slogan, intoned by a choir of urchins. And, of course, when you'd finished one, you could bring the empty bottle back to the shop for a sixpence that would set you on your way to another fix.
In the 18th century, Belfast had a mobile population, containing migrants from out of town. As so often, the fixed populace found the newcomers unsettling. They were thought to help spread disease and in 1620 the Corporation forbade anybody from taking in lodgers or subletting their property. In the 1660s, there was an attempt to stop begging in the city. However, in spite of the risk of a fine, many Belfast residents did take in lodgers to make a bit of extra money. And when the Third Belfast Presbyterian congregation conducted a census in 1726, the results revealed the truth. The Hanna family, for example, living south of the High Street, included ma, da, two children and two unrelated women, Elizabeth McClure and Isobel Irvine, who were most likely lodgers.
A HAUNTING ENCOUNTER
THEY LIT UP OUR LIVES
LORD SUGAR ... AND SPICE
Famous for her stint as one of Sir Alan Sugar’s hardhitting sidekicks on TV’s The Apprentice, Margaret Mountford wwnt to Strathearn School in Belfast. The 62year-old studied at Girton College, Cambridge, and was a successful lawyer and businesswoman. After leaving the TV show, she took a doctorate in papyrology (the study of ancient literatures written on papyrus) at the University of London in 2012.
MAY McFETTRIDGE Born: 1990 (first stage appearance) Known for: Kitsch frocks and big wigs
IT’S A VERY MOVING STORY
May embodies many of the good qualities of the Belfast mammy, except she happens to be a man. Actor John Linehan's brilliant invention, a Belfast institution who regularly enlivens panto, came about almost by accident. John's cousin Eamonn Holmes, then on BBC Radio Ulster, asked him to join in a phone-in posing as a middle-aged woman. He duly called in, engaging in some banter in that distinctive accent. The station was flooded with calls for her to become a regular. The rest is performing history and May’s chalked up 20 years in panto at the Grand Opera House, usually dragging hapless souls from the audience onto the stage for a little Belfast banter. While the name could well be that of any real-life Belfast housewife, Linehan actually invented the colourful character’s moniker by combining the first name of his mother-in-law with that of an Antrim hurler, Olcan McFettridge, who happened to have been mentioned in a newspaper he had sitting next to him at the time.
In the days before the health police took over, the distinctive packaging of Gallaher's blue and Gallagher green cigarettes were a common sight, sound and, of course, smell in the city. They were a great smoke and the distinctive factory on York Street, once a major Belfast employer, was founded by Tom Gallaher from Templemoyle, Londonderry. It was to become the largest
tobacco factory in the world in the 1890s. In these days of greater health awareness, this may not seem a source of pride, but many remember it with affection. These ciggies were even gender specific, with Gallaher's green for the ladies, Gallaher's blue for the gents. Later the company expanded and acquired new businesses, including Benson & Hedges in 1955.
Around Halloween, ghost tours take place in likely locales such as the city’s oldest burial place Friar’s Bush Graveyard, just a few yards up from the Ulster Museum. This is a venerable resting place, thought to date from pre-Christian times, and contains mass graves of the victims of the 19th century century cholera epidemic — and a somewhat spooky atmosphere. A few years ago, one tour guide remembers an American woman who approached him and seemed quite concerned after he'd pointed out graves and facts of interest. “Very atmospheric but I didn't realise you used child actors,” she told him. “What do you mean? We don't use any actors,”he replied. “Oh,” she said, “then who was the little girl dressed in rags who appeared when you were talking about the Famine deaths ...?”
WHEN THINGS WENT TO POT
PM William Gladstone (18091898) was a keen supporter of Irish Home Rule and campaigned vigorously on the subject. Naturally, the Belfast loyalists who resisted and resented the idea, wanting to continue their allegiance to the Crown, took it badly. But they had an imaginative way of getting revenge ... in private. An enterprising manufacturer produced a line of chamber pots with an image of the Liberal grandee on the bottom so Royalists could express their disgust whenever they wanted.
NOT ALWAYS MY LAGAN LOVE ...
It bisects Belfast like a long grey-green scarf and is now home to herons, cormorants and the occasional seal finding its way upstream by mistake. But once this managed river, which runs 40 miles from Slieve Croob down to the Irish Sea was the city’s sewer, and on warm days, with the wind in the wrong direction, there was a less than pleasant smell. In 1994 work was completed on the Lagan Weir, which largely eliminated the unsightly mud flats which were a prominent feature of the river at low tide. The river benefits from one major tributary, the Ravernet, plus several minor tributaries like the Blackstaff (from which the publishing house takes its name) and the Carryduff. As well as providing several fishing spots for anglers, the river’s recreational qualities have seen it used by several rowing clubs over the years.
TALK ABOUT PROVINCIAL
Although 19th century Belfast was bristling with new buildings and ideas, it might have struck a visitor from Dublin or London as slightly provincial. One of the town’s residents, merchant’s wife Martha McTier, produced this snooty assessment of her own class in 1784, writing: “You may be for months in what is called our best company without hearing a book named, an opinion stated, or a sentiment introduced, which could give rise to a conversation interesting to anyone above a chambermaid.”
APRIL 22 2013
A DEGREE OF SUCCESS Ranked in the top 200 of universities worldwide, Queen's University was founded by Queen Victoria and opened 160 years ago. There were 343 students and 23 professors when it opened, and the subjects taught were mainly humanities. Originally intended as a non-denominational alternative to Protestant Trinity College, Dublin, its handsome Charles Lanyon facade is one of the engravings used on the Bank of Ireland bank notes. Famous graduates include Seamus
Heaney, TV presenter and former Miss NI Zoe Salmon (a trained lawyer) and former Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross. Other former students who attended, but didn’t finish their studies, include actors Ciaran Hinds, Simon Callow and Liam Neeson, as well as TV presenter Christine Bleakley. The university's research excellence covers many subjects and its scientists have been prominent in recent cancer diagnosis breakthroughs.
MEET OUR PRESS GANG
In the late 1800s, three notable Belfast printing presses achieved prestige and a national reputation — McCaw, Stevenson & Orr, David Allen & Sons and Marcus Ward & Co, who started out as papermakers before becoming lithographers and pioneering the Christmas card. They exhibited round the world, winning awards in Paris in 1867 and 1878. At their peak they employed more than 50 artists and designers at the Royal Ulster Works, and also brought in outside talent like the well-known illustrator Kate Greenaway.
SEX & THE CITY... THE EARLY DAYS
The Victorians were an energetic, curious and sociable lot and nowhere is that more evident than in their passion for founding societies, often connected to some newfangled branch of learning. Belfast saw the creation of more than 100 such groups in the 18th and 19th century, including the Belfast Reading Society (formed in 1788) which morphed into the Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge in 1792 and finally moved to the Linen Hall, eventually becoming the Linen Hall Library.
THE RADICAL THINKERS
Belfast was a centre of radical politics from the 17th century onwards with key players being from the Presbyterian population, which although the predominant denomination, was discriminated against under the penal laws, and also because of the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment.
Sandy Row gets its name from the fact that it used to run along the edge of sand dunes that were at that time on the coast. It remains one of the most staunchly loyalist areas of Belfast. In 1690, on his way south to fight at the Battle of the Boyne, King William III and his troops travelled along Sandy Row. Part of his army supposedly camped on the ground where the Orange Hall now stands. It was opened in June 1910 by Lady Henderson, wife of former Lord Mayor, James Henderson.
PEOPLE IN GLASSHOUSES Designed by Charles Lanyon, the Palm House in Botanic Gardens is one of the earliest examples of a curvilinear cast iron glasshouse. Its construction was initiated by the Belfast Botanical and Horticultural Society in the 1830s. The two wings, which were completed in 1840, were built by Richard Turner of Dublin, who later built the Great
Palm House at Kew Gardens in London. Over the years, the Palm House has acquired a fine reputation for good plant collections and the cool wing houses all year round displays of colour created by geranium, fuchsia, begonia and built displays.
At the start of the 19th century, there were about 59 brothels and 236 prostitutes in Belfast. Paranormal investigator Michael Hirons claims to have made contact with one of the sex workers, called Amelia, who is thought to have picked up most of her clients in the Crown Bar before meeting her end by breaking her neck after falling down the bar stairs.
AN ICON OF SHOPPING Where Zara, Clarks and other high street names now sell 21st century style, one of Belfast's bestknown department stores, Anderson & McAuley, once kept the city well supplied with everything that was fashionable. A five-storey institution, it was founded in 1861 at the junction of Donegall Place and Castle Street, by brothers Robert and Alexander Anderson, who went into partnership with John McAuley. ‘Andy Mac's’, as it was known, expanded to plush purpose-built premises in 1895. Robert was
knighted in 1903 and by 1927 the firm's advertising suggested “all roads lead to Anderson & McAuley, the shopping centre of Ulster”. By the 1930s, its female shop assistants wore little black dresses with white collars. Not until 1953 were any female shop assistants kept on after marriage. In 1979, the store had 374 staff but after ambitious expansion in the 1980s, the store closed in March 1994, partly beaten by competition from national chains.
PYJAMA MAMAS There's a popular look for women of all ages you see in some parts of town. It consists of wearing pyjamas with your jacket or coat on top and either slippers or shoes. Maybe unsurprisingly, it's also a little controversial and in 2007 one local headmaster said he was fed up with mums picking up their children in their PJs, declaring it "slovenly and rude". He sent parents a directive, writing that “While it is not my position to insist on what people wear, or don't, I feel that arriving at the school in pyjamas is disrespectful to the school and a bad example to set to children." He added: "People don't go to see a solicitor, bank manager or doctor dressed in pyjamas, so why do they think it's okay to drop their children off at school dressed like that?"
Ormeau Park is Belfast's oldest municipal park, open to the public since 1871. Originally part of the Donegall estate, it was sold to the Belfast Corporation to pay off the family's spiralling debts. The aristocracy's loss was the people's gain, and the park itself remains roughly the same as when it was first designed by 24-year-old architect Timothy Hevey and launched with a grand parade which marched all the way from Carlisle Circus. Its direct link to the River Lagan was lost when a road was built alongside the park in the 1920's. Ormeau Park hosts theatrical events and remains a firm favourite with local residents, particularly families using the playground and dog owners who like letting Rover off his leash (actually against a municipal byelaw).
APRIL 22 2013
COMING BACK DOWN TO EARTH
WHAT A DEER! “They've taken the statue of the great Irish elk/out of the peat ... an astounding crate full of air” — Seamus Heaney is referring in his poem Bogland to the great beast (Megaloceris giganteus) which once roamed the uncluttered landscape and whose ancient skeleton ended up being displayed in the Malone Road entrance to Queen's University where it provided a sometimes unsettling late night encounter for unwary stragglers from the nearby Botanic Inn or Eglantine Bar who suddenly caught sight of the great deer's mighty antlers glinting in the moonlight. Was it the imagination, too much Guinness ... or were those antlers moving?
Belfast has many impressive pieces of public art on show, quite a few of which have been acquired recently using the public purse. One of the most distinguished must be Dame Elizabeth Frink's Flying Figures (1963) on the side wall of the now defunct Shaftesbury Square branch of the Ulster Bank. It shows a pair of Frink's characteristic large winged figures in mid-flight or descent. They could be angelic humans, images of hope or Icarus types coming to earth. A critic has described this phase of her work as apocalyptic and the 20th century work is now worth a six figure sum.
GLORY DAYS OF THE YARD
Belfast is synonymous with quite a few things, not all positive. Yet the city's industrial heritage is a matter of well deserved pride. And alongside linen production, ropemaking and weaving, shipbuilding is one of the key industries associated with Belfast. This isn't just because of the Titanic which was born, launched and designed in Belfast and as the local gag has it “was all right when it left us”. Shipbuilding began in 1791 and the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard, founded by Edward J Harland and Gustav Wolff, started work in 1862. After the glory days of the early 20th century when Harland and Wolff built the Titanic, as well as other White Star line vessels like the Olympic and the Cedric, there was a shipbuilding boom in World War II when aircraft carriers like HMS Formidable, Eagle and Unicorn were constructed. At its height, the industry employed over 30,000 people.
t during stars didn’t visit Belfas Perhap because some reputaa ned gai e iences hav the Troubles, Belfast aud norm. In fact, the ond bey and ve tion for enthusiasm abo o thought way back to Dickens wh you can trace this all the to be “a bet” ple peo ugh “ro a ugh the Belfast crowd, tho uld ”. Many artists since wo ter audience than Dublin some knowlfor ed par pre be uld agree, though, they sho as musi’re a chatty lot as well, edgeable heckling. We r when he yea last t cos his to out cian Lloyd Cole found e the Black Box and cam split his set into two at crowd the find to l rva inte back after the own conversarather preferred their sic. mu his to tion
Belfast weather has always been dramatic. Annual rainfall here is on average 5% up on the national average. And the recent cold spell wasn't unprecedented. The River Lagan froze over as recently as 2010, though nobody skated across it. Everyone knows that the Belfast rain can be particularly merciless. This is not a town which welcomes soft drizzles.
WHEN BELFAST BECAME BERLIN
As well as acting itself on film, Belfast has been transformed into other cities by imaginative film directors. The grand facade of the City Hall was decked with flags covered with swastikas to become Berlin in Christopher and His Kind, a film that starred Matt Smith as writer Christopher Isherwood, but is better known as the latest Dr Who.
The fine white statue in front of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution in College Square East is popularly, and confusingly, known as the Black Man. The man in question, Dr Henry Cooke, an eminent Victorian who lived from 1788 to 1868, was a clergyman who got involved in politics. But the nickname, strictly speaking, belongs to the previous statue on this spot, depicting the Marquis of Belfast.
BARONESS MAY BLOOD Born: 1938 Known for: Defending workers’ rights
May Blood can be said to embody the spirit of the women of Belfast. Brought up in modest circumstances in the Shankill, she left school at 14 and went to work in one of the city's last linen mills. She was there from 1952-1990 but also became an active trade unionist, ending up a shop steward. May Blood formed a women's committee, fought for equality and ended her working life as a manager at Cairn Martin Wood Products. Proud owner of three honorary degrees, when not in London on the red benches of the House of Lords, May is often to be found at the Lower Shankill community centre. A woman who's never forgotten her roots even while dining with the Queen, she chose as her title Baroness Blood of Shankill.
THE MAN WHO WAS ALL HEART
Somebody whose name inspires gratitude in thousands who didn’t know him is Professor James Francis ‘Frank’ Pantridge, MD, CBE (1916-2004). That’s because he invented the portable defibrillator which has saved numerous lives since the first prototype was installed in an ambulance in 1965. Pantridge was a doctor and cardiologist who trained at Queen’s University. His army experience in World War II gained him a Military Cross for his work during the battle for Singapore. He was captured when the city fell to the Japanese and worked on the Siam-Burma railway. He was eventually rescued by a fellow student from his days at Queen’s. He finished his house doctor job at the Royal Victoria Hospital on his return to Belfast, earning £1 a week, and didn’t start work on his great invention until the Sixties.
APRIL 22 2013
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
In 2011 Belfast City Council decided to go ahead with a much-needed £3m upgrade of the Mary Peters Track in south Belfast. The Council intended to restore the 36-year-old track to full international standard with the obligatory increase from six lanes to eight. Plans for a 400-seater grandstand were included and there were hopes that the upgrade would recreate the heady nights of the Eighties when thousands flocked to the natural amphitheatre to see the biggest sporting names close-up with Seb Coe, Steve Ovett, Ed Moses, Linford Christie, Geoff Capes, Fatima Whit-
bread and Zola Budd, who ran here barefoot ahead of her 1984 Los Angeles Olympic clash with Mary Decker, delighting the crowd. The Mary Peters Track has just reopened after a £3m refurbishment and now boasts an eight lane running track and new spectator stand. Dame Mary Peters commented: "This facility is the best in Europe from today and I'm so glad the City Council financed it. This is a spectacular environment for people to train, whether they are serious athletes or not."
Marking linen with the makers’ name was a legal requirement (and guarantee of quality) in the 18th century. Later, these marks became increasingly decorative and a form of advertising. Mulhollands’ Mill in York Street produced the largest, most iconic seals.
POINTS OF THE COMPASS:
TALK ABOUT A WEST BELFAST BROAD CHURCH
Close to Kelly’s Cellars and CastleCourt shopping centre, Belfast's first Roman Catholic Church, St. Mary's, was built in the aptly titled Chapel Lane in 1784 and illustrates the different religious landscape in the 18th century. In those days, religious buildings were definitely an ecumenical matter and this magnificent Gothic church with its neighbouring grotto (where there’s a massive crib with real star at Christmas) was partly funded by the Presbyterian Church and the Church of Ireland. Inside there are two Italian paintings, ornate frescors and a domed colonnade. Outside, the 1954 Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto features a stained-glass window commemorating the church's role in sheltering evacuees from the 1956 Hungarian uprising.
West Belfast is the predominantly nationalist area of the city, but it does also include the staunchly unionist Shankill. The two areas are divided by the largest peace wall in the city and the landscape is dotted with republican and loyalist murals. The Catholic cathedral, St Peter’s , dominates the skyline and probably the two best-known roads in the city — the Falls and the Shankill — are a must-see tourist destination.
Dubarry’s used to sit beside McHugh’s on Queen’s Square but was razed to the ground when the newer, more popular establishment expanded. Dubarry’s was very popular with some punters and was known in large sections of the Western world as the place to meet superior ladies of the night.
Belfast has more than its fair share of working class heroes,but in the case of one particular sporting figure the line between hero and anti-hero was decidedly blurred. Alex 'Hurricane’ Higgins was born on March 18, 1949, in Abbingdon Street, off Sandy Row, and the fighting qualities associated with the area defined him in both his professional and personal lives. His slight frame led him to train as a jockey, but a diet of fizzy drinks and chocolate meant he had to swap the jockey's cap for the snooker cue, and after turning professional in 1968, he revolutionised the game. He is widely credited with bringing snooker to a much wider audience. It's not hard to see why, with his pop star looks and balletic grace he simply approached the snooker table as if it was a local pool hustle. No shot was beyond him, and pots sometimes defied the laws of physics, with the ball on one memorable occassion rolling along the wooden side of the table above the baize before dropping perfectly into the centre pocket. He was world champion in 1972 and again in 1982, when he memorably brought his then wife Lynn and baby daughter Lauren down from the audi-
THE MERCHANT HOTEL The Merchant Hotel, known locally as “the Merchant”, is housed in a fabulous listed building that used to be a bank. The transition from financial powerhouse to awardwinning five-star hotel has been smooth thanks to owner Bill Wolsey’s innate good taste. As he now owns around 40 bars and the largest hotel portfolio in Northern Ireland, he knows what he’s doing. A blend of Victorian grandeur and Art Deco-inspired modern, the glories of this establishment are its ornate bar, where ornate cocktails are the order of the day, and its restaurant. There’s also a spa and
SUZIE THE CITY CAT
If TS Eliot had visited Belfast in the Twenties, he might well have included Suzie the Belfast cat in his Old Possum’s Book. Immortalised in bronze by Belfast artist Deborah Brown, she reclines on a 7ft pillar in the Donegall Road and was modelled on one of the artist’s friends’ pets. She’s shown in a crouching position — not a cat to be messed with, clearly — and is best viewed from across the road. The sculptor was born in Belfast, studied painting in Dublin and concentrated on sculpture from the Sixties, becoming known as a pioneer of fibreglass. Her work is represented in many collections, including that of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
rooftop gym to work off the indulgent food. You can then visit its boutique and totter off in some Louboutins. Celeb-spotting is a must and the likes of Patrick Kielty, Christine Bleakley and Zoe Salmon can sometimes be seen on a trip home.
STAMP OF APPROVAL
NOT BEYOND OUR KEN Kenneth Branagh is one of the city’s most recognisable sons, having dominated the big and small screen now for more than 30 years. The current generation know him as Wallender — mean, not a little moody and the best of the Scandinavian noir. Previous roles include Henry V and Benedick, producing great verbal jousting with then wife Emma Thompson (they were known as Ken ‘n’ Em, theatre’s golden couple). Of course, he made his name in the Billy plays by Graham Reid, in which he performed alongside veterans like Jimmy Ellis (above). They were broadcast in the BBC’s Play for Today slot and Branagh took the lead in Reid's trilogy about a Protestant
working class family in the Eighties. He’d previously worked in Reid's futuristic drama Easter 2016. Born on December 10, 1960, to working class parents Frances and William, a plumber and joiner, Branagh lived on the Mountcollyer Road in north Belfast. He went to Grove primary school before the family relocated to England when he was nine. Nominated for five Academy Awards and five Golden Globes, he’s won an Emmy and three BAFTAs. He was made a knight in the 2012 birthday honours.
Of all the artists who have painted the Titanic, Belfast man Jim McDonald, a third generation shipyard worker, has the best credentials. He started his apprenticeship at Harland & Wolff at the age of 15 before becoming a fitter, then took his draughtsman's qualifications and gained a job in the diesel drawing offices. He finished his 100 paintings of the Titanic for the centenary year and says he was acutely aware of the silence surrounding Titanic among shipyard men. But he didn't share his colleagues' scruples and decided to paint the vessel. He says: "Most Titanic artists paint the ship sailing out of Belfast or Southampton but I wanted to concentrate on the workers and show the laying of the keel and the ship's launch." Jim showed his massive Titanic painting eight years ago and won a commission from the Royal Mail to produce Titanic stamps in 2008.
APRIL 22 2013
ROSEMARY ... AND TIME
An elegant church with a beautiful interior, the First Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street is largely the creation of the Rev Crombie (minister from 1769 to 1790) who rebuilt it during his ministry. It reopened in 1783, hosts concerts during the Belfast Festival at Queen’s and has its own free lunchtime recitals in the summer. Its present-day congregation under Rev Playfair no doubt appreciate the city centre location, although they may have to reaffirm their faith when passing the nearby Ann Summers outlet.
ence for the trophy presentation. Diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, Higgins spent his latter years living in his home city and cut a distinctive figure in his fedora hat. At his funeral at St Anne’s Cathedral, following his death on July 24, 2010, a tearful Lauren was centrestage again, this time to read a poignant poem to her father which ended: "I will smile whenever I hear your name, and be proud you were my dad." Mourners including snooker greats Jimmy White, Stephen Hendry, Ken Doherty and Willie Thorn listened to the heartfelt tribute to this most difficult but beloved of city characters. Earlier on, White had wept as he helped to carry the coffin. Parts of Belfast were closed off as the funeral cortege — led by a horse-drawn carriage — made its way past thousands of wellwishers. Others present included Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas. Mourners were told how Higgins struggled to cope with the fame and fortune thrust upon him at a young age. Dean of Belfast Houston McKelvey said: "Alex at a very young age encountered two of the greatest temptations possible — fame and fortune.”
OUT OF THIS WORLD
Born: 1948 Known for: Discovering the Undertones
Terri Hooley's career is undergoing a revival. As central to the Belfast music scene as any of Ulster's musicians, he tapped into the nascent late Seventies punk scene via his record label Good Vibrations, an offshoot of his record shop of the same name. The Hooley legend is undimmed, fuelled by famous anecdotes such as the time he burst into tears on hearing The Undertones on the John Peel show, and equally notoriously, when he decked John Lennon over his naive attitude towards the Troubles. These incidents and more have become cinematic history via his recently released biopic called, inevitably, Good Vibrations.
TAKING STEPS TO BE HEARD London’s Speakers’ Corner is in Hyde Park but Belfast’s 19th century equivalent was located on the steps of the Custom House. Orators ranted, harangued, argued and exhorted to their hearts’ delight and the entertainment of the crowd in the square. One regular Frank Ballantyne denounced “ping-pong and other helleries”. But serious political debate went on too and dock labour organiser Jim Larkin, who was partly responsible for the May 1907 cross-community strike which paralysed Belfast, would address crowds of up to 20,000. The dispute was eventually settled with a pay rise for the carters and recognition of the dockers’ union.
BREAD IN BELFAST
One of Belfast's most iconic businesses, the Ormo Bakery on the Ormeau Road, was founded in 1875 by Robert Wilson who had learned his trade from brothers Samuel and John In 1907 it was the first bakery to make soda bread and 20 years later introduced the first automatic breadmaking plant in Ireland. In 1929 it produced the first wrapped bread in Ireland. It was the first bakery in the country to use electric vans, buying an initial batch of 50 in 1935. The Ormeau Road bakery was closed in 2004 by owners British Bakery which transferred production to its Mothers Pride site at Apollo Road. The original bakery was redeveloped into 156 apartments just before the property bubble burst.
Luxe make-up outlets, Space NK is named after the Belfast woman who founded it, Nicky Kinnaird. The chain was started by Nicky in Covent Garden, London, in 1993. In 2007 Space NK opened its first store outside the UK, in the SoHo district of New York City. There is a branch on the city’s Lisburn Road. In addition to Space NK's signature Body, Spa, Man and Woman collections, the retailer carries more than 60 specialist brands. Interestingly, as a child Nicky was a tomboy with little interest in the world of beauty.
The delights of Ormeau Park were introduced to thousands of viewers when it took a starring role in the locally produced BBC children’s programme Big City Park. It featured a mix of humans like May the friendly park keeper, gorgeous puppets (made by the people who make the Muppets) and grey squirrels running around as extras. Produced by Belfast production company Sixte, writer Kieran Doherty (whose credits also include the David Meade Project) included a bit of verse at the end of each episode.
WHERE THERE IS A WILL ...
Presbyterian merchant “Brown” George McCartney left good provision for his widow Jennett in his will when he died in 1722. She was eventually looked after by their third son John, a merchant, and when she moved into his house, an agreement was set up outlining the terms and conditions. Jennett was pretty fortunate as she got “sufficient meat, drink and washing, fire and candle light, tea, coffee and sugar” for her lifetime. She would have her own bedroom and could bring her own furniture, which could be sold after her death, but the silver and gold plate she’d inherited from her husband would revert to John. In the event, he died first.
TALK ABOUT GETTING ONTO HIS SOAPBOX Queen’s student Findhan Strain set the world’s fastest recorded speed in a gravity-powered soapbox in 2008 when he speed tested it on the hill at Stormont Estate in May, during the week before the Red Bull Soapbox race. The vehicle reached a top speed of 45mph on the 550m steep decline. Red Bull soapboxes are limited to gravity power only and have no propelling or driver assist devices of any kind.
THE KING AND JIM
One of Belfast’s best known Elvis impressionists is Jim ‘the King’ Brown (43) from the New Lodge Road.And the King’s memory is also kept alive by the Elvis Spectacular, a tribute show run by 53-year-old Mervyn Boyd from Belfast, which is now in its 15th season touring the province.
BOY RACERS IN TOP GEAR
In 2009, those Top Gear rascals, May, Clarkson and Hammond, performed a madcap stunt when the TV programme came to Belfast. It involved aRenault Twingo which was fired off the docks in Belfast at a departing Stena high-speed ferry. This followed a sequence in which Jeremy Clarkson lost a drag race through the city streets to a white Fiat 500.
REAL LIFE DRAMA
Founded in 1940, The Ulster Group Theatre rapidly became known as the platform for new drama written by local playwrights.Over the next few decades the theatre premiered work from the likes of Louis MacNeice and Brian Friel. This was helped immensely by the fact that they had their own, much loved small theatre in Bedford Street as a base where they could develop their own distinctive style of “intimate, natural, effortless acting”. However, controversy dogged their attempt, led by James Ellis, to stage Sam Thompson's look at sectarianism in Harland and Wolff in Over the Bridge in 1959, with his decision overturned by the board of the theatre unwilling to be perceived as political. The fallout split the organisation; and they never fully recovered.
APRIL 22 2013
THE OLD LADY OF RETAIL
ST PATRICK’S CHURCH
Robinson and Cleaver’s store opened at Castle Place in 1874, before moving to High Street a few years later. Then Young and MacKenzie built their new store at the corner of Donegall Place and Donegall Square North. Originally a linen warehouse, the building had six storeys, a clock tower, ogee copper domes, and a cute flock of Donatello cherubs carved by Harry Helms of Exeter. Also featured were the 50 stone heads of the firm’s supposed patrons, including Queen Victoria, the Emperor and Empress of Germany, Lady Dufferin, and General Washington, plus symbolic references to distant marketplaces. The Victorian building was finished in 1888. “The Old Lady”, as the store was known, remained in business until 1984 when the building became offices housing a range of organisations. R&C was famous for its well stocked beauty counters and its attentive staff. In 1921, the store ran an ad, saying: “We are making a Special Show of our New Season’s Models in all the latest shapes in Fur Coats, Wraps, Stoles and Collars in Skunk, Skunk Oppossum, Beaver, Beaver Coney and Real Moleskin. Animal Ties in White, Black, Grey, and Blue Foxes; also in Mongolian Fox and Blue Wolf. Only the most reliable quality of Furs are stocked.” .
St Patrick's, a handsome big Catholic church in Donegall Street, has an interesting history. The terrier or land survey of 1615 lists church property confiscated at the Reformation naming this church, “St Patrick’s Church of the White Ford”. English Protestant settlers rebuilt it in 1812 renaming it in honour of St George, England's patron saint. Catholics then re-dedicated it to Ireland's patron saint. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Patrick Dorrian on 18 April 1875. Built in the Romanesque style using coloured sandstone, the church boasts a superb painting of a Celtic Virgin Mary by John Lavery. Bishop Dorrian is buried beneath the Sanctuary behind the priest’s chair. The funeral of noted Belfast comic Frank Carson was held here in 2012.
WALLS THAT DIVIDE Since the onset of the Troubles in 1971, loyalist and republican communities throughout Northern Ireland have been divided by Peace Walls, large stone and steel constructions intended to protect neighbourhoods from attack. Of the city's 17 walls, west Belfast's sections are the most visited. It isn’t hard to work out which side of the divide you're on: red, white and blue kerbstones, loyalist
murals and Union Jacks indicate you're on the Shankill. If the kerbs are green, white and gold, the flag is Irish and the murals are republican, you're on the Falls. The best viewing section is on the Shankill side where visitors are encouraged to add their signatures to those of the Dalai Lama and former US President Clinton.
TRIBUTES IN SILVER
In the 18th century, when Belfast’s citizenry wanted to say thank you to somebody for a contribution to their fair city, they said it in silver. In 1756, for example, the weavers of Belfast presented Stewart Banks with a silver bowl worth £20 “in grateful acknowledgement of his extraordinary care of the markets and vigilant and impartial administration”.
A STRANGE FLOCK
A tribute to Belfast’s rich agricultural background, The Sheep Herder with his seven sheep stands proud outside the Waterfront Hall. The popular statue was commissioned by the Cultural Council to mark the location of Belfast Farmer’s Market. It has become a much admired tourist attraction representing the province’s farming heritage outside one of its most iconic m o d e r n buildings.
Known for her ability to capture the Belfast sense of humour, playwright and actress Marie Jones nabbed an Olivier award for her long-running play Stones in his Pockets. Set in a rural town in Co Kerry that's overrun by a Hollywood film crew, the drama challenges notions of celebrity and worth in a two-hander centring on Charlie Conlon and Jake Quinn, both extras in the film. It also produces a great deal of comedy around the Americans' attempt to create real Irishness. There is however a dark side as a teenager attempts to commit suicide via the stones in his pockets after being humiliated by a member of the film crew. Jones' most recent play, Weddins, Weeins and Wakes, a slice of East Belfast life, was selected as one of the Lyric Theatre's four dramas celebrating Belfast 400. Arguably her most famous play, A Night in November deals with a Protestant dole clerk’s struggle with national identity in the Troubles.
MILK OF KINDNESS
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DIDN’T HE DO WELL ...
First established in 1828, the Botanic Gardens have been enjoyed as a public park by the people of Belfast since 1895. There is an extensive rose garden and long herbaceous borders and tree enthusiasts can
seek out the rare oaks planted in the 1880s, including the hornbeamleafed oak. Sir Bruce Forsyth’s greatgrandfather Joseph Forsyth Johnson, who designed a number of UK estates, curated the Botanic Garden.
APRIL 22 2013
NAOMI LONG MP ALBERT CLOCK
Naomi Long (born December 13 1971) is deputy leader of the Alliance Party and she took over the East Belfast seat from First Minister Peter Robinson in 2010 after scandal engulfled the First Minister’s wife. She has stood firm in spite of death threats during the flag protests following the Alliance compromise in December 2012, which brokered a deal whereby the Union Jack would fly only on designated days outside Belfast City Hall. A member of Bloomsfield Presbyterian Church, Naomi is an only child whose father worked in the shipyard while her mother was employed in the rope works. She studied engineering at Queen's, later working in structural engineering consultancy. Only the second woman to serve as Lord Mayor of Belfast (2009-2010) — Grace Bannister OBE was the first — she credits her mother with giving her the attributes to succeed. She is married to Michael Long who works in her office.
DO THEY RING A BELL? Bel’s Boys was a boy band who starred in a children’s television series and members were Graham McKee (lead vocals/bass guitar) as Vince, Luke O'Reilly (lead guitar/vocals) as Leon and Eoin Logan (drums/vocals) as Tay. Their sound was akin to acts like The Monkees and McFly. They formed in early 2006, producing debut album People Let's Go in 2007 and the first part of their TV series soon afterwards. They performed in primary schools and did a main-stage performance at the 21st World Scout Jamboree. This was the height of the band's success and they went their separate ways in 2007. Graham and Luke now own a bike rental company, supplying bicycles to tourists on their holidays to Ireland. The shop is called Bel Chain.
His east Belfast upbringing may have toughened him, but surely nothing could have prepared Brian Keenan (born 1950) for what he would endure for over four years as a hostage in Beirut at the hands of Islamic extremists. Virtually ignored by the British government, his case was kept in the public eye by among others the tireless campaigning of his two sisters Elaine Spence and Brenda Gilham. When he was finally released in August 1990, his press conference revealed a remarkable man, damaged but unbowed, with his sense of humour intact. Educated at Orangefield School, which he left early, and began work as a heating engineer. However, he continued an interest in literature by attending night classes and in 1970 gained a place at the University of Ulster in Coleraine. His account of his kidnapping, An Evil Cradlin, which detailed his friendship with fellow hostage John McCarthy, has become one of the great examples of prison literature.
Sometimes described as Belfast's very own leaning tower of Pisa, the Albert Memorial Clock leans about four feet from the upright. It was finished in 1869, stands 113ft tall and, as landmarks go, it has more than a whiff of notoriety. Prostitutes used to gather round the Clock from the Victorian era until the 1980s and 90s, accosting likely male trade with the phrase “Any
change, mister?” Today, it's surrounded by fashionable apartments and stands next to the Custom House Square which reverberates to the sound of rock music during the Belsonic festival in summer.
© National Museums Northern Ireland Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
CLINTONS' FIRST VISIT US Presidents claiming their Irish birthright has become something of a ritual but Bill Clinton genuinely seemed to know all about the blarney. He and wife Hillary first visited Belfast in 1995, a crucial year in the peace process as it ushered in ceasefires and the first meeting between a member of the IRA and a serving British government minister. Mr Clinton became the first serving US president to come to the city and was given a rapturous welcome.During the day the couple visited communities on both sides of the sectarian divide, and the President lit Belfast's Christmas lights from behind a bulletproof screen. Standing in front of a giant Christmas tree shipped over from Belfast's twin city,
Nashville, Tennessee, he told the assembled thousands that America and Northern Ireland were “partners for security, partners for prosperity, and most important, partners for peace”.
MIKE NESBITT & LYNDA BRYANS
Born: May 11 1957 in East Belfast Known for: The power couple
One of the most visible power couples in Belfast, Mike Nesbitt and Lynda Bryans have moved from being UTV’s top newscasters to media production company owners and, in Mike’s case, into the political arena. Oxbridgeeducated Mike was news anchor at UTV for many years, joining as a presenter and reporter in 1992. He was joined by Lynda in 1996 when she left BBCNI to co-present UTV’s evening news programme, UTV Live. The couple also co-presented weekly religious series Sunday Morning for Anglia Television from 1999 to 2001, and two series of home and garden series Home Sweet Home for UTV. In 2006, Nesbitt left UTV and in 2008 was appointed a Commissioner of Victims and Survivors.. He later resigned the post to become MLA for Strangford and in 2012 was appointed leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. His leadership has been dogged by dissent within theparty with several high profile members leaving, citing personal differences with him.. Lynda is now a freelance broadcaster. The couple have two teenage sons, PJ and Christopher. Mike proposed to Lynda, his second wife, in New York’s Russian Tea Rooms.
AN AGREEMENT AT LAST
The Belfast Agreement, or Good Friday Agreement, was signed by Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Belfast on April 10, 1998, and endorsed by most Northern Ireland political parties, except the DUP. But although they didn’t endorse it, they have thrived under it, overtaking the UUP in terms of power and representation. A copy of the original agreement was later sold in Dublin for £7,700. The Agreement was the culmination of the peace process which had earlier led to the IRA and loyalist paramilitary groups announcing ceasefires. It also paved the wave for the formation ofa power-sharing administration at Stormont and the SDLP and Ulster Unionists were the major parties in the first Assembly set up after the Agreement. But this administration was dogged by political bickering as demands for IRA decommissioning grew. The Assembly eventually fell and the province was in a political vacuum until a new deal was brokered, by which time Sinn Fein and the DUP were the dominant parties.
The famous Belfast Harp Festival of 1792 celebrated among other things the music of Turlough O’Carolan, with performances of tunes like his popular Farewell to Music. However, a contemporary, Donnchadh O’Hamsaigh later complained Turlough’s stuff was “too modern”. The blind harpist was born in Co Leitrim in1690, and is considered to be the nearest thing to a national composer Ireland has produced. He lost his sight as a result of smallpox. He began going around Ireland at the age of 21 playing for the public and composing for patrons, a path he followed for the next 50 years . His influence continues to this day and has been recognised by no less than Van Morrison. He was also the inspiration for the novel, Turlough, by former Beiruit hostage, Brian Keenan
MONEY FOR NEW ROPE
The Belfast Ropeworks Company, founded in 1758 by John McCracken, was famous throughout the industrial world. This was partly because of size — it was the largest and employed 3,600 people into the 20th century — but it was also the best. At the height of operations, the firm in John Street (known as the old Rope Walk and eventually absorbed into Royal Avenue) occupied 34 acres. As Mary Lowry enthused in her book The Story of Belfast and Its Surroundings in 1913 : “Every kind of rope and cord that is possible, from the heaviest cable to the finest twine, is made here. Another most interesting branch of the work is making fishing nets, which have to be made by hand. The firm turns out one hundred tons of rope and twine every week ...”
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ST ANNE’S CATHEDRAL
This beautiful late 19th century Church of Ireland edifice was officially opened by the Countess of Shaftesbury in 1899. It was constructed round the old parish church of St Anne’s, which was then removed, and in theological terms isn’t, strictly speaking, a cathedral because it isn’t the seat of either the Bishop of Connor or of Down, yet it serves both dioceses. It’s also famous for its contemporary shiny spire, put up in 2009 to equal amounts of enthusiasm and disapproval.
HERE COME THE CATHOLICS
On April 2, 1911, every household in Belfast was required to complete a census form which asked the usual questions about occupation, religion, birthplace and number of children. This snapshot of Belfast life showed that a large number of Ulster Catholics moved to Belfast between 1850 to the start of the 20th century. Attracted by the chance of work in the linen mills and elsewhere, the new citizens mainly settled in the north and west. They required places to worship, so unsurprisingly there was an explosion of Catholic church-building. Famous examples include St Patrick’s in Donegall Street, whose foundation stone was laid by Bishop Patrick Dorrian and under whose ministry no fewer than 26 new Catholic churches were built.
ONE OF CITY’S DARKEST DAYS
The start of 1992 saw a spate of one-off killings of Catholics by loyalist paramilitaries but then at 2.20pm on the afternoon of February 5 came a gun attack on the Sean Graham bookmakers’ shop on the nationalist Lower Ormeau Road that left five dead and nine wounded. Two men in balaclavas got out of a car parked on University Avenue, one armed with an AK47 rifle, the other with a pistol. They entered the premises and unleashed 44 shots, killing three Catholic men and two teenagers — Jack Duffin (66), William McManus (54), Christy Doherty (52), Peter Magee (18) and James Kennedy (15). Nine others were wounded, one critically. Teenager James Kennedy survived until he got to hospital, his final words being reportedly: “Tell my mummy that I love her”. The attack was claimed by the UDA, using the cover name UFF, who said it had been carried out in retaliation for the Teebane bombing.
A VERY FINE PORT INDEED
The 1831 Port of Belfast Act confirmed what had been clear since the 17th century — that Belfast’s prosperity as a trading city depended on its port. The Royal Charter of 1613 had allowed for the establishment of a wharf or quay. A large quay was duly built at the meeting of the Farset and Lagan and by 1663 there were 29 vessels in town, totalling 1,100 tons in weight. By the early 18th century Belfast had replaced Carrickfergus as Ulster’s most important port and privately owned wharves started popping up.
OUR GHOST SHIP
l, the mighty Titanic Even before she set sai e gruesome calculation Th s. claimed her first victim uld cost of such a huge ship wo was that the building cost of a at So . nt” 0,000 spe “one death for every £10 n workers ctio stru con st lfa Be ong the £1.5m, the death toll am nt, only eve the t at around 15 souls. In tury as should have worked ou cen the wn e fatality has echoed do uel two men died. But on Sam ng you of t tha ed to the Titanic, ling being the very first link fal r d unde r age of 15 was crushe Scott, who at the tende wever, Samuel Ho . sel ves at gre on the timber while working the tragic un n and his ghost ha ts has not been forgotte book The 's en ldr chi t rce's recen liner in writer Nicola Pie s finally wa ne sto ad he a 2011 Spirit of the Titanic. In ve y unmarked gra at placed on his previousl Maybe now his trouBelfast City Cemetery. d peace. bled spirit can finally fin
A different kind of Clash Belfast became a virtual no-go area for big musicians during the Troubles, so of course it was something of a badge of honour for certain punk bands to make the trip. Among the most infamous were the Clash, scheduled to play the Ulster Hall on October 20, 1977, arriving just in time to be photographed with moody soldiers and street urchins. Unfortunately, the gig itself was called off by an edgy Belfast City Council, leading to one of the few riots of the period not inspired by sectarian tensions. The Clash, in their much diminished final lineup featuring only Joe Strummer and Top-
per Headon from the original band, finally played Belfast in the early Eighties.
LINES ON A FAMOUS BAR
Although it looks as if it’s been in the Cathedral Quarter forever, the John Hewitt is a relative newcomer. It opened its doors in December 1999 and is owned by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre. The charity’s managers previously relied on grants to fund their important work but then somebody came up with the bright idea of going into business on their own account. Some of the staff are getting back into employment via this bar, which is known for its Saturday night traditional music and big writers’ mural in the side room. The late poet and socialist John Hewitt officially opened the Resource Centre on May Day 1983, hence the pub’s name.
Statistically off the graph, one street in Belfast, Thorndyke Street was home to not one but two survivors of the Titanic. William (later Lord ) Pirrie, was born in Quebec in 1847. After his father's death, his mother returned home to Conlig, Co Down. At 15, Pirrie joined Harland & Wolff, working his way up through the company to become chairman. Before boarding the Titanic, he was living at No 49 Thorndyke Street. Also on board was Bristol-born William Murdock, a fireman, married to Catherine and the father of three children, who lived at no 78 Thorndyke Street. He signed on for Titanic's delivery trip to Southampton, then for the main voyage.
Belfast humour is often dark, as in the alternative translation for IRA — I Ran Away. There was also “We’ll never forget you, Jimmy Sands”, a droll reference on a Belfast wall to hunger striker Bobby Sands.
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SIR JOHN LAVERY
If London had society portrait painters like John Singer Sargent, Belfast’s 19th-20th century beau monde were given a rather beautiful account in the portraits of Sir John Lavery (1856-1941). Born in Belfast, he studied art in Glasgow and was asked to paint Queen Victoria’s state visit there in the 1870s. This launched him and he moved to London, becoming friendly with James McNeill Whistler. Appointed an official war artist in the Great War, Lavery’s ill health, plus a car crash during a Zeppelin air raid, prevented him travelling to the Western Front. Although members of British high society, Lavery and his wife Hazel became interested in their Irish roots and were slightly involved in the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War, lending their London home to the Irish negotiators involved in the development of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. After Michael Collins was killed, Lavery painted Michael Collins, Love of Ireland, now in Dublin. He died in 1941 and is buried in Putney Cemetery, south London.
Book now As befits a town with strong literary associations, Belfast was once a haven for bookshops of every size and shape, but now alas, like everywhere else, there has been a cull. Cranes bookshop, which used to operate in Rosemary Street, is somewhere for which there is much nostalgia, not least from novelist Glenn Patterson, who used to work there. Indeed bookshops have been waiting rooms for a fair percentage of the town litterateurs — many readings and launches were held in the Queen's University bookshop, which closed recently after 50 years. In a twist to the norm, No Alibis, one of the few independent bookshops still stand-
ing, has made the leap from from high street vendor to fictional setting via the novels of Colin Bateman.
A key part of the city tour by taxi or tour bus is seeing the murals on the Shankill and Falls, a kind of disturbing yet also magnificent folk art that’s grown up on both sides of the republican/loyalist divide. About 2,000 separate murals (“muriels” to give them the proper Belfast vernacular) have been documented since the Seventies. As peace has been established here, some have been repainted in recent years with pacifist symbols like doves while other murals celebrate footballing legend George Best or mourn the loss of life on Titanic. Still, there’s no denying the raw power of the nowreplaced “You Are Now Entering Loyalist Sandy Row” slogan or the iconic painting (right) of hunger striker and MP, Bobby Sands on the Falls Road.
The black hackney cabs — known locally as black hacks — that ply their trade on the Falls, Shankill and Shore Roads, function as the most individual kind of city tour vehicles, ordinary taxis and also as a kind of impromptu bus service. Theycan legally pick up fares by the side of the road. The black taxi service developed during the darkest days of the Troubles when buses were routinely hijacked and burned. Now they carrying up to six passengers and provide employment for several hundred drivers.
The space opposite St Anne’s Cathedral in Donegall Street pays tribute to some of Belfast’s most famous writers and poets via quotes on the paving stones in the Cathedral Quarter. In a country packed with artists, 27 poets and prose writers made the grade when the Square was established by the Laganside in 1992 in partnership with the Creative Writers’ Network. They include John Hewitt, Louis Macneice, Sam Hanna Bell and Stewart Parker. As the chief executive said at the launch, regeneration means more than “bricks and mortar” and since its opening, the Square has played host to various festival events, marches and the protest of the Occupy Belfast group in 2012.
UNLUCKY FOR SOME
The supposed number on the Titanic's hull, 360604, came to be known as unlucky when a rumour spread after the disaster that viewed in a mirror, and written sloppily, it spelt out the unhelpful message NO POPE. This naturally horrified the Catholic community, but was in fact a piece of mischief probably spread through the pubs near the Belfast docks by mischievious pranksters. The Titanic's actual hull number was, of course, 401.
A LOVELY PIECE OF CHINA
The Chinese community in Belfast repesents the city’s first ethnic minority group. The size of the NI population is disputed, with estimates putting it anywhere between between 3,000 to 8,000 people. Most, however, live in Belfast. The group has been steadily growing since the first Chinese arrivals in the Fifties and early Sixties, when Belfast was perceived by many Chinese as potentially less hostile than other British cities. Catering has of course been the big employer for this ethnic group, bringing an initial whiff of the exotic to the somewhat limited Ulster palate. The first Chinese restaurant in Belfast was The Peacock, which opened in 1962. There is a sense of growing confidence within the community, with figures like Alliance party MLA Anna Lo coming to prominence.
A sure sign Christmas was on its way is the arrival of the Continental Market at the grounds of the City Hall, bringing an exotic array of foodstuffs and other goods to the public at nearly 100 stalls. Stallholders include local producers as well as those from European cities.
Born: 1945 Full Name: George Ivan Morrison Known as: Van the Man
Van Morrison is the nearest thing in Belfast to a secular saint. And that’s in spite of a legendary reputation for grumpiness. Van is our Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Kinks all rolled into one, but with an added magic which has seen him become arguably one of our most influential music exports. Like many icons, his beginnings were relatively humble, growing up the son of a shipyard worker father and a singer mother in an inconspicuous street in what was then a pretty inconspicuous city by world standards. His talent for music shone through at a relatively young age and after years of honing his craft, it was with the band Them that Van began to get noticed internationally. However, it was when he went solo that the unique talent that was in the making began to become truly clear, and his 1968 album Astral Weeks remains a classic to this day. In a country where we often choose our icons based along political lines, only a handful of native stars can truly claim the mantle of ‘hero to all’, and Van the Man has truly earned his place in that list.
FIRST, TAKE SOME ICE ...
There's a Titanic cocktail (and no remarks, please, about it creating a sinking feeling). The ingredients are 1 1/2oz vodka, 1/2oz Martinia Bianco (dry), 1/2oz Galliano and importantly for the maritime touch, 1/2oz blue Curacao. Fill a shaker half full with ice cubes, pour the ingredients into a shaker and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve. Too many, though, and you’ll have a night to remember
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THIS WAS THE AGE OF THE TRAM Few things produce more sighs of wistful nostalgia among the natives than the memory of the trams and trolleybuses that were at the heart of the city's public transport system for much of the 20th century. Initially horse drawn, the trams ran from 1905 to 1954, and from 1938 were gradual-
ly replaced by the trolleybuses which used overhead power lines. Conductors used poles to reconnect the service when the bus had 'jumped the lines' by making too sharp a turn, which happened all too frequently. The trolleybuses were retired in 1968, some apparently resurfacing as mobile homes.
WE CAN STICK OUR OAR IN TOO
One day at the beginning of June each year the Stranmillis area of the city becomes the setting for our version of the annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race. This great Lagan event, featuring rowing teams from Queen's, Oxbridge, Dublin, plus twos and fours from local rowing schools like Campbell, Grosvenor and Methody, is serious in sporting terms but also fun (with refreshments in a tented area at the bottom of the Botanic Gardens). Even boaters are worn. Last year, a Cambridge team lost to Queen's by two lengths to the delight of the home crowd.
THE WELL RED CITY
The distinctive red brick that dominates many of Belfast's streets and buildings has its geological origins in the red laminated clay which found its way into the Lagan valley after the ice age. Such is its ubiquity in the town, it's known as "Belfast brick". The tone was set by Charles Lanyon's impressive frontage for Queen's University, and much of Belfast reflects and echoes that building. It gives the city a russet hue perfectly suited to the sunsets at the start of autumn.
Anybody visiting the city will soon realise one of its distinctive features is the folding stuff. Banknotes are individual, issued by local banks and beautifully designed.Since 1929, specific sterling Northern Ireland banknotes have been issued, regulated by the Currency and Bank Notes Act (1928). Participating banks include the Bank of Ireland, the Belfast Banking Co (1929-1968), the National Bank (1929-1959), the Northern Bank (now the Danske Bank), the Provincial Bank of Ireland (1929-1981), the Allied Irish Bank (1982-1993), the Ulster Bank and the First Trust Bank. Although legal currency, Northern Irish banknotes often aren't accepted in the rest of Great Britain and travellers often have to change their notes before they fly.
ON THE WATERFRONT When the Waterfront Hall opened on January 17, 1997, after years of planning, it was worth the wait. Prince Charles opened the £32m building officially in May of the same year. The opening gala, held in the main auditorium based on the design of the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, featured the Ulster Orchestra, Barry Douglas and Sir James Galway. Many acts have passed under the coppertrimmed dome (it will eventually turn green to match the Victorian dome on the City Hall) including Scissor Sisters,
Born: 1935 Known for: Being Belfast’s first pop star
Ruby Murray was the Belfast girl who became a pop star in the Fifties and was dubbed “the Voice of Ireland” as well as the woman who gave her name to curry in the rhyming slang lexicon. The daughter of a civil servant, Ruby was born in 1935 on the Donegall Road, moved to London in her teens and recorded her first big hit, Heartbeat, in December 1954. The next year, Ruby had a total of five hit singles, including the much loved Softly, Softly. Her time at the top of the charts was brief when rock’n’roll turned up the volume. Her final hit, Goodbye, Jimmy, Goodbye reached no 10 in 1959. But Ruby Murray’s domination of the 1955 hit parade was only matched by Madonna’s hit tally 30 years later. She died in of liver cancer in 1996, aged 61, in Devon.
MIGHTY MOTORWAY Northern Ireland’s M2 motorway, linking Belfast to Antrim and beyond, was at one stage the widest in the UK. The section between junctions 1A and 2 is 10 lanes — five lanes and two full-width shoulders each way — and when it opened in 1973, it set a new record on the size front.
Morrissey and the John Wilson Orchestra, playing light classics as part of last year’s Belfast Festival at Queen's.
HANDSHAKE OF HISTORY
When the Queen came to Belfast as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations on June 27, 2012, a decision was made that she would shake hands with the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. In other parts of the world this could seem a small gesture, but it had seismic importance in Northern Ireland — Mr McGuinness was a former commander of the IRA, which had previously murdered members of Her Majesty’s family, including Lord Mountbatten. The handshake, at the Lyric Theatre, was seen as part of the ongoing peace process.
Eric Bell, the east Belfast-born guitarist with Thin Lizzy started his career with local groups including the last incarnation of Them featuring Van Morrison. Born in 1947, Bell also played with Shades of Blue and The Earth Dwellers before joining an Irish showband named The Dreams. In 1969 he left and at the end of the year, formed a band with Phil Lynott, Eric Wrixon and Brian Downey. It was named Thin Lizzy after Tin Lizzie, a robot cartoon figure in The Dandy. As lead guitarist, Bell played on the band’s first three albums Thin Lizzy, Shades of a Blue Orphanage and Vagabonds of the Western World, as well as their hit single Whiskey in the Jar. He cowrote a number of songs with Lynott and Downey, including The Rocker.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT BELFAST We Need To Talk About Kevin author Lionel Shriver spent 12 years living in south Belfast, first arriving as a reporter for a New York paper. “I arrived in 1987, just after the Enniskillen bombing and stayed until 1999,” she says. “I still think of those years as informative, warm, some of the best of my life.” While in Belfast, she contributed to various media, including the Belfast Telegraph and Radio Ulster’s Talkback. Ms Shriver said she found the local libraries very helpful and so intends when she dies to will libraries her literary remains. Lionel explains: “I saw that a lot of the libraries were skint — so that’s why I’m very happy to give whatever will be left of my modest estate to the Library Board. I always checked out these big stacks of novels and they kept me going.”
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THE WHITE LINEN HALL Built in the 1780s by the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, the White Linen Hall provided offices for the local linen drapers and buyers. But in the early 19th century, the linen men had moved elsewhere and the rooms were rented out for other purposes.
From 1802-1892 it housed the library of the Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge and it
was used on important civic occasions like the grand visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1849. The last great public event it hosted was the Belfast Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1895. The following year it was demolished to make way for the City Hall.
TAKING A RISE OUT OF US
Belfast is definitely the place to lift your eyes unto the hills. It's claimed you can see the glorious outlines of ancient mountains like Cavehill, Divis and Black Mountain from most quarters which makes Belfast almost unique among the cities in Europe.
OUR BAND OF BROTHERS
© National Museums Northern Ireland Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
SHE IS HANDSOME, SHE IS PRETTY ...
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WHAT A DRAG! Featuring a host of flamboyant figures like Titti von Tramp, the scene dates back to the early Seventies and one Harry McAllister. This pioneering star — stage name Mizz Mae — was born 40 years ago in the darkest days of the Troubles. Harry, who was gay and worked as a careworker in a residential home, grew up in an age when homosexuality was illegal. His outlet was drag. In 1971, Harry burst onto the stage at the Royal Avenue Hotel in the city centre in full make-up, wig and spangly dress. Belfast’s first drag queen — all 6ft 1in of her — provided rare cheer in a place that had become a ghost town at night. Nowadays, Belfast drag artists like Titti (right) and Miss Roxy appear at bars like the Kremlin and are an established part of the annual Pride parade.
IT’S A VERY TROPICAL SUBJECT
The Tropical Ravine in Belfast's Botanic Gardens is one of the city's almost hidden treasures. Built by head gardener Charles McKimm in 1889, it features a unique design with an exciting sunken ravine that runs the length of
the building. There's a balcony at each side for viewing. The most popular attraction must be the large pink Dombeya, sometimes known as the tropical hydrangea, which flowers every February.
A symbol of Belfast's growing prosperity in the Victorian era, the Tropical Ravine attracted over 10,000 visitors a day in its heyday.
One of the few remaining pipe bands in the Greater Belfast area, Gilnahirk Pipe Band, was formed by men returning home from the Great War in 1919. On October 6 that year, the committee of Gilnahirk Presbyterian Church considered an application from the newly formed band to use their lecture hall for rehearsals. It was agreed the hall could be used one night per week, through until the month of July, for the princely sum of £2 and 10 shillings. The only recorded condition was that no smoking, spitting or improper conduct be permitted in the hall. The band's founder was Norman F Harper, son of John C Harper, senior elder in the church at that time. The relationship between band and Church has remained strong and older congregation members remember the band leading the Sunday School outings each summer.
HOW NUMBERS ADD UP
By population, it's the 14th largest city in the United Kingdom and second largest on the island of Ireland after Dublin. It's the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly. The city of Belfast has a population of around 290,000 and lies at the heart of the Belfast urban area, which has a population of 579,276. The Larger Urban Zone, which takes in satellite towns, as defined by the European Union, has a total population of 641,638.
A CITY ON THE TOURIST MAP
The National Geographic listed Belfast as one of the top 10 destinations to visit in 2012, Titanic centenary year. The magazine called the city “a treasure...with an incredible atmosphere”. Other locations on the must-see list were Iceland and the volcanoes of Virunga and Oman. Among the top 10 best local activites listed on the website of the influtential Lonely Planet guidebook, founded by Belfast woman Maureen Wheeler (pictured left) , are a visit to see the Falls Road republican murals as well as a trip up Cave Hill where the stunning view “takes in the w h o l e sprawl of the city”.
WORDS TO LIVE BY
The city of Belfast has the Latin motto ‘Pro tanto quid retribuamus’ taken from Psalm 116 verse 12 in the Latin Vulgate Bible. The phrase gets slightly different translations depending on the Bible version you consult. Sometimes you get ‘What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?’ But it’s also been translated as ‘In return for so much, what shall we give back?’ And the Queen’s Students’ Union Rag Week mag PTQ took its name from the first three capitals of Belfast’s motto.
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ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE CITY One of the jewels in the city’s cultural crown, the Ulster Orchestra was founded in 1966 by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Currently led by Hungarian violinist Tamás Kocsis, the
orchestra’s Principal Conductor is American JoAnn Falletta, who follows in the venerable footsteps of Kenneth Montgomery, Vernon Handley and Yan Pascal Tortelier. In 2009,
flautist Sir James Galway became the orchestra’s first Artist Laureate. A regular on BBC Radio 3, the Ulster Orchestra’s home is the Ulster Hall.
A LITTLE PIECE OF HEAVEN
The City Church is an evangelical institution with an excellent reputation for outreach and a great cafe. Situated in University Avenue, the church's beliefs were never better illustrated than in 2009 when over 100 men, women and children from the Roma ethnic group found sanctuary there. Around 20 families from Romania were forced to flee their homes after coming under attack for a number of nights in south Belfast. A crowd is reported to have gathered outside their homes shouting racist slogans, smashing windows and kicking in doors. They initially sought refuge in the City Church in south Belfast and those who wished, gained financial help to return home.
FOR THE GOOD OF OUR HEALTH
If you walk in towards Belfast city centre from the top of the Lisburn Road, one building soon begins to dominate the skyline. The City Hospital was originally founded on the site of an old workhouse, but by 1849 had become the main fever hospital in the city, caring for a population of some 350,00. One of the early head nurses, Miss Ellie Pirie, was a friend of Florence Nightingale, and in 1884, the latter presented the children of the infirmary with a Christmas present. The current hospital was opened in 1986, and contains 15 floors and some 900 beds. Despite losing its A&E department in 2011, it retains a first class reputation for cancer treatment. Its distinctive inverted tower shape has led to the apocryphal rumour that it was built from upside down plans.
NEWS OF A NEW QUEEN
When the Queen (whose historic handshake with former IRA commander turned deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness made global news in 2012) ascended the throne in June 1953, Belfast reaction was predictably mixed. The pro-Royal press reported that ‘The greater part of Belfast lay amazingly still and quiet yesterday morning — no smoke from the factories; hardly any traffic in the streets ... but within a few hours a fete-like atmosphere prevailed, with bonfires lit everything, fancy dress, sporting events.” Nationalist Belfast wasn’t quite so enthusiastic and one newspaper reported on a mass meeting held in the city protesting against ‘the enforced association of any part of Irish national territory with the British Monarchy’.
HOW WE CRACKED THE NORSE CODE Vikings have been the traditional bogeymen in Irish history for many a long year, but the annual Viking boat races at Cutters' Wharf pub, situated on the Lagan's Embankment walk, threaten to rebrand them as charity helping, fun loving types. This year on May 5 will see the 13th annual race in association with the NSPCC. Horned helmets and a taste for pillaging are by no means compulsory, but may add to the sense of occasion.
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Jake Burns — born John Burns on February 21, 1958, in Belfast — is best known as the frontman of Stiff Little Fingers. He started off his career at school with a rock covers band, Highway Star, which consisted of Burns, Gordon Blair, Henry Cluney, and Brian Faloon. Blair left the group to join Rudi, and Ali McMordie joined, about the time the band discovered punk. The name Stiff Little Fingers was taken from the song title on Pure Mania, The Vibrators’ 1997 album. Suspect Device (1977), their first single, was packaged like a dodgy cassette with a bomb on the front. One record company phoned asking for a second copy as they’d chucked the first in a bucket of water fearing it was a real bomb. Radio DJ John Peel played it and they got a distribution deal with Rough Trade. Debut album Inflammable Material entered the UK albums chart as the best new entry on February 21, 1979.
A RATHER SCARY NIGHTATTHEOPERA
One of Belfast’s most ornate and best loved buildings, the Grand Opera House, opened on December 23, 1895 (it was renamed the Palace of Varieties in 1904 but reverted to its original name in 1909) and was constructed in the Italianate Gothic style. During the Troubles, the GOH was frequently the target of terrorist activity, and Daphne Trimble said she remembers attending operas with her husband David, now Lord Trimble, and having to exit the theatre a couple of times during the performance for security reasons. Like the rest of the stoical Belfast audience, they always went back. Many celebrities performed here, including Gracie Fields in 1933. The GOH has in recent years played host to some of the UK’s top productions, including Derek Jacobi’s King Lear for the National Theatre and Matthew Bourne’s radical Sleeping Beauty A Gothic Romance.
APRIL 22 2013
TAKING PRIDE IN THE PLACE
THE (TALL) SHIPPING FORECAST
Belfast Pride was founded in 1990 with the first parade taking place in 1991. It set off from High Street and made its way through the city centre up towards Botanic Gardens, attracting just over 100 participants. Today, the parade attracts 100 times that number, proof that it is a big hit, although not with some religious groups who still continue to protest as it passes by. It’s the largest cross-community or festival parade in Belfast, with over 25,000 participants in 2011.
When the tall ships last came to Belfast in a 40-strong flotilla in August 2009 they attracted an estimated 800,000 visitors over four days. These replica 18th century schooners are set to sail from our our docks again in 2015 when Belfast acts as the starting point for the Tall Ships race.
TERRY BRADLEY Artist Terry Bradley is the chronicler of a particular segment of 20th cenury urban Belfast. Born in 1965, he grew up off the Shankill Road and his highly stylised women of the night and rough dockers are instantly recognisable, sell for tens of thousands, and have been collected by names such as Madonna and Guns’n’Roses. Brilliant at marketing, Bradley has also created iconic carrier bags printed with his pictures for Victoria Square.
DO YOU NOSE THAT...? Cavehill, historically known as Ben Madigan, is a dramatic-looking basalt hill that is 1,200ft high and overlooks the city. Some say that Jonathan Swift got the inspiration for Gulliver’s Travels from its resemblance to a man lying down. Forming part of the southeastern border of the Antrim Plateau, the nose part is also known as Napoleon’s Nose
because it looks a little like the great emperor’s hooter. You can see the most of Belfast from the top plus, on clear days, the Isle of Man and Scotland. Originally the slopes were farmed but from the 1880s the Earl of Shaftesbury started a deciduous tree planting project.
WOOL YOU BELIEVE IT?
A popular urban phenomenon, the Yarn-bombing groups that believe in softening the urban landscape with colourful knitted sculptures have targeted some of Belfast’s best- known buildings. They’ve added colour to the flock of stone sheep outside the Waterfront Hall, garlanded the two female statues in front of the entrance to the Europa Bus Station and decorated some of the No Parking signs in the Ormeau Road.
ANYBODY HERE SEEN KELLY?
One of the most historic bars in the city, Kelly’s Cellars, at Bank Street, was built in 1720 by Belfast merchant Hugh Kelly. Remaining resolutely old-fashioned with its vaulted ceiling and elbow-worn bar, it provides pub food and traditional music sessions. Originally a warehouse for rum, gin and whiskey, the bar was also a meeting place for Henry Joy McCracken and the United Irishmen when they planned the 1798 Rising. The story is that McCracken hid behind the bar when the British soldiers came for him. In 2004 there was a grand relaunch under new management and in 2007 Kelly’s Cellars gained a blue plaque referring to the Ulster Irishmen link.
EVERY LITTLE HELPS
As you head down the aisle with your BOGOF baked beans you might be surprised to learn that the Tesco in Royal Avenue is one of Belfast’s Grade A listed buildings. Formerly an Italianate branch of the Provincial Bank of Ireland (later an Allied Irish Bank branch), the glorious ceiling that witnessed the financial exchanges of Victorian and Edwardian businessmen now stretches above the heads of shoppers looking for a decent bargain. Being Grade A means the external facade and decorate interior can’t be changed, which in terms of saving Belfast’s Victorian heritage is a good thing.
SQUIRRELLING AWAY THE DAYS
A range of children’s books inspired by the city is on display in the Linen Hall Library. Typical of the haul is a nicely illustrated tome, Brainy Bot the South Belfast Squirrel by Lauren Graham and Dave Orchard. This red-haired mammal hangs around Queen’s, observing local kids and eventually makes it to university, with some nice mishaps en route.
Born: 1981 Known for: writing moving, strong drama and fiction Lucy Caldwell may only be in her early 30s but she has a writing CV many older authors would envy. Belfastborn, Lucy is Cambridgeeducated and started off writing plays with her first short outing, The River, winning the PMA Most Promising Playwright Award. Guardian critic Michael Billington wrote about her second play, Leaves: “Caldwell writes with real power about
lost love. I was much moved.” She left the city she’d always considered “boring, introverted” in 1999 but later declared “I do love this city, and I do love these streets, and I am proud to be from here“. Fittingly, her new novel All the Beggars Riding, set partly in Belfast, is this year’s One City One Book title.
WHEN WE TELL IT AS WE SEE IT
The more printable insults include salty expressions like: “Wind your neck in.” (Shut it). “Your head’s a marly” (Marble, ie you’ve a tiny brain) . Also worthy of mention are: You gaunch (you’re a moron); You eejit/blurt (ditto); “Your head’s cut” (You’re bonkers); “Wise a bap” and “Catch yerself on” (Have some sense). “Hallion”, as in “Look at those young hallions fooling about!” means young thugs or troublemakers.
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IT’S HIP TO BE SQUARE
ACLUBFOR THELANDED GENTRY
The facts sum it up. At 800,000ft of retail space costing £400m to build, Victoria Square is the biggest and one of the most expensive property developments in Northern Ireland. It opened on March 6, 2008, with House of Fraser as the anchor tenant. With around 50 stores, plus restaurants, cafes a cinema and apartments and a glass dome visible from many parts of the city. Victoria Square is one of the premier retail centres in the whole of the province.
Built in 1885 at a cost of £12,000 the Reform Club was originally intended by Ulster’s Liberal Party to celebrate William Gladstone’s victory in the 1880 general election. It opened with 300 members. But the Home Rule crisis meant it changed allegiance and was soon dominated by supporters of the Liberal Unionist Party, among them Fred Crawford, who formed a committee to promote the union of Britain and Ireland. The club’s political committee was later to exercise considerable influence on the UUP, but this waned by the late Sixties. The merger of the Ulster Club and the Reform Club in 1982 changed its character again to its present status as a meeting place for the business and professional classes. Women weren’t allowed to join until 1994.
WHAT A SHOW!
Between 1957 and 1972, more than 500 showbands were active in Ireland, working up to five nights a week, plying their trade in dance halls, ballrooms and bars to crowds of up to 1,500. Belfast’s top venues like the Orpheus above the Coop in York Street, the Romanos and the Bellevue played host to The Freshmen from Ballymena, George Jones’ Clubsound, The Clipper Carlton, from Strabane, Dave Glover’s Showband, from Newtownabbey, and The Melody Aces, from Newtownstewart. For the price of a shilling, you got the chance of hearing music that’s been described as “the best covers, rock’n’roll and and a dance, and maybe a date for the night.” Happy, heady days.
A RATHER JAUNDICED VIEW
Belfast has attracted much positive comment over the years, with the occasional salty remark. Marie Anne de Bovet (1855-1935), a novelist and travel writer, observed “the second town of Ireland is Protestant, commercial and wealthy, that is to say profoundly uninteresting". She was a Catholic.
THE SHANKILL BUTCHERS The Shankill Butchers is the name given to a Belfast-based loyalist gang, many of whom were members of the UVF. During the 1970s the gang was notrious for its late-night kidnapping, torture and murder (by throat slashing) of Catholic civilians grabbed from the streets at random. The Shankill Butchers killed at least 30 people, including several Protestants, in sectarian attacks, paramilitary feuds, grudge crimes and bombing raids. The sentencing judge describes their crimes as "a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry". Despite extensive police
resources being devoted to capturing the gang, they escaped until one young Catholic man survived an attempted murder bid and identified members as he was driven along the Shankill Road. In February 1979, many of the gang were jailed for long terms But gang leader Lenny Murphy escaped prosecution for these killings. as there was little direct evidence against him. Murphy was later killed by the IRA in November 1982, probably with help from loyalist paramilitaries who saw him as a threat.
FIRST SEAT OF POWER
PAUL RANKIN Born: October 1, 1959 Known for: celebrity chef/restaurant owner
When Paul Rankin, Belfast’s first celebrity chef, announced this year he was closing his last restaurant Cayenne, it seemed the end of an era. Rankin returned home from Canada with his then wife Jeanne (whom he met while travelling) in the Eighties and opened his first big Belfast restaurant Roscoff in 1989. It was the first of Belfast's restaurants to win a Michelin star. Rankin was as good at TV as he was at creating wonderful dishes and he and his wife starred in Gourmet Ireland, a TV programme shown on both RTE and BBC. He became a Ready, Steady, Cook favourite and expanded his business empire to include cafes. But the economy wasn’t favourable and admitting that money wasn’t his forte, Paul Rankin’s empire crumbled.
In 1871 a substantial Town Hall, the forerunner of the City Hall, was opened in 1871 at the corner of High Street and Market Street. The Town Corporation met there until it was reformed in 1840 and the handsome premises we know today were built in 1871, to a design by Anthony Jackson. at a cost of £16,000. But there was a parapet problem. The people of Belfast complained that the first noparapet design meant it didn't look like a public building —"so great was the agitation that the plans has to be submitted to the Treasury for consideration”. It was later replaced by the existing City Hall. Since 1906, it's been used as among other things, the coroner's court and the Ulster Unionist Party HQ. Badly damaged in an IRA bomb attack in July1985, it's now the city's County Court.
WHAT THE DICKENS DID TROLLOPE THINK? Many great writers have left their impressions of Belfast as a matter of record, be they flattering (Dickens) or unflattering (Keats). But one who came to live here briefly seemingly failed to comment, and there is no record of Belfast having had a major influence on any of his books. Perhaps that is because he came here in the guise of his other profession ...
Anthony Trollope, head of the Northern postal division and author of the famous Barchester Towers series, lived for a time, on the Lisburn Road. As Surveyor for the Post Office of the northern half of Ireland, Trollope spent much time on horseback. But when in town, his office was behind the windows on the first floor of the
newly-built Custom House, a fact registered by a blue plaque. Other temporary residents include a mordant, bespectacled Hull-based librarian, Philip Larkin, sub-librarian at Queen’s from 1950-1955. He had a romantic friendship with Winifred Arnott while working here.
With the clock permanently stuck at five to six, the former Bank of Ireland's glamorous Art Deco premises underwent a transformation in 2012. In January, members of the Occupy Belfast movement, a group protesting against social inequality and wanting to “reclaim the city” gained entrance to the white building with its distinctive green window frames. Despite a public outcry, they remained in situ for 10 months, displaying banners at windows. This ended in October after a squatter apparently threw a radio out of one of the windows, narrowly missing some passing pedestrians, including a mother and child. After the incident the squatters left. They vowed to return, but the old bank still lies empty.
The clearest indication of a new era in Belfast came with the announcement in 2011 that the MTV awards were to be held that year in the Odyssey arena. Thus, on a mild and sunny weekend in November of that year, the city became a mecca for celebrity spotters. Lady GaGa may have collected the most baubles on the night (four) but it was Brian May's gracious recognition of how Belfast had changed in his acceptance speech for that year’s 'global icon' award. that set the tone for the event. The event was said to have generated £22m for the local economy, as well as giving the city worldwide publicity, particularly among young people.
THEARCHITECT OF VICTORIAN BELFAST If anyone could be said to have created red-brick civically proud Belfast, Charles Lanyon is the man. Born in Sussex in 1813, he is chiefly known for his work at Queen's University where the Lanyon building provides surely one of the most impressive frontages of any academic establishment in Europe. Grandeur was Lanyon’s trademark, but he applied his neoclassical skills to less formal constructions like the Glendun Viaduct in the Glens of Antrim.
APRIL 22 2013
THE HOME OF NORN IRON FOOTBALL Windsor Park, in south Belfast, is the base of Linfield football club and also the stage for the international football team. It was built by Scottish architect Archibald Leitchin 1905, when it, for the first of many times, became the venue for those perennial Big Two rivals, Linfield and Glentoran.
It was redeveloped in the 1930s and by the time it became the venue for a nascent Northern Ireland side in the late Fifties it had a capacity of some 60,000 people but this has fallen dramatically in recent years due to safety legislation. In February this year planning permission was granted for a £29m facelift for
the stadium which has become increasingly run down in recent years . When complete the stadium will become an 18,000 all-seated venue making it a more viable site.
STRIKING OUT TOGETHER
Much has been made of the sectarian divisions in Belfast society, but there were times when those differences were transcended. One such occasion was the dock strike of 1907, when both Catholic and Protestant workers fought for union recognition. It helped that the strike was led by the charismatic James Larkin' and although initially unsuccessful, it did provoke a mutiny among the local police unwilling to escort blackleg workers and led eventually to the founding of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union
MARIE STOPES ARRIVES
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ANIMAL MAGIC One story concerning Belfast's magnificent early 20th century zoo off the Antrim Road became so iconic that it was made into an opera that premiered at the 2012 Belfast Festival at Queen’s
with a terrific libretto by the author of Cal, Bernard MacLaverty. The baby elephant, Sheila, was moved out of the zoo over fears for her
CRUMLIN ROAD GAOL & COURTHOUSE Crumlin Road Gaol and Courthouse were designed by visionary Victorian architect Sir Charles Lanyon, who laid down a kind of blueprint for Victorian Belfast, between 1846 and 1850. The buildings are flamboyant, innovative and based on London’s Pentonville prison. using a design known as the radial cellular system. The ‘Crum’ was the first to be built this way in Ireland.The building has four separate wings containing 640 individual cells with small windows. An underground tunnel links the gaol to the courthouse across the road.
The gaol was the scene of a number of break outs by republican prisoners during thevarious terrorist campaigns during the 20th century. Lanyon tendered £16,500 — £500 above the desired estimate, but he was accepted. Shut in 1998 after nearly 150 years’ use, the building passed to a private development. A fire in 2004 damaged the poorly secured Courthouse, just across the road and which is connected by an underground tunnel to the gaol. Another fire in 2009 destroyed much of the Neo-Palladian building which is now owned by a private developer.
safety as e n e m y bombers targeted the city during the Belfast Blitz of 1941. The animal was photographed drinking water from a bucket outside a private home and her saviour, who took her walkabout in north Belfast during the Second World War, was one of the zoo’s first female keepers, Denise Austin. Sheila was a local favourite and would be given treats of stale bread by shopkeepers. Michael Morpurgo wrote An Elephant in the Garden after hearing her story on radio.
Belfast’s Marie Stopes clinic, run by Dawn Purvis, former head of the PUP, is the first clinic to offer women in Northern Ireland legal terminations. Since it opened in the autumn of 2012, it’s been dogged by controversy and protests but according to Ms Purvis, it will provide real choice. This women’s rights campaigner added in a Belfast Telegraph interview: “...we respect a woman's moral and medical prerogative, when faced with a crisis pregnancy, to make her own decision, without judgement, opprobrium or blame. We believe that any society which aspires to be a humane, compassionate democracy should allow her to do this, in consultation with her doctors, and within defined legal parameters”.
GOING FROM BAD TO VERSE
Ciaran Carson is not only a mean traditional musician, professor of literature and director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University and fluent Irish speaker (he was reared in an Irish speaking family), he’s also one of the best writers to have pinned down aspects of Belfast life, including the Troubles. Belfast Confetti is one of his best known poems which deals with the aftermath of an IRA bomb and starts: “Suddenly as the riot squad moved in, it was raining exclamation marks, Nuts, bolts, nails, car-keys. A fount of broken type. And the explosion. Itself - an askerisk on the map...” Carson goes on to refer to the city’s landscape he knows so well - “Balaclava, Raglan, Inkerman, Odessa Street” but notes it’s all utterly changed.
NOUGHTIES HOUSING BOOM
The second boom period in Belfast’s history is post-Troubles. At the start of the Noughties, when peace began to feel routine and investors felt able to put their hands in their pockets, property started to rise in value. In the 1990s, property was worth roughly half the value of property in the expensive south-east of England. But at first gradually, then rapidly, the bust turned to boom and by 2006-2007 Belfast boasted some seriously expensive houses, such as a £3.5m, fourbedroom home in Malone. Bidding wars broke out at all levels of the market and people recall upping the asking price considerably within weeks of putting their property on the market. By 2006-7, the boom had peaked and today houses in parts of Belfast sell at auction for under £30,000.
APRIL 22 2013
THE HAMELY TONGUE
The Ulster-Scots agency (Tha Boord a Ulster Scotch) was set up following the Good Friday agreement to "promote the study, conservation and development of Ulster Scots as a living language". The main office is based in Great Victoria Street in Belfast, but there is also another based in Raphoe, Co Donegal to emphasise the Ulster wide heritage of Ulster Scots, or Ullans. While there can be no denying the historical interconnectedness of the Scots and Northern Irish peoples, trying to promote it as a separate ethnic identity is not without its controversies. Is it merely a dialect rather than a language? For instance Ian Paisley Jnr notoriously decried it as “bad English” and was upbraided by Lord Laird who said: "It's regarded as a language by the EU, the Irish Government, and the British Government, and that's good enough for me".
Belfast man Freddie Gilroy is a living legend in the world of Irish boxing and holds a record which is second to none. Not only is he one of only three men from these shores to hold a Lonsdale Belt, but he was in his day a triple British, European and Commonwealth champion, and in 1956 became the second Irishman ever to claim an Olympic boxing medal. Born in Belfast’s Short Strand area in 1936, Gilroy was just 11 when he joined St John Bosco boxing club in Corporation Street where his glittering career began.
IT’S A GRAND OLD BAR
Popular with local city workers who foregather early on a Friday to debrief after the working week, the Duke of York is a large and attractive hostelry which dates back to 1710 but was rebuilt after being bombed in 1973. It often has traditional music and also caters for whiskey specialists, boasting around150 varieties. Outside, there's always a display of well tended plant pots in the alley between the pub and its sister establishment, The Dark Horse cafe. In this very alley Northern Ireland's biggest rock band Snow Patrol performed one of its earliest gigs in Commercial Court right outside the bar. Gerry Adams used to work behind the bar as a young man, and celeb visitors include James Nesbitt.
THE FINAL EXECUTION
The last man to be hanged in Northern Ireland was Robert McGladdery, convicted of the murder of Pearl Gamble in Newry in Jan 1961. He was executed in December of that year at Crumlin Road Jail. Shortly before his execution he finally admitted he had carried out the killing, having previously protested his innocence. The presiding judge in his case was Lord Justice Curran whose daughter was killed nine years earlier. The cases have been explored in two acclaimed novels by Eoin McNamee, Orchid Blue and The Blue Tango. The man who refused McGladdery's last appeal for clemency was future Northern Ireland Prime Minister Brian Faulkner, who added to the document with what some might term an unseemly rhetorical flourish “Let the law take its course”.
A PARK THAT EARNS ITS BOUQUETS Covering over 128 acres, the park is famous for its roses, its camellias and started life in the mid18th century as part of the Wilmont estate. The park was first owned by the Stewarts, a Scottish farming family. In the mid-1800s, the estate was bought by the Bristow family who built their home, Wilmont House, where the lower car park is now. The Dixons took over the estate in 1919 and during World War II, American troops were
stationed in the grounds of the estate while their officers lived in Wilmont House. Lady Dixon waswellknownforherworkwiththetroopsand was made a Dame of the British Empire. Before she died in 1959, she donated the estate to the city of Belfast in memory of her late husband, a former High Sheriff of Belfast.It was named The Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park later that year.
This street probably owes its name to the Duke of York, son of George III. In June 1815, the foundation stone of the Public Dispensary and Fever Hospital, later to become the Royal Hospital was laid at the connecting Federick Street. York Street, on which was sited Gallaher’s tobacco factory, was an area popular with people of all nationalities at the turn of the 20th Century. At the junction with Ship Street there was a popular refreshment room run by Frank Puleo, an Italian Catholic, with his second wife Hessie, a Presbyterian who came from Co Antrim and his son Francis. And on the other corner of Brougham Street was a pub whose landlord, George A Bennett, was a Scot.
TURNING US ON... PRETTIEST CHURCH IN BELFAST
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Belfast is home to the headquarters of both BBC NI and UTV. Available throughout Northern Ireland and also in the Republic, they both provide television, radio and online content. BBC NI is a public service broadcaster and employs around 700 people. It is based at Broadcasting House in Ormeau Avenue. BBC began operations in Belfast in 1924 from a disused linen warehouse in Linenhall Street, and the current headquarters was officially opened in 1941. BBC NI television began broadcasting in 1953 screening the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and its first local television news broadcasts were in 1957. BBC Radio Ulster made its debut in 1975 followed by Radio Foyle in 1979. The Corporation now provides television, radio and online content with a local focus.
Ulster Television went on air at 4.45pm on October 31, 1959, when noted actor Sir Laurence Olivier presented the opening ceremony. Other programmes that night came from the network including two news bulletins from ITN. At its launch the station employed around 100 people. Colour transmissions began in September 1970 and the company has expanded into multi-media operations in recent years owning radio stations, online services and internet and telephone services.
APRIL 22 2013
A CENTRE OF INDUSTRY
Belfast played a key role in the Industrial Revolution, establishing its place as a global industrial centre until the latter half of the 20th century. Industrialisation and the inward migration it brought made Belfast briefly the biggest city in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century, and the city's industrial and economic success was cited by Ulster Unionist opponents of Home Rule as a reason why Ireland should shun devolution and later on why Ulster, in particular, would fight to resist it.
America has the Marx Brothers, England has Monty Python, and Belfast has The Hole in the Wall Gang. Perhaps it was inevitable at some time that an abnormal situation would produce a humorous reaction, but it took untill the mid-Nineties for the city to produce its first indigenous satirical group. Tying in neatly with the explosion of comedy at the Empire Club at Botanic Avenue in south Belfast, the group's initially sketch-based mate-
PUT THE KETTLE ON!
Tea is something of a national drink (the other being Guinness) and Belfast has been home to several impor-
rial expanded to include the sitcom Give My Head Peace. Key acting and writing members include Tim McGarry, Damon Quinn, Martin Reid and Michael McDowell, all of whom were born in 1964. The women are Olivia Nash, who plays the longsuffering Ma, and Nuala McKeever who played her daughter, a role later taken on by Alexandra Ford. They were originally known as The Hole in the Wall Theatre Company before adopting
their new tag when they moved to television. In 1992, the group won a UK Sony award for Best Radio Comedy for their first radio series A Perforated Ulster. They then won a Royal Television Society Award for Best Regional Programme in 1996, for Two Ceasefires and a Wedding.The success of Give My Head Peace led to a new sketch show in 2006 entitled Dry Your Eyes, two seasons of which aired on BBC One NI.
POINTS OF THE COMPASS:
South Belfast is traditionally the most mixed part of town, both in sectarian and ethnic terms. The Chinese community settled hereabouts in the Sixties and there’s a significant student population during university term time. It is an area where both communities live cheek by jowl and it also contains the most upmarket parts of the city at Malone and Stranmillis. .
tant tea producers. Nambarrie, a tea company based in Belfast and in trade for more than 140 years, is now owned by the famous English tea firm, Twinings.Founded in 1860, the company began in York Street as Pratt and Montgomery but in 1941 its premises in Tomb Street were destroyed during German bomb raids, reportedly leaving only a horse drawn delivery van intact. In April 2008 Twinings closed the Nambarrie plant and production continues in England. Punjana is a family-owned company whose HQ is in Camforth Street and was founded by in 1896 by Robert Samuel Thompson who first began blending tea a decade earlier. The company name was taken from a statue in Comber which referred to the Punjab. It has won numerous awards for its produce.
His father Theodore Thomson Flynn was professor of zoology and dean of the faculty of science at Queen's University and lived on the Stranmillis Road in the early 20th century. Errol was a visitor to the city on a number of occasions.
FROM COMICS TO SPIDERS
Smithfield Market is located at West Street and Winetavern Street in the city centre and contains an intriguing range of shops selling an unusual range of goods and services including comics, camping equipement, electrical goods, collectable model soldiers and exotic pets, including tarantulas. The modern Smithfield replaced the old Victorian market which was destroyed by fire in 1974.
WHEN ULSTER SAID NO
One of the most famous Northern Irish political slogans, Ulster says No was the Rev Ian Paisley’s battlecry in the mid-Eighties. Ulster Says No was the name of a unionist mass protest campaign against the provisions of the Anglo-Irish Agreement which gave the government of the Republic of Ireland an advisory role in Northern Ireland's government. For unionists this was the thin end of a substantial and threatening wedge. They saw it as foreign interference in the internal affairs of the UK. For nationalists, those provisions were seen as a vital in addressing relationships between Ireland and Britain and within the communities here.
FIGHTING FOR THE SISTERS
Martha McTier (1742-1827) was an early feminist, and sister of radical poet and pamphleteer William Drennan. Her husband was the merchant Samuel McTier and when she was widowed, she found herself hard up. During her latter years, Martha observed that women's freedom on the Belfast streets was being compromised by prostitution. There had always been "abandoned females", she observed, but said later that the flooding of the town with troops had increased this social problem so much that ladies could only go out at night "in (sedan) chairs"
A TOWERING DEVELOPMENT
The face of Sky News breakfast show Sunrise and regular This Morning presenter comes from north Belfast and attended Holy Family primary school and St Malachy’s College. Eamonn, who started out on UTV’s Farming Ulster and Good Evening Ulster was one of the first broadcasters to successfully make the leap from Northern Ireland to national broadcaster. As well as 12 years presenting GMTV (where he had an infamous spat with fellow presenter Anthea Turner), Eamonn’s shows have included Songs of Praise, Holiday, How Do They Do That? and the National Lottery quiz show. Holmes is married to TV co-presenter Ruth Langsford with whom he has a 11-year-old son Jack. He also has three children —
Declan, Rebecca and Niall — by his first wife Gabrielle. They split in the mid-Nineties and were divorced in 2007, although Holmes still spends holidays in Belfast with his extended family.
Divis Tower is a 61-metre tall tower that rises near the interface between the Falls Road and Shankill. Designed by architect Frank Robertson for the Northern Ireland Housing Trust, it was built in 1966 as part of the nowdemolished Divis Flats complex. Named after the nearby Divis Mountain, the complex of 850 flats, housed 2,400 residents. The Army used the tower as an observation post during the Troubles, with soldiers occupying the top two floors of the building. At the height of the conflict, the Army was only able to access the post by helicopter. Nine-year-old Patrick Rooney, the first child killed in the Troubles, died in the tower during the riots of August 1969, when the RUC fired a Browning machine gun from its Shorland armoured car into the flats. The RUC claimed it was coming under sniper attack from the tower at the time. Mr Justice Scarman, chairing the inquiry into the incident, said he found the use of the Browning machine gun “wholly unjustifiable”. Following the IRA's statement that it was ending its armed campaign, the Army dismantled the observation post in 2005. In 2009 the top two floors of the tower were reinstated as residential properties and as part of a £1.1m refurbishment programme, eight extra flats were provided.