Tag Archives: Belfast

‘Titanic’ launch ticket, May 1911

The Titanic was launched in Belfast, Ireland in  May 1911. This post from the excellent series in the  Irish Times ‘ A History of Ireland in 100 Objects’ contextualizes that event in the Ireland of that time.

‘Titanic’ launch ticket, May 1911.


Filed under Ireland, Irish Heritage, Irish History

Titanic 100: Doctor’s last letter returned to Belfast

In an earlier post I wrote about the efforts of the family of  a ship’s officer to get possession of the letter from their ancestor who perished on the Titanic.

Now a good news story …from the delighted family of Dr John Simpson , a medical officer who also perished on the Titanic. His last letter written to his mother just days before he was lost, has been returned to his family. Bought by a generous and mysterious benefactor, this is indeed a good news story!

RTE News report :

A mystery benefactor has stepped in to ensure a valuable letter written by an officer days before he died on the Titanic will return to his home town.

There were fears that the note Dr John Simpson penned to his mother onboard the doomed liner would be bought by a private collector when it was put up for auction in New York with a $34,000 reserve price.

But after hearing about a campaign by relatives of the ship’s assistant surgeon to bring the letter back to his native Belfast a mystery donor stepped in and bought it for the city just weeks before the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

According to witnesses who survived the 1912 sinking, 37-year-old Dr Simpson stood with fellow officers on the deck of the stricken vessel as it went down.

His great-nephew Dr John Martin said he was happy the letter was coming back to where it belonged.

He said: “I’ve never actually seen the original letter itself as it was last in Belfast in the 1940s before Dr Simpson’s son moved away.

”So for it to be on its way back is just amazing and so appropriate now just ahead of the 100th anniversary of his death. We are so thankful to the benefactor.”

He said the letter had been passed down through several generations until Dr Simpson’s 81-year-old daughter-in-law gave it to a Titanic enthusiast in The Netherlands 15 years ago in the hope it would go on display.

However, what happened to the letter after that remained a mystery to the family and Dr Martin said relatives had always regretted its loss.

They thought it was gone for good until they heard it was to be sold at Philip Weiss Auctions in New York.

But the item failed to reach its reserve price at the sale earlier this month, enabling the benefactor to step in and purchase it for an undisclosed sum.

The letter, dated 11 April 1912 and written on notepaper headed RMS Titanic, was brought ashore at Cobh, Co Cork (then called Queenstown) before the ship set sail for the US.

It was dispatched to his mother Elizabeth who was living in Belfast’s Dublin Road.

In it, the married father-of-one, who was then based in Liverpool, said he was tired but settling into his cabin well.

He had worked on the Titanic’s White Star Line sister ship the Olympic for a year previously and observed to his mother that the accommodation on board his new vessel was larger.

Dr Simpson also complained he had found one of his trunks unlocked and $5 or $6 had been stolen from his pocket book.

The surgeon, who treated second and third-class passengers, signed off: “With fondest love, John.”

It is intended that the letter will go on display in Belfast.

RTE news Item can be seen here.- Some nice scenes!


Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Family History, Irish Heritage, Irish History

Titanic 100:Belfast’s Colossal Tribute

Two huge yellow gantry cranes dominate the Belfast skyline.These imposing structures,known as Samson and Goliath,stand 106 and 96 metres tall and are scheduled as historic monuments under Article 3 of the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. The yellow giants bearing the Harland and Wolff initials,rise above the city in testament to the fact that Belfast was,in the early 20th Century,the largest shipbuilding centre in the world.Employing up to 35,000 people, the Harland & Wolff yard on the River Lagan has been called the ‘Cape Canaveral of its time’,such were the creative feats of engineering carried out here in the construction of iron-hulled boats. Harland & Wolff enjoyed a reputation for having built some of the world’s finest ships,including ocean-going liners,cruisers, aircraft carriers and oil tankers. The list of ships is impressive and includes many well-known names –  Titanic, Caledonia, HMS Belfast,(now a museum and moored on the River Thames in London, England)  and the P&O Lines Canberra.

As the centenary of the launch and loss of the Titanic approaches,Belfast is to celebrate that long tradition of ship building excellence and to commemorate the Titanic with the opening of the Titanic Belfast building at the end of March 2012.

Sister Ships - Olympic and Titanic ( on the right) March 6 1912

Located in the dry dock area next to Samson and Goliath, the Titanic Belfast building is a fabulous and dramatic structure. The building resembles 4 hulls of massive ships set around a glass atrium, each of which is clad with thousands of shimmering aluminium plates,resembling water and ice. From above the structure is reminiscent of the emblem of the White Star Line. The White Star Line and Harland & Wolff had a long-standing commercial arrangement, which resulted in some 70 White Star Line ships coming down the slipway in Belfast. All White Star Line ships had names ending in ‘-ic’ – Titanic, Britannic, Olympic, etc. It is reckoned that the White Star Line may have carried an astonishing 2 million emigrants from Europe to the United States and Canada.

This imposing 10 storey structure will house interactive exhibitions on the Belfast ship building heyday, the construction and luxurious fit-out of the Titanic,her ill-fated maiden voyage, and the discovery of the wreck on the sea bed some 25 years ago.

The dramatic structure of Titanic Belfast

Titanic Belfast is a fitting tribute to some of the most innovative and complex engineering projects ever undertaken –  A world-class visitor attraction, it  will attract tens of thousands to the birthplace of  some of the largest and most luxurious man-made objects ever built.

I can’t wait to see it !




Harland & Wolff


Filed under Ireland, Irish American, Irish Australian, Irish History