Built on a ford and a prayer
Outside St George's church in High Street we are at the very beginning
of Belfast, the spot where settlement began and which gave the city
There has been a church here for more than 1,000 years, initially
so that travellers could give thanks for, or pray to have, a safe crossing
of Beal Feirste, the sandy ford at the mouth of the Farset river. Belfast
is the anglicisation of Beal Feirste.
Among the early references to the ford is of a battle between Ulidians
and Picts in 667 and a Papal Taxation Roll of 1306 refers to 'the chapel
of the Ford'.
St George’s was the first Anglican parish church for Belfast and
the present church was opened on the site in 1816.
During the Commonwealth, Oliver Cromwell’s troops were stationed
here and Henry Joy McCracken was buried here before being later disinterred
and reburied in Clifton Street cemetery.
In the 17th century, Protestant settlers from Scotland, England, and
some from the Isle of Man, were moved in and a town began to grow.
Before long the banks of the Farset became the first quaysides of a
What was the Farset river is now High Street (a tunnel big enough to
take a bus now carries the Farset under High Street) but echoes of how
that ford developed into a major trading port are still there.
Across High Street, the first street on the left as you look across
from St George’s is Skipper Street, so named because that’s
where the ships’ captains lodged while their ships unloaded and
loaded on what is now High Street.
The names of some of the pubs in the area also reflect that sea-faring
heritage, the Crow’s Nest in Skipper Street, The Morning Star
in Pottinger’s Entry, and the Mermaid Inn, Wilson’s Court,
Directly opposite St George’s, is Transport House, built for the
Transport and General Workers’ Union and the youngest listed building
in Northern Ireland.
The huge mural depicts shipbuilding, engineering and aircraft manufacture,
the biggest industries in the city in the 1960s.
Here we can also see the Albert Clock, erected by the city corporation
as a memorial to Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.
The tower is 35 metres (113 feet) high and built of sandstone. The clock
was built on wooden piles on reclaimed land in 1865 and soon developed
a list 1.25 metres (4 feet) off the vertical. The clock was recently
stabilised but could not be returned to the vertical.
a poem about the Albert Clock
Donegall Quay and rivetting tales of record-breaking men and mighty