Down to the sea in world's biggest ships
From the quayside here you can see the seaward side of the Customs House,
the front door for arriving ships.
At the top you can see figures of Neptune with his anchor and dolphin,
Mercury with a sheaf of corn at his feet; Brittania with her trident
and royal shield; and winged figures representing Manufacture, Peace,
Commerce and Industry.
This quayside used to be one of the busiest in the city, where freight
came and went, where thousands of emigrants began their journey to new
lives overseas and to where cattle, pigs and sheep were driven from
the markets in Oxford Street to be carried away to the slaughterhouses
of Great Britain.
It is the site now for one of the city’s iconic pieces of public
art, the big blue fish.
From the quay you can see two of the city’s other icons, the giant
cranes, Samson and Goliath, that tower over the biggest building dock
in the world in Harland & Wolff shipyard.
The yard has shrunk dramatically from its heyday (its workforce had
numbered up to 30,000 in the past) and is now devoted to design and
There are slipways up to the left, and beyond the bridge, as you look
across the river. Nowadays you are most likely to oil and gas drilling
and accommodation rigs anchored there for repairs, refurbishment and
modernising but if you’d been able to look across in 1912 you’d
have been able to see the Titanic being launched from one of those slipways
and undergoing her sea trials in Belfast lough.
Belfast was the natural place to build such an ambitious and headline-grabbing
ship, Harland & Wolff had been building on a grand scale for years
by this time.
In 1899 the Oceanic, the largest ship built anywhere in the 19th century,
slipped into the water and the record books here.
It was overtaken in 1901 when the Celtic, the largest man-made moving
object ever built in the world until then, was launched.
It wasn’t just the ships that set records. In 1918, in one nine-hour
shift, James Moir drove 11,209 red-hot rivets into the plates of a warship
being built in H&W, a record for a working shift that was never
equalled nor surpassed.
On across the footbridge to the area between the Queen's and Queen Elizabeth