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16 October 2014
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Point four: Donegall quay
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The big blue fish at Donegall Quay

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.

Listen to an audio guide to this section of the walk

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 repair.

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 bridges.


  The Walk

Map of Belfast Belfast City Hall Cornmarket
intro part 1 part 2

St Georges
Donegal Quay
Queen's Bridge
PART 3 part 4 part 5

Customs House
Four Corners
Writer's Square
part 6 part 7 part 8



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