Posts Tagged Titanic

The Boat Factory

The Boat Factory

Happenstance Theatre Company

Hill Street Theatre, Venue 41

0131 226 0000

For more than a century, East Belfast has been dominated by what writer Dan Gordon calls ‘the Boat Factory’ – the Harland and Wolff shipyard.  In this centenary year of the sinking of one particular product of the Boat Factory, Happenstance Theatre Company have given the writer and actor Dan Gordon the opportunity to tell the world how the heritage and history of the shipyard and how it made him what he is.

After Davy Gordon’s (Dan Gordon) da ‘spoke for him’ he met a whole range of characters on his first day as an indentured apprentice in the Boat Factory, most notably that ‘cheeky wee shite’ Geordie Kilpatrick (Michael Condron).  Wee Geordie had been partly crippled by polio, so he had a bit of a limp.  He was inspired to sail the world once his apprenticeship finished by reading Moby Dick. In the Boat Factory everyone seemed to be either ‘big this’ or ‘wee that’.  There were no in-betweens.

As well as their portrayals of Davy and Geordie, Gordon and Condron carry a outstanding array of complex characters to this impressive production. Dan Gordon brings such an expressive face and eyes to the stage that he often doesn’t even have to speak.

This is a warm, witty, evocative, and often laugh-out-loud hilarious story of the men who built the Titanic and the Canberra. It’s not afraid, though, to look at the darker side of the Yard in the 1920s when Catholic workers were expelled for ‘disloyalty’. Nor does the script avoid the dubious tradition of ‘homers’.

Some of the best lines come from the repartee between the two main characters as they climb scaffolding and look out over the whole yard during their lunch break. The Boat Factory is a remarkable, vivid look back at what has become a forgotten time for most folk in Northern Ireland.

This play is due to go on tour once it finishes its run at the Edinburgh Fringe.  Catch it if you can. It’s superb.

***** Five Stars

David Kerr

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Ships & Quaysides of Ulster – Historic Maritime Photographs

Ships & Quaysides of Ulster – Historic Maritime Photographs
By Robert Anderson and Ian Wilson.

Friar’s Bush Press, Belfast 1990. ISBN 0 946872 32 5

 

Click on image to buy book

DEDICATED to the seafarers of Ulster, past and present, this is a real gem of a book. Although it’s not much larger than an average postcard in size, it contains around a hundred fantastic black and white photographs taken roughly between 1890 – 1940. Each photograph has a title and a brief explanation of the subject matter. There’s also lots of information about Ulster’s maritime heritage and tradition.

 

The excellent introduction explains the importance of the sea to Ulster and gives an overview of the book itself. I liked the way the authors placed our nation’s dependence on the sea in a historical context:

“Ireland is an island on the extreme edge of Europe and sea routes have always connected it with the wider world, whether to bring successive waves of conquerors, to offer a new horizon to emigrants, or simply to handle the permanent needs for import and export.

In whatever century, the great Atlantic tides surge in round the rocky northern coast of Ulster, round the bleak islands of Tory, Innistrahull and Rathlin. Fair Head too, looms dominant today over the seafarer as it has stood over Neolithic man carrying Antrim porcellanite for good axeheads, over Irish monks journeying to sacred Iona, over Viking longships intent on plunder and on down through the generations to the sleek warships and submarines playing cat-and-mouse in twentieth century wars. The coast of Ulster from Carlingford Lough to Donegal Bay is today largely unspoiled and unaltered and a landfall made by a Norse invader bound for ‘Strang fjord’ would have been judged similarly by a Skillen or McClurg of Killyleagh, bringing their schooners into Strangford Lough early in the present century, 1200 years on”.

Each chapter of this book has a small introductory feature, which is then followed by dozens of evocative photographs. For instance, the first chapter is entitled The Major Ports and it looks at Belfast, Larne and Londonderry. There’s a brief overview of these three ports, followed by 15 pages of pictures. All of the pictures are interesting – some are absolutely fascinating. I particularly liked the ones that showed original sailing vessels alongside huge and powerful new steamers. Interestingly, Belfast’s history as a port began in 1637 when a sum of £3000 was paid to Carrickfergus for its maritime rights and customs.

Other chapters include The Minor Ports, The Small Piers, Quays, Wrecks and Events and Ships of Ulster. In The Minor Ports, it’s noted that Carrickfergus has its maritime origins in Norman times. Readers should look out for the brilliant picture of Carrick on page 29. Taken around 1900, Carrickfergus Castle and St Nicholas’ Church (Church of Ireland) dominate the skyline. It’s also interesting to note that the mast of ship appears beyond the harbour wall closest to the shore. Was there an inner harbour at one time?

There are plenty of outstanding photographs throughout the book. Other favourites have to be Naval Visit to Bangor Bay (c 1910) on page 59 – which also shows the Pickie Pool! – that of the Star of Italy on page 74 and one of the Titanic on page 88. For me, there’s something ‘atmospheric’ about these old black and white photographs – a timeless quality that sometimes isn’t evident in colour photos.

I don’t really have any connection to the sea whatsoever, but Ships & Quaysides of Ulster was really captivating. It made me realise that Ulster’s tradition of seafaring is out of all proportion to its size.

Reviewed by John Jenkins

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