Today, the incredible shipbuilding heritage and maritime historic city of Belfast marks the launch of the RMS Titanic. One year later the Titanic would crash en route to New York and claim the lives of 1,500 people.
The firing of the single flare marked the moment, exactly 100 years ago to the minute (12.13am GMT), that the mighty liner touched the water for the first time.
The ceremony marks the moment in history when on the afternoon of 31 May 1911, the Titanic carried with her the pride of Belfast as she eased down her Queen’s Island slipway and into Belfast Lough. Less than a year later, the Titanic sailed into history when she hit an iceberg and sank on her maiden trans-Atlantic voyage, with the loss of 1,500 lives.
Speaking at today’s ceremony, the newly-elected Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile said, “The Titanic story is probably one of the most fascinating, amazing, poignant, thought provoking and absorbing tales from the last century, if not the last millennium."
Among the invited guests were school children from across Northern Ireland who took part in the recent Titanic Schools Project. Also present were representatives from the four other cities and towns directly connected to the Titanic story – Cherbourg, Cobh (formerly Queenstown), Liverpool and Southampton. Descendants of men who worked on the Titanic, including the nine men of the Guarantee Group who lost their lives on board in April 1912 – also attended, alongside dozens of journalists from around the globe.
Mike Smith, CEO of Titanic Quarter Ltd, who are responsible for the regeneration of the Titanic Quarter, said, “It was an honour for Titanic Quarter to host this poignant service on the Queen’s Island slipway from which the world famous liner was launched, marking one of the most significant and proud moments in Belfast’s history.”
Smith added, “Taking centre stage is the Titanic Belfast visitor facility, a truly iconic building which is expected to attract up to 400,000 visitors per year...ensuring the memory of Titanic and all those connected to her will live on in the heart of the city which designed and built her.”
Earlier in the day, a major new exhibition on Titanic opened at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. ‘TITANICa’ tells the story of the mighty ship and her world through more than 500 original artifacts, some of which have never been seen before. Visitors can learn about life onboard the vessel through fascinating objects and personal stories that explore the tragic loss of the Titanic in 1912.