By Corey Sandler
Belfast, with a population of about 600,000 in the metropolitan area, was a center of the Irish linen, tobacco processing, ropemaking, and shipbuilding industries, a major player in the Industrial Revolution.
After a painful decline in the second half of the 20th century, it has seen a bit of recovery in aerospace and military industry.
Today, Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, which—like it or not for some residents—is part of the United Kingdom.
The main yard, Harland and Wolff, built a ship you may have heard of: the RMS Titanic. The Wolff shipyard is now the location of the world’s largest dry dock, where the giant cranes Samson and Goliath stand out against Belfast’s skyline. Most of its work now involves support for offshore wind and oil platforms.
But in the early 20th century, this was the biggest and most productive shipyard in the world, and Belfast was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution. Harland and Wolff became one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, employing as many as 35,000 workers.
Almost forgotten—except amongst locals—is the fact Belfast was heavily bombed by Germany during World War II. In one raid, on the night of Easter Tuesday, April 15, 1941, two hundred Luftwafe bombers attacked and about one thousand people were killed and tens of thousands left homeless.
Apart from London, this was the greatest loss of life in a night raid during the Blitz. It had been thought that Belfast was out of reach of German planes, but once France fell, the Luftwaffe was able to fly from there.
The primary targets were the textile works which manufactured uniforms and other equipment, munitions factories, and the shipyards.
Today the shipyard no longer builds titanic ships and the linen factories are almost all gone. The flashiest modern attraction is Titanic Belfast, which opened in 2012 to coincide with the centenary of the incomplete maiden voyage of the luxury liner Titanic.
The angular design was intended to evoke the image of ship. It stands 126 feet (38 meters) high, the same height as Titanic’s hull.
Locals have already applied their own nickname: The Iceberg.
The museum tells the stories of the ill-fated RMS Titanic and her sister ships RMS Olympic and HMS Britannic.
And all around the handsome city of Belfast you can see some of the wealth that the shipyard and factories brought to the city.
All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com
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