Many happy returns, Nomadic
Published 08/09/2007 | 09:33
Titanic's little sister celebrated her first glorious year back in Belfast with a party this week.
Almost 16,000 visitors have crossed the gangplank at Queen's Quay in Belfast to explore SS Nomadic since her doors were flung open at Easter.
Meanwhile, hundreds of volunteers have laboured for months to transform the ship back into the elegant tender that carried first class passengers onto the Titanic on her ill-fated maiden voyage.
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie congratulated the workers on the excellent condition of the 96-year-old ship, which was built at Harland & Wolff.
"Many famous ships were built in Belfast, many much larger than Nomadic, but most of them have gone," she said.
"The goal is to bring about the full restoration of the Nomadic in time for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic in four years' time.
"Nomadic is one of the key artefacts of Belfast's built heritage.
"It will be an attraction to tourists and help us in the important job of the regeneration of Belfast."
Next week will see the launch of a new exhibition focusing on Titanic's sister ship Olympic and many artefacts from the liner have already arrived, including a deck bench, two first class state room beds, windows from the first class promenade deck, china and the original plans for the Arrol Gantry which was used to build both vessels.
Public access to Nomadic will end at Halloween when she will be dry-docked for more extensive renovations at the Hamilton Dock, one of Belfast's oldest docks and the place where Nomadic was originally fitted out.
The dock has been lying derelict for around 20 years and will itself undergo some restoration this winter, according to Nomadic's project director David Scott-Beddard.
At present the dance floor installed when Nomadic was a floating restaurant in Paris can be raised to reveal 80 cinema seats. This winter's restoration plans include fitting these in the cargo hold to create an on-board audio-visual theatre, he said.
The team are also awaiting a quotation of the cost of replacing the flying bridge deck on top of the vessel, and this will also be carried out this winter if enough funds are raised.
Nomadic was saved from the scrapyard by the Department for Social Development at auction in Paris early last year, after her plight was highlighted by the Save Nomadic campaign, Belfast Industrial Heritage and the Belfast Telegraph.