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Don't tear down Belfast Boyne Bridge my grandad helped rebuild, Translink urged

By Rebecca Black

Published 17/11/2016

Brian Hancock by the Boyne Bridge plaque recording his grandfather's part in project
Brian Hancock by the Boyne Bridge plaque recording his grandfather's part in project

A man whose grandfather is honoured on the under-threat Boyne Bridge in Belfast has pleaded with Translink not to dismantle the landmark.

The bridge is set to be rebuilt under plans to create a major transport hub a short distance from Great Victoria Street Railway Station.

Translink says the hub has been designed to accommodate public transport growth, pointing out that Europa Bus Centre and the Great Victoria Street station currently see an annual footfall of eight million - one of the highest in Northern Ireland - and it is aiming to grow it to 13m by 2040.

Translink also says it will regenerate the area and form the nucleus of a new "station quarter" in the city.

But Brian Hancock (80) has urged it not to sacrifice heritage for the sake of progress.

He appealed to Translink to protect the bridge and its plaque, which records that his grandfather George Ruddell Black helped secure the reconstruction of the span in 1936.

He was Deputy Lord Mayor at the time.

The then Lord Mayor Crawford McCullagh's name also appears on the plaque as the official who opened it.

Mr Black died in 1942 - just a few months after he was elected Lord Mayor of Belfast at the age of 77.

He had worked as a clothing manufacturer and was elected as an Ulster Unionist Party member of the then Belfast Corporation.

Mr Hancock, a former manager at T Hunters & Sons chemicals warehouse on Boyne Square, said he was very distressed by plans to demolish the Boyne Bridge.

"My grandfather was responsible for widening the bridge back in 1936, and his name has been on a plaque on it ever since," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "When I heard about the plans to get rid of the bridge, I found it very upsetting.

"I would say I couldn't believe it - the way things are these days I could believe anything.

"But I want to speak out now to protect our history."

There are also a number of local residents who are concerned at the plans for a new bridge. Last week the Belfast Telegraph revealed their plans to set up a protest group to oppose the plans.

The Boyne Bridge is believed to date back to the 1600s.

A Translink spokeswoman told the Belfast Telegraph that it was mindful of preserving local heritage and planned to commission archaeologists to examine the site of the bridge to search for artefacts.

She indicated that the plaque, which would be professionally cleaned - and any artefacts which were found - will be featured in a local history section of the new transport hub to ensure it preserves the past and makes the most of the historic location where it will be sited. The old Boyne Bridge was opened in 1863, replacing the old Durham Street level crossing over the railway into Great Victoria Street station.

However, the original bridge on the site dated back to 1642 and consisted of three arches. It was known as the Great Bridge of Belfast.

It is believed to have formed part of William of Orange's route from his landing at Carrickfergus to the Boyne for the famous battle of 1690.

Translink is carrying out a public consultation on its plans for the site, which is located on a section of land bounded by the Grosvenor Road, Durham Street and Sandy Row.

Some rail lines will be redirected into the new station and extensive work at Durham Street will include a new bridge.

Translink will be holding a public consultation session about its plans at the Europa Bus Centre today, where representatives of the hub project team will be in attendance to answer any questions and gather feedback between 8am and 10.30am, and from 12.30pm to 2.30pm.

A display will be on show at the bus centre until November 25.

This consultation phase will remain open until Friday, December 2.

Further consultation will take place next year before a planning application is submitted.

More information can be found on the Belfast Hub click www.translink.co.uk/thehub/

Belfast Telegraph

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