Belfast Telegraph

In April 1912 one little girl saw Titanic sail from Belfast...now she has looked back at the event on her 106th birthday

BY NOEL MCADAM

A woman who watched the Titanic leave Belfast yesterday returned to the slipways where the ship was launched – to celebrate her 106th birthday.

Mary Millar was sitting on the front door step of her home at Ballywhisken, near Millisle, when she saw the ill-fated liner sail up Belfast Lough during sea trials before its maiden voyage in April 1912. She was just four-years-old at the time.

But yesterday the lady who left home at the age of 12 to work as an assistant nurse maid was guest of honour at a special event in the Titanic building.

She retains vivid memories of the sight of the world's most famous sea vessel, which sank on its maiden voyage. Mary recalled: "It was very exciting because it was unsinkable, people were interested in it."

She even remembered asking her mother why only three of the funnels had smoke coming out of them – and described the sinking and loss of life from the ship on its maiden voyage as "a terrible tragedy".

She married her late husband James in 1936 (he worked in the Harland & Wolff shipyard for 40 years) and moved to Belmont Avenue and the house she still lives in today.

Friends and family joined Mary in Titanic Belfast for the special party and 'the birthday girl' admitted it was a surprise.

"I wasn't expecting all this, they didn't tell me. Wait 'til I get them home," she said.

Yet the centenarian also has a connection with another Belfast icon, C S Lewis. One of the the houses she worked in over the years was Little Lea in Belfast.

While she was not working there at the time the renowned author was growing up, she has a picture of the house on her wall in her own home.

Titanic chief executive Tim Husbands said: "It was a great privilege, obviously, to share her personal birthday with her at 106-years-old but to have somebody that's so closely associated with the Titanic, emphasises the authenticity of the site we have here.

"To have somebody that remembers the sea trials that can talk about her experiences, it really helps to put the project in context," he explained.

"She's as sharp as a tack and her stories are very enticing, she was obviously very excited to see the Titanic during the sea trials and to be able to translate that into words at any age is a feat but at 106, it's a great testament to her."

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