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One Titanic day out as teenager discovers the secret of his past

By Claire Williamson

A visit to Titanic Belfast is an unrivalled window into the past - but for one 13-year-old from England it was a glimpse of his own heritage.

William Harland's great, great, great, great uncle, Edward Harland, was one of the main men behind Belfast's strong industrial heritage and William arrived in the city to see the yellow Harland and Wolff cranes standing tall, proud and iconic.

Edward was the owner of the Harland and Wolff shipyard which would go on to build the RMS Titanic - although Edward had passed away many years before the ship was built.

Teenager William visited the Titanic Belfast museum on Wednesday to learn more about his family's history.

His mother Faye told the Belfast Telegraph: "We had an incredible day, the staff couldn't have been more welcoming.

"I think it was a bit overwhelming for him to see how much pride there is locally in the Harland name and what Harland and Wolff means to the city.

"They gave him a lovely book about the Titanic and he sat reading it over dinner."

Faye said: "The fact that everywhere you go you can see the cranes and they dominate the skyline, you can even see them from our hotel room, so he keeps drawing the curtain back and having a quick look to see them.

"He knew quite a lot (about the family history) but Wednesday brought it all to life for him," she added.

"I think it gave him more of an insight into a time before Titanic, because obviously Sir Edward had died by the time Titanic was built, so it gave him more of an idea of the Harland and Wolff history."

Titanic Belfast has welcomed almost 3.5 million visitors since it opened and was recently crowned the World's Leading Tourist attraction.

Before that it had beaten both Rome's Colosseum and the Eiffel Tower in Paris to become Europe's official Leading Tourist Attraction.

The Chief Executive of Titanic Belfast, Tim Husbands MBE, said that the museum also tells some of the personal stories behind the famous ship.

He said: "To have one of the Harland family with us is an honour.

He added: "Over the years we have welcomed guests including Her Majesty the Queen, but our staff equally loved having William to visit and teaching him about the work of his family and what the Harland and Wolff Shipyard meant to Belfast, under the Harland and Wolff cranes, which still to this day are synonymous with the Belfast skyline."

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