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A day of sombre pride to mark sinking of Titanic

By Gary Grattan

Today marks the 97th anniversary of the world’s most infamous peace time maritime disaster — the sinking of the Titanic.

Throughout Belfast a range of activities are taking place to mark the anniversary — not only to pay tribute to those who died but also to celebrate Belfast’s shipbuilding heritage.

Belfast City Council’s Titanic: Made In Belfast festival, which continues continues until April 19, includes a series of talks, walks and boat trips.

Meanwhile at the W5 in the Odyssey Pavilion an exhibition entitled Titanic: Designed And Built In Belfast |features a superb collection of photographs, many of them taken by R J Welch, the official photographer of Harland & Wolff.

Through his camera lens you get an amazing glimpse of the scale of the Yard, the environment in which men worked and the variety of different crafts which go to make up the city’s rich industrial history and heritage.

In Video: Gary Grattan's report on the Titanic Festival

Una Reilly, the chairperson and founding member of the Belfast Titanic Society, is always quick to point out: “The Titanic herself wasn’t a disaster — what happened to her was.

“We’ve now got around 200 members. There’s a global fascination with the Titanic and that will only grow as we get closer to the centenary in 2012.

“The Titanic was a marvellous ship — the biggest man-made structure afloat — when she was built. We should always be immensely proud of her and the men who built her,” she said.

Una joined other members of the |society at the former Harland and Wolff drawing office where plans for the doomed White Star liner were drawn up.

And there are new plans for the building itself as a major renovation scheme is in the pipeline.

A short distance down the road the former Pumphouse beside the Thompson dry dock has just been completely renovated and opened for tours.

Two weeks ago the Society was involved in erecting a plaque on the actual site where the first keel plate of the Titanic was laid — exactly 100 years ago to the day.

Guest speakers are also giving a |series of talks in the W5 lecture theatre this week, among them freelance journalist Susie Millar.

Susie’s great great grandfather Tommy Millar was one of the 1,500 people who died in the disaster.

His wife had died a short time earlier and Tommy was sailing to America to build a new life for him and his two sons.

Before he left he gave each of the boys a penny — and as a mark of respect neither boy ever spent the money and the coins are still in Susie’s family.

When work commitments permit, Susie gives Titanic talks and tours.

“I feel I’ve got a story to tell which is different to your average Titanic story.

“A lot of emphasis is put on the engineering but I like to tell it from the point of view of the effect it had on an ordinary Belfast family,” Susie said.

For further details on all Titanic events log on to www.

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