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Generations of dockers remembered at cross-community Mass in Belfast

By Angela Rainey

Dockers past and present have been celebrated in an annual interdenominational Mass in Belfast to honour their service.

A special service was held at the Docker's Club on Pilot Street in Sailortown yesterday by Fr Gary Donegan and Rev Colin Hall-Thompson.

The hour-long Mass drew current dock workers and families who have lost loved ones to the shipping industry.

Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister also attended.

It was organised as part of the Shared History Interpretive Project (SHIP) which was formed in 2005 to promote projects of communal historical interest.

Senior chaplain to the Mission to Seafarers, Rev Hall-Thompson, said: "Most of the dockers were Roman Catholic and they have had this Mass for years in remembrance of the dead.

"I would normally say a prayer or preach as there were also Protestant dockers.

"There are good relations here and I am very happy to be a part of it. November is a special month for remembering and such events give a sense of unity and that life must go on into eternal life."

During the service the names of 25 dockers who died in the last year were read out, including William 'Billy' Whiteside (73), who died at a football match in Scotland last month.

Fr Donegan, from Tobar Mhuire in Crossgar, Co Down, said that although the population of dock workers was diminishing it was important to pay tribute.

"Every year the number of dockers gets smaller.

"It is a duty to remember those who have died as a result of working on the docks, from industrial injury and illnesses like asbestosis, accidents, and those who have died of old age," he said. "It is about everybody from all creeds, those from a Christian background and those of no faith, coming together in a month where there is Remembrance Sunday and Cemetery Sunday, and of our duty to remember and pray for our loved ones."

The Mass was traditionally held at neighbouring St Joseph's which was historically known as the Chapel on the Quay. Established more than 140 years ago for Catholic dockworkers, it was de-consecrated in 2001.

It is now subject to a restoration bid to turn it into a heritage centre for the local community.

Belfast Telegraph

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