Back to the future...101 years on, Titanic anchor's journey is retraced
It was transported through the streets of Belfast in 1911, hauled by a procession of horses just months before the doomed Titanic was launched.
And 101 years later a replica of the anchor that was chained to the famous ship in the Harland and Wolff shipyard has retraced that same route.
Two large black shire horses yesterday helped to recreate history and brought the new anchor-- made in Carrickfergus -- from the Harbour Commissioner's Office in Corporation Square to the new Titanic Belfast building.
The event had been organised to celebrate the launch of a new musical by Martin Lynch and JJ Gilmour called The Titanic Boys.
In the driving seat was Alex Fawcett, from George Fawcett Carriages, owners of the majestic horses Tjitse (14) and Ludo (7).
"It was a great experience," he said of the journey.
"And it was great to be part of the event -- there is a lot of history involved.
"People were waving and the traffic was stopping," he added.
As the anchor arrived at the tourist attraction -- close to where Titanic was built by Harland and Wolff and launched into Belfast Lough in May 1911 -- a huge cheer erupted from the waiting crowds, a mixture of tourists and the cast of the play.
The theatre production is based on Harland and Wolff's 'guarantee group', five senior tradesmen and four of the company's best apprentices, who built Titanic, sailed on it and perished on it.
Writer and director of the play Martin Lynch explained how they came up with the anchor idea.
"We knew we needed something different. I think my daughter Grainne came up with the idea to recreate the anchor," he said.
Mr Lynch added: "The same people who made the Land of Giants at the Odyssey made it.
"They spent a long time researching it, getting the dimensions right."
This replica, however, is three foot shorter than the real version. And instead of iron, it is made out of polystyrene.
"It took three months to build the real Titanic anchor and it took three weeks for them to built that.
"I think the anchor complements what we are doing.
"Many of the stories about the Titanic you have heard this year have been about the passengers on the ship, the good and the great.
"Our play brings it back to nine young men from Belfast -- it is rooted in Belfast."
Mr Lynch said they hope to give the anchor to Titanic Belfast.
"I think we will look at some notion to find a way of keep the anchor in the building and used in a permanent way. We just need to see what is possible."
Among the crowd was Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.
He said the journey of the replica had created "a good buzz".
"It brought the history of what was built back to life," he said.
"But it created a good buzz through the city centre and I hope the play will do the same."
Actor Paddy Jenkins -- who played the role of Alex Higgins in the stage show Dancing Shoes: The George Best Story -- is also part of the cast.
Taking the role as Lord Pirrie, chairman of Harland & Wolff he said: "I'm very happy about being in this show. It is original and it's a great story about these lads."
* The Titanic Boys runs from August 8-25 at the Grand Opera House. For more information visit www.goh.co.uk
Titanic's original 16-tonne anchor was cast by Hingley's of Netherton, England, and hauled to the old Dudley railway station by shire horses in May 1911. From there it was transported by rail to Heysham where it was taken by sea to Belfast. Once in Belfast, the huge anchor was hauled through the streets of the city by 16 horses to the Harland and Wolff shipyard where it was attached shortly before the ship's launch.