Ravings From The Bog

Made In Belfast Titanic Tour

We took advantage this week of a free tour around the “Titanic Quarter”, which is the brand name, so to speak, of that area of Belfast which is home to the derelict shipyards, the Odyssey Arena and a number of industrial complexes directly across the Lagan from the Belfast Harbour Commissioner and the Customs House.

As part of the current Made In Belfast Festival, the guided bus tour is a great starting point for the novice historian. The experienced guide, Stephen Cameron, has researched his subject in great detail for many years and is affable and knowledgeable company for the two hours of the tour. I have actually met Stephen before, in a previous life, and it was a pleasure to see him again after a gap of ten or so years.

On what was a rather changeable day, we set off from Belfast’s City Hall having seen both the Titanic Memorial statue and the statue of Sir Edward Harland within it’s grounds. First stop was at the original offices of Harland & Wolff. Access was gained and we started off in the drawing offices where many years before, the original plans for the Titanic and her sister ships, Olympic and Brittanic were made. This remarkable building was specially designed to allow as much natural light as possible to reach the draughtsmen, and later the ladies, who made copies of the thousands of individual plans for the teams of workmen who built the ships.

Harland & Wolff Drawing OfficeThe next attraction was a viewing of the boardroom, sadly without any original furniture. The building has suffered over the years since it was last used as an office but has now been listed and is in the initial stage of refurbishment. In it’s derelict state it has been of value to the film industry lately, featuring in films such as Closing the Ring, City of Embers and Breakfast on Pluto.

Next stop was a short distance away by coach as it had started to rain. We drove about 100m to two large ramped areas close to the bank. The guide showed us the same ramps in a large black and white picture taken in 1911. These were the very ramps on which Titanic and Olympic were built.

Titanic RampFrom there we made our way to the Thompson Dry Dock, built to allow completion of the three sister ships’ fit-out. A very impressive structure which looks to be twice the length of the Clarendon Dry Docks, the pump equipment was designed to be capable of pumping out all of the water in the dock inside 100 minutes.

The picture below gives an idea of the size of the structure with HMS Caroline in a nearby dock for scale. In the pictures we were shown of Titanic in the dock being fitted with her engines and propellers, the stern of the ship stuck out over the gate at the back of the dry dock – an immense ship that would have stretched from the front door of Belfast City Hall right down Donegall Place, past M&S, past McDonalds, the Tesco Metro and as far as the H&M shop.

Thompson Dry Dock

At this point, the tour ended. Very satisfied with our new-found knowledge, we climbed back aboard the coach and headed back to the City Hall.

A very enjoyable morning. I have been inspired by this tour to look for more opportunities to learn more about local history and perhaps consider doing a similar job on retirement, to that of our eminent guide.


Gangster + Banker = Bankster. Sounds about right!

BanksterAn interesting and timely article on todays’ BBC News website about the revival of a 1930s word “Bankster” which indicated how Americans felt about the bankers who managed to screw up the US economy back in the 1920s. Fairly useful word now too!

BBC Article

Starbucks Denies Supporting Israeli Zionism


Starbucks Denial

Starbucks released a statement on it’s website denying its rumoured support for Israel and the savage brutality of it’s invasion of Gaza. Coincidentally, the window of the Starbucks directly outside the Israeli was one of the first to be broken in yesterday’s protest riot in London.

January 5, 2009
Rumor Response: Starbucks Statement re: Support of Israel   

Rumors that Starbucks Coffee Company and its management support Israel are unequivocally false.  
Starbucks is a publicly traded company with stores in 49 countries. Though our thousands of partners (employees) and business associates around the globe have diverse views and share many beliefs about a wide range of topics, our primary focus remains to deliver the best customer experience possible. Starbucks is a non-political organization and does not support political causes. Further, the political preferences of a Starbucks partner at any level have absolutely no bearing on Starbucks company policies. 

Contact Information:
Starbucks Customer Relations
(800) 235-2883

Boycott Israeli Goods

Support the Palestinian people by boycotting Israeli goods. These are usually easily spotted within the EU due to food-labelling legislation, although some Israeli settler communities have been trying to get around this by having their products labelled “West Bank”, which is ironic considering that they won’t allow Palestinians a state of their own on their own land…

Major companies such as Caterpillar (who supply the Israeli army with bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes), Coca Cola and Marks & Spencer are involved in trading with Israel. Do what you can to help put pressure on Israel to stop their genocide of the Palestinians by not purchasing any Israeli-made goods.

Use this link for more information:


Thomas Jefferson The Time Traveller?

Another financial screw up!How did Thomas Jefferson get it so right all the way back in 1802? Did he have a time machine? Obviously not, but this quote is right on the money for what we’re experiencing now.

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” Thomas Jefferson 1802

Very prescient!

Bush Movie – Far Too Freakin’ Soft!

bush_warispeaceI’m just back from watching W., Oliver Stone’s Bush biopic. Richard Dreyfuss was right – Stone’s film was far too empathetic! Entertaining, but unfortunately not fictional. The most accurate and CHILLING performance was RD’s portrayal of Cheney – he came across as the scary Bond villain – very true to life!

I thought at two hours long it would have covered much more in terms of the Bush connections with the Saudis and the whole 9/11 thing, for example – too much time spent on his drunken youth.

Worth a look, though.

Norman Rockwell Art or Nostalgia Americana

Rockwell Marine HomecomingI’m not sure exactly what it is that appeals to me so much about Norman Rockwell’s pictures of American life. I imagine that it is the fantastic realism and the accurate reflection of lighting and detail, but probably more likely, it is the wholesome goodness of the images that reminds me of my impressions of America garnered from the years of Hollywood movies I watched in my youth. This was long before I had begun my political education at the hands of my father. He showed me that in every conflict in which the US was involved, with the exception of the two World Wars, you could find out who the “good guys” were by checking which side the Yanks supported – it was always the other guys. He led me to the writings of Noam Chomsky, David Halberstam and others that opened my eyes to what was happening in the world.

Rockwell’s world detailed an era when the American people in general were comfortable with themselves and their lives. Now that many modern Americans have seen years of blatant profit orientated, oil-based foreign policy and financial scandals, like Cheney’s Halliburton fiasco, the majority of decent people in the US have taken a chance and stepped into a hopeful future with Barack Obama. With lots of effort, patience and focus, the American people can try to return to Rockwell’s world. It will not be easy. In recent weeks, I’ve listened to some Americans on podcasts and radio interviews, with disturbing views on why the US was attacked in September 2001. Their grasp of what goes on outside the US borders and in many cases, inside the US borders, is so far from reality, that it’s frightening. The knee-jerk right wing reaction to anything approaching a foreign threat appears to be “kill them all and let God sort them out” – a glib summary of the situation but not far from the truth in my experience.

Barack Obama has a vast number of urgent and critical issues to deal with. I suggest that political re-education of the American people around US foreign policy and the reasons why the US is considered “the villain of the piece” needs to be near the top of his list.