The story of the Titanic

Dr Aidan McMichael and Charlotte Hodgman visit Queen’s Island, Belfast, where one of history’s most famous ocean liners was built and launched...

Harland & Wolff shipworkers

This article was first published in the Christmas 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

Queen’s Island was once the heart of Belfast’s shipbuilding industry. Created in the 19th century from mud and earth excavated from works to widen and deepen the channel into the city, the now quieter waters of the docks once teemed with ships and workers. But it was the establishment of the Harland & Wolff shipyard in 1861 that turned Belfast into one of the world’s great shipbuilding centres. More than 1,700 vessels were built at the shipyard’s Queen’s Island site, but it is for one vessel in particular that it is best remembered: RMS Titanic.

Walking onto Queen’s Island today, into what is now known as the Titanic Quarter, there are three remarkable structures on the skyline: the enormous twin shipbuilding gantry cranes of Harland & Wolff, known affectionately as Samson and Goliath; and the huge Titanic Belfast visitor attraction, which sits at the entrance to Belfast’s docks, just metres from where Titanic was constructed and launched.

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