Roving Writers is an Open Arts Creative Writing project that ran from October 2014 to March 2015.
The project enabled a group of developing writers with mental health needs to visit some of Belfast’s most loved heritage sites for creative inspiration. It included Belfast City Hall, St. George’s Market, Conway Mill, Crumlin Road Gaol, and SS Nomadic. Roving Writers was funded by Belfast City Council’s Tourism, Culture and Arts Unit, Arts and Heritage Project Grant.
Creative Writing Tutors Ruth Carr and Colin Dardis are Belfast based published poets, editors and creative writing tutors. Support in the writing sessions was provided by Anna Kyle. The book was designed by Joanne McCrum at Joanne McCrum Design. Photography by Joanne McCrum and Andy Ward.
The project culminated in the publication of a poetry collection. Roving Writers was launched on the 23rd of March 2015 with a reception at City Hall. It features selected work by our core creative writing participants and members of community groups involved in the project.
The Development Group in association with Niamh (Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health) include the following writers: Sean Jenkins, Marie Jenkins, Amy Wilson, Daphne Kennedy, Sean Morgan, Andy Ward, Michael Cahoon, and Ivan Kehelly.
You can request an audiobook of Roving Writers on CD by contacting Una McCann on: email@example.com
Did the printed book leave you wanting more? Our Roving Writers project produced a treasure trove of poetry that we did not have room for in the printed book. They are published here instead. Just click through the tabs to read poems inspired by our local heritage sites.
Belfast City Hall
One of Belfast’s most iconic buildings, Belfast City Hall, opened its doors in August 1906 and is Belfast’s civic building. It’s located in Donegall Square, in the heart of Belfast city centre. The home of the City Council, it was designed by Alfred Brumwell Thomas and built in Portland stone.
Following an £11m, two year refurbishment programme, Belfast City Hall
was officially reopened on 12th October 2009. Today, City Hall grounds are a favourite of city centre workers, students and tourists for taking a break from the bustling city.
Free public tours of City Hall are available Monday to Saturday. Led by an experienced guide, they last around one hour and uncover the history of Belfast City Hall, while exploring some of its finest features. You can also visit the Titanic Memorial Garden, exhibitions and the Bobbin Coffee Shop.
Humbly warm with welcome smile
Strong and fair using colour as
The mayoral ceremonial gown
all the way from Exeter town.
Ok, it’s a city, but not such a pity
as the robe cost £4000 pound!
Oh to have the freedom of the city,
that great beautiful key upon my key ring.
What huge doors can I open,
can I graze my sheep in the open?
Stay in the pub when those doors have closed,
live in the best building I’ve chosen.
If none of this, it seems a pity
when I have my freedom of the city.
The City Hall Lawn
Settling down on the City Hall lawn,
packed lunch at the ready, not eaten since dawn.
The sun is shining, oh my I’m starving,
happiness is my lunch on the City Hall lawn.
All the suited and booted lunching on the City Hall lawn,
students and tourists, have you seen them all?
A plethora of life’s folk, big screen showing hope,
homeless man bin-surfing, on the city hall lawn.
Inside the Lord Mayor’s Head
This is a great comfy chair.
Oh, look, I’m going where?
Oooh it has wheels to go back and forth.
I’m Mayor of this city in the North.
ORDER! ORDER! They’re at it again.
The seated voice boxes stop the pain.
To the agenda, I need to lend a hand
with a list here as long as your arm.
I will keep those in my
jurisdiction out of harm.
In my duty, I believe
those pains of my people I will relieve.
The City Hall by Brona Murphy aged 8 ½
There is a big house
in the middle of the city.
It is very big and has lots of lights,
at Xmas it is pretty.
It has loads of rooms and a big dome,
17 yards high
and lots of carpets to hoover,
but to wash the dome, you’d have to fly.
It has pictures of important people
who used to live there.
They are wear fancy robes,
except for the man who only lasted a year.
It has tonnes of great marble
given long ago by Greece
to make Belfast people happy
and make us live in peace.
But Greece now has no money,
they might want the marble back.
They might take back the floor tiles
of shiny white and black.
I hope they don’t take the columns
because the City Hall will fall down
and that would be very sad
for the people of our town.
Familiar & Bold
A place a part of Belfast.
A place apart from Belfast.
You stand amongst shops
and office blocks,
but you are not one of these.
Nearby but alone,
familiar but shy,
after many years,
you reach out your hand.
The Christmas Market,
the Bobbin Coffee Shop,
the tours, the exhibitions,
the Big Screen, the Big Wheel,
memorials and events.
Nearby and together,
familiar and bold.
You Can’t Fight City Hall
We’ve seen the mill
where the women laboured in bare feet
and the market where the craic is cool,
now the ermine-lined robes of the people
who presided over it all.
A monument to civic pride
and all the grander, now
we all own it, through weddings, markets
and not just for paying the bills.
A thing of beauty too
with three types of Italian marble
and many fine portraits,
It set me thinking
about the mythology we make up
about ourselves – to explain ourselves,
our excesses and our deficits.
But could the chartered corporation
explain this to the hungry, to the ragged,
to the barefoot factory workers?
Can our present day politicians
heal that rift?
Lead the World?
Belfast – your excellence, your future.
Many times in the past
Belfast looked done.
A future not to last,
Killing in bloodlust
Enemies with hate.
Love proves itself more powerful proving
There is no too late:
Wolfe Tone and Lord Carson shaking hands
Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.
May we make Belfast excellent,
Promoted the world over in every person’s self.
Love, we know, is more than the world.
May Belfast lead love;
True love unfailing
In person to person,
The whole wide Earth,
Reap our rewards for our struggles
And hardship in life from birth.
Thank you, Lord.
Arthur’s Vision for Belfast
Put a round table in City Hall
Scrap the Chamber’s adversarial,
Speak as equals, every person one and all.
The small person speaks as well as the tall.
This new Titanic reaches the port for which it sailed.
As when the new vision from Ireland’s Belfast
Makes the world’s future turn from the past.
Every different person together in life,
Hope, prayer answered, fulfilled belief now.
This new vision forwards with God’s willing,
Showing us how.
Musing Mayors’ Portraits
We reveal ourselves.
We leak out. Nothing is hidden for long.
Our aspirational image will crack eventually
To reveal what we are trying to hide.
To hide we are human.
What a human thing to do.
Belfast is a torrent of stories;
When it dawns, stories are stories,
We will live happily ever after.
The Roving Writers at City Hall
Open Arts Participants – Nicholas McAtamney, Barbara Midrash Fleming, Gerry McBride, Brona Murphy, Robert Nolan, CJ Kemp, Hugh Dunn.
Conway Mill is a former Linen Mill situated on the interface between the Falls Road and the Shankill Road in West Belfast. The mill dates back to 1842 and it was one of Belfast’s longest working linen mills, finally closing its doors in 1976. It lay derelict for over a decade until a group of community activists leased the mill in the 1980s to reclaim it for community use. Committed volunteers then cleared out rubbish, fixed broken windows and built a crèche, a theatre and classrooms for adult education.
Since 1982, Conway Mill has worked for the regeneration of the West Belfast community. The Mill became a listed building in 2000 and underwent a massive refurbishment completed in 2011. Today, it houses many artists’ studios, and community, enterprise, cultural and educational tenants as well as a café for visitors. It is open daily from 9am and offers public tours on request.
I remember the ‘rappers’
banging on the doors
then going away.
You couldn’t be late for work
or no pay for you!
I was the eldest, so it was up to me.
Every day, I took my father his lunch;
Never in a box,
Always wrapped in brown paper.
It was a special responsibility.
Mary McMullan OBE
Cheerful Barefooted Women,
Ghostly Silence Remains.
I visited the mill six months ago:
I saw a few plays there
and was very impressed by the building,
two buildings stitched together.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
I used to go and meet my mother
coming out of work at six o’clock at night.
She started at eight in the morning.
Hard days. She would come home for lunch.
I started as a weaver when I was fourteen.
We used to go in the morning
and get the threads ready.
Neighbours worked there too.
The machines went whirr!
It wasn’t exciting, but it was near home
and money in your own pocket!
I was one of six children.
We were a close family in a close community,
and there was always plenty of company.
I loved having people around me
and family evenings were happy and fun.
You worked beside people you knew well
and I was happy because of this.
Everybody worked in the mill:
they all started at the same time each day,
all going in together
and all going out together,
So everyone knew everybody’s business!
Mary McMullan OBE
We all sang at our machines.
The whole crowd in the spinning room
would join in:
“My Aunt Jane, she called me in,
She gave me tea out of her wee tin.”
“Skinny Malinky long legs, big banana feet,
went to the pictures but couldn`t find a seat.”
“You might easy know a doffer
When she comes into town
With her long yellow hair
And her pickers hanging down.”
They were rough songs,
but they passed the time.
I left school at 14
and worked as a spinner,
which earned you £3 10 shillings a week.
You took off your shoes
when arriving in the morning,
Mother started work in the mill
as a young girl. She worked
even after she married.
We would have done
all of the cleaning
to help mum
as she worked so hard
to keep us all healthy.
The Hard Life
Life was hard, money was scarce,
too many hours to work for a low wage,
we had no special clothes to protect us,
and yet it was good to have a job.
Your wages were given to your mum
and you got back pocket money
for clothes, sweets, dances.
Renee Collins RIP
Spinning the linen, did
they not get dizzy?
Haiku inspired by Conway Mill
The mill is milling
Milling and moving sprightly
Harps and crosses
Café, crafts, culture, classes
Tell me, Conway Mill
What changes have you suffered?
Are the people better off?
Is the community as strong?
Do you miss the bare feet
of the women on your floors?
A visit to Conway Mill
I know you shouldn’t make a big thing about it these days, but me a Prod (to all intents and purposes) from east-ish Belfast, waiting for a bus up the Fall. You could count on one hand the number of times I’ve been there. It goes against all my conditioning and if Mike doesn’t turn up, it’s a step too far to go wandering on the Falls, searching for people I haven’t met before.
Then I heard someone calling my name and turned to see a friendly face: a woman I knew from up the Falls. We had a quick conversation before she went to catch her bus, and I took the opportunity to say her Irish name quite loudly (to establish my credentials).
When we got there it seemed friendly enough and in the Republican museum I tried to summon a little of the enthusiasm I had once felt for the events of the early 20th century, but to no avail. The bulk of the exhibits were artefacts (of some quality) made by imprisoned Republicans of latter days, evidence of the conditions they had endured.
Then, this young man with olive skin and very dark eyes gave me an unaccustomedly direct look, which unnerved me for a second and had me fleetingly thinking perhaps he was someone from the Middle East who was involved in the fighting – the kind of person you would expect to meet in a republican museum! But in the cafe afterwards, it turned out he was a French tourist – the kind of person you would expect to meet in Conway Mill!
Back to the conference room and more wooden crosses and harps in a display case, which seemed to evoke an old familiar resonance, like a background tune you know well but which was never the main theme, never the main focus.
Here, among these artefacts and the atmosphere they created, we tried to recall the mill days and their hard conditions. I want to say we recaptured some of the old mill workers’ camaraderie with our own togetherness.
But what was their reality? There had been so much to pull them apart: the head doffer getting on to the other doffers; the reelers getting on at everybody to keep their piece-work rate up; the gatekeeper and his harsh measure of time. Outside in the streets around, surely a spirit of mutual help and support thrived among those in meagre circumstances.
Something perhaps the old mill helps preserve these days.
Tribute to Conway Mill
The original linen mill
Is a great historical thrill.
Imagine all the noise and din
Of all those bobbins in a spin.
For all that work, the shillings few
While the bosses’ fortunes grew.
Situated, Belfast West,
Today it draws a lot of guests,
Free to walk where’er they will,
Remember the past of Conway Mill.
Three young girls who were doffers.
At Kennedy’s mill they were spinners.
Only the bosses were winners.
Only the bosses were sinners.
The lady whose flowing long hair
Was beautifully golden and fair
To the gates on time with care
Rushing in clothes with mends and tears.
The lady’s flowing hair of black
Was as dark as the soot from the chimney stack
Which spewed out a veil of endless smoke,
Polluting so much, it made her choke.
The lady whose flowing hair of red,
Washed fine after waking from her bed,
No time to dry it, rushing instead
To work long hours, felt nearly dead.
Until together, they’d raise their voices,
Joking, rejoicing in doffers’ songs.
The Roving Writers at Conway Mill
Our Lady’s Home residents and staff: Sean Donnelly, Peggy Greer, Annie Simpson, Mary Mc Mullan OBE, Jean Mc Guigan, Annie Clarke, Sr Joan Mc Fadden, Renee Collins RIP, Patrick Doyle, Marian Mc Fetridge, Carmel Mc Ardle, Eilish Grant, Bernadette O’Connor
Crumlin Road Gaol
The Crumlin Road Gaol first opened its gates in 1846 and for 150 years was a fully operational prison. In 1996, the governor walked out of the fortified prison and the gates slammed shut for the final time. Today, the Gaol is a Grade A listed building based on its architectural and historic significance.
It underwent a significant restoration in 2012 and is now open to the public seven days a week for guided tours, concerts and events. On a tour, visitors follow the footsteps of over 25,000 prisoners and make the journey through the tunnel that connects the Gaol to the Courthouse, explore the central circle and C-Wing, visit the condemned man’s cell and hanging cell, the hospital wing and graveyard. The Gaol offers these public tours day and night, as well as occasional paranormal tours, movie screenings, concerts, carvery dinners, fundraising events, conferences and educational programmes.
3 plus 1
Jailed for life for stealing bread,
marching down, so much I dread.
Opening the door, facing friend or foe,
dreading this day, I’m scared to go.
Germs, unclean, nowhere to run,
scared to speak or look or turn.
Do I have room to spread
or am I going to end up dead?
Smelly, sickly are the men,
am I going to be like them?
The food is poison to my taste
I wish my life would end in haste.
The cell is dark and dreary,
The echo is long and eerie.
I wish the days would go by quicker,
I’m starting to feel sicker,
I don’t want to bicker.
The smell is fusty and musty.
The fear of getting killed is near.
The silence is the worst.
The guards are a curse.
It is very gruesome in prison,
even for the very young ones.
A lot of fights break out
among the prisoners. All this metal
gets claustrophobic. Everyone is afraid
of going in front of the governor,
of going to the condemned man’s cell,
guilty or not; we’re very scared,
very lonely and very unhappy.
Justice is swift; so is hanging.
Dark, frightening, lonely.
Excited: freedom! Celebrate, family,
This brickwork is depressing.
It brings pity for the prisoners
concealed in their cells,
for the children, unschooled.
What particular horror
hangs in the hanging room?
A very unhappy and withdrawn atmosphere looms here.
Everyone is lonely, sad, apprehensive.
The uncertainty rises at night,
Longing for loved ones, hoping they are safe,
Praying to God the right decisions to make.
Give us His mercy and love.
Let us keep our promises to the Lord.
Day of Release
Depressing, fears shiver.
Welcome: acceptance? Possibly not,
Cold and lonely
Waiting for a sentence
Bang bang, metal doors,
No privacy here,
Happy place now
We can share living
Seventeen men hanged in the Crum,
I wonder if they cried for their mum.
While the guide explained I was chilled numb.
Scary tale, the way they were hung,
Hanged from the neck through a trap door,
They would never walk again on any floor.
Maybe now they walk on streets paved with gold,
Singing happy songs with no age, no old.
Maybe lying somewhere, remorseless and cold,
Or have they found forgiveness, some kind of pardon
Feeling some comfort, some sense of warm,
A new life forever, causing no harm,
Where life’s a summer day, no sign of a storm?
God bless and help those seventeen men
Keep them with you till we meet again.
The Roving Writers at Crumlin Road Gaol –
Hemsworth Court residents; John Watson, Eddie Cairns, Irene & Edwin Getty, Liz Cunningham, Dorothy McNeish, Rosaline Kerr, Joan Jenkins, Matthew Calderwood, Claire
Lemon, Edna Catney and Kathleen Murray.
St. George’s Market
The award-winning St George’s Market, built 1890-1896, is one of Belfast’s oldest attractions. The market is home to some of the finest fresh produce, with customers travelling near and far to sample the delights of the Friday, Saturday and Sunday markets. St George’s Market has become one of the city’s most popular places to visit.
With over 250 traders during the course of the three days, free live entertainment every weekend, and a host of family-orientated events held in the market throughout the year, it’s clear to see why St George’s Market was voted the Best UK Large Indoor Market 2014.
Since its refurbishment in 1997, this charming Victorian building offers one of the most vibrant and colourful destinations that Belfast has to offer.
So why not pop along and soak up the atmosphere at gorgeous St George’s?
Mechanical monster of gold and shiny metal
with springs and tightly wound mechanisms.
Its inner workings a myriad of man’s ability
to compress and contort. A beacon of wonder
to entice the shoppers over to peruse the jewellery.
Recycled and now with a purpose.
When once used in clocks, its bits and bobs
are transformed into necklaces, fine brooches,
and bracelets that shimmer, delight and translate
into statement pieces. Tick tock.
Hall of lights, hall of fame,
am attracted to the items
like a moth to the flame.
Precious antiques, old and rare,
I want to leave the stallholder bare,
His merchandise is akin to a siren’s call,
beckoning me over to inspect the vintage doll.
Spectacular merchandise to maximise the appeal.
Whip out the wallet to make a deal.
Vintage toys that bought delight to a child,
a tiny, metal vehicle that entertained an infant mind.
‘From Blackpool Pleasure Beach’ printed on the side,
Or miniature Euro Coach, it’s hard to decide.
Should I buy the two for a knock-down price
or bid for an extra, in a roll of the dice?
Roll up, roll up, the bargains of a century,
buy your Fair Trade enamelled blue elephant,
Mug with matching plate.
I hear they have similar ones in the Gallery Tate.
Would make a glorious gift or kitchen accessory,
all proceeds go to a worthy charity.
Moroccan plates or Zanzibar trophies,
the sky’s the limit on your choice of purchase.
We can haggle the price
and throw in a velvet, silver-encrusted case.
The Fish Stall
The fish cleaners.
The fish laying on the slab.
The fish on a bed of ice to keep fresh.
The men wearing blue gloves to keep their hands clean.
The man gutting the fish and the other hosing them to clean.
The water laying on the floor.
All the different fish in crates on the floor,
before being laid out on the stall.
I have come to the market early
on Friday morning to set up my stall.
There are lots of people
setting their stalls for a busy day.
In the midst of the market,
among all the hustle and bustle,
there are stands of beautiful china cups
and saucers with pretty designs.
There are vases that are plain, with beautiful shapes,
and others with patterns to bring out their beauty.
The clocks of china tick the time away,
to time for coffee out of the pot.
And among all of this, there is
the rumble of the monster.
On my stall there are lots of handmade goods.
There are prices placed on each product on the stall.
I also can offer a made-to-suit item,
that can be designed on my computer
for people to make a personalised gift for someone
St George’s is a busy place
where the hawkers can express themselves.
There are lots of different paintings,
but my preference is a painting by Kinkade.
For shoppers and sellers, the unimposing timepiece
hangs overhead and regulates; imposing order
amidst the chaos of the passing day.
A neat-wound clock hangs overhead
across the centre of the marketplace.
It has hung there for many years,
steadily keeping track of time
for the shoppers and sellers alike,
for whom it can so easily slip away
amidst the hustle and the bustle.
Forgotten mill girls’ faces
kinked by art or life,
their paintings hanging in
the market where they shopped.
Inside the Market
Fish from the sea,
fruit from the fields,
the market draws life outside in.
People, food, a taste of beyond,
the noise and the city
within these four walls.
How much time to do you have,
if you think you can spare an hour
for our delightful time pieces?
They won’t have the answer,
but they’ll give you a clue.
If you can’t afford to shop and look
maybe you can’t afford not to buy,
liquid time, sold by the bottle.
A stall that sells objects that may take the customer to their heart’s desire.
A photograph or painting that is a doorway, through which one may pass, to be transformed to that special place.
A loom on which to weave a new life.
A dress to become whoever you wish to be.
It would be a stall that customers get lost in, like a maze leading them, unaware, to who they really are.
It would be a stall for the lost and lonely.
For those in despair.
His Special Day
Her husband has an aversion to sweetness,
Which over the years had become concentrated
To an undiluted dislike for any kind of celebration;
In response, she now made her husband’s
birthday cakes with fish.
4.00 am: Alarm sounds.
Time to load the van.
5.00 am: Arrived at market.
At St George’s, the stalls are all set out.
Each trader lays out their goods.
My goods were mostly acquired
from the local auction.
A CD plays Christmas music.
The hustle and bustle
got louder and louder,
until the CD player is sold.
St Georges Market
I’m tired of all the moving around,
bawling and shouting, that’s all I seem to do.
The older stall owners know exactly how I feel
and what I need to go through.
Is this how I have to prove to the old hands
that I’m worthy of the old man’s pitch?
I load up the van and off I go, to St George’s Market
to chase that dream of getting rich.
4 am. Three alarm bells ring,
I yawn and I stretch, even manage a smile.
Today should be my day to own.
I see Tommy and Sarah,
they are in good form.
Tommy is convinced he’ll have a good day
Just because he stepped in the wee dog’s poo.
Some of the older stall owners talk in riddles but
Sarah reassures me I have nothing to fear.
She stops in mid-sentence and shouts down the market,
“Open the gates, our bread and butter is here”.
Hello, my name is Mick and I have a friend called Billy. We both work at the mill. I am glad that I have known Billy. But my friend still lives on the Shankill Road and I live on the Falls. We used to work together and also play a game of football within the week.
Now this is what happened and the way it was. I’m green, he’s not, he goes up to the Windsor park.
I would go to the Celtic park. But that was so long ago and we are now old. We both on a Friday go to the market and get what we need. Well I would buy fish for Friday’s tea and Billy had his steak. Billy is partial to an Ulster Fry while I go for Irish stew.
We are again still older, but no more fish on Fridays. On one of our market days I saw Billy buy a crucifix. As he did so, I was able to buy some of those King Billy badges. On the way home that day I asked myself, why did Billy buy that crucifix, for Billy was a Protestant and I was the Catholic?
About two days before Christmas, we had coffee. We gave each other a little gift. I didn’t open mine until Christmas morning. I looked in Billy’s gift bag and there was the lovely new crucifix he had got in the market. There was a note which said:
Let us someday take down that wall, stone by stone.
And Mick, you know that the one who died on that cross loves us both.
St George’s Market
Everything you would want to buy.
Sense the feelings from what’s bought:
Wanting to laugh, wanting to cry.
All things in this place have life.
Husbands buy the right thing for the wife.
This market has the right to be.
Buy trinkets or edibles,
In this place, priceless to you and me.
Listed in the Buy and Sell,
Over 100 years, all is well.
Buy something mysterious
In this market from heaven, surely not hell.
St. Georges Market
I stood and admired whatever is required
To run the market so full of gifts galore.
I tasted the apple pie, and by God I needed more.
Walked by the lobster stand
Sure, they looked grand,
‘Til one took a snap and I fought it back
As into the pot they were plunged.
Oh what great craic, even the mussels were full of glee.
(Please keep this quiet for it is just between you and me.)
Shall I return, I will for sure,
For everything is priced to suit the poor.
He would often beg on the steps of the City Hall, or sing for his supper down by the Docks.
There the passers-by would stare pitifully, aghast at his scruffy clothes and unkempt hair.
Where did he come from, this scrawny child with defeat in his expression, pain in his eyes?
Timmy was no more than twelve, but he had a lifetime of agony in his stare.
It was a late Sunday afternoon when he stole the coffee. The busy stall in St George’s thronged with customers. The two ladies chatting made it easy for him, little things are big prize to the needy. No sooner had he taken to his heels through the crowded market, than shouts and screams erupted.
“Stop That Child!” Hands outstretched.
As he dodged and dashed through the angry crowd and the stalls, clothes, top hats, memorabilia came crashing down.
Not stopping for air,
Wind in his hair,
Fish and lobsters and busy shoppers add to the distress.
A tower of apples and oranges
Topples to the ground, rolling across the floor to take position under adjacent stalls, like snooker balls taking their place in different pockets.
Fast as childhood legs will allow, delirious as he scurries out the old iron gates.
Beyond, a busy road awaits.
A taxi cab like a screeching vulture descends, claiming its prey.
Such a waste of life, they’ll say.
All for the sake of a single cup of coffee, now dripping on the pavement like rain.
Stairway to St Georges (unabridged)
While I was walking down
The Spiral stairs
In old Conway Mill
I had a flash back memory
Of standing still
Trying to choose a top hat
At St Georges market
A side step for vinyl LP’s
With pretty colourful sleeves
Chinese dishes and stalls of fishes
Reminding me of old Smithfield
And of being a boy
Without food and goods
there would be no market.
there would be no market.
there would be no market.
And without a place
no market at all!
It takes all these things together.
The Roving Writers at St George’s Market –
Ravenhill Day Centre service users and staff: Louise Gore, William Gould, Laura Hughes, David Harrison, Jessica Levy, Desmond Ferguson, Robert Nolan, Claire Ennis, Tina Langridge.
SS Nomadic was built in 1911 to be the tender (taxi) for the Olympic Class Liners including RMS Titanic. Constructed alongside her big sister at Harland and Wolff’s Belfast shipyard, she is now restored to her original glory and is the only remaining White Star Line vessel in the world and a lasting legacy of Belfast’s shipbuilding industry.
Once on board, visitors can learn about SS Nomadic’s turbulent and exciting history: with active service in both World Wars, over fifty years’ experience carrying famous passengers to the world’s largest Trans-Atlantic liners and nearly thirty years as a floating entertainment complex moored beside the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Nomadic has a million stories to tell!
Fully interactive, with games, dressing up, projections and lots of original features, the ship is appealing for all ages and is now open for guided tours, group bookings, children’s birthday parties and private hire.
There was a bar with a barman,
he was French although he was a hologram.
There was a mobile wardrobe
which the 1st class passengers brought on board
and we saw some of the fancy clothing.
We saw a film clip of the stoker
filling the furnace with coal.
which would turn into steam,
The ship was very big and wide
with a nice staircase to the upper deck.
The ship was bought by the French
and active during the war to ferry troops.
She still had her original portholes,
complete with their covers.
We sat on wooden benches
were lots of famous actors had sat
when they travelled on the ship
on the way to the Titanic.
Lisa, Carol McClary and Helen Russell.
The Nomadic is bigger than I thought it was going to be.
We boarded the ship from a gangway
onto the first class passenger lounge.
It was amazing. The floor tiles were colourful,
the old décor typical of the time it was built.
We came to the bar: the hologram of the barman
was very realistic.
The tables there were placed around the sides
on which lay old china cups and saucers,
books, pictures of the troops being brought home
by the Nomadic from Cherbourg.
The stairway on the ship was highly polished,
but difficult to climb! Nowadays, the ship has a lift
but it only took one person at a time…
The ship reminded me of my father
working at the docks on the cranes
and a brother who was a sailor
on the Hong Kong ships.
Kathleen Stewart, Patricia Metcalf and Marion McKeag
Life on the White Star Line (unabridged)
There is a bunch of flowers
welcoming me to the bar.
The bartender wears a white uniform.
He spends his day shining champagne glasses
and pouring drinks.
A large gold-plated clock tells me the time
as I inspect myself in the mirror.
A lady is dressed in a long grey skirt
down to the ankles, with a matching jacket,
scarf and hat. She looks very smart and posh.
I bet she lives in a big house…
This is a large ship. It is red, white and black
with many portholes and windows.
There is one great funnel, giant anchors
and is split into three: 1st, 2nd and 3rd classes.
Guess which one I’m in…
Sean McClements, Stephen Oliver and Frank Evans
Firsts and Seconds
Passengers of different classes were segregated:
the 1st Class had access to a bar;
the 2nd Class had access to a water fountain;
the 1st Class floors had a designer pattern;
the 2nd Class floors had wood.
But everyone, everyone had flushing loos.
During the 1st World War, the ship transported the army,
and risked damage from carrying live ammunition!
During the 2nd World War, she was used as a minesweeper
and helped evacuate soldiers from Cherbourg.
Afterwards, she was no longer needed,
about to be scrapped. She was bought privately
and turned into a restaurant and disco in Paris.
But after this, she was bought back to Belfast
and restored, a new life back at home.
Anne Stragham, Tina Landbridge, Maureen Armstrong and Gerard Johansen
This tender is over a century in age
Still looks 18 on this poet’s page.
This ship tells of happy and dangerous years
This ship was invincible throughout her career.
And I’m told Nomadic keeps eternal in her youth
This dream is true and Nomadic is proof
The way our guide tells the steam ship’s story
in all its glory straight from the heart
Living her dream of Nomadic, perfect in the part.
She survived two wars through warring times
Carrying soldiers, sweeping for mines
The greater little sister Titanic ever had
Came through everything, good and bad.
Thanks to our guide, the knowledgeable Gale
Who told it true, Nomadic’s dream tale.
Bright, colourless, grand
Why build this building?
Celebrates Titanic Ship
Open doors welcome all
The Roving Writers at SS Nomadic-
174 Trust, Disability Group and volunteers: Robert Neill, Helen Russell, Carol McClory, Marion McKeag, Sean McClements, Frank Evans, Maureen Armstrong, Anne Stragham, Ruth Simpson, Bill McCorkindale, Stephen Oliver, Kathleen McVicker, Patricia Metcalf, Gerard Johansen, Tina Landbridge, Evelyn McCarthy, Julia Rooney, Kathleen Stewart, Rosaleen Beattie, Eileen Duffy.