Belfast, 9am, The Ship Worker

James looked on his work with pride; a clean weld, tight and waterproof as he could make it. Around him the racket was incredible. It was as if the various kinds of machinery were competing to see which could make the most noise. James worked for Harland and Wolff, as his father had before him. They had been part of the teams that built some of the biggest and best transatlantic liners ever constructed.

Black and white illustration of the R.M.S Oceanic, the White Star Line, 1902
Dublin City Public Libraries

James wiped the sweat from his face, and noticed that for the fourth day running Melroy hadn't turned in, which was very unusual - perhaps he had been struck down by the smallpox, which was doing the rounds at the moment. Melroy had been all right on Sunday; he had seen him and his son at Belfast's new cathedral. The Bishop of Ripon had come to preach in the cathedral and James and his wife, had been among those lucky enough to get inside to hear him. It had been a great day, and it gave him a sense of deep satisfaction to see Belfast with a cathedral - it, and the Town Hall which had just been begun to be built, would give his native city the dignity it deserved. People might talk of Dublin and its squares and monuments, but to James' mind, Belfast, with its massive growth over the last few years and its wealth of industry far exceeding any other part of Ireland, was the real centre of power now. And, if James and many more like minded people had their way, shabby-genteel Dublin was not going to become a centre of government for a country which had Home Rule inflicted on it. Home Rule was surely Rome Rule; already the Roman church was getting its tentacles into public life; education, local government - everywhere you looked you saw a people ruled by the priests. It always struck James as ironic that Belfast, the most loyal city in the British Empire, should be threatened with rule from Dublin, that decaying hotbed of Nationalist and Republican sentiment.

Well, better keep his mind on the job; he had plenty of work to do before the day would be over. And in his heart, he believed that Belfast was as secure in its place in the Empire as a passenger sailing on one of the great ships being built here at the shipyard.

Dublin City Public Libraries


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