A prestigious project to create the new Titanic Memorial Garden was heralded a success at a commemoration ceremony held at Belfast City Hall on 15th April 2012.
The garden is believed to be the first in the world to have a memorial for all 1512 victims of the 1912 tragedy and was completed just in time for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the infamous luxury liner.
Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Naill O Donnghaile, attended the event, along with families and local choirs. Televised live by BBC Northern Ireland, the event was attended by journalists from all over the world as part of the overall Titanic Festival and featured performances from Brian Kennedy and the Belfast Youth Orchestra.
Councillor Niall O Donnghaile said:
“In this centenary year of Titanic setting sail from Belfast, we remember the hopes and dreams it carried, the pride and skill with which it was built and the ties which link the past and present.
“It’s a time for reflection and remembering those who lost their lives on Titanic. However, we should also be very proud of the Belfast connection and by commemorating the past, and recognising the remarkable engineering feat that was achieved, we are also ensuring that this important part of our history is not forgotten and that we carry on its legacy by investing in the future.
“We hope that unveiling this garden today helps us to do just that by providing a focal point for Titanic visitors in the very heart of the city, an area open and accessible to all.”
The new Titanic Memorial Garden is set on two levels above and around the existing Titanic Memorial and its upper level includes five bronze plaques on a plinth that measures 9 metres (30 feet) wide.
Works carried out by main contractor John McQuillian Contracts Ltd included the clearance of the site and the installation of new drainage, along with new granite kerbing and paving. In addition, all of the surrounding footpaths and carriageway areas have been resurfaced.
The main area of the garden is now bursting with springtime flowers, including magnolias, forget-me-nots and rosemary – the colours of which are intended to instil a sense of calm.
Landscape architect Joy Hutchinson explained:
“We’ve gone for a colour scheme built around blue, white, silver and green to reflect water and ice. It’s to try to encourage a sense of peace and contemplation.”
One of the most poignant aspects of the garden is the memorial, as Reverend Ian Gilpin reflected:
“We behold the Titanic memorial, we remember all those who perished and whose names are herein inscribed – men, women and children who loved and we loved, their loss still poignantly felt by their descendants.
“In the permanence of granite, marble and stone may there be a permanence in our remembrance, in diversity, in the colour and fragrance of the flowers of the memorial, let the memorial be an acknowledgement of humankind.”
All 1512 victims – passengers and crew – are listed on the plaques in alphabetical order. Two of the names are believed to belong to passengers who travelled under false names, and as a result are recorded with an asterisk next to their pseudonyms as their real names are still unknown.