May 24, 2015
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom. It has a troubled history, but today it seems a quiet, industrious, and almost genteel town. And our tour guide proclaimed it, “the best big city in the world”. They sure seem to love Queen Victoria. Many institutions are named for her and there are many monuments honoring her. We stayed at a youth hostel that was just down the road a ways from Queen’s University. So, having just one day to explore Belfast, we shied away from the more touristy Titanic Experience, and headed instead to the Botanic Gardens, and The Ulster Museum adjacent to the University.
It was a blustery day, so we only spent a little time in the gardens. We did enjoy seeing a statue of Lord Kelvin. It is great to see a scientist being honored along side royalty and writers, even if it only because he was a chancellor of the university. The museum, like the TARDIS seemed to be bigger on the inside. There was much to see, so we happily whiled away the day looking at artifacts and learning more about Irish and Egyptian history and culture.
Ulster was the name of an ancient kingdom in the northernmost part of the island of Ireland, roughly equivalent to what is now the country of Northern Ireland. Ethnically the people of Ulster are more closely related to the Scots than to the people of other parts of Ireland. Ancient Ulster was known for the tenacity of its fighting men. The symbol of Ulster is the red hand, a simple drawing of a hand held up so that the palm is facing the viewer, colored red. They say that this stems from a contest between two kingdoms to decide who would win control of a contested island. it was decided that there should be be a race between two teams of rowers, and whichever side was first to lay a hand on the shore of the island would win it. As the boats drew close to the island, one boat pulled into the lead, the other boat teamed by the men of Ulster just could not catch up. So in a stroke of madness or genius, or both; the Ulster King drew out his sword, cut off his hand, and threw it onto the shore, thereby winning the island. They say that this tale illustrates the determination of people of Ulster to get the job done, no matter what.
In the 1700’s there was a mass exodus of folk from Ulster to the American Colonies to escape religious persecution. These people came to be known as the Scots/Irish. Many of these immigrants took an active role in the struggle to win independence from England for America. And, they claim that fourteen American presidents had Ulster/Scots roots.
Ulster thrived during the Industrial Revolution and its capital, Belfast, is known as the birthplace of the ill-fated Titanic.Since then it has had more than its share of troubles.