Monday, 19 September 2016

The Ship's Cat & Titanic Belfast

If you noticed my absence last week, it was because Terry and I were in Northern Ireland. The Titanic Maritime Museum in Belfast has long been on our list of must-visit places, and last week we finally got the chance. The museum is located on Queen’s Island, an area of land reclaimed from the water in the mid-19th century and a short walk from the centre of Belfast.

Titanic Belfast
It's impossible to be unimpressed by this gigantic structure. This is no ordinary building, clad as it is with thousands of individual silver shards. Around its base are pools of water, which appear to be as deep and black as the Atlantic Ocean must have looked at 2.20am on April 15, 1912. 
I’m sure the depth of the water is an illusion as there are neither warning signs nor guard rails. 


Looking up at this immense building, it is easy to imagine the iceberg that sent Titanic to her watery grave. I don’t know if the designers intended to give that impression, but it was certainly the feeling I got as I stood there. 

Titanic Belfast

The inside of the building is every bit as impressive as the outside.


The exhibition begins with an explanation of Belfast’s roots as an industrial centre.  Life-size silhouettes are projected on to the walls to give an impression of daily life.

Titanic Belfast
   

From here you are taken on a journey through the construction of the ship, her launch, a virtual tour of the decks and a peek inside a first, second and third class cabin.  





Titanic Belfast



One of the saddest parts of the exhibition is a gallery where the lighting is low and survivors’ voices (drawn from the BBC's archive) recall the horror of the sinking.  As you listen, you are directed along a series of boards detailing some of the distress messages sent to and from Titanic.






Titanic Belfast


Finally, screens beneath your feet take you on an underwater journey to the decaying remains in the Atlantic depths.



We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and are not surprised to learn Titanic Belfast has just been named Europe’s leading visitor attraction.


If you would like to find out more about the Titanic story there are numerous websites offering information. I found History.com and the BBC history websites especially interesting. The Titanic Belfast website is also well worth a look.

Or, if you are looking for an interesting read, I recommend Titanic and other ships written by Charles Herbert Lightoller (1874-1952). Published by Ivor Nicholson and Watson, London in 1935.   Lightoller was the second mate (second officer) on board the Titanic and the only senior officer to survive the disaster. He was also the last man to be taken aboard the rescue ship RMS Carpathia. Just six of the thirty six chapters deal directly with his time on board the Titanic, but I found the rest of his life equally interesting. Titanic and other ships is available on ABE books at time of writing should you wish to look for a copy. 


One final thing - a friend and reader of this blog asked me to keep a look out for the ship's cat. It pains me to say this, but I saw no sign of a cat. However, when I googled Titanic - ship's cat, I found this; 

It’s quite possible there were multiple cats aboard the ship. Many large ships used them to monitor the rodent and pest problem that plagued the lower decks. The Titanic’s mascot and well-known ship's cat, Jenny, was one such cat.

A stoker, Jim Mulholland, volunteered to look after Jenny when she transferred from Titanic’s sister ship Olympia. It was rumoured that the cat had a litter of kittens a week before the ship left from Southampton. But what happened to Jenny on the morning of April 15, 1912?

Reports vary. Some say she, and her kittens died along with most of the passengers. However, others report Jim Mulholland observed Jenny unloading her kittens from the Titanic one by one before it left port in Southampton. He took this as a bad omen, picked up his things, and also left the vessel. He credited the cat with saving his life. (Source

What really happened to Jenny is a mystery. But perhaps this feline photographed in Belfast’s Botanic gardens is one of her descendants?  

Belfast Northern Ireland Cat

52 comments:

  1. Wow! Goodness! Look at that building...!
    Big! Ain't it...Don't think that will sink!
    Very impressive! And, the inside looks great
    to! Love that staircase...I love staircases,
    always fancied, gliding down one, all dressed
    to the 'nines'...Done it at home!!! Not quite
    the same! :).

    And, l believe there are 12~14 Films made of the
    Titanic...And various TV series! But, for me, l've
    always enjoyed, and definitely the best was the 1958
    one..'A Night To Remember'. with Kenneth More..!
    And..Was made on a budget of only £500,000.
    The up~to~date ones l find a bit silly, and not
    telling the story of the ship itself..but more the
    passengers and crews love stories! I've not bothered
    with the later ones!

    Now...The ships cat.....

    The ship had her own official cat named Jenny, who was kept aboard Titanic as a mascot and also worked to keep down the ship’s population of rats and mice. Transferred over from Titanic ’​s sister ship Olympic, Jenny gave birth in the week before Titanic sailed from Southampton. She normally lived in the galley, where the victualling staff fed her and her kittens on scraps from the kitchens. Stewardess Violet Jessop wrote that the cat “laid her family near Jim, the scullion, whose approval she always sought and who always gave her warm devotion.
    But..As you say what happened to Jenny is still a mystery! =(^..^)=
    One final thing of course...They 'never' did find out who..at the
    bar..ordered ice..! :).

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    1. Funnily enough it is built on reclaimed land so it just might sink one day! I didn’t know anything about Jenny until I got home and looked it up online. I did look for any mention of a cat while we were there, but the place is so big, and it was very easy to miss things. I was really pleased to see the puss cat at the Botanic gardens – my immediate thought was “a cat for Willie." Terry thinks I’m bonkers what with pink busses and cats!

      We lived at a place called Well Manor Farm when I was a little girl, and actually lived in the Manor house while waiting for our tied cottage to be built. The new owners of the farm were still in London at that time, and the Manor was the only place available for us to stay. It was amazing and in my memory, the staircase was every bit as big as the one in Titanic. I don’t suppose it was, but it definitely had those big wooden stair rails with curly bits at the bottom – brilliant for sliding down! Our tied cottage felt very small after six months in the manor house.

      A night to remember is also my favourite Titanic film, although I did enjoy the latest one. Now where did I put that ice?

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    2. Where did the iceberg come from that sank the Titanic?

      The International Ice Patrol has now traced where the iceberg that sank Titanic originated. Greenland breeding ground.
      Eighty-five percent of all icebergs found in the North Atlantic come from the ice fjords on Greenland's west coast, and the ice shelf in Ilulissat is the most likely birthplace of the Titanic iceberg.

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    3. Well I never. Fancy finding that out all these years later – they say you live and learn. What a shame they didn’t know more about these things in 1912.

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  2. Oh, regarding Jenny, I hear a children's story, told from her point of view.

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    1. That is such a good idea Bish, just wish I had the first idea about writing! Maybe you could write it? I would be first in line to read it.

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  3. You certainly have been hob-nobbing around since retiring, Barbara. This looks like a very interesting trip. I've never been to Ireland but would love to go. I've read a few books about the Titanic, and have seen the old Barbara Stanwyk movie about it, but sinking ships actually scar me. I love the story about Jenny, and hope it is true that she and her kittens disembarked before that fateful trip.

    You certainly have a great way of relating your adventures - I agree with Bish - perhaps there a book waiting to be written?

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    1. Hi Alex, yes we are making the best of our spare-time. We just need to win the lottery to keep funding it! We loved Ireland and would like to go back and see more of it. Really super people and the ‘craic’ (as they say in Ireland) in the pubs is wonderful – we went for the music you understand. ;-)
      I’ve only been on one large ship. It was in 1995 on a trip from Cork in Ireland to New York. Half way across we ran into Hurricane Marilyn – I have never been more terrified in my life (although an earthquake in Greece was also pretty scary). The captain tried to outrun the hurricane and then tried to turn away from it but neither tactic work. We were buffeted around for what seemed like hours, and then had a very short period of absolute calm before the buffeting started again. Lots of people ended up with broken limbs and the ship was in a mess, but it could have been so much worse. Cruising – no thank you, never again!
      It takes me hours to write a blog post, and I’m never satisfied with them, so I really don’t think I have a book in me – but it would be wonderful if someone else wrote the story.

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  4. Hello dear friend! Sorry I have been away so long! Thank you for taking us with on your fascinating trip to Ireland! The building does indeed remind me of an iceberg! I must say on my recent sailing adventure, the Titanic did cross my mind! Thankfully, no icebergs in Lake Superior! Oh I do hope the story of the kitty exiting the ship before sail is true, it does make a wonderful story. Take care and thanks again for visiting my neglected blog! ~ Diane xx

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    1. Hello Diane, please don’t say sorry, I know just how hard it is to keep up with everything. I’m looking forward to reading about your sailing adventure one of these days. I’m sure the kitty left the ship – cats are so sensible. xx

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  5. This was so very interesting to read. And I'm not surprised it is such a popular place to visit. It looks very complete. I thought the building looked like a ship, as well as a glacier. Brilliant. I really like the story of Jim Mulholland. I hope it's true.

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    1. Hello Nan, you are absolutely right it does look like a ship, and I’m sure that is what the designers intended. I think it’s probably Titanic as she looked on the slipway on the day of her launch, and perhaps I was being a bit fanciful re the iceberg, or it could be a ship and an iceberg. Either way I’m glad you enjoyed the post and happy you visited. I always like a happy ending, so I’m sure the story of Jim and Jenny is true! :-)

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  6. I have been fascinated with the Titanic for decades now, and this post is one that I am absolutely delighted about!!! I have read many books on the Titanic, as well as seen all the movies and documentaries, and I hadn't heard about Jenny, so this was a plus! It wouldn't surprise me if she sensed the doom and left the ship, taking her kittens with her. Animals are amazing like this. I once read a true story about a family that owned a home and had a cat with kittens. There was a hurricane, and before this happened, the cat took her kittens to a shed nearby. Interestingly enough, the family followed them...and as a result saved their lives. There home was totally destroyed but the shed remained intact.

    Thank you so much for sharing this post, and I love all the photos and history here!

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    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment Linda. I’ve always had a fascination for Titanic too and think it must stem from the time (many years ago) when my dad bought some old copies of the National Geographic magazine. At least, I think that is where I first saw pictures of the sinking. The book by Charles Lightoller is worth reading, although having just looked on ABE books they are quite expensive. It might be possible to find it as an e book somewhere although I don’t know about that.

      Cats are so intelligent and I really do believe Jenny left the Titanic because she sensed impending doom. Your story of the hurricane makes me even surer of that. Thanks for sharing it here, Barbara.

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  7. You've made me crave a visit to this museum. What a magnificent structure. It gave me the chills just seeing it on my computer screen. It must be truly amazing to see it in person.

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    1. Hello Lee, it has an impact that’s for sure. I hope you get to visit one day.

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  8. What an interesting post! The museum looks fascinating. I would enjoy visiting it if I am ever in the area. I love the tour you took us on. I also had no idea about there possibly being a ship's cat. Thanks for sharing! :)

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    1. Hi Stephanie, I feel sure you would enjoy it. Barbara

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  9. What an amazing museum, one more reason for me to want to go to Ireland someday. Your experience there must have really brought this tragic event to life. Thanks for sharing all these fascinating pictures and information. There is a children's book called "Kaspar the Titanic Cat." Not sure how true it is, but Kaspar is billed as the only cat to survive the sinking...

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    1. Hello Marcia, thank you for the information re Kaspar. I’ve just read the reviews an Amazon. They are all good, but then I would expect nothing less written as it was by Michael Morpurgo. Have you read Private Peaceful and/or War horse? They are both excellent. Thanks again, I will be looking out for a copy of Kaspar the Titanic Cat, Barbara

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    2. "Despite being a work of fiction, parts of KASPAR THE TITANIC cat, seem quite real, especially when Morpurgo starts describing what it was like to actually be on the Titanic as it was going down."

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    3. Hi Willie, have you got the book? I’ve read a few samples from it online but can’t find the parts about Titanic. I must say the bits I have read are excellent, so I’m sure I will be buying it before too long. Barbara

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    4. No! Don't have the book, like yourself
      just followed a few links on line!
      Difficult to know what to believe really!
      Like a lot of tragedies from way back, someone
      says something, then stories just escalate....!
      Just look at the stories re the 9/11...watched
      quite a few recently on Sky, Ch4, BBC2, some are
      now very hard to believe! I was always told The
      Bible was the truest book ever written..."Nuff Said".

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    5. How right you are Willie! Thanks for emailing the link I'm going there now.

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  10. Dearest Barbara! I am coming to visit in the evening since my mornings are very limited now that I'm back to work. How I love seeing your posts pop up on my feed. AND, thank you for coming to visit my Instagram.

    THIS is a most impressive museum. This whole history never loses its impact whether one reads about it, sees a movie about it or visits such a place. The tragedy comes alive once again when we see the humanity behind it all. Gorgeous architecture! I hope you are enjoying your time back to England!

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    1. Hello Anita,
      I was very impressed with the museum (as you might have noticed!) There are all kinds of ‘interactive’ parts which people seem to demand these days, but at the same time they tell the story in a very sympathetic and respectful way. It must have been quite a balancing act, but I think they handled it very well.
      Northern Ireland felt very much like home, there is nothing like actually being at home. So yes, I’m enjoying my time back here.
      Thank you for taking time out of your very busy days to visit me Barbara. x

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  11. Barbara, thank you for this virtual trip to the Titanic museum. I'm thrilled that you and Terry are visiting places you've been meaning to go! The messages sent during the sink were tough to read but Jenny's story was amazing (I hope she did make it out with her kittens). I'll look around for a copy of Michael Morpurgo's picture book the Titanic cat!

    (*Sorry I've been missing on my blog the past week, too. Have a few clients' projects to keep up with, one of which is set in the UK, so I'll be looking for inspirations and doing some research here on your blog, if you don't mind!)

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    1. Hello Claudine, of course I don’t mind, in fact, I’m delighted. I hope you find something useful on my blog. I usually pop over to your blog every couple of weeks just to see if you have posted anything new and guessed you must be busy working. Being retired certainly has its perks, although I sometimes miss the structure of the working week. I’m going to look for the Titanic cat book too. I hadn’t heard about it before – which is another problem with not being so actively involved with books and bookselling. It’s not a problem though as my blogging friends keep me up to date with new books and goings on!

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  12. I would love to visit the Titanic Museum in Belfast. Your pictures are great! There is one on the east coast of Canada, in Halifax, as much of the debris turned up on the shores of Nova Scotia. https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/what-see-do/titanic-unsinkable-ship-and-halifax

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    1. I didn’t know that Darlene, how interesting. Thanks for the link I will enjoy browsing.

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  13. A terrific description. I must go. Either you love or hate cats, and I'm in the not really keen department, but you have to admire their ability to get out of anything.

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    1. Thanks Roger I appreciate the compliment! Cats are great but dogs are better – so I guess I’m a dog person who also likes cats.

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  14. Wow what an interesting post. The museum certainly looks very impressive and does give an impression of an iceberg. Glad you had a lovely time and shared some of your experiences with us. Thank you so muc.

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    1. Hi Shashi, I love sharing my holiday pics with everyone it means I get to relive the holiday! Thanks for coming over, Barbara.

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  15. I visited Belfast briefly as our tour bus (the Paddy Wagon, ha,ha) stopped there. We saw the museum but didn't have time to go in. I regret that now after reading your post. How fascinating.

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    1. Our coach parked next to a Paddy Wagon when we visited the Giant’s Causeway, I must admit we rather wished we could leave our very ordinary white coach and climb aboard a bright green Paddy Wagon. The museum is well worth a visit if you are every back in Belfast.

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  16. That looks SO fascinating! I went through the Titanic when it was a traveling exhibit in the mid-90s, then a few years ago to the Titanic museum in the Smoky Mountains. Which is actually shaped like the front of the ship itself. Kinda cheesy to be driving down the strip and see a huge replica of a sunk ship, right? But they did have some of the artifacts and all of the stories. It's all quite breathtaking.

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    1. The museum sounds fascinating Stephanie, and I’ve always wanted to visit the Smoky Mountains – maybe have to give some thought to a trip out that way soon.

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  17. Hello Barbara, A really interesting report of your visit to Titanic with some great pictures. The one that got me thinking the most was the one of the two men between decks during construction. Somewhere near the bow perhaps and possibly below the water line. Imagine the noise if they had to rivet those covers in place. Also that may have been the first compartment to strike the iceberg on that fateful night............

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    1. Hello John, I’m afraid I can’t claim the credit for all the photos. I only managed to get a small part of the outside in my shot (mine is the first one in the post). The ones showing the building in its entirety were taken by Terry. I did take the ones inside the building, but they were much easier to get. I have a couple of others showing men working in incredibly cramped conditions, but they are not very clear, so I didn’t put them on the post – I will email them to you later today. Terrible to think of those poor men trapped on the lower decks as the water tight (not so water tight as it turns out) doors closed.

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  18. What an amazing building. A museum I'd love to visit some day. I have friends who visited and said they were totally blown away by how atmospheric it was.

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    1. Hi Tracy, I’m sure you would enjoy it. It was pretty amazing.

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  19. Looks like a brilliant place to visit. Such a tragedy for so many families. Whoever designed the museum was very clever - ship, iceberg? I bet that cat and her kittens left before the ship sailed, they are so clever!

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    1. Morning Sue, it was fascinating but also very sad. A friend asked if we would be having a happy holiday soon – I hadn’t looked at it like that, but of course she is right. We’ve been to two very sad places this year – although Belfast itself more than made up for it – so it did. (I promise I will be over saying that by the time we see you in October!)
      I agree with you about the designer and cats. I’m sure cats and dogs, have a sixth sense about these things.

      I agree with you about the designer and cats. I’m sure cats (and dogs), have a sixth sense about these things.

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  20. What a lovely post and what an intriguing exterior design for the museum! In all the times I've been to Ireland to visit family, I've never made it to Northern Ireland. I'll have to fix that next time.

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    1. Hi Mary, thanks so much for coming over for a visit! Terry and I fell in love with Northern Ireland and intend to go back for a longer visit soon. We spent most of our holiday in Belfast, but we also took a trip along the coast road to the Giant’s Causeway. The picturesque villages and views across the water are unforgettable.

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  21. Dearest Barbara! Good morning and thank you my friend for visiting my blog post. We are just so excited about being in this magazine, but we cannot find one single copy in the shoppes! I hope to get one copy from the publisher, for I long to hold the magazine in my hands. I hope you are well? It has been raining non-stop here but it's such a lush green. Thinking of you all in England on this emerald green day!

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    1. Hello Anita, I can imagine just how excited you both are – it’s a wonderful tribute to all your hard work. I looked online to see if I could buy one, but I think I will have to take out a subscription. I’ve not given up and will keep looking, I might be able to order it as a back issue in a month or two. I’m so proud to know someone famous! Congratulations again, you deserve the success.
      We are both fine, thank you. I cleaned all the windows inside and out this morning and then (you guessed it) it rained! Dear old England always green – but I wouldn't have it any other way!

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  22. Wow... such fine detailing. This is one place I must visit on my next stop over there.

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    1. I’m sure you would enjoy it. It really is a great place to visit.

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  23. Oh my gosh!! What a delight - I have been fascinated with the Titanic for decades and I truly adore this post. I have read many books on the Titanic, as well as seen all the films and documentaries. Thank you for this tour.

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    1. It was such a great day. I recommend a visit if you ever get the chance. Hugs Barbara

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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