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NI CentenNIal: 31st of January, 1951 - Tragedy at the Shipyard

The fortunes of the Harland and Wolff shipyard had been revived during the Second World War.

Now they were at the forefront of merchant shipbuilding as trade around the Globe began to increase.

Liners, cargo ships and naval vessels launched into Belfast Lough. The Belfast company outperformed all other UK shipyards, but it was not all plain sailing.

On 31 January 1951, a gangway collapsed killing 18 and injuring 59. One account said that the men “…showered like beads…” against the side of a ship.

Belfast County Grand Orange Lodge launched an appeal to raise funds for those Orange families impacted by the tragedy. It was a dark day for the yard and the Harland and Wolff family.

31st of January, 1953 - Maritime Disaster

On 31 January 1953, the community in Northern Ireland experienced its worst maritime disaster since the sinking of the Titanic.

That morning the ferry SS Princess Victoria sank on its way from Stranraer, in Scotland, to Larne.

133 passengers and crew lost their lives. Amongst them was the Deputy Prime Minister Maynard Sinclair MP (pictured), and the MP for North Down, Sir Walter Smiles. Both were Orangemen.

Sir Walter Smiles had seen service with the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division during the Great War, having been deployed to the Eastern Front to fight alongside the Russian. For a time, he even commanded the Ulster Heavy Armoured Car.

SS Princess Victoria

Images Courtesy of the UK Government/Northern Ireland Office and the Museum of Orange Heritage.

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