We just had a sublime flying visit to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, and came back all the sadder that we couldn’t stay longer. It has been suggested that the Latin Resurgam (I shall arise) so conspicuous on the bodywork of St Paul’s Cathedral in London could be a motto for Britain’s capital itself, but Belfast has arguably done its own phoenix act in moving away from the worst of, and continuing to absorb, the ongoing sectarian divisions present since the creation of Northern Ireland as a political state in 1921.
Most impressive was the way that the city’s redoubtable historical industrial heritage synonymous with shipbuilding – and above all the RMS Titanic – stands toe to toe with modern business and industry in the so-called Titanic Quarter of the city. It’s a fascinating dynamic within a relatively limited geographical space and something we haven’t encountered in the same way anywhere else in the British and Irish Isles.
Once again, however, we found evidence of another dynamic dear to our hearts: that of the relationship between those very same isles and the Scandi countries. HMS Caroline (pictured above) is located within the Titanic Quarter and is thought to be the only ship that has survived participation in the 1916 Battle of Jutland to this day.
It all comes together as one drama and one history again: Scandi waters as a vital strategic and battle site, the British empire and its technical prowess at its peak or slightly past it. Once again we are left wondering if it isn’t our own very Anglo-Irish affinity to all things maritime and naval that makes the very water-defined Scandinavia so enticing a concept. There’s more on this theme to feature very shortly – and much more in the way of Nordic participation therein.