Titanic Centenary Songs of Praise


Titanic Centenary

Eamonn Holmes is in Belfast, where the RMS Titanic liner was built, to reflect on the lives lost a century ago and the legacy of the 'unsinkable ship'.


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Hello there from Belfast and a very special place,

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the location where the world's most famous ship was built

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and from where it set sail 100 years ago.

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That ship, the Titanic, still has a hold on our imaginations

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and in a month from now, Belfast will become the focus

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of a worldwide commemoration as we remember the tragic loss of life

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and reflect on the legacy of what was known as the unsinkable ship.

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On this week's Songs Of Praise,

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the woman whose father was Titanic's interior designer,

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a driving force behind the city's Titanic Quarter

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and one of the few people to visit the ship's graveyard.

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And music from special guests, Brian Houston and the Celtic tenors.

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Even before she set sail in April 1912

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on that fateful maiden voyage across the Atlantic,

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Titanic was making headlines.

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She was the world's largest ship

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and had standards of luxury, elegance and, ironically, safety,

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which were unsurpassed at the time.

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As we never forget the disaster

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that resulted in more than 1500 people losing their lives,

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there's a line in a well known hymn that comes to mind.

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"Oh hear us when we cry to Thee, for those in peril on the sea."

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Our congregation from St Thomas' Parish Church

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lead us now in that seafarers' hymn.

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Just a short distance from St Thomas' Church

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is the home of Titanic's chief engineer and designer,

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Thomas Andrews, now the home of the Irish Football Association.

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In fact, the staircase here in the front hall

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was said to be the inspiration for the grander one.

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For all too short a time,

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the wealthy passengers revelled in glorious opulence.

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But the story of Titanic is more than just an account of engineering excellence,

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it's a story of human endeavour, ambition and courage.

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When Titanic struck that iceberg

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at 11:40pm on Sunday 14th April 1912,

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the order was given to start filling lifeboats.

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Thomas Andrews ensured the survival of passengers,

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but his own body was never recovered.

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Mike McKimm is BBC Northern Ireland's Environment Correspondent.

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In the course of his work, he was invited to film an expedition

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to the bottom of the sea to view Titanic's final resting place.

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For Mike, that became a pilgrimage.

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It took about two days from the coast of Canada

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to actually get to the Titanic site.

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Then suddenly, one afternoon, the ship's engines stopped and we drifted.

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I realised, "We're there, we're over the Titanic,"

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and I wandered to the side of the ship and I looked down.

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The sea was very calm, but I realised this was where it all took place

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on that fateful night way back in April 1912,

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where all these people died.

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You struggle with that. I struggle with it very hard.

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I can remember almost fighting back the tears.

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Even now, the hair is standing up on my neck because it was such an emotional time.

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We'd been built up for the expedition and suddenly,

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here we were at the grave site, and that was very hard to cope with

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and that stayed with us during the whole trip.

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I saw people actually crying.

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People really believed this was an important site,

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a hallowed site, if you like.

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This was a grave site where hundreds of people died

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and died a horrible death all those years ago.

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That kind of stuck with me all the way through the dive.

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I realised that I had to remember why I was really there,

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that I was marking the fact that this terrible tragedy had taken place.

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As you go very slowly towards the bow of the ship,

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it looms out of the darkness, and you've mixed emotions.

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You're very excited to see the ship -

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you've only ever seen it in pictures and films.

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At the same time, all the way through filming the ship,

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I kept on looking out and thinking,

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"People died, people were in those cabins."

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One of the most stunning images I have

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is looking down into what used to be the grand staircase,

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a big hole that runs down through various decks of the ship.

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It once would have had a wooden staircase with a glass dome over it,

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but all of that is gone and when you look down,

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it was huge, it was deep, it was very eerie.

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You saw right into the Titanic, deck after deck after deck,

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and it was a stunning sight.

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The reason I actually went to Titanic,

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I was asked by Belfast City Council to put this memorial plaque

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on the bridge of the ship with some other plaques.

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It was from Harland and Wolff and the people of Belfast

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in memory those who'd died on the Titanic

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and there it is to this day, this plaque.

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I was very touched and moved by that.

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It was a great honour to be asked

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and I kind of felt myself saying inside, "This is for you."

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I don't know quite who I was talking to,

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but I suspect it was the people the plaque referred to.

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It was a wonderful time.

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As well as diving to the ship,

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I went on to visit the Titanic graveyard in Halifax in Nova Scotia.

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It's where over 100 bodies that were found were buried.

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Of course there's people from the north of Ireland there,

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there's people from all round the world, including children.

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That was particularly poignant

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but somehow, going there helped me close that circle

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and helped me pay my respects.

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Being able to do that in many ways gave me a little bit of settlement

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and comfort that finally, I'd completed a task that I'd set out to do

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and then I didn't feel so bad

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about having gone down to the ship and been in their space.

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These are the Titanic's drawing offices

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in Belfast's Harland and Wolff shipyard.

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Visionaries of another era worked here,

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innovators, men of ideas and this is where the dream began.

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From brain to paper, from drawings to reality.

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The Titanic interior boasted a level of design and luxury

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never before seen on an ocean liner.

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Ambrose Willis was one of the men responsible.

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He worked here and his daughter, Eleanor Thompson, takes up his story.

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My father worked on the Titanic.

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He was chief design draughtsman.

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There were a lot of designers and a lot of draughtsmen

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and they all worked in the drawing office that is there to this day.

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Just the same way as you would have a designer in your home,

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my father did that on the ships.

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The work he did talk about was that beautiful staircase.

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I mean, that was all the designers, it was everybody's work

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and all these things were made.

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There were workshops -

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there was a paint shop and a carpentry shop

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and there was an awful lot of furniture for the boats.

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They were made in Harland's

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and that would have been part of my father's job.

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He loved his job and he was away a lot.

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He started out with his team to go on the Titanic trip

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and he went as far as Southampton.

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And he was told when they got here that he was needed in Belfast

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and he left the ship and went back.

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And of course, all his friends, the people that he worked with,

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all so many people that was lost on the Titanic.

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It must have been awful going back

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and all the seats, just people weren't there.

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He was heartbroken. He lost all his friends.

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And I think he did have a feeling of,

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"I was saved, why?

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"And all my friends were lost."

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He probably avoided a lot of things

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that reminded him of the sad times,

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but he certainly didn't like to refer to people

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or to times of being on the Titanic, never.

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It was never talked about in my home at all.

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But that's the way he treated it,

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by putting it completely out of his mind.

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But it must have been heartbreaking for him.

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There were people that would say,

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why did God allow a thing like that to happen?

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But you never heard my father or mother

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saying anything like that at all.

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There is a Belfast singer-songwriter called Brian Houston

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and as a young man, Brian served his time as a carpenter

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here at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, so, we've brought him back

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to perform, especially for Songs Of Praise.

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# Precious Lord

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# Take my hand

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# Lead me on

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# Help me stand

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# I am tired

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# I am weak

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# And I am worn

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# Through the storm

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# Through the night

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# Lead me on

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# To the light

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# Take my hand

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# Precious Lord

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# Lead me home

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# When the dark disappears

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# And the night

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# Draws near

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# And the day

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# Is past and gone

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# At the river I stand

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# Guide my feet

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# Hold my hand

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# Take my hand

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# Precious Lord

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# Lead me home. #

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100 years on, this is another part of the Titanic story.

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This new building - a towering presence -

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shaped like and in proportion to the real ship,

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it will house the largest Titanic exhibition in the world.

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But building of another kind continues.

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The Reverend Chris Bennett is chaplain to the Titanic Quarter.

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There's a little sense of pride around the city today as we start to

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own the Titanic story again.

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Over the last 100 years, they say Belfast never talked about Titanic

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because the men who built her, when the news came back

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about the iceberg and the sinking,

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they walked the city streets, tears openly pouring down their faces.

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They just never mentioned it again.

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Even though the ship sank, there's a lot to be proud about,

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a lot to celebrate in the fact that we built the largest man-made moving object in the world,

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that 15,000 men put together something absolutely incredible -

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this beautiful ship.

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When I became chaplain, one of my first roles was

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as a tour guide for Titanic walking tours.

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As part of that, you get access to this fabulous old building -

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you bring the tours around the drawing office.

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When you walk in the door of this place,

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you just breathe in the history - you can put yourself back 100 years,

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feel a sense of the men walking into work,

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designing these mighty ships.

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So I have wholeheartedly become a Titanic nut.

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From my point of view, the really interesting thing is to find out

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that there was quite an active faith around the old shipyards as well.

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There are fantastic stories of how the men would gather round the furnace

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at lunch and would bring their peace - their sandwich - with them

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toast their peace at the furnace and as they stood round,

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there were different clubs.

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There'd be the chess club, the football club, the debating club and one of them was the Bible club.

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Some of the men would stand round, someone would read from Scripture and

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they'd stand there, chatting away - what it meant to them, their faith,

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as they ate their lunch. I love that sense of faith being active,

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but a little bit disorganised, out in the open air, mingled with

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everyday life, even 100 years ago, when the ships were being built.

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I think there's a great hope that the Titanic Quarter will recapture

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all that was best about that old picture of Belfast -

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the idea of community, the idea of a big mix, a big melting pot

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of people from all sorts of different backgrounds working together.

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What you see in the quarter already today - people making movies,

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students, people living, working here,

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the Science Park, the tourist attractions -

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it's such an incredible mix that I think it has the potential to be

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the kind of community

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that Belfast has never seen before. It's really exciting for me

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that faith could be at the centre of building that community.

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We're here when it's still a little bit of a building site.

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We're opening a pop-up cafe in a shop unit

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at the base of the apartments and we hope that will be

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the first community hub of the Titanic Quarter and for

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the church to be at the centre of that, that's just so exciting to me.

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The ultimate vision of the dock project is to buy a beautiful old ship.

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It won't just be open for services on a Sunday.

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It'll be a chaplaincy centre, open every day, kettle always on,

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sofa always comfy, somebody always waiting to have a chat

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about any topic - God or any other topic that comes up.

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That idea of being mixed and mingled with everyday life,

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I think that would mean that conversations about faith would bubble to the surface

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in a very natural way,

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just as they did around the furnace in the old shipyards.

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I love the sense that

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we're building on that legacy and walking in those footsteps

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as we start this new journey in 2012 as well.

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Whenever I look at old images

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or contemporary connections to Titanic,

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I suppose I know I'm looking at a really important part

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of history and you ask, "Would I have survived?"

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"What if?"

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I come to reflect and most of all, I come to remember.

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# The moonlight dances

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# Among the trees

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# The campfire glows

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# In the autumn breeze

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# And I am lost

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# In my thoughts of you

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# Remember me

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# Recuerda me

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# A comrade strums on a sad guitar

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# My mind is drifting

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# To where you are

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# I'm holding you

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# As I used to do

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# Remember me

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# Recuerda me

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# Mi amor

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# So long ago

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# So far away

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# Each night I pray

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# Volvera Los Dias Pasados

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# I promise you

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# That come what may

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# Those days will stay

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# Ever in my memory

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ALL: # In all this world

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# I could never find

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# The love that I had

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# To leave behind

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# But duty calls

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# So whatever befalls

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# Remember me

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# Recuerda me

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# Mi amor

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# God only knows

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# What tomorrow brings

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# You're in my heart

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# So my spirit sings

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# And I'll be strong

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# Just as long as you

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# Remember me

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# Recuerda me

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# Mi amor. #

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May God, in His love,

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enable us to record the achievements of the past,

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in His compassion,

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may He lead us from pride to humility.

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In His deep care for us,

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may He help us to triumph over all adversity...

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..and the blessing of God Almighty,

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the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

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rest upon you and upon your families

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and your friends

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and remain with you now and always.

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ALL: Amen.

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There are many reports of unselfish deeds recorded

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on that terrible night of April 1912

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and devotion to duty during the sinking.

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Bandleader Wallace Hartley assembled his orchestra

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close to the grand staircase.

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What went through their minds can only be guessed, their final thoughts - we'll never know.

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But we do know that all eight bandsman lost their lives.

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The survivors recounted that the final tune the band played

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was the hymn, Nearer, My God, To Thee.

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We can never know for sure, but the fact that they did play

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in those terrible circumstances,

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when faced with certain death is enough.

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Although we've been looking back at those dreadful events

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of that spring night in 1912,

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there is a sense of hope in this story.

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There's a pride in the engineering prowess of our forefathers -

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a new feeling of optimism here in Belfast and a sense of faith

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finding its place again at the heart of Titanic's new story.

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Until next time, on Songs Of Praise, bye-bye.

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Next week, it's Mothering Sunday

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and Aled meets some truly inspirational mothers,

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including the foster mum who's cared for 93 children.

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Britain's Got Talent finalist Jean Martyn

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gives thanks for her mother and tinkles the ivories too

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and there are wonderful hymns from across the country.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Eamonn Holmes is in Belfast, where the world's most famous ocean liner was built, to reflect on the lives lost a century ago and the legacy of the 'unsinkable ship'. Maritime hymns come from St Thomas' Church, and guest singers Brian Houston and the Celtic Tenors perform inspiring songs of faith.


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