The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Abseiling Santa… Low-flying elves… Carols by candlelight… Dock Christmas Market… TQ Christmas lights…  It just isn’t Christmas until the Dock’s yearly yuletide extravaganza!


So see you at 4pm at Dock Cafe – bring yer wooly mittens (all being well, we’ll be singing carols outdoors by candlelight) – and any sceptical children who wonder how on earth Santa can deliver presents to apartments with no chimney!

Just to whet your appetite, here’s a few pics from previous years:

And on the theme of the most wonderful time of the year… These new signs popped up on the tables in Dock Cafe today:


– and if The Dock can achieve one thing over these next few weeks, I hope it can provide a space for people to stop, relax, pause.  Maybe reflect… maybe even pray?!  I popped into town today to pick up some candles for our candlelit carols on Saturday – and I’ve never seen such rushed, hassled, stressed-looking crowds.  Lots of our busy activity at this time of year is wonderful.  Some of it, of course, is insane.  So let us pour you a cuppa, find a squashy sofa in a cosy corner and STOP!

Search for the hero inside yourself

I reckon that every Dock volunteer is a hero… but this week Dave took it one step further!

Our intrepid Dock Cafe painter/decorator was involved in a  dramatic rescue on Cave Hill this week, as reported by BBC News here

Of course we know that his athleticism is all thanks to a few days hanging acrobatically from high ladders painting Dock Cafe’s new yellow shipyard cranes!

It wasn’t the Dock’s only recent appearance on BBC… you might have spotted reporter Mandy McAuley making use of Dock Cafe’s free wifi to check her emails while sipping a Dock Cafe cuppa on this week’s Spotlight!

Life at The Dock in December is crammed full of Christmassy goodness as always… if your diary is starting to fill up, make sure to mark these dates now – see you at any or all of them!

img_7602Saturdays 26th Nov & 10th Dec 11-5 in the Odyssey Pavilion – Dock Christmas Markets
It may be in its new home in the Odyssey, but Dock Market is crammed with tempting treats, crafty creativity and perfect presents as always!

15312736907_07cb545735_zSunday 4th Dec @ 6pm in Dock Cafe – Sunday Nights At The Dock
Join us for our monthly celebration with prayer, praise and inspiration – this month taking a look at some famous Christmas songs (but not the ones you might be thinking of!)

BWB_3358Saturday 10th Dec @4pm in Dock Cafe – A Titanic Christmas
It becoming a tradition… Christmas doesn’t really start in the TQ until Santa and the elves have abseiled off the ARC apartments, we’ve all sung carols by candlelight by starlight at the Marina and switched on the TQ Christmas lights!

2015-04-04 13.50.29Sunday 1st January @3:33pm at Dock Cafe – New Years Dock Walk
Another Dock tradition, from way back when Dock Cafe didn’t even exist!  Gathering on New Years Day to walk through the TQ giving thanks for all the new life and growth – and taking some time to commit ourselves to an exciting year ahead!


The beloved, the damned and the forgotten

img_7932Good melodramatic title, eh!  That’s the description sometimes given to the three Olympic-class liners built in Belfast – the Olympic was the beloved (aka the One That Worked), the Titanic was the damned (aka the One That Sank), and the third and last – the Britannic – is sometimes the forgotten sister.  But not today!

img_7933This morning the members of the Belfast Titanic Society gathered on the frosty slipways to mark the centenary of the sinking of HMHS Britannic.  Her story is scarcely less dramatic than that of Titanic – in fact it would make a fantastic movie (if done properly – there is a Britannic movie but let us not speak of it – it is terrible)

hmhs_britannic_turbines_being_assembledBuilding Britannic was every bit as awe-inspiring as the construction of Titanic; the pictures of the yardmen dwarfed by gargantuan machinery have that same epic scale.  But the world was changing fast in the years following the Titanic disaster: by the time Britannic was complete, World War One had broken out and instead of transporting passengers across the Atlantic in opulence and luxury, Britannic was requisitioned as a hospital ship to serve the war effort.

rms-britannicHence the pictures of a ship, nearly identical to Titanic in every respect, painted white and bearing a red cross.   Identical on the outside, but less ornate inside; as part of the commemoration this morning we were able to see some of the beautiful carvings and decorations intended for Britannic if she had ever been fitted out as a luxury liner rather than a utilitarian floating hospital:

But alas her career was very nearly as short as her older sister.  On her 5th journey out to tend to the wounded at Gallipoli, an underwater explosion (probably a mine) engulfed the Britannic just off the coast of Greece; she sank in just 55 minutes, although 1035 of her 1065 passengers were saved.

britannic_sinkingThe story of those 55 minutes is incredibly dramatic.  Realising that they were close to the coast of the Greek island of Kea, Captain Bartlett made a desperate attempt to beach the ship.  But as the propellers started to spin, screams rang out: against orders, two lifeboats had been launched and were being sucked into the wash of the propellers.

The Captain ordered a full stop, but it was too late: both for the unlucky souls on the lifeboats, and for any other attempt or hope to reach dry land.  In the end, all the rest of the passengers either made it safely to the remaining lifeboats, or were rescued by fishing boats which had launched from Kea to aid the stricken ship.  The only fatalities were those in the first lifeboats.

screen-shot-2013-02-19-at-23-53-38Britannic now rests just 400 feet deep off the coast of Kea (and the very nice chap who now owns the wreck was part of the commemoration this morning).  She was the largest ship sunk during the First World War; she still remains the largest passenger ship lying on the sea floor anywhere in the world.  The end of the story lies in the warm Greek waters; the start of the story is right under our feet in the Belfast shipyard.

img_7935What incredible history we are walking on, talking about, uncovering and redeeming day by day.  Every time the Wee Tram passes the names of the lost on the slipways; every time an old yardman tells us the story behind one of the shipyard photographs in Dock Cafe; every time a visitor gazes open-mouthed across the vast Thompson Dock, another thread of shipyard history is woven into the new Titanic Quarter story.