At that time it looked as if her future lay in being transported to the Naval Heritage dockyard at Portsmouth – but, as everyone who phoned, tweeted or spoke in the radio programme maintained, Belfast and Caroline have been inextricably entwined for so long that it would be a crime to move her from her adopted home.
Fast forward a few short years – and Caroline’s future in Belfast is now assured. Her future lies in the Titanic Quarter, repaired, restored, and re-interpreted as a visitor attraction with hundreds of tales to tell – adventures in the East Indies, base of operations in World War Two, a long career as the headquarters of the Naval Reserves here in Belfast, and – most significant of all as we approach its centenary in May this year – the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland in World War One.
I’ve been longing to get back on board for ages, especially as we’ve watched the scaffolding going up and the repairs progressing as we tootle past on the Wee Tram each week. And thanks to the wonderful Jamie, I finally got my chance!
So here’s a little glimpse of the phenomenal work that’s underway to get Caroline ready to open to the public this May:
A special treat was to get down into the engine rooms, where the original engines (now the last of their kind in the world) lurk in the darkness:
Out on the deck on a gorgeous crystal winter’s day, the views of both the ship and the Titanic Quarter were amazing: