Around Belfast

I’m back at the Old Rectory earlier today than yesterday. I want a good sleep before tomorrow’s tour of the Giant’s Causeway and Antrim Coast. And last night was a late night1.

Weather today was a mixed bag. There were periods of moderately heavy rain2, as well as some nice, sunny periods. I was riding on the City Sightseeing city tour, and my plan was to get off at Stormont to tour the Parliament Building, but it was closed for the bank holiday. It was nice to see the grounds, and I might have got off to wander the grounds a bit, but the rain was moderately heavy at that moment.

So I rode on back into Belfast, to Crumlin Road, which used to be called the Murder Mile because of the number of killings that have taken place there during the Troubles. And these were big parts of the reasons:

The Crumlin Road Courthouse is currently derelict. It was opened in 1850, and has a tunnel passing directly under the road to the gaol - the source of the phrase "sent down." During the Troubles, the court used Diplock Courts, where cases were tried by a single judge.
The Crumlin Road Courthouse is currently derelict. It was opened in 1850, and has a tunnel passing directly under the road to the gaol – the source of the phrase “sent down.” During the Troubles, the court used Diplock Courts, where cases were tried by a single judge.
This was the gatehouse or tally house at the front of the gaol.
This was the gatehouse or tally house at the front of the gaol.
The main block of the gaol. Inside are the administrative areas and access to the cell wings.
The main block of the gaol. Inside are the administrative areas and access to the cell wings.
This is the tunnel under Crumlin Road. This section has been upgraded, with a concrete floor.
This is the tunnel under Crumlin Road. This section has been upgraded, with a concrete floor.
This is an older, unrestored section with a flagstone floor.
This is an older, unrestored section with a flagstone floor.
The door to the little holding cell - tiny door, and a cell about ten feet square. They were intended for about ten prisoners, and were segregated. Normally, men and women were separated, but when the Troubles heated up, the segregation was between Unionists and Republicans.
The door to the little holding cell – tiny door, and a cell about ten feet square. They were intended for about ten prisoners, and were segregated. Normally, men and women were separated, but when the Troubles heated up, the segregation was between Unionists and Republicans.
Here's the Governor's office. It's one of the few places in the prison with carpet, and so being brought to see the Governor - usually because of something bad - was being called on the carpet.
Here’s the Governor’s office. It’s one of the few places in the prison with carpet, and so being brought to see the Governor – usually because of something bad – was being called on the carpet.
This is the Circle. The gaol is built on the Panopticon concept, like Kilmainham Gaol, but implemented differently. Four different wings radiated straight off the circle, with clear lines of sight from the central area.
This is the Circle. The gaol is built on the Panopticon concept, like Kilmainham Gaol, but implemented differently. Four different wings radiated straight off the circle, with clear lines of sight from the central area.
Here's a cell, furnished as it was circa 1850.
Here’s a cell, furnished as it was circa 1850.
Here's a cell circa 1950. Somewhat upgraded. Still no toilet, though.
Here’s a cell circa 1950. Somewhat upgraded. Still no toilet, though.
By the 1970s and 80s, they had abandoned the Separate Method of confinement, putting two prisoners - sometimes three, if necessary - into cells intended for one.
By the 1970s and 80s, they had abandoned the Separate Method of confinement, putting two prisoners – sometimes three, if necessary – into cells intended for one.
At some point, they knocked the wall out of between two cells to make a larger room for use as an art classroom. Some of the murals have been preserved.
At some point, they knocked the wall out of between two cells to make a larger room for use as an art classroom. Some of the murals have been preserved.
This is a punishment cell. Note the absence of bedding - bedding was provided at night, but during the day, you could sit or lie only on the floor or on the wooden pallet. Thus, being sent to the punishment cell was called "being on the boards."
This is a punishment cell. Note the absence of bedding – bedding was provided at night, but during the day, you could sit or lie only on the floor or on the wooden pallet. Thus, being sent to the punishment cell was called “being on the boards.”
This cell was used to house condemned criminals. It was twice as large, in part because two guards had to be in with the prisoner twenty-four hours a day.
This cell was used to house condemned criminals. It was twice as large, in part because two guards had to be in with the prisoner twenty-four hours a day.

In addition, the condemned prisoner got a few extra perks – extra tobacco allotment, some stout from time to time, and so on. The whole prison had to be locked down if the condemned prisoner was being moved, taken out for exercise, or taken to bathe. Thus, there was a small washroom attached to the cell, with a toilet, sink, and a tall cupboard.

The cupboard held the restraints used to bind the prisoner when being taken to be hanged. At the time of execution, the prisoner would be bound here, ready to be led away, and then the guards would slide the cupboard away to reveal a door into the scaffold area. From the time of binding to the time of actual execution, only a few minutes would pass, with no time for the prisoner to bolt or struggle.

Steven, the guide, slid the cupboard open and opened the door revealing the noose in a wonderfully dramatic manner. It shocked the hell out of me, and was tremendously affecting.
Steven, the guide, slid the cupboard open and opened the door revealing the noose in a wonderfully dramatic manner. It shocked the hell out of me, and was tremendously affecting.
The noose hanging above the (glassed-over) trap door.
The noose hanging above the (glassed-over) trap door.
The rack they used to bind prisoners upright while lashing them either with birch switches (if under 18) or the cat of nine tails (if over 18).
The rack they used to bind prisoners upright while lashing them either with birch switches (if under 18) or the cat of nine tails (if over 18).
The exercise yard out between C Wing and B Wing.
The exercise yard out between C Wing and B Wing.

After that, I caught the tour bus back around Shankill Road, Falls Road, and the Peace Wall. Unfortunately, it had really started raining again, so I stayed on the bus back around to the city centre. I needed to get more batteries for my camera, anyway, and it was lunch time. So, I took care of those things, and looked at the time.

It was just about three by then, so while I could take the tour bus back somewhere, if I got off, there wouldn’t be another one for me to get back on. I decided to do some walking around the downtown area and the cathedral quarter, instead.

This is the Albert Clock, built in memory of Queen Victoria's husband and consort. It leans about a metre back and a metre to one side, thanks to the earth beneath it subsiding. Now, the tour guides said that each of the four clock faces told a different time, and none were correct. I took that at face value last trip, but this time I went and checked. Guess what? Each face showed the same time, and it was within a minute or so of my phone's time. And they call the CLOCK the four-faced liar.
This is the Albert Clock, built in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband and consort. It leans about a metre back and a metre to one side, thanks to the earth beneath it subsiding. Now, the tour guides said that each of the four clock faces told a different time, and none were correct. I took that at face value last trip, but this time I went and checked. Guess what? Each face showed the same time, and it was within a minute or so of my phone’s time. And they call the CLOCK the four-faced liar.
There are dancing fountains in behind the Albert Clock, with children playing in them. At least, when the sun comes out.
There are dancing fountains in behind the Albert Clock, with children playing in them. At least, when the sun comes out.
I love the way this is worded. And it's good advice, wherever you are.
I love the way this is worded. And it’s good advice, wherever you are.
This is the fish they're talking about. It's the Salmon of Knowledge. They say that if you kiss it, you will gain wisdom. But I'm already wise enough to know that kissing a fish is not a good idea.
This is the fish they’re talking about. It’s the Salmon of Knowledge. They say that if you kiss it, you will gain wisdom. But I’m already wise enough to know that kissing a fish is not a good idea.
Here's a close up of the salmon's scales. It's a mosaic, and each tile has a reproduction of a historical document important to Belfast.
Here’s a close up of the salmon’s scales. It’s a mosaic, and each tile has a reproduction of a historical document important to Belfast.
And here's me standing by the Salmon of Knowledge. Look, folks! I'm really in Belfast!
And here’s me standing by the Salmon of Knowledge. Look, folks! I’m really in Belfast!
This is the Spire of Hope, rising out of St. Anne's Cathedral. It's a sister piece to the spire on O'Connell Street in Dublin, erected in response to the 9/11 attacks in NYC.
This is the Spire of Hope, rising out of St. Anne’s Cathedral. It’s a sister piece to the spire on O’Connell Street in Dublin, erected in response to the 9/11 attacks in NYC.
This is the front of St. Anne's.
This is the front of St. Anne’s.
The interior of the cathedral. Note the chairs instead of pews - each chair had a little pillow attached to the back for the person behind to kneel on. Each of the pillows was beautifully embroidered.
The interior of the cathedral. Note the chairs instead of pews – each chair had a little pillow attached to the back for the person behind to kneel on. Each of the pillows was beautifully embroidered.
This tapestry was made to honour those people lost when the Titanic went down. The edge and the big cross in the middle are made of a myriad tiny white and silver crosses.
This tapestry was made to honour those people lost when the Titanic went down. The edge and the big cross in the middle are made of a myriad tiny white and silver crosses.
The Baptistery has a beautiful mosaic ceiling and marble font, with stained glass windows behind it all. Absolutely gorgeous.
The Baptistery has a beautiful mosaic ceiling and marble font, with stained glass windows behind it all. Absolutely gorgeous.
The Chapel of the Holy Spirit is right across the church from the Baptistery, and has beautiful mosaics, as well. The mosaics were made by two sisters in the 1930s.
The Chapel of the Holy Spirit is right across the church from the Baptistery, and has beautiful mosaics, as well. The mosaics were made by two sisters in the 1930s.
This little shrine contains books in which are recorded the names of all the Irish people, of whatever faith, who died in World War I. Carved on it is the legend, "He tried them like gold in the fire." A powerful symbol of the sense of unity that many have held all through the Troubles.
This little shrine contains books in which are recorded the names of all the Irish people, of whatever faith, who died in World War I. Carved on it is the legend, “He tried them like gold in the fire.” A powerful symbol of the sense of unity that many have held all through the Troubles.
From the Ambulatory, which winds behind the altar and the sanctuary, you can look past a big, silver cross down to the big stained glass windows over the main doors.
From the Ambulatory, which winds behind the altar and the sanctuary, you can look past a big, silver cross down to the big stained glass windows over the main doors.
Organ!
Organ!
On the north side of the cathedral is the largest celtic cross I have ever seen.
On the north side of the cathedral is the largest celtic cross I have ever seen.
Statues of three Buoys across from St. Anne's. They are apparently named Tom, Dick, and Harry. When asked which was which, the guide said, "Why would you care about a stupid thing like that?"
Statues of three Buoys across from St. Anne’s. They are apparently named Tom, Dick, and Harry. When asked which was which, the guide said, “Why would you care about a stupid thing like that?”

At that point, I was getting tired, so I walked back toward the bust stop, ducked into Tesco for a sandwich and some drinks to take back to the Old Rectory for dinner, and then spent the last couple of hours doing up this post.

Now, bedtime. Up early for the Giant’s Causeway.

  1. Mary here at the Old Rectory said, “You push yourself hard.” My reply, “Only because I’m stupid.” And then she says, “Well, at least you’re honest.” See? They know me here.” []
  2. And, about half an hour ago, there was hail for about thirty seconds. []

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