Centenary of Olympic's Launch
From 31st May 2011
Titanic’s sister ship, RMS Olympic was launched in Belfast on 20th October 1910. One hundred years on, a group from Belfast Titanic Society commemorated this event on slipway number 2 at Harland and Wolff shipyard.
In uncharacteristic Autumn sunshine, the society’s president, John Andrews, who is great nephew of Titanic’s designer, Thomas Andrews, led members in a short and informal ceremony to honour the prestigious date. Members were joined by a guest from Australia who was delighted to be part of the commemoration of the date. In December 2008, the society had marked the beginning of work on Titanic’s sister ship. Olympic’s keel was laid on 16th December 1908. The society felt it was only fitting to return to the slipway to mark the next milestone in the construction of the Olympic class liners.
The launch of Olympic marked a huge step forward in the history of Harland and Wolff. One observer of the event in 1910 remarked, “There is something awe inspiring in the proportions of Olympic...and the mind is almost staggered by her wonderful size, her general dimensions internally and the luxury and completeness of her appointments
.” Olympic was the largest man-made object ever moved, until her sister, Titanic stole that honour at her launch some seven months later. Present at Olympic’s launch were the Prime Minister’s daughter, Miss Asquith, the Lord and Lady Mayoress of Belfast, the shipyard chairman, Lord Pirrie and the chairman of White Star, Bruce Ismay.
One hundred years ago, there was great excitement at the yard in the lead up to the 11am launch. Workers had been busy for days previously knocking away the timber props which held her in place and the Queens Road which runs through the centre of the yard was busy with cars, trams and people. One hundred years on, the only sound to compete against the commemoration ceremony was construction on Titanic Belfast, the city’s new £97 million visitor attraction due to open in April 2012.
While in later years, Olympic’s fame was eclipsed by her ill-fated sister, she continued to journey on the North Atlantic route until 1935. At that time her owners, the White Star Line merged with their rivals, Cunard. An audit of the fleet branded Olympic too old to continue and she was scrapped. During the First World War she carried thousands of Canadian troops from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Europe.
Belfast Titanic Society
chairman, Una Reilly said, “It is important that we mark events such as the centenary of Olympic’s launch. As we move ever closer to the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s maiden voyage, Northern Ireland is the only place which can recognise these calendar dates in the construction of the Olympic class liners. Belfast has a rich maritime history which extends beyond Titanic and it is vital that the other great ships built at Harland and Wolff are also remembered.”
Belfast Titanic Society’s Reverend Ian Gilpin paid tribute to the men who had built Olympic and to the nine lives which were lost during the first phase of construction.
The next major event for commemoration is the centenary of Titanic’s launch on 31st May 2011. Belfast Titanic Society is organising an international convention to coincide with the date and more details will be available shortly.
How to get there
32 Heatherstone Road