Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, as well as the birthplace of the RMS Titanic. The city’s name derives from the Irish “Beal Feirste” meaning “mouth of the River Forset” (basically a sandbar where the Forset River joins with the River Lagen). This area has been occupied since the Bronze Age (3000 BC to 1200 BC). Remains of earlier Iron Age (6th century BC) hill forts have been found in the hills of the Giant’s Ring Henge (a circular or oval shaped bank with an internal ditch surrounding a flat inside terrain) near the city.
By the 17th century, more substantial settlements had developed After Sir Arthur Chichester had established a town here under a land grant from King James. Chichester populated his town with Protestant English and Scots migrants. Once Queen Victoria had granted Belfast “City Status” in 1888, it began to blossom as a commercial and industrial center, becoming the linen capital of the world. In the late 1800’s, Edward Harland and Gustav Wolff established their shipbuilding company in Belfast, eventually becoming the largest shipbuilders in the world. Employing some 35,000 workers and using their giant cranes, Samson and Goliath, H. & W. Created RMS Titanic, RMS Olympia, and RMS Britannia (the largest ships of their time).
Disagreements over Home Rule in 1886, led to riots throughout the city. When, in 1920, Belfast became the capital of Northern Ireland, the country became partitioned off as a result of the “Irish War for Independence .” Sectarian conflicts between the Protestants (under the Ulster Defence Association) and the Catholics (under the Provisional IRA) remained a constant through the years, erupting in serious violence (e.g. bombings, assassinations, and street violence) during the time of “The Troubles” (1969 to 1998). The Good Friday Peace Agreement (1998) put an end to the overt violence between the two groups, although tensions still exist today (such as in the form of gangs of youths throwing rocks at one another occasionally).
Belfast is surrounded by three mountain ranges; the Davis Mountains, the Black Mountains, and the Cavehill (thought to have been the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver Travels” because it appears to be in the shape of a sleeping giant). Many famous folks have called Belfast home; among them were actor Anthony Boyle; author C.S. Lewis; singer-songwriter Van Morrison; former president of Isreal, Chaim Herzog; former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese; Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble; and pitcher for the N.Y. Mets, P.J. Colon. Sister cities to Belfast include Boston, and Nashville.