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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 April 2007, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Ceremony marks Titanic disaster
By Arthur Strain
BBC News website

Ninety-five years after it went to the bottom of the cold north Atlantic the legacy of Northern Ireland's most famous - and tragic - export lives on.

A wreath was laid at the Titanic memorial in Belfast

On Sunday, a wreath was laid at the Titanic memorial in the grounds of Belfast's city hall.

The luxury liner, built in Belfast's Harland and Wolff's shipyard, sank on its maiden voyage in 1912, with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

The story has had a grip on the imagination that has crossed national and generational boundaries and is one that people in the city where the Titanic was built want to keep alive.

Every year the Belfast Titanic Society leaves a wreath at a memorial to the lost lives of the disaster.

Bryan Patterson, treasurer of the society said that 2 April, when the Titanic steamed out of Belfast, was a bigger date for the city, but that the sinking was what the ship was known for.

Wreath at foot of Titanic memorial
The memorial in the grounds of city hall is to the victims of the tragedy

"We have to recognise that it is known for the tragedy," he said.

Belfast's Lord Mayor, Pat McCarthy, said that the legacy of the Titanic was something that should be made more of.

"I had a reception for Harvard alumni, and they are all educated people, interested in the Titanic story and they had no idea that it was built in Belfast," he said.

The council has been promoting the ship's link to the city and Mr McCarthy said that this could be an added means of attracting tourism.

He said the week-long Titanic Made in Belfast Festival had reinforced the fact that people are interested in the story of the vessel and it could be a valuable tourism tool.

"We had 23,000 visitors to the exhibition in the city hall in a week," he said.

"It was hugely popular."

One of those attending the ceremony was John Andrews, president of the Belfast Titanic Society - great-nephew of Thomas Andrews who designed the White Star liner and lost his life when it sank.

It was a poignant moment for him, with the catalogue of errors that lead up to the sinking and horrendous loss of life at the forefront of his thoughts.

The Titanic
The Titanic was built at Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast

"It is something that never should have happened," he said.

The tale is not the only part of the Titanic story that people want - owning a piece of memorabilia is big business.

Items owned by survivors, blueprints of the ship even a replica of the gem worn by Kate Winslet in the 1997 film Titanic, have found their way onto the auction block.

The most recent is a Swiss company who are making a range of watches costing up to US $173,100 which utilise pieces of steel and coal from the wreck site.

The wrecksite of the Titanic has been protected for more than a decade, but a number of artefacts were taken in early diving expeditions.

Mr Andrews said that there would probably be a limited number of such items being offered from now on.

"The wreck is disintegrating," he said.

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