Paddy Meets The Nomadic - CrawCrafts Beasties

A Titanic Adventure for Paddy and Plunkett!

Hello everybody! Well, I think the title says it all – the terrible twosome are out on tour again, and look where they’ve washed up! I think Belfast’s Titanic Quarter had better brace itself…
Titanic Belfast, With Beasties - CrawCrafts BeastiesPaddy was only a little disappointed that he wasn’t allowed to climb up on one of the silvery points and shout “I’m the king of the world!” at passers by. But once Plunkett pointed out that no-one would be able to see him up there anyway, he agreed that a portrait on the steps was a better way to go.

They also encountered a Beastie-sized version of the famous ship herself!
Airfix Titanic - CrawCrafts BeastiesThis sculpture by English artist Andy Stallard shows the celebrated liner as an Airfix model kit… And local engineering firm Harland and Wolff (who built the real Titanic) assisted in its creation!

Further along, you can meet another member of the Titanic family… Not a sister ship exactly, but definitely part of the clan!
The Nomadic in Belfast's Titanic Quarter - CrawCrafts BeastiesThis is the Nomadic, the last surviving White Star Line ship in the world!

White Star’s “Olympic” class of liners, which included the Titanic and her sister ships the Olympic and the Britannic, were designed to impress the whole world with their over-the-top luxury and enormous size. Unfortunately, this meant that some of the ports they called at were simply too small to let them in! That’s where the Nomadic and her sister ship, the Traffic, came in handy.

These smaller “tender” ships brought passengers and their luggage, plus cargo, mail and supplies for the ship, from the harbour at Cherbourg out to where the massive liners were moored. Nomadic was primarily reserved for the first and second class passengers, which meant that she was much fancier than your average tender! In her heyday, she was tricked out with cushioned benches, tables, porcelain water fountains, a buffet bar and separate ladies’ and gents’ toilets, and her interiors were lavishly decorated.

It hasn’t all been fun and games for her though… In her lifetime, she’s served in two World Wars, performing duties such as minesweeping and transporting troops. She’s been a floating restaurant in Paris, and has narrowly avoided being scrapped on more than one occasion! She finally came home to Belfast in 2006, after several maritime and historical groups clubbed together to raise the money to buy her and restore her to her former glory.

The first phase of renovations were completed in 2012, and isn’t she looking great?
Paddy Meets The Nomadic - CrawCrafts BeastiesPaddy is most impressed!

And there was more to come in their tour of Belfast’s historic docklands! Time to hop on the Wee Tram, to take us to our next destination!
Beasties Resting Their Wee Legs - CrawCrafts BeastiesBeastie legs are of course wee-er than human legs, and more in need of rest!

And here we are at… The Titanic Slipway!
Plunkett at Titanic Slipway - CrawCrafts BeastiesThis is where the Titanic was built and launched, more than 100 years ago. This slipway was originally designed to accommodate 3 ships, but because the Olympic-class liners were so big, the area was reconfigured for 2 larger vessels. The line of posts down the left side of the photo shows how long Titanic was – Plunkett is mesmerised by the sheer scale of it! Meanwhile, Paddy has gone to trace the ship’s “footprint”, which is outlined in granite cobbles, and lit up in blue after dark!

Then there was one more famous ship to visit – one that, unlike the Titanic and her sisters, survived the First World War, and got to retire to the Belfast docklands! Meet HMS Caroline, the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland… One of the largest naval battles in history.
HMS Caroline in Titanic Quarter Belfast - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd as the sun set on another Beastie adventure, the boys took a detour to visit a new addition to the Titanic Quarter… One that they thought I would especially like to see.
The Great Light, Titanic Quarter, Belfast - CrawCrafts BeastiesThis is the Great Light, which was opened to the public last summer. It’s made from the lenses of a lighthouse on Mew Island, the smallest of a group of 3 islands called the Copelands that lie just off the coast of north County Down. As a young’un, I spent many happy weekends running around neighbouring Lighthouse Island (yes, I know… The lighthouse used to be on Lighthouse Island!), and the sweeping light of the lighthouse became a familiar sight after dark. I was also rudely awoken by the foghorn one night as well, but that’s another story!

Anyway, the lighthouse was upgraded in 2014, and now has a blinking, solar-powered LED lamp. And it turns out that the 130-year-old original lamp is a valuable part of the area’s maritime heritage! So now it lives here, where it’s much easier for people (and Beasties) to visit. Thanks, boys!

That’s all from us this week… Join us again next Tuesday, when we’ll be back on dry land for more monster shenanigans! See you then!

PS Any links in this post are there because I think they’re interesting, not because Paddy and Plunkett are being paid to promote certain attractions!


Paddy, Plunkett and a Very Familiar Curragh - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Off the Rails with Paddy and Plunkett!

Or rather on the rails, because the boys recently took a road trip… By train!

Their first port of call after leaving home was (of course) a quick tea break in Belfast. You can’t go adventuring without fuelling up first!
Paddy and Plunkett at Belfast City Hall - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesThey found a nice spot where they could look out at the City Hall, and watch the black taxis scoot by.

Then, suitably caffeinated, they continued on their journey – riding the train to the end of the line at Bangor, where they planned to have a look around Bangor Castle. Plunkett likes a good castle, as we all know. But there was a surprise in store for Paddy as well…
Castles of Stone and Sugar - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
…A miniature version of the castle, built entirely from SUGAR! It’s lucky this was safely locked up in a glass case, or Paddy would have treated us all to his best Godzilla impersonation.

Bangor Castle (the real one!) has been here since 1852. It was built as a private residence for the Ward family, who quite literally used to own half the town of Bangor. When the last surviving member of the family died in the early 1940s, the local council bought Bangor Castle and converted its large “music salon” into a Council Chamber, and the rest of the building into offices. The castle’s courtyard and stables were then redeveloped to house a museum dedicated to the history of the local area, and that’s where the boys are headed!

Bangor has a rich history, which Plunkett can’t wait to read up about. Here he is learning all about St Comgall, who founded nearby Bangor Abbey in the middle of the 6th century AD.
Plunkett Reads All About Bangor's History - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
He sounds like a barrel of laughs – according to Wikipedia, under his rule “prayer and fasting were incessant” and when you weren’t fasting, “food was scant and plain”. Despite this, Bangor grew to become one of the most important monastic sites in the Province, second only to Armagh.

Meanwhile, Paddy has skipped ahead, and discovered another miniature – this is how Bangor Abbey might have looked in its early days!
Beasties Visit Bangor - In Miniature! H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
He also found this.
Sir Paddy of Beastie - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“Plunkett, look! I’m a knight!”
But Plunkett was a bit busy examining this spiffy slate sundial.
Sundial from Bangor Abbey - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesMade in 1630, it’s not just for telling the time! A skilled user (ie, not me) could use it to get information about the tides as well.

The lads did eventually reconvene, and took a quick breather on a beautiful wooden chair…
Wooden Chair, 17th Century. Also pictured, 21st Century Beasties. H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties…Before heading outside to investigate this interesting hut, a reconstructed monk’s cell! It actually looks quite cosy, don’t you think?
Where Monks Live - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesAlthough perhaps a door might be a welcome addition. Then, Paddy spotted something…
Paddy, Plunkett and a Very Familiar Curragh - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties“Plunkett, don’t we have boats like this at home?”
“We do, Paddy! It’s an Irish river curragh, and it was made by one of our human minders. Look, you can even see him at work in the photos on the information board!”
Making an Irish River Curragh - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesThat revelation left Paddy wondering if this made him a celebrity, while Plunkett pondered the possibility that someday, someone might let him live in a museum. Deep in thought, they wandered back inside… Where they almost missed the Bangor Bell!
Paddy, Plunkett and the Bangor Bell - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesThis bell is made of bronze, and dates back to the 9th century, when it was most likely used to summon monks to prayer. But it’s had an interesting life! The bell was apparently unearthed by gravediggers working in the Abbey churchyard in about 1780, leading people to think that it might have been buried there to hide it from marauding Vikings. It was a savvy move, since Bangor was plundered by the Norsemen at least once around this time – that’s the downside of building your Abbey with a sea view, I guess.

Speaking of sea views, there were plenty of those to be had from the train on the way home!
Train With a View - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
The boys also got a good look at another notable local pair, thanks to a little help from a fellow traveller!
Goliath Cranes, Belfast - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
The two massive cranes at the Harland and Wolff shipyard greet you as you head into Belfast from the east, and they’re probably the city’s most recognisable landmarks… their size and colour make them pretty hard to miss! Although they’re only relatively recent additions to a place that’s been home to humans since the Bronze Age, they’re now well and truly part of the skyline – so much so that they even have names! Goliath is the older of the two, and at a mere 96m (that’s 315 feet) tall, he’s a bit smaller than his “little” brother, 106m tall Samson.

“Hey Plunkett, next time we’re here, we should TOTALLY climb those!”
“Um… We’ll see, Paddy. We’ll see.”

Sounds like Paddy might be waiting a while for that daytrip. Please feel free to distract him by sharing your own recent adventures (preferably at ground level) in the comments!

And thanks so much to all of you who joined us for the first Friday Social last week! We’ll be back in a couple of days for another one… Catch you there!

Explorer Beastie Special – Belfast Road Trip!

Explorer Beastie at Queen's University - CrawCrafts BeastiesOK, so normally Explorer Beastie and I would be taking you to one of our favourite Dublin places today… But when a rare opportunity to visit Belfast presented itself, we could hardly say no!

Although I originally hail from this part of the world, I very seldom get to hang out in Belfast any more. Trips “Up Home” seem to skim by in an instant – by the time I’ve shared all my news, heard what my parents have been up to, said hello to the cat and sampled the latest batch of my Dad’s homemade wine, I almost need to pack up and head south again! So when we heard there was a Rembrandt self-portrait on loan to the Ulster Museum, it was a perfect excuse to take the bus from the family homestead and pay a visit to one of my favourite childhood stomping grounds. On the way, Explorer Beastie had a quick look around the historic Lanyon building at Queen’s University…

Explorer Beastie at University! CrawCrafts BeastiesSandwich Time! CrawCrafts Beasties

…Then we grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading into the museum!

It turns out that there are lots of monster-like things living in the Ulster Museum, if you know where to look!

Monster Montage - CrawCrafts Beasties
Clockwise from main image: Totem pole, gold salamander pendant from the wreck of the “Girona”, Bacchus jug spout from the “Girona”, Sri Lankan Kolam mask

And you really need to watch out for those dragons flying around the atrium too…
Willow Dragons at the Ulster Museum - CrawCrafts BeastiesThese incredible sculptures are made from woven willow, and they’re the handiwork of local master basketweaver Bob Johnston. They’re so lifelike that you could almost imagine them swooping down from the ceiling! Fortunately, they seem more interested in each other… for now!

This trip was a great opportunity for me to check in with some old favourites – the exhibits I’ve been coming here to see since I was a small, creepily-obsessed-with-Ancient-Egypt-and-vampires child. Even after a complete refurbishment a few years ago, many of them are still on display! That includes Takabuti, the Eygptian mummy who has been an important part of the museum’s collection since she was first introduced to the public in 1835.
Takabuti's Hair at the Ulster Museum - CrawCrafts BeastiesSince long experience has taught me that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for mummies, I’ll just include this photo of a lock of Takabuti’s hair here instead… but you can find out more about her on the Museum’s website if you like!

Next, we went in search of some dinosaurs…
Explorer Beastie with Dinosuars at the Ulster Museum - CrawCrafts Beasties…And some prehistoric creatures that are still with us!
Explorer Beastie and the Coelacanth - CrawCrafts BeastiesExplorer Beastie was pretty intriuged by this coelacanth – a fish that was thought to be extinct until a live one was captured off the coast of South Africa in 1938. Before this, it had only been seen in fossils – ones that were at least 80 million years old! The Ulster Museum’s own “living fossil” was caught in 1973 off the Comoros Islands, and has been here ever since.

Also high on Explorer Beastie’s must-see list were the finds from the “Girona”, a ship from the Spanish Armada that was wrecked off the coast of County Antrim in 1588. He examined one of the original cannons…
Explorer Beastie and the Cannon - CrawCrafts Beasties…And discovered the kind of treasure that would make Pirate Beastie’s one remaining knee go weak!
Sunken Treasure from the Girona - CrawCrafts BeastiesThen we had a go at building a Neolithic stone tomb…
Explorer Beastie Builds a Tomb! CrawCrafts BeastiesWait a second… Tomb? Shipwrecks? Mummies? This is all getting very morbid! I think it’s high time we headed off to find that Rembrandt!
Rembrandt at the Ulster Museum - CrawCrafts BeastiesWow. The detail in the face is amazing – you can almost imagine him opening his mouth and launching into his life story. In fact, this is one of the last paintings Rembrandt completed… a final addition to the collection of 80 or so self-portraits he produced in his lifetime.

We could have stayed in the museum all day, but it really was time to head for home. At least we still had a few spare minutes for a leisurely stroll back into town through the Queen’s Quarter…
Around Queens Quarter, Belfast - CrawCrafts Beasties…And a quick hot chocolate on the way!
Explorer Beastie tucks in! CrawCrafts BeastiesThanks for joining us on our adventure north of the border! We’ll be back in Beastie Towers next week, bringing you monster news on Tuesday and another Dublin day out on Friday. In the meantime, have a super weekend!