Lorraine CRAIG

Secrétaire de la Royal Geographic
Conférence en anglais

Article complet


BELFAST SLIDE In my present job as Head of Research and Education at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in London I am fortunate to live and work in one of the most attractive parts of central London. Each morning I walk past elegant Georgian houses, with pretty flowers, garden squares with trees and Harrods and the museums. London is a multi-cultural city: the person next to you often does not speak English as their first language. The café owner where I buy my morning expresso was born in Annecy and greets many of her customers in French. Their religion? – it could be any of the world’s faiths.


QUB slide It is very different environment to the one that I was born in, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I was 11 years old when the ‘The Troubles’ started in summer 1968. My family lived in the centre of the city and with my two sisters we had what we considered then to be a normal life. After university in Belfast, I left at the age of 25 to find work in England. It was only at that time that I began to realise how different it had been for me as a young person growing up in Northern Ireland, to someone growing up in England.

Aims slide During my talk I will aim to cover the following areas

introduction to Belfast and northern Ireland

Population - the ethnic and religious divisions

a young person in the 70’s

Belfast in 2002

Mini Lorraine slide This talk is a very personal one. It is inevitable that growing up in Belfast through the turbulent years of The Troubles I have a particular memory and perspective of what was happening. Others may tell the story differently. I will use graphs, maps and photographs to tell my tale. These illustrations are as much a tool in the story as are the words.

Many of the images that I will show have been gratefully loaned to me by colleagues in the geography department in Queen’s University of Belfast, and in particular Professor Fred Boal, Professor David Livingstone, Dr Stephen Royle. Others I took during a recent visit to stay with my elderly parents still living in Belfast, but that is another story…

Belfast – where is it?

MAP slide The British Isles – to the northwest of France – contain two major states, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Ireland is divided into two parts. The Irish Free State was created in 1922 to be independent of the United Kingdom with a border drawn with Ulster or Northern Ireland which remained part of the United Kingdom.

The Irish are of Celtic origin with additions of Norse, French, Norman and English peoples. We are mostly uni-lingual English. Pub slide Popular images of traditional Ireland include a land of green grass – it rains a lot - where people still believe in the leprechauns, or little people, drink Guinness in one of the many pubs and talk a lot !

Rural Ireland

FARM slide Most of the population of Northern Ireland (1.6 million) live in the east with mostly small farms in the rural areas. My grandparents had a farm where we spent many happy days as children. Low tiled or thatched, and white-washed cottage with beef and diary cattle, pigs, chickens provided a simple life. My mother, the youngest of a family of 15 children, recalls leaving the farm to work in the big city, Belfast. My cousins are still farmers but now have a second job in the local market town.

Giants Causeway There are many striking features of the north of Ireland. The world heritage site, the Giants Causeway consists of thousands of pillars of black basalt. Located on the north coast this is the annual holiday destination with fishing villages, largely deserted beaches, ice-cream. ***Ice-cream slide With both British and EU funding the roads have improved considerably throughout the province.

Belfast – site and situation

Site of Belfast Most employment in the cities, with Belfast the principal city. With a population of 475,000 in 1991 it is similar in size to xxx in France. The nucleus of the city was where the River Lagan flowed into Belfast Lough. Davis Flats and cave hill Hills to the north-west and south-east of the city contain its growth.

Ship building slide Belfast grew from the 18th century onwards. Textile manufacturing, especially linen production established the city followed in the 19th and 20th centuries by shipbuilding, engineering – linked to textiles – and the ropeworks.

The increase in industrialisation, especially in the first half of the 19th century, drew large numbers of migrants from the rural parts of the north of Ireland. Graph – fig 1 1757 – 1991. Inter-ethnic tensions were pointed out from the 1830’s that it brought with it intense feelings of territoriality to the city, common enough at the time for both Protestants and Catholics in rural areas to the west.

Samson and Goliath slide By the 1970’s linen production and textile engineering were declining, shipbuilding fared better as British yards replaced tonnage lost in the war – the landmarks of Samson and Goliath cranes dominated the city’s skyline. Shorts aircraft company was a success.


Every 10 years there is a population census in the UK. From this information we will consider population size, and in particular its division along ethnic and religious lines. We will also look at the age distribution. I am grateful to the work that has been done by Fred Boal.

a. Population size

Graph – Fig 3 Belfast Core City

With the largest growth in population taking place in between 1891 and 1901, coinciding with the increase in industrialisation, the greatest decline between 1971 and 1981 – an average of 10,200 people per year. The peak of 800,000 represents the Belfast regional area – including all suburban areas.

Map – Figure 4b population change 1971 – 1991

n simple terms decline in the city was matched by a growth in the outer regional area - people moved out of the city where the troubles were greatest to the quieter, suburban regional city – the new housing estates of the 1970s.

Cartoon on moving out of the city

Ethno-religious geography

In urban areas various social groups are normally residentially segregated from one another e.g. social class, age and ethnicity. In the case of Belfast ethnicity can be defined as Catholics and Protestants. Belfast was founded by in-comers to Ireland and as a consequence the city was a Protestant place. With industrialisation the numbers of Catholics increased and by 1991, the Catholic proportion had reached 42 %. Some predictions now present a Catholic majority in Belfast by early in this century – the Protestants have moved out to the suburban areas. Terraced housing lower Shankill

Segregation slide is higher today than ever before and takes place very rapidly, regardless of the relative numbers of Catholics and Protestants. There is one other aspect of segregation that should be mentioned – the sharp increase after 1969 was particularly concentrated in social (public sector) housing. Segregation in social housing it rose from 59% in 1969, to 89% by 1977. The private sector housing only increased from 65 to 73%.

Slide of % catholics in west Belfast The map of Belfast % of Catholics in 1991 shows this segregation clearly. The inner city on either side of the Lagan shows a Catholic majority to the North and West and Protestant to the south and east. The large scale loss from the north and west of the city during the 1970’s was significantly greater in the Protestant areas.

Slide of the newspaper survey Another simple way to find out about the ethnic religious divide is to survey which morning newspaper is taken in each household…

Slide of tribal maps Tribal maps were produced and used by the army in the 1970’s. Coloured – orange and green

In summary: it was predominantly the middle and working class Protestants who moved to private and social housing in the suburban areas; the Catholics in general stayed in ‘safe’ areas in the north and west of Belfast.

The 1970’s

Summer 1968 marked the start of the present Troubles in Northern Ireland.

We lived at the top of the Shankill and beside Ardoyne. Names that would become household names in the years ahead. Aged 11, September 1968 I started at my senior school – Belfast Royal Academy. It took 45 minutes to walk to school. We wear school uniform in the UK, and some days our caps would be pulled off us, while others spat. We were clear targets to the Catholic community we walked through. But generally Protestants attended Protestant schools…. And Catholics, the catholic schools.

As most families activities focussed around the parish church presbyterian, church of Ireland, catholic - Girl Scouts, dancing and keep fit classes for the women.

SLIDE ORANGE PARADES Father was a member of the Orange Lodge associated with our parish church. It was only for those who did not drink alcohol – ‘total abstinence’. Not very French…. Each year on the 12th July all the members of the Orange Lodges (up to 30,000 men only) throughout the city marched in a single parade with different bands. It was the Protestant festival celebrating the victory of King William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The music was anti-catholic, but this did not stop both Catholic and Protestant families from coming to see the parade – it would take 3.5 hours for all the marching men to pass one spot.

Father resigned when membership of the Orange Order became associated with violence of the Protestant organisations. Each summer as the various parades take place around the province some pass peacefully, but others are still linked to violence.

February 1969 my wee sister was born. By that summer there was rioting in the streets around us, our homes were attacked, then the shooting started. Slide of burnt houses.

‘Men come to our house asking for our furniture’; I have a vivid memory of my father making us hide behind the kitchen table while he tried to pretend to the men banging our door that no-one was at home. We put wire and metal grills over the windows to protect them both day and night.

Slide Army photos. Then the army arrived. It was late on a Saturday afternoon. Like everyone we stood and cheered…… They were welcomed by the Protestants, but not the Catholics. But the rioting, burning and fighting continued. Slide of army photos Cars, buses, anything would be burnt each night. Anti-army photos Personal story here

We listened to the radio at each news bulletin, read newspapers – the propaganda war had begun which was to become more and more sophisticated with time. Propaganda war photos

We lived in a good street; we went to church each Sunday, the Catholic families from across the road went to their church. I later found out that my family stored the more valuable possessions of some of the Catholic friends that we had in the street in case they were the next to be burnt out. My parents had already transferred some of our valuable items to relatives.

The summer came to an end and the rioting continued. Then the Provisional IRA started their bombing campaign. Slide of bomb damage The main targets for the bombers were the shops and offices of the commercial area in the city centre.

Slide of security gates Security gates were put up to form a cordon around the city centre: body searches and bag checks were made both here and by the shop owners. But still the bombers managed to get through. The other main target became pubs.

The peaceline In the early 1970’s and early 1980’s the peace-lines were constructed to keep two communities separate. At first they were simple iron barriers at a height that people could not see across…. But they became more sophisticated and those that are left today are brick walls, with or without wire.

To get to school each day we had to pass two peace-lines. We walked between the Protestant and the Catholic areas of Shankill and Ardoyne,. We were simply moving between segregated areas of largely social housing which had become more polarised as time moved on. Ardoyne peaceline today

Moving outwards.

In 1980 my parents moved house. They almost gave their home away to a family who were also moving ‘up the road’. But unlike other families, my parents had a very strong tie to the parish church and moved to a very pleasant middle-class area of private housing. With a great view of the hill and the city. Cavehill today

Belfast today

1998 was the signing of the Good Friday agreement. Even the US were involved in this as the commission was chaired by a US senator. My mother said…the war is over. Relief was everywhere, but it was short lived.

Stormont today Briefly NI had its own parliament again; but the Catholic and Protestants fell out and we are back to direct rule from the UK government. While there is an atmosphere of hope in Belfast sadly some violence continues.

Waterfront slide The city centre commercial area is now prospering.The waterfront area has undergone considerable development as a port, for limited shipbuilding, aircraft and other precision engineering and with a new Belfast City Airport. A major concert hall to get folks to come back to the city centre at night time.

Europa hotel The Opera House a symbol of normality closed in 1971 at the height of the bombing, re-opened in 1980 and has been closed by severe bomb damage twice …. But it is once again open for business. The Europa Hotel, the most bombed hotel in Europe still stands. Life continues.

Lorraine’s house today Houses have been redevelopment, some have undergone extensive renovation using government grants, others have been built on areas where burning took place back in the 1970’s. Our old house still stands and has not changed much; although a few doors away modern social housing exists. Slide The lady and child It’s a different place now.

Bobby Sands mural It is hard to get lost in Belfast. A quick look at the street pavements and the walls tell you if you are in Catholic or Protestant territory. It is the Belfast way of claiming your space – the murals or wall paintings and the painting of streets. Protestant and catholic murals They represent historical events, hunger strikers of the 1970’s, those who died fighting for ‘their cause’; their local terrorist leaders.

And there is always a new slant to the problem. Holy Cross Mural The Catholic children still walk to Holy Cross School – peacefully now that the media have gone – through a largely Protestant community to get to school. Just as we did back in the 1970’s. Nothing changes?

Slide of attacked car. This summer in a visit to Belfast I was attacked in a taxi coming from the airport at night by a crowd of about 30 young Protestant men. Next day the headline news was two cars burnt - we had our car window smashed, and three houses were burnt a few metres from where we were attacked. Slide houses attacked.

Slide of soldiers I met the only soldiers I had seen in a day of walking through Belfast just beside my parents house. They let me take their photos but warned me to be careful as some cars had been attacked the previous night. Yes, my taxi.

Then they made me smile. The rain was stopping. As part of claiming their territory and keeping the textile industry in business, each lamp-post has a flag – in the Protestant areas it just has to be red, white and blue and in the Catholic areas, green, white and gold. The Catholics were flying Palestinian flags and the Protestants Israeli flags. Slide French flag. But there fluttering in the wind was the French flag….with all the Protestant signs behind it.

I leave you with some thoughts from children from Protestant and Catholic communities in north Belfast today.

- Belfast – a wonderful place to come from? – use slide 1 with text written below it

- Queen’s university – slide 14

- Text - aim of the presentation

Introduction to Belfast and Northern Ireland

Population structure – ethnic and religious divisions

A young person in the 1970’s

Belfast today – a young person in the year 2002

  1. Photo of Lorraine with curly hair as a wee thing……….

  2. Location map – use the one from the French geography text book for the UK – it has French words on it and show the border North and South Ireland very clearly

  3. Picture of Pub with chap standing outside it in the rain – print of LEC

  4. Cottage on the farm kodak 78– bringing the hay home – picture inset? – old Kodak photos 21

  5. Giants causeway – need to find an image on the internet if possible?

  6. Site of Belfast – Steve’s photo 249

  7. Divis Flats in 1960’s – top image on page 48 – fred’s book

  8. Steve’s slide – Shipbuilding in NI – old photos - 365

  9. Fig 1 graph 1757 – 1991 – fred’s book

  10. Harland and Wolf Shipbuilding today – slide Steve R - 529

  11. Friar’s cartoon – has no 39 on the slide – Steve Royle - 39

  12. Population graph – Fig 3 – has Belfast core on it – fred’s book

  13. Population change map Fig 4b. 1971 – 1991 – fred’s book

  14. Terraced housing on the lower Shankill Road – page 33 image – Fred’s book

  15. Segregation image – Fig 7 Belfast core city – fred’s book

  16. Map of the % of Catholics in 1991 – fred’s book

  17. Map of religious groups in West Belfast – Steve R Slide 271

  18. Map of religious groups in West Belfast – coloured groups orange and green – will be out of sequence in the box – slide from Steve R

  19. Orange Parades – slides Steve R 49

  20. Burning of houses – Farringdon Gardens the morning after – go for the day one on page 42 – fred’s book

  21. Picture of the army – peaceful day – slide 81 – LEC kodak slide

  22. Picture of army at peace-line – slide 109 – LEC Kodak slide

  23. Anti-army slogans

  24. Media Propaganda wars – two slides – see if they work on the same image if not put them separately – Steve R slides – 491 493

  25. Bomb damage page 89 – Fred’s book

  26. Security gates – Steve Royle Slide - 284

  27. The improvement of the peace-line - use only 309 and 312 - the two best of the images – one from the start and one from the end to show change in structure

  28. Peace-line today – LEC photo of Ardoyne

  29. Cavehill photo – freds book page 38

  30. Stormont self government – slide numbered?? Boots no 22

  31. Waterfront and Hilton – no 10

  32. Europa Hotel and Grand Opera House – no 8

  33. Our old home today – LEC small 33

  34. New houses – flags and lady with grand-daughter – LEC small 35

  35. Murals – Bobby Sands steve 316;

  36. Murals – no 24 and 26 try and get two on one image? Or if too small will have to be one of each; protestant

  37. Mural ardoyne – Holy cross school –small no 6

  38. Car burnt out – LEC – white car

  39. Houses attacked – LEC

  40. Soldiers

  41. French Flag

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