Backpacking in Northern Ireland: East East East Belfast…

Backpacking in Northern Ireland: East East East Belfast…

Often I feel quite proud of my country’s capital city of Belfast and the history and changes in it through the years. The part of Belfast I most associate with is East Belfast, which itself has so much history, culture and worldwide fame. Stuff you might not even be aware of, such as The Titanic, that ill fated iceberg sunk ship was built in Belfast shipyard in the East of the city at the docks where the very large yellow (formerly yella and white) cranes tower over the city. These days the shipyard isn’t used as often sadly, but in its day Belfast was a world leader in shipbuilding, and contributed to the golden age of the cruise ships and ocean liners. Ships such as The Olympic, Galloway Princess and St. David were all built there, two of which I’ve sailed on. Belfast was a large industrial city at the turn of the last century, with the ship building, linen industry and as time progressed aerospace (aeroplane building), cigarettes (Gallaghers tobacco) and most of these were in East Belfast. Of course the two world wars had a major affect on Belfast, as many soldiers went off to war, and after this the ongoing “troubles” and every day terrorism made Belfast a war zone, and we almost lost that beautiful identity that Belfast has always had…

Times change and with peace (as we know it) in Belfast, this prosperous city is more famous for music, bars, offices and the past of violence and trouble. But let’s stick with East Belfast for now, and look at the intelligence within. Ever heard of singer Van Morrison, for example? He is meant to be an arrogant type with little time for his fans and followers, however the reason is his music is his job, he gets on with it, he produces great music and still does. The songs “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Moondance”, are still played all over the world on nights on, and last week in my work at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre I was pleasured to enjoy both songs on alternate nights. Van Morrison comes from the lowly working class Hyndford Street, off the Beersbridge Road in East Belfast, a mere plaque above his old house serves the memory, as does the likes of You Tube, which I’ve included below in case you wanted a piece of real Belfast music…

In the world of books and reading and authoring, we also see the legend of CS Lewis, remembered in his home town of Belfast and hailing from the Holywood Arches area of East Belfast, a statue and an open wardrobe mark his contribution to the world on a busy corner of the Newtownards Road junction. Here you can cross the border from Northern Ireland into Narnia. Step into this magical world. If you haven’t heard of Belfast author CS Lewis, perhaps you’ll be familiar with his books, specifically “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, a fascinating children’s book in which a young boy enters a whole new world just be going into a wardrobe and coming out in a magical fairytale land of make believe called “Narnia.” This was all dreamt up from a man from East Belfast. If you do visit there, read the “Chronicles of Narnia” series first, even if you’re old, as childhood days are often the best times of are lives, and when anything is possible, we have less sad moments. Here’s the books:

1. The Magician’s Nephew
2. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
3. The Horse And His Boy
4. Prince Caspian
5. The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader
6. The Silver Chair
7. The Last Battle
(as a child growing up in nearby Bangor, Northern Ireland I read ALL SEVEN books…)

As I have mentioned on this weblog before, George Best was a big hero of mine, as he left politics behind and set the world on fire with his football skills. George Best was born in East Belfast, where he grew up in Burren Way in the Cregagh Estate, until the age of 15 where he was whisked away to play professional football for English club Manchester United. The Cregagh Estate is a place in East Belfast that I am very familiar with and have spent a lot of time there. My Dad and Uncle both lived there, and subsequently my Granny Blair, Granda Blair, Granny Mawhinney and Granda Mawhinney all also lived on the Cregagh Estate. To this day my Granny Blair lives alone in Drumragh End, a lovely wee typical Belfast street in the Cregagh. Its opposite the local primary school, very close to George Best’s old house at Burren Way, and is by the corner where on opposite sides of the next block of flats, we see two lovely wall murals.

Wall murals are very popular in Belfast and Northern Ireland, and normally are featuring terrorists, the political divide or the proud Protestant v. Catholic history of my wee country. There are an abundance of these in East Belfast, mainly in the working class areas. However in this day in age, the term “working class” is far too loose in my opinion. I mean, I work for minimum wage right now, so that should make me not even working class, yet in these working class streets of East Belfast, joining the local loyalist paramilitary groups was what you did in the 1970s. The UDA, Ulster Defence Association recruited many young men in the 1970s to protect Northern Ireland’s British streets from the threat of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army). Luckily we now have peace, and although we see disturbances and occasional street violence in East Belfast, the military presence and endangered streets are no more. You can walk freely down any street and not feel intimidated. You can even take photos of the murals, which the tourists love.

There is one area of East Belfast which is very Irish and very Catholic, as opposed to the majority of British areas which are mainly Protestants. This area is known as “The Short Strand” and it used to have nightly sectarian violence between the wee estate there and the joining of the Newtownards and Woodstock Roads, where in the 1970s, 1980s and even 1990s, a burning car in the middle of Cluan Place would hardly have raised an eyelid. As a song from school once went “Belfast is a danger zone…” Well I’ve included some photos of the wall murals for you there on this blog entry. I took those myself in the last few years. There are two nice murals round the corner from my Granny, one of the 1914 – 1918 Great War and the contribution of the Northern Irish people in battle, the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) were a legal division of the British Army in them days. My favourite wall murals in East Belfast are at “Freedom Corner” where the Newtownards Road meets the Beersbridge Road (I think), and also on the way to Dundonald, where I once lived near Tullycarnet and the home of some scary, yet artistic “UFF” murals.

The murals are part of our history and heritage and although they often glorify killers, you will find that Northern irish people have a rare honesty and are happy to admit the past and not hide the scars from our dark days. I certainly am not ashamed of the history of violence in my wee country, it makes you enjoy life more and look at the world in a totally different way. Think of those people who have lost their lives over the years, and think of the raw, natural and honest happiness the kids can now enjoy. Its a fucking strong contrast, but here’s some quotes that remind me of home, Belfast and our history:

“don’t believe in the wars we fight; just to prove how real we are”
“if this is peace (Omagh 1998), then what are we to class as war?”
“masked gunmen shouted ‘trick or treat’ then opened fire…” (a dark day in Greysteel, 1993)
“will we ever live in peace, because those that CANT DO, often HAVE TO…”

So don’t let me shy away from this politics or history and don’t go to Belfast and ignore it. The people are still standing tall, politics aside. You might even get a smile out of those tattooed terrorists stacking shelves in ASDA. There are also an abundance of Union Flegs (Union Jacks) flying from lamposts in East Belfast showing the local community’s proud British leaning and stances. You don’t get that in boring cloned English towns like Dartford, where I once lived. East Belfast is tightly packed, in between the Forestside shopping centre in South Belfast, the Holywood Hills, the Docks and the Lagan, it spans a massive area.

There is an airport there, just by the harbour and the docks. Once so secure you could barely get a flight out of it, now a booming trade, the newly named “George Best Belfast City Airport” welcomes lots of flights every day and is very modern. The airport is right beside “Shorts”, a factory owned by Aerospace company Bombardier, where Northern Irish people used to build aeroplanes. I am now led to believe that they only build parts for planes, and do repairs there now, though I could be wrong. My Uncle Jack still works at Shorts. Factories such as that one, prove parts of Belfast’s big industrial history has remained, though less popular was the ill fated “Delorian” factory, which geographically wasn’t in East Belfast, rather South West, at a place called Dunmurry. Now in the 1970s, the Delorian company chose Belfast, Northern Ireland as their European base. It was great staff wise, sure we could do the work, but sadly the nightly violence became widespread and the company eventually realised it was a flop, despite the cars themselves remaining popular, even during the 1980s, when Marty McFly and Doc brown used Delorians in the hit fillims “Back To The Future.”

If I’m being honest I could probably write a lot more about East Belfast, and probably will do again, you’ll notice my favourite football team, Glentoran FC are the “Pride of East Belfast” and play all their matches at The Oval in the heart of “The East” as the locals call it. There is also the wonderful Connswater Shopping Centre, where I once briefly worked (1999), the Odyssey centre (home of many a big gig, including the likes of Oasis and Kylie Minogue in recent years) and heaps and heaps more history, culture and beauty to be found. There’s also quite a few nice bars and restaurants to flaunt your flambouyancy and the eloquent Belfast accent, and Belfast talk. I’ve some example below for ye…

(Local language first, proper English second)

Bout ye – hello
Aye – Yes
What’s the craic? – How are you?
Its a kwer day so it is – Its a nice day
He’s wick – that guy cannot play football
Dander – walk
Pastie supper please – a proper greasy Belfast pastie
A chip – a portion of chips
Hot press – airing cupboard
Fillim – Movie
Sharr – Shower
Way an give my head peace – Fuck off (in a nice way)
Did ye come down the lagan in a bubble? – Do you have no sense at all? Are ye stupid?
Norn Iron – Northern Ireland
The East – East Belfast
Heel – End part of a loaf
That there – used in every day speech about anything
You’re telling me – There is no need to even say this, Belfast people use it as an expression to sort of agree with




Part 1 –

Part 2 –


Where te ate (Where to eat) –

– The posh Odyssey Centre
– Eddie Spence’s Chippy
– The Cleo Chippy
– Capers Pizza

Where te drink –

– The Eastender (my cousin Gary’s local pub, where I often end up)
– My Lady’s Inn (typical locals only type pub)
– Centre Spot (snooker club on the Castlereagh Road)



Titanic Website –

Bombardier Shorts –

Glentoran Football Club –

East Belfast Protestant Boys –



Dance Remix of “Belle of Belfast City”:


I’ll tell me ma when I go home,
The boys won’t leave the girls alone.
They pull my hair, they stole my comb,
But that’s all right ’til I go home.
She is handsome, she is pretty,
She’s the belle of Belfast City,
She is courtin’, a one, two, three
Please won’t you tell me who is she?

Now Albert Mooney says he loves her,
All the boys are fighting for her.
Knocking on the door and ringing on the bell,
Saying, “Oh my true love, are you well?”
Down she comes as white as snow
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes.
Old J,o,h,n,n,y Murphy says she’ll die
If she doesn’t get the fellow with the roving eye.

I’ll tell me ma when I go home,
The boys won’t leave the girls alone.
They pull my hair, they stole my comb,
But that’s all right ’til I go home.
She is handsome, she is pretty,
She’s the belle of Belfast City,
She is courtin’, a one, two, three
Please won’t you tell me who is she?

Let the wind and the rain and the hail come high,
And the snow come shoveling from the sky.
She’s as nice as apple pie,
She’ll get her own lad by and by!
When she gets a lad of her own
She won’t tell her ma when she comes home.
Let them all come as they will
It’s Patrick Murphy she loves still!

I’ll tell me ma when I go home,
The boys won’t leave the girls alone.
They pull my hair, they stole my comb,
But that’s all right ’til I go home.
She is handsome, she is pretty,
She’s the belle of Belfast City,
She is courtin’, a one, two, three
Please won’t you tell me who is she?


2 thoughts on “Backpacking in Northern Ireland: East East East Belfast…

  • Hi there,
    Great blog…. but!
    The delorean factory opened in l980 the cars were built from late 80′ to late 81′ then a few more early part of 82′ then the factory closed mid 82′ it was cause he (delorean) was over extended financially with government loans and subsidys and no Real demand for the car model in his home land of america as he had falsley predicticted, as in both europe and america more modern ordinary affordable cars were being produced by then, whilst he was a heavy cocaine user, he was set up by fbi, hence he lost the company did jail time put loads out of work in lisburn, the troubles here had nowt to do with his demise at all, it wasn’t the way you explained it hunee but I worked there as a sexy secretary lol so I do know.
    Any way best wishes
    Soozee xx

  • Hi Susan, thanks for the update about Delorean, I wasn’t fully aware of it myself as I grew up in nearby Bangor in the 1980s. It is always nice to hear from someone from Northern Ireland. Best wishes. Jonny

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