Denise O’Neill: Oh Titanic of the Sea.


I wrote this poem the day ‘Titanic Belfast’,  the wonderful tourist attraction,  was launched on 31st March 2012. I was inspired to write it by the fact that my grandfather, Hugh McGurnaghan, worked in the Belfast Shipyard.

He started as an apprentice wireman (electrician) on March 3rd 1919.  I have a copy of his Indenture (employment contract) with Harland and Wolff Ltd. framed and hanging on my wall.  Whilst he didn’t work on building the Titanic,  he started working in the shipyard only seven years after the tragic sinking of the ship and this fact instilled an emotional connection with me. 

I am so proud of my grandfather working in the shipyard. It was hard work and he had to travel from Lisburn every day, starting very early in the morning and getting home late in the evening. He earned 6 shillings per week for the first year,  working  his way up to 15 shillings per week in year five . At the bottom of the Indenture is his signature, written in the most beautiful handwriting (you can just see the formation of each letter being the result of hours and hours of practice at school – a practice sadly lost now). I never met my grandfather as he died four years before I was born but I love that I have a part of him, his signature, to look at.

I have visited the Titanic tourist attraction twice and it is beautiful – something that Belfast is very proud of. I hope you like my poem.

Oh Titanic of the Sea

Oh Titanic of the sea

I hear you cry …

What do you say to me?


When you left your place of birth

The men who built you knew your worth.

With majestic certainty you sailed away

But on Belfast shore it was your last day.


On 15th April when you went to bedimage

Many went with you, hundreds dead.

Men, women and children gone 

Missed by their loved ones … their memories live on.


For one hundred years you’ve been asleep

Hidden … troubled … in the deep. 

Awakened now, glistening and proud

As ‘Titanic Belfast’ we shout aloud!


Oh Titanic of the sea

I hear you cry …

What do you say to me?



By Denise O’Neill

31 March 2012

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