The Nomadic, by Eddie McIlwaine

A stroll across the deck of the ferry tender Nomadic at her harbourside rest in Belfast, where she was launched in 1911, is like stepping back in time. For this vessel of some 1,200 gross tonnage and capable once of carrying 1,000 passengers is the last White Star Line ship of any kind still afloat in the world.

And in the beginning she was created as an exact replica in miniature of her mother liner – the Titanic. So simply strolling to the bridge of a little ship that was nearly lost forever under the bridges of Paris on the Seine was dipping back to May 31, 1911 – the day she ferried guests at the launch of the Titanic to the Olympic that was riding at anchor nearby. Then she and her sister ship the other ferry the Traffic, built at the same time, set sail for Cherbourg to carry out passenger duties for White Star.

The Nomadic, designed by Thomas Andrews who created the Titanic, was luxuriously fitted out in those far off days and was exclusively for first and second class passengers while the Traffic was destined to carry the steerage and third class. Features of the Nomadic’s interior were a marble bar and a staircase that was a smaller version of the magnificent sweeping staircase on her mother ship.

The Nomadic was unique and she serviced Cherbourg until the White Star Line was sold to Cunard in 1935 and thereafter she served great ships like the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth into the 60s carrying celebs like Charlie Chaplin and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, until in 1969 she was sold and converted into a floating restaurant, minus her engines, on the Seine. It was when she was in danger of falling into disrepair that Belfast academic Dr Ian Adamson remembered her Belfast and Titanic connection and started the long haul of getting her back to Harland and Wolff.

The Belfast Telegraph joined the campaign, which finally triumphed and Nomadic was brought back to be restored – a job that is nearly complete – to allow her to play a role in the commemorations now about to take place.

“Don’t forget the Nomadic, looked after by her own Charitable Trust, was built by the same shipyardmen who created the Titanic so she is an intimate part of Harland and Belfast history” says Dr Adamson.

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SS Nomadic Centenary, by Cllr Dr Ian Adamson OBE, Monday, April 25. 2011

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