The Lord Mayor’s Cloakroom: Ian Adamson-BBC


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  • Ian Adamson tells us about the prototype for the first class cabins of the Titanic

    Today William Pirrie is best known to us as Chairman of Harland and Wolff and the driving force behind the building of the Titanic. However, he was also active in Belfast’s city council and was Lord Mayor from 1896-7. His imposing portrait stills hangs today in the Reception Room of the City Hall.

    When the City Hall was being built at the start of the 20th century the Lord Mayor’s Parlour was included in the plans as a place for holding meetings and functions. Part of this suite of rooms was the Lord Mayor’s Cloakroom – a small, private room where the Mayor could prepare for public engagements. It was intended as much more than just a dressing room and Lord Pirrie brought in a team of Harland and Wolff craftsmen who installed the sumptuous walnut panelling, curved architrave and round porthole windows.

    At the same time, Pirrie was in discussions with Bruce Ismay of the White Star Line, planning a new generation of passenger ships for the highly profitable North Atlantic routes. The new ships were to be far bigger than anything that had come before and built primarily for comfort and luxury. It is believed that the Lord Mayor’s Cloakroom was seen by Pirrie as a prototype for the luxurious first cabins of the Titanic and her sister ship the Olympic. The room was designed with the same techniques used on the Titanic to fit luxury into a compact space. The Lord Mayor’s Cloakroom has been a place of sanctuary for Belfast’s Lord Mayors since the City hall opened in 1906.

    Ian Adamson was Lord Mayor of Belfast from 1996–7 exactly a century after William Pirrie. He was brought up in Conlig outside Bangor where Pirrie also spent his childhood and feels a definite affinity with his predecessor. On his honeymoon he and his new wife even sailed on the QEII over the spot where the Titanic sank in 1912! For him, the Titanic was the product of a unique culture of excellence among the working people of Belfast and the Lord Mayor’s Cloakroom has always had a special place in his heart.

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