Older people from Sailortown are bringing the community together to create an archive of stories and pictures, thanks to a grant from Big Lottery Fund.
Docksiders Senior Men’s Group, based in the Docks area of north Belfast, organises and takes part in social and educational events locally and across Belfast. They are using the £7,274 grant from the Awards for All programme to carry out interviews and research for a community archive book of stories and pictures about the Sailortown area and its people.
It is part of a Big Lottery Fund grants windfall of £769,369 to 91 groups across Northern Ireland (see full list of awards), including £17,274 to two groups in north Belfast.
Docksiders Senior Men’s group has already written and published three books on the history of the Sailortown Ares in the Echoes of the Past series. Since the group started in 2006, six of their 36 members have passed away, and their fourth book will be based on the lives of those six members.
“We want those people to be remembered and their stories to be passed down to other generations, their grandkids,” said Brian Guinn, Vice Chair of the group. “These people were well known within Sailortown and it’s interesting to pull together different strands of their lives. What we know of them is sometimes different from what their families know and putting this together is bringing up a lot of stories. We don’t know what all is going to come out of it.”
The group are collecting up photos and interesting documents from the people’s lives to include in the book. Brian said it is very important to the people of Sailortown as it brings them together and gives them meaning.
“Sailortown is a broken dispersed community,” he said. “Up until the late 60’s the neighbourhood was very tight-knit and everyone knew everyone’s business. We were all living on top of one another. But then with the troubles, and the motorway being built, a big part of Sailortown got demolished completely. Those people whose houses were destroyed were relocated to other parts of Belfast and the community dispersed. It’s funny though, if you once lived in Sailortown, you’ll always say you’re from Sailortown, even people who moved away 50 years ago.”
“Collecting these stories is a small step to pull people together and keep them together,” said Brian. That’s always been our strength, we can tell some stories here in Sailortown. It was always our social life. And we need these stories to be recorded before they’re lost forever.”
The group will hold a launch event next year when the book is complete. After that, it will be available in libraries and shops around Belfast for the nominal price of £1.00.