In 2007, I was asked by Belfast Exposed gallery to write a text for a book by the German photographer Kai-Olaf Hesse, who had been in Belfast in 2002-3, photographing sites associated with the building of the Titanic.

Hesse’s project was entitled Topography of the Titanic. Two other writers had been asked to contribute short essays to the book version: David Bate and John Stathatos. I was concerned about how I might make what I wrote distinctive and decided to base my text around a visit to Belfast and my own experience of the Titanic sites.

I went there at the end of March, 2007, and subsequently actually wrote two texts. The one published in the book was quite short – about 1300 words – but it had been filleted from a much longer version, 5000 words long. 

Below are both versions of the text ‘Fragments Against Ruin’. The short version has been scanned from the book Topography of the Titanic and the long version is adapted from my original typescript. To this, I have added pictures, both my own taken in 2007 and some made by Kai-Olaf Hesse. My thanks go to him for his support in the preparation of this version.

As time passed, the ‘Titanic Quarter’ on Queen’s Island continued to change, especially after the centenary of the disaster in 2012 and the opening of ‘Titanic Belfast’. In 2016, I had the opportunity to return and wrote a supplementary essay about my own experience of those changes, added here as a PDF.


Fragments Against Ruin (short version)

Fragments Against Ruin (long version)

Back to Belfast 2016


Hesse Topography cover