In 1988 when the Belfast Gasworks site was to be closed and redeveloped I was given access to record the Victorian works, which had been established by Belfast Gaslight Company in 1822. The site boasted several follies, which offered a stark contrast to the industrial plant, like the classical meter complete with laurel wreath, and the Meter House’s stain glass dome.
Over several days I photographed the site and had conversations with members of the skeleton staff, in their last days of employment on the site. The related history of the Gasworks, from the days of coal barges to the introduction of a new gasometer and the current operation, was told with a wistful reference to past events and employees, and an eye to the future.
One such event though referenced a dark moment in Belfast’s troubled history. On 16 October 1974 the IRA breeched security in the Gasworks to plant several explosive devices which if successful would have caused multiple casualties and major disruption to the city. As history records the attempt caused the death of three members of the Provisional IRA when a bomb exploded prematurely. A fireball, which could be seen for thirty miles, lit the night sky.
As I wandered the site I recorded a result of that evening fourteen years earlier, evidenced in the heat tortured metal casing of the gasometer in its sealing reservoir.
‘Provisional Sinn Fein — political arm of the Provisional IRA — held its annual conference in Dublin, the Irish Republic on Sunday (17 October). The party’s President, Rory O’Brady, criticised the Peace Movement that has gained strength in Northern Ireland and received wide support for its call an end to violence.’
Extract from David Cappers report of the event for the BBC