Hope & Home
by Paul Muldoon
I was tempted by the idea of trying to write a new poem about Belfast for several reasons. The first is that, despite my not having lived here since 1986, I still feel very connected to the city. I came here first as a child in the 1950s, usually traveling by train via Portadown and usually returning with an animal — a rabbit, or a tortoise — bought in a pet store in the Smithfield Market. It seems odd now that I had to leave the country to acquire some wildlife, but it was perfectly natural at the time.
My father was a market gardener, so I often came with him in the very early morning to St George’s Market, where he sold cauliflowers off the back of a lorry. That was in the early 1960s.
In 1969, I came to Queen’s as a student, just as things were hotting up on the streets. On July 21, 1972, a date that would become known as Bloody Friday, Smithfield Bus Station was bombed. Smithfield Market was destroyed by incendiary bombs in 1974.
By that stage I was at the BBC, where I worked as a radio and television producer between 1973 and 1986. I spent several of those years in an office in Windsor House. Completed in 1974, Windsor House was known as the tallest office building in Ireland. It is now known as the Grand Central Hotel.