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11th Night Belfast Conflagration

July 14, 2006

As the evening progresses the streets around East Belfast are burning. In recent years the smaller local fires had been replaced by the big set piece bonfire at Pitt Park, but this year saw something of a recovery of the local ones. These might be no bigger than 3 feet high or bigger ones like at Cluan Place. The smaller ones were lit early, and as they burned down the crowds ar each made their way to Pitt Park whose bonfire was lit seven minutes before midnight.

This one was hidden behind some advertising hoardings about 200 metres from where I work.


It was built by some young people who frequent our youth work programme. They were very proud of their work and were keen to show off the results.


This one was just off the Albertbridge Road, and built right in the middle of a side street. Notice the building to the left hand side, the roof is smoking because of the intense heat. We left just as the fire brigade was arriving.


Children and young people get tremendously excited about the fires. But it is also noticeable how much illegal and underage drinking characterises the whole event.


No entry to (or exit from) Cluan Place while this was burning.


Union Jack bunting spread across the streets all over the area barely survives the intense heat from the Cluan bonfire.


This is the giant Pitt Park fire. Notice the guy half way up whose responsibility it was to get the thing lit. Actually he was joined by three or four other men who threw petrol all over the thing and let it go. Mad! These structures require tremendous skill to build and they rarely collapse during the burn. Children, ten years old and under, scamper all over it during the building, some even sleep inside it in the run up to the 11th Night to protect it from premature destruction by rival gangs.


There is something primal about the fires. Here are the flags are about to be consumed by the flames. Actually what happens is that since the flags are cheap things they melt suddenly and decisively in the heat and don’t actually catch fire. Nevertheless a huge cheer is always raised from the couple of thousand people gathered. It is a strange feeling for an Irishman to witness.


The strange beauty in the patterns of fire.



From → Urban Reflection

One Comment
  1. the other Irishman permalink

    found you… the googleworld is a small place. I’ll enjoy reading through the collected thoughts of the flowing Jordan… Pád.

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