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Centenary of Titanic tragedy marked by rock stars and history buffs in costume

A memorial garden will be opened in Belfast this morning to mark the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago.

Located in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, it is the only one in the world which names all of those who perished on the famous liner's maiden voyage in 1912.

Bronze plaques bear the names of the 1,517 passengers and crew who died on the ill-fated voyage of the White Star passenger ship from Cobh to New York. Only 44 of the 123 people who boarded the Titanic at the Irish seaport town survived the journey.

The memorial, which is on the east side of the city hall, was commissioned by the city council in conjunction with the Belfast Titanic Society.

The Titanic was travelling from England to New York, carrying everyone from plutocrats to penniless emigrants, when it struck an iceberg at 11.40pm on April 14, 1912. It sank at 2.20am on April 15, with the loss of more than 1,500 of the 2,208 passengers and crew.

Aboard the Balmoral, a cruise ship that is taking 1,309 history buffs and descendants of Titanic victims on the route of the doomed voyage, passengers and crew will hold two memorial services at the site of the disaster, 400 miles (640km) off the coast of Newfoundland -- one marking the time when it hit the iceberg, the other the moment it broke in two and sank.

A minister will lead prayers, floral wreaths will be thrown into the sea and the band, which has been entertaining guests in the evenings during the cruise, will play Nearer My God to Thee, the tune the Titanic's band played as the vessel went down.

The Rev Huw Mosford, who will lead the prayers, said he hoped the service would be uplifting. "It will bring healing, and some form of closure, perhaps -- but I think it will also bring hope," he said.

The cruise seeks to recreate the experience on board the Titanic -- minus the disaster.

Many passengers have dressed in period costume for elaborate balls and a formal dinner recreating the last meal served aboard the ship. Another cruise ship, Journey, left New York last Tuesday and will join Balmoral at the site.

In Belfast, where the Titanic was built at the Harland & Wolff shipyard, thousands will attend a choral requiem at the Anglican St Anne's Cathedral. There will also be a televised concert at the city's Waterfront Hall on Saturday. It will feature performances by Bryan Ferry and Joss Stone, as well as 100 drummers beating out a new percussion work, Titanic Drums.

Actors including Kenneth Branagh, Simon Callow and Imelda Staunton will read from contemporary accounts of the disaster.

TITANIC NEWS 14 LIVING 28, 36, 37

At the cathedral, a performance of composer Philip Hammond's The Requiem for the Lost Souls of the Titanic will be followed by a torch-lit procession to the Titanic Memorial in the grounds of Belfast City Hall.

In the ship's departure port of Southampton, England, an orchestra will play composer Gavin Bryars' work, The Sinking of the Titanic.

Other events are planned over the weekend from Houston, Texas, to Halifax, Nova Scotia -- where more than 100 victims of the tragedy are buried.

Sunday Independent