Crowds gather in silent tribute to Queen in Belfast to watch state funeral

·3-min read
People in the grounds of Belfast City Hall watch Queen Elizabeth II funeral on a large screen. Picture date: Monday September 19, 2022. (PA Wire)
People in the grounds of Belfast City Hall watch Queen Elizabeth II funeral on a large screen. Picture date: Monday September 19, 2022. (PA Wire)

Despite the size of the crowd, silence pervaded.

Some dressed in suits and black ties, others in T-shirts and jeans.

Veterans wore polished medals while tourists perched on the edge of sturdy suitcases.

Some sat on blankets, others stood throughout. A young boy made room beside him on his fold-out chair for his Paddington Bear teddy.

The gathering on the lawns outside Belfast City Hall was diverse, but its purpose was unifying – to pay respects to the late Queen.

Amid the warm September sunshine, hundreds watched in quiet reverence.

Wearing a platinum jubilee T-shirt, and sitting on a stool draped in a Union flag, Simon Freedman struggled to hold back tears as the big screen showed members of the royal family singing the Lord Is My Shepherd.

For the 51-year-old from Coleraine, the Queen’s funeral held added poignancy.

He had travelled down to Belfast in part to pay tribute to the memory of his own mother, Olive Sarah Freedman, who was a big royal fan and died in 2020 from Covid-19 at the age of 79.

It was really emotional, it's just a lovely fitting tribute to the Queen

Eleanor Smith

“The fact we couldn’t have a service because of the lockdown in 2020, today kind of did that as well for me,” he said.

“My mother’s favourite hymn was the Lord Is My Shepherd, so it was quite fitting.

“I knew when that hymn came on, I’d shed a tear.”

Nine-year-old Tom Murray, from east Belfast, was the young boy with the Paddington teddy.

“She was a great monarch and the longest reigning monarch,” he said.

“She helped a lot of charities as well, so she was a really, really good monarch.

“The funeral was very sad, the King looked like he was crying.”

Tom’s mother, Eleanor Smith, said she drew some comfort from watching the funeral with others.

“It was really emotional, it’s just a lovely fitting tribute to the Queen,” she said.

“My sister said she would be too emotional to come in, but I found that it sort of helped a bit, it helped to see the people here watching, you feel that sense of everybody joined together.”

Husband and wife Glyn and Judy Yeates were visiting Belfast from their home in Northallerton in North Yorkshire.

“It was absolutely marvellous, very heart-rending and it was very well deserved,” said Mrs Yeates.

“You felt as if you were in among it all, it was beautiful.”

Mr Yeates said the outpouring of grief for the Queen was entirely understandable.

“She deserves every second of what the country has given her, what the world has given her,” he said.

City Hall may have been the largest public showing of the funeral in Belfast, but it was not the only such event.

Other lower key community-based gatherings took place elsewhere in the city.

One was hosted by Christ Church Presbyterian Church in Dundonald.

Copies of the order of service were handed out to those who came to the church on Monday morning, with tea and biscuits also on offer.

There is a real sense of loss within the congregation and the wider community

Richard McIlhatton, church minister

Church minister Reverend Richard McIlhatton said it was important to give people a chance to be together, as he acknowledged some may feel particularly alone or isolated on such a mournful day.

“There is a real sense of loss within the congregation and the wider community,” he said

“The Queen was someone who was deeply loved and respected, so there is that sense of grieving.

“I think as people we have been made to be together and to be part of a community.

“Often people value that opportunity to feel that sense of shared grief and have that time to come together.”