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Visitors to Belfast City Cemetery able to take virtual tour of the historic graveyard

Dara Barrett who is doing virtual tours of the City Cemetery in west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

VISITORS to Belfast City Cemetery are stepping back in time and journeying to the final resting place of famous and influential people through a virtual tour.

Dara Barrett is providing information and commentary on those buried in the historic graveyard in a series of podcasts.

With lockdown restrictions meaning Mr Barrett is unable to host his usual two-hour walking tours, he said he still wanted to educate people on the history of the city.

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"It's important that we continue to tell the stories and to keep the information out there," he said.

Mr Barrett runs Memory Lane Tours, providing historical narrated trips around the City Cemetery.

"I've been doing this for about the last seven years, when people come to Belfast, many want to hear about our history," he said.

"I talk about everything, from the legacy of the past to the Titanic, so for example when people come in on my walking tours, I take them to the grave of a victim of the Titanic buried here, Samuel Joseph Scott.

"Tom Hartley's two books on Milltown and City cemeteries are like my bible."

But he said since the lockdown restrictions were put in place, he has had to adapt his work.

Dara Barrett, pictured yesterday at the City Cemetery in west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann.

"Due to Covid-19, I can't do my normal tours, but I still go around the cemetery and stand beside graves and explain to camera about the person buried there," he said.

"Prior to this I had been working with the Housing Executive and was bringing my tours to residents of nursing home and educating young people.

"I went into the cemetery and recorded and then with the help of James Ray Junior, he then builds in photographs and images to go with my piece that can be shown to the residents or in schools.

"So I'm now doing this for a weekly podcast - from the suffragettes to the men and women of both world wars, the industrialists of the city and pioneers of education, I go through it all.

"Just last Sunday, I did an introduction to the City Cemetery, then James takes it and adds his production side to it and puts a story behind what I'm saying. I try to aim to make it about 45 minutes and each week I will concentrate on someone different, it could be educater Margaret Byers or a famous footballer.

"We realised that during this time, people still want to learn - it's important that we continue to tell the stories and to keep the information out there. I am big into storytelling and I want to pass what I know onto the next generation."

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