Just ask the cabbie

One of the most informative, and fun, ways to see Belfast is from the back seat of a black taxi. And no one knows the city of Belfast better than cabbie Billy Scott.

“My age? Surely I’m still 29? But no, my birth certificate insists I was born in 1960!

“I grew up in various areas of North Belfast, which is mostly working class, so usually one side or the other, although I did live in one area that was actually a little oasis in the middle of sectarian North Belfast. It was a little model housing estate called Merville Garden Village where people from both sides socialised together, but most of my life has been spent just outside the city centre on what would be perceived as the loyalist Shore Road, although my family owned a pub, The Toddle Inn, in the docks, or Sailortown as it was known. It became too violent to live there, however, and we were eventually bombed out.

“Until 1998 Belfast was a tourist wilderness. Then, with the signing of the peace agreement, people started to trickle in – mostly Aussie backpackers. From little acorns giant oaks do grow. We have had 38 cruise ships in the city this year. If you had said to us a few years ago that cruise ships would be calling into Belfast, you would have been taken away by the men in white coats.

“How long do I expect to continue my Blacktaxi tours? By the look of our economy, probably forever, but it’s a job that I really enjoy. For instance this morning I’ve taken bookings for nearly 180 Germans over six separate dates. People are naturally inquisitive about the Irish conflict. It has been relayed into their homes via the media so naturally people want to know the origins, the mechanisms and, hopefully, the resolution. We use the murals to tell this story. But Belfast is not the whole story, either. We have some stunning local countryside, especially the Antrim Coast which, as a Blue Badge Guide, I am always happy to share.”

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