Life for Harland & Wolff shipyard workers


Mike Spooner

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I can assure you Health and Safety didn't mean an awful lot in those days. Life was cheap in those days. I am surprise only 8 died in making the two ships. How many more were serious injured like with broken bones and cuts! Going deaf within two years from riveting. As mention in one of Tom McCluskie books. Thank god he is dead and relieved of the pain life to carry on.
I know from own experience working on outside structures in the wet condition how slippery it gets and the safety precaution I had take. I cannot imagine for one moment they where wearing safety harnesses like I had to wear.
 

indybelle

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Thank you - this is all quite interesting. And I'm sorry, I don't know where to find your earlier postings on this topic. But I am indeed curious about the whole Protestant/Catholic thing in regards to the shipyard workers. One article I found quoted naval historian Daniel Allen Butler, saying "Very active in Ulster politics at this time was one William James Pirrie, who became the Chairman of Harland and Wolff in 1895. He instituted an unwritten but strictly enforced policy that the firm would never knowingly employ a Roman Catholic." It also talked about workers hammering in rivets to the mantra of f... the Pope .However, since the article at one point gave Butler's name as David Allen Butler I don't know if I can trust anything else it said. If you have some references about this it would be great. I also wonder about the book by Kevin Johnston In the Shadows of Giants: A Social History of the Belfast Shipyards?
 

Seumas

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Violent religious sectarianism in Northern Ireland (which spilled over to the central belt of Scotland and to a certain extent also to Merseyside in England) is such a huge, powerful and distressing topic it might threaten to take over the rest of your lecture. Finding the right balance is important.

Be careful about using Butler as a source, he is not well regarded by many other historians of the Titanic. His book "Unsinkable" contains a lot of very basic errors, slapdash research and even indulges in armchair psychology.
 

indybelle

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I found a reference to Edward Harland standing up for his Catholic workers in 1864 in the book Titanic: A Night Remembered by Stephanie Barczewski on p. 215.
 

indybelle

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I have already figured that out :) My talk intentionally isn't about the political/religious issues - I just want to note the difference between Protestant workers (who I'm finding were in the more skilled trades) and the Catholic workers who seemed generally relegated to the unskilled group. The book by Barczewski talks about this. And I appreciate the alert on Butler - not having read anything of his at this point, the article that quoted him seemed rather histrionic - which doesn't lend itself to credibility.
 

Harland Duzen

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If you want to briefly mention some of the political / religious unrest in the shipyard at the time, in the book
"Titanic In Photographs ", there is a photograph of Titanic in Drydock, showing some graffiti on the hull where some workers chalked "NO HOME RULE" on a hull plate.
 
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Nov 14, 2005
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I found a reference to Edward Harland standing up for his Catholic workers in 1864 in the book Titanic: A Night Remembered by Stephanie Barczewski on p. 215.
I have not read that book so I couldn't say. But at times the catholic and protestant workers would join force's during strikes and fight together against management. The whole subject gets very compilicated. It changed direction at different times. Most of the time they were opposed to each other but sometimes not. As for the skills the catholics were the monority so it seems logical they would get many of the less desirable jobs. But I have read that many of the electrical workers were catholic so...? Good luck on your presentation.
 

Dave Gittins

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Just to add a bit more.

The noise in the yard was terrific at times. In 1977 industrial deafness was recognised as a genuine injury. H & W received about 1,000 claims for compensation. The better the rivetters were, the more noise they made. It was good to have a left-hander combine with a right-hander. They each stood on the appropriate side of a rivet and struck alternating blows very rapidly. It was like standing next to a machine gun.

I read somewhere that the yard's power station was a Jewish enclave. They had to be kept happy, as the yard depended on them. There's a big book called Harland and Wolff: Shipbuilders to the World. It's full of valuable information if you can get hold of it.
 
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indybelle

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I've been to Titanic Belfast and gone on the "ride" - it gives a sense of how loud it must have been - then over 10-12 hours day 6 days a week for years - hard to imagine.
Thanks for the information - this forum is so helpful!
 
May 3, 2005
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I suppose this should fall into the category of "You don't know how good and easy you have it today ! ". :)
I could give you a long list of how things are in the USN and the FAA today .......also :)

But were there such things as paid annual leave (time off for vacations) and/or paid sick leave ( for time off for regular checks at a doctor's office or for sickness or time off for surgical operations, etc. ) in any civilian companies, especially for any employees or ship yard workers at H&W in 1912 ?

How about Liberty and Leave for sailors and officers in the Navy , or for officers and crew , in particular those of the White Star Line, in 1912 ?
 
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Seumas

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But were there such things as paid annual leave (time off for vacations) and/or paid sick leave ( for time off for regular checks at a doctor's office or for sickness or time off for surgical operations, etc. ) in any civilian companies, especially for any employees or ship yard workers at H&W in 1912 ?
With regards the UK In 1912, the ruling Liberal government had been in power since 1906 and had enacted a number of social welfare reforms aimed at helping the unemployed, the elderly, children, chronically sick and disabled.

With regards to holiday pay, I think they had to wait until 1938 for that in the UK and it came with conditions. Paid sick leave may have came in with the Labour government in 1945, I'm not sure.

In 1911, men who would a year later make up the Titanic's crew would have begun paying their 2d a week National Insurance in an early (albeit flawed - it didn't cover everything) attempt to get them some measure of healthcare coverage. Sadly, the National Health Service was still thirty seven years away.

Fittingly, tomorrow on December 12th, all UK based ET members will be heading out to vote in the General Election !
 
Nov 14, 2005
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From what I've read of the times they didn't have any of those things as far as the workers went. It was pretty much you work and you get paid. If you wern't on the job then no pay. I've read and or seen in various documentaries that if you were late to work at the shipyards you were locked out and not paid for the day. Good luck on your elections. I hope they go smooth for you guys no matter what the vote. I'm going to get a new popcorn machine for the democratic national convention here. I think its going to be like 1968 all over again...:p
 
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Dave Gittins

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Getting back to wages, in the merchant navy the crew were paid by the voyage. No voyage, no pay! On Titanic Captain Smith had an annual salary, but he was an exception. Some sailors found it was better to join a tramp steamer that would voyage about for months, rather than do Atlantic crossings on fast liners.
 

Mike Spooner

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Just to add a bit more.

The noise in the yard was terrific at times. In 1977 industrial deafness was recognised as a genuine injury. H & W received about 1,000 claims for compensation. The better the rivetters were, the more noise they made. It was good to have a left-hander combine with a right-hander. They each stood on the appropriate side of a rivet and struck alternating blows very rapidly. It was like standing next to a machine gun.

I read somewhere that the yard's power station was a Jewish enclave. They had to be kept happy, as the yard depended on them. There's a big book called Harland and Wolff: Shipbuilders to the World. It's full of valuable information if you can get hold of it.
I thought welding had replace riveting by 1977. If not why are they wearing ear defenders!
 
May 3, 2005
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Getting back to wages, in the merchant navy the crew were paid by the voyage. No voyage, no pay! On Titanic Captain Smith had an annual salary, but he was an exception. Some sailors found it was better to join a tramp steamer that would voyage about for months, rather than do Atlantic crossings on fast liners.
Was Captain Smith the only officer in White Star who had an annual salary ?
Captains of other White Star ships ?
Other officers ?
 
May 3, 2005
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On another question, I am assuming that there were not any permanent crew members on a ship and that the crew would be different from each sailing of a particular ship ?
 
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I thought welding had replace riveting by 1977. If not why are they wearing ear defenders!
Almost all construction sites are hard on the hearing. Equiptment generates a lot of loud noise. Welders have it bad in many ways. Their use of grinders and some plasma cutters are very damaging to the hearing without protection. My high frequency hearing is shot. 4 years of jets and 29 years in a power plant and shooting lots of guns over the years pretty much wrecked it. Althought since leaving the plant it has recovered some. When I was flying a lot of the hardest part for me wasn't the actual flying, learning the procedures and rules and such. It was the radio. Half the time I couldn't understand what people were saying. Flying into class C air space was not fun for me...o_O.
 
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Dave Gittins

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On another question, I am assuming that there were not any permanent crew members on a ship and that the crew would be different from each sailing of a particular ship ?
Based on a limited amount of imformation, I'd say there was a tendency for seafarers to stick with a line, rather than a ship. Note that most of Titanic's crew came from White Star ships, mostly Olympic and Oceanic. I have a record of a Carpathia man who almost always sailed with Cunard. I suspect captains were closely tied to lines. Where's Captain Currie?
 
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