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15 October 2014
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Working in the Shipping Yard

by Big Yellow Bus

Contributed by 
Big Yellow Bus
People in story: 
David Simpson
Location of story: 
Belfast
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A3684215
Contributed on: 
18 February 2005

I started work as a Catch and Rivet Boy at Victoria Yard for Harland and Wolff in 1945 just as WW2 was ending.

‘Catch and Rivet’ was one job. The ‘Heater Boy’ he heated the rivets in a furnace and then he threw them along the deck to me and I caught them in a catching pliers. I put them into the hole along the plate we were working on and the ‘Holder Up’ he had another machine which put the machine dye on top of the rivet. That made the rivet flush with the plate and then the riveter he pushed the handle and squeezed the hydraulic. This pushed the machine top on bottom so that the rivet was flush with the deck. That was my job. I was fourteen years old. The riveter was a journeyman who had already served his time as and a holder —up etc., so he would have been around nineteen or twenty years of age. When I was a Catch and Rivet boy I had the honour of presenting flowers to a lady called Mrs Leigh Jones, daughter of the Managing Director of the Anglo-Saxon oil company that was launching a ship that was called the MV Naothyris.

I served two years doing this job as Catch and Rivet and then I went to serve my time as a French Polisher, polishing the furniture the ships that were being made. That took an apprenticeship of 5 years and cost me £5. I used to earn 19/3 a week at that time and I was twenty-one years of age. I was then a journeyman.

Then I went to work in Liverpool for H and W. I worked on the Empress of Scotland and the Empress of Britain and the Empress of Japan. These boats had been used in WW2 as troop carriers and were now being refitted. The Empress of Scotland was a German ship and had been called the Potsdam before she was captured.

I went to Southampton then and went to the Queen Mary and the QE2 and then came home. I was now 25.

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Message 1 - Working in the Shipping Yard

Posted on: 19 February 2005 by Audrey Lewis - WW2 Site Helper

Dear David Simpson,
So good to read the story of your young working life in the shipping area. What a dangerous job 'Catch and Rivet' for a boy of 14. You must have seen many war time ships where you were working? We often forget this side of the story - ships being refitted to go on to further duty.
You certainly had a variety of work!
Thank you.
Regards,
Audrey Lewis

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