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16 October 2014
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Brian's Belfast Sketchbook

When I worked in Belfast during the 60's and 70's I used to wander the City with a sketchbook during my lunch breaks.

Sketch by Brian Willis

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Brian's Belfast Sketchbook

Building the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.  Original drawing by Brian Willis.


Ballpoint pen and Indian ink

Building the new Queen Elizabeth ll Bridge, with Albert Clock in background.

Building Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.  Original drawing by Brian Willis.

Another sketch of the same construction. This time including a couple of pedestrians standing on the original Queen's Bridge looking across at the work in progress. Note the two funnels of the ferries moored at the quay side.

Click here to view larger version of this drawing.

Your Responses

John R. says:
"I do remember the gathering of people looking at the project from the Queens Bridge. Your sketch shows the crane's counter weights. A few times I had to pass by the crane wheels on the outside of those big cement blocks (used to give the cranes counter balance). My biggest fear was the operator would forget I was working and start moving before I had passed the wheels, especially when the tide was out as the fall was much greater. They never did but it's strange the things you keep in your memory. Today I manage a fall protection company and a worker would never be allowed to do the things we did years ago.

Gordon writes:
"I find Brian's pics very interesting. The one of the crane building the new QEII bridge brings back memories when I was a wee lad of going to see them building the new bridge one Sunday.

I saw them trying to remove the piles, that the crane in the drawing had been sitting on, with a crane floating on a barge. Whilst the man on the crane was trying to pull one of the piles out which was not budging, the jib of the crane (a metal lattice) buckled and the poor crane driver leapt into the river to try and avoid getting hurt.

My Dad (Peter Bannister) took some pictures of said incident, which are in an album at home. Here is one of them, taken at the Queen's Bridge in February 1966. It shows the 2 cranes which were trying to pull out the pile, when one collapsed and a worker had to jump into the river. I think he is the one climbing back up again. On the same page in the album is a picture of the Sea Quest under constuction - that is the 3 legged oil rig."

Cranes at Belfast's Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in February 1966. Photo taken by Peter Bannister.
Peter Bannister's picture of
cranes in front of Belfast's
QEII Bridge in February 1966.

John remembers:
"I worked on that bridge for two years. The sketch of the temporary crane gantry (see top of page) brought back memories. I use to cross that bridge 5 - 10 times a day."

"This picture of the broken crane boom. Your comments regarding the crane operator jumping into the river is of no surprise, these type of cranes had a problem of flipping backwards if the cable snapped......" You can read all of John's message by clicking on the above photograph.

Brian's sketches sparked off other memories for John. He recalls the street next to the gasworks.

Related links

Did you work on the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge? What type of job did you do? Perhaps, like Gordon, you remember visiting it to take a look at its progress. May be you were at the official opening. Share your stories and memories here at Your Place & mine, discuss this article at the bottom of the page OR e-mail .

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