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16 October 2014
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Belfast - Queen Elizabeth II Bridge (1966)

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

ML 1030

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Belfast - Queen Elizabeth II Bridge (1966)

Close-up view of workers in Peter Bannister's photo of cranes, beside Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in Belfast. (1966)
Worker rejoins his colleagues on floating platform with cranes.
Photograph taken by Peter Bannister

This photograph has sparked off memories for John R. in Canada:

"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. On occasion I worked on these barges but don't remember this incident. However, I do remember watching another incident when an operator jumped out of the crane cab when the cable broke, but he was lucky enough to be on the bank not in the river, the crane didn't flip and I remember the operator stood up and looked a little embarrassed as the crane's motor idled on, in a tranquil composed kind of way as if wondering what all the fuss was about!

In your picture I notice one guy wearing a grey hard hat - this was a standard issue of Charles Brand (the contractor) and each employee had to put his clock number (payroll number) on the hat. I still remember mine as 91.

I started work shortly after the job started and I was laid off a month or two before it finished. I have lots of little stories about working on that bridge. It was a kind of village. I worked as a chain boy (engineer's helper) so I was able to travel all over the site and I knew most of the regular employees. Many workers came and went because the work was dirty and dangerous, but a lot stayed and were considered regular employees. Many of the employees lived in Kilkeel and travelled each day to work. I now live in Canada (32 years).

I would love to see more of these pictures of the Lagan Bridge (was called that before it was named QEII) construction.

Does anyone remember the first piles that were driven in to build the crane gantry? One of my first jobs on the Lagan Bridge was to take a small boat out each night to the piles and fill and light an oil lamp that sat on top of one pile, this was for boats, especially the coal barges ( going to the gasworks ) to see the piles at night. It was quite a thing to climb up the pile when the tide was out. I always had an audience in the early days, as the bridge continued the audience grew less except when something special was happening, like when we brought up the Harland and Wolf 250 ton barge crane to pull out the coffer-dam piles.

I wonder if any reader got caught in one of our pranks, a few lads had the black smith ( we even had a black smith shop on site ) weld a 6" inch nail on one side of a half-crown and then hammered into the side walk of the Queen's Bridge, this was very entertaining as we watched from under the bridge people trying to pick up the half-crown. Most would try and kick it, then bend down and try and pick it up, they would eventually hear our laughter and realize it was a joke, the majority were good sports about the half-crown and had a laugh with us, but about the sixth victim was our general manager, as most bosses he didn't see the humor. Within minutes the half-crown and nail was removed, he kept the half-crown and we were lucky to keep our jobs. No one had the mettle to ask for the half-crown back!."

YOUR RESPONSES

Christina McClean - March '01
My Grandad worked on the QE11 bridge and I would love if I could get a copy of those photographs. His name is Jackie McConkey.

Linda Cochrane - Dec '05
Hello George,
I would be very interested to see those photographs you haev of the construction of the QEII bridge if possible?

George McAllister - June '05
Hello John,
I live in Belfast and have some pictures showing the QEII bridge construction. If interested contact me.

Harry Fitzsimons - 4 May 2004
My grandfather (Patrick McLaughlin) was the night watchman on the bridge. During this time he received a commendation for bravery from the RUC for saving a man who fell into the Lagan.

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