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Harland & Wolff: Office Boys!

I worked at the shipyard from 1955-57 as an Office Boy in the time-keepers office.
Article written by Dave Sloan.

Greater Belfast

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I worked at the shipyard from 1955-57 as an Office Boy in the time-keepers office. Mr Dixon was the head timekeeper at the time. He was a very fine gentleman and always willing to help anyone who wanted to further themselves. One of my responsibilities among others was collecting the "Boards" at the end of the shift and separating them and getting them in place for the next day. I also helped the time keeper log entries into his time log and total columnes. It was quite a job and I enjoyed it very much. We got to spend a lot of time walking around the yard itself and I enjoyed going to the dry-docks when they were being emptied. I specifically remember when all the water was drained out there was always a load of fish in the bottom and the men would collect them and take them home for dinner. I also had fun when the Canadian and American ships came in and I got to go visit them and talk to the sailors. I guess that's where I got the idea to immigrate to the USA. My grandfather, Davy McIlwain, was one of the overhead crane operators and he used to take me up with him and I got to watch him work the controls and once in a while he would let me work them. He was one of the best operators in the Yard at that time.

One particular momentous occasion was when Field Marshal Montgomery came to Harland & Wolff to tour the facilities. I made it a point to be where he was and I walked down the isle where he was walking and he called me over and talked to me. He asked me what my job was and if I liked it or not and what my future intentions were. Needless to say I was walking on the clouds for weeks after that encounter. All my fellow Office Boys were totally jealous of me and I had a rough time with some of them after that but it was worth it to me.

My future plans were to serve my time as a coppersmith apprentice. However, my grandfather retired from the shipyard and he and my grandmother emigrated to the USA and I went along with them. I never ended up as a coppersmith but my love of ships led me to spend 4 years in the US Navy on board a ship of the 7th Fleet.

I have many wonderful memories of my years in the shipyard and was happy to be a small part of its history. I think it's sad to see it go into decline, hopefully some day it will be resurrected.

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