Steel Ships and Iron Men

In Belfast, Melvyn examines the hardships that faced workers at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast with the help of archive footage and the personal memories of a man who once worked there alongside all the male members of his family. David Fleming, once a plater at Harland and Wolff in Belfast. His father worked as a 'red-leader' at the shipyard during the construction of Titanic.

Red lead was an anti-corrosive paint applied to the hulls of ships to protect them against rust. The paint itself was highly toxic, but this was not the only danger that faced the workers.

David's father himself fell from the scaffolds while painting, fracturing his shoulder-blades and curtailing his working life. David says that there was hardly a ship built without someone being badly maimed or killed and recalls a colleague killed by a steel plate that fell on him after the wires supporting it broke.

Release date:


4 minutes


Role Contributor
Series ProducerDympna Jackson
PresenterMelvyn Bragg
Executive ProducerRuth Pitt

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