Image for Steel Ships and Iron Men

Steel Ships and Iron Men

Duration: 03:20

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.

Available since: Mon 19 Sep 2011


Series Producer
Dympna Jackson
Melvyn Bragg
Executive Producer
Ruth Pitt

This clip is from

Reel History of Britain Steel Ships and Iron Men

12/20 Melvyn Bragg is in Glasgow looking at the ship building industry in the 1930s.

First broadcast: 20 Sep 2011

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