The Building of the Ship (1849)
An epic and patriotic poem about the process of building a ship in America:
Day by day the vessel grew,
The ship is viewed as the bride of the ‘gray old sea’. The pastor’s prayer sees the soul as being as turbulent as the sea, but with a little guidance can be steered to joy, not fear. The poem ends with an analogy of the state being formed in the same way as a ship:
Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Seaside and the Fireside, (Boston, 1849).
The Govan Rivetter’s Strike (1878)
An unusual anti-strike, anti-union poem.
By strikes you’ll never profit.
Marion Bernstein, ‘The Govan Rivetter’s Strike’, Glasgow Weekly Mail, 14 December 1878
E.H. Cohen et al. (eds), A Song of Glasgow Town: The Collected Poems of Marion Bernstein, (Glasgow, 2013).
Iron Shipbuilding on the Clyde (1888)
A fine piece of Victorian doggerel celebrating the Clyde shipyards:
Ho, mates! go lay the keel-blocks down,
It continues in equally jubilant style ending with the lines:
The ships are yet to build, my boys!
Reprinted in Hamish Whyte (ed.), Mungo’s Tongues: Glasgow poems 1630-1990, (Edinburgh, 1993).
Clydeside Musings (1912)
Poems dedicated to shipworkers on the banks of the river Clyde by an ex-shipyard worker. Includes the following poems:
‘The Riveter’s Lament’ – fears about dilution of skilled workforce
Tom Burns, Clydeside Musings, (Glasgow, 1912).
The Ships that I Help to Make (1918)
Albert Rupp was known as ‘the shipyard poet’. He worked as a ‘bolter-up’ in the Alameda plant of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in California. He is said to have attracted world-wide attention by his writings on war-time shipbuilding, some of which appeared in the newspapers.
So howl ye forces with glowing fires!
Albert Rupp, ‘The Ships that I Help to Make’, Oakland Tribune, 17 November 1918.
Albert Rupp, ‘Building the Courageous ‘, Oakland Tribune, 30 November 1918.
City Songs and Others (1918)
Poems about Belfast. Includes ‘The Islandmen’ about the shipyard workers on Queen’s Island.
Only strong hands
Splendid the ships they build,
Richard Rowley, City Songs and Others, (Dublin, 1918).
The Ship-Makers (1922)
Janetta I.W. Murray
An elegy to the shipyards and workers on the Clyde. The poet’s father worked as a shipbuilder in Govan.
Janetta I.W. Murray, The Ship-Makers and Other Verses, (London & Glasgow, 1922).
Songs from the Shipyards (1924)
Carnduff worked as a labourer in the Belfast shipyards and was known as the ‘shipyard poet’. This is his first published work and is dedicated to ‘my comerades of the shipyards and the days and nights of toil we spent together’. Includes the following poems:
The introduction states: The shipyard verses come from the heart of a man who has been through it, and, for the truth that is in them, should make an appeal to shipyard workers all over the world.
Thomas Carnduff, Songs from the Shipyards and Other Poems, (Belfast, 1924).
The Yairds (1924)
John F. Fergus
This is an example of how the man in the street was beginning to associate himself with the shipbuilding industry in Glasgow. Fergus was a well-respected doctor in the city but he chose to take on the persona of a riveter to express his pride in the industry:
I’ve wrocht amang them, man and boy, for mair nor fifty year,
It ends in proud tones:
Wi’ a’ oor fauts, by Goad! we ken jist hoo to lay a keel,
John F. Fergus, ‘The Yairds’, in Ballads and Poems by Members of the Glasgow Ballad Club, (Glasgow, 1924).
Clydeside Shipyards (1961)
‘The Red Poppy’
A Clyde shipbuilder expresses pride in his industry:
Gaunt and black against the sky,
A ship is born in dirt an’ din,
The Red Poppy, ‘Clydeside Shipyards’ in Linthouse News, January 1961.
After leaving school Douglas Dunn worked for a short time at the Lobnitz yard. This poem shows the imfluence of the industry on his work.
My poems should be Clyde-built, crude and sure,
Douglas Dunn, ‘Clydesiders’ in Love or Nothing, (London, 1974).
Queen of the Sea (1977)
A book of poems that tells the story of the Reina del Mar being built at Harland & Wolff. Features a young shipbuilder finding his way in love and work in a kind of semi-humorous, modernist kind of way.
A foreman, he pauses to inspect
George McWhirter, Queen of the Sea , (Ottawa, 1977).
Shipyard Muddling (1977)
Ripyard Cuddling (Jack Davitt)
First published collection of poems by a welder from the Swan Hunter yard on the Tyne. Many were previously copied and circulated around his fellow workers. Includes the following poems:
The Meditations of an Unlucky Welder
The introduction states: ‘What these poems lack in literary technique, they more than make up for in their refreshing openness and accessibility’.
Ripyard Cuddling, Shipyard Muddling, (Whitley Bay, 1977)..
Ballad of the Two Left Hands (1979)
An elegy to the wasted lives of workers made redundant from the yards.
And soon these men of several trades
Douglas Dunn, ‘Ballad of the Two Left Hands’ in Barbarians, (London, 1979).
More Muddling (1980)
Ripyard Cuddling (Jack Davitt)
A second collection of poems, mainly humerous with more than a hint of despair at the poor state of the industry. Includes the following poems:
Elegy on a Tyneside Shipyard
Republished in 1993 together with Shipyard Muddling and some new poems.
Ripyard Cuddling, More Muddling, (Whitley Bay, 1980).
Keith Armstrong (ed.), Shipyard Muddling and More Muddling by Ripyard Cuddling: The Poems of Tyneside Shipyard Worker Jack Davitt, (North Shields, 1993).
The Diagonal Steam Trap (1983)
Humorous poem, set in Harland & Wolff, Belfast about an engineer who ‘invents’ a diagonal steam trap and sees the effects escalate to ludicrous proportions.
And then he looks up at the gaffer
Now the engineer eyed the designer
Crawford Howard, The Diagonal Steam Trap, (Spring Records, 1983).
Shipyard Patter (1984)
Keith Armstrong (ed.)
In this selection of poetry, song and prose from Tyneside, eight writers steeped in the traditions of shipyard life reflect on the humour and hardships of it all. Most of the writers worked in the yards as welder, fitter or caulker. The writing together with drawings and photographs give a unique portrait of a crisis industry in a period of rapid change.
Includes work by Ripyard Cuddling and an extract from Robert Else’s as yet unpublished novel Slipways.
Keith Armstrong (ed.), Shipyard Patter, (Whitley Bay, 1984).
A Clydeside Lad (1989)
An epic poem that traces a the life of a shipbuilder, and the industry itself, from apprenticeship through to relfections on a lost industry, taking in a ship launch, industrial injury, shipyard patter, religious bigotry and the wider shipyard community. Bill Sutherland worked in the ship model experiment tank at Denny’s shipyard in Dumbarton.
Bill Sutherland, A Clydeside Lad: A shipyard worker’s view in verse, (Glasgow, 1989).
Industrial Deafess (1990)
A pamphlet containing twelve poems reflecting some of the author’s experiences at John Brown’s shipyard in Clydebank. Includes the following poems:
The Apprentice – experiences of being an apprentice
Brian Whittingham, Industrial Deafness, (Renfrew, 1990).
Down by the Slipway: Poems of the Shipyard (1991)
Nolan worked at Harland & Wolff from 1944-1968. In retirement he took up poetry and this collection is inspired by his time in the yard. It includes ‘Boat Factory Blues (1944)’, ‘Old Bob’, ‘Sea Farers’ and ‘Lonely Pint’. These are poems very much in the tradition of working class comment.
Start of another bloody wartime week!
Joe Nolan, Down by the Slipway: Poems of the Shipyard, (Belfast, 1991).
Ergonomic Work Stations and Spinning Teacans (1992)
Includes most of the poems from Industrial Deafness (1990), along with some new poems including:
Signals – about sign language used in the yard
Brian Whittingham, Ergonomic Work Stations and Spinning Teacans, (Glasgow, 1992).
When we Built the Big Ships (1997)
Alfred Forbes Smith
A poem remembering the heyday of Clyde shipbuilding.
The giant cranes towered o’er the bleak shipyard
Alfred Forbes Smith, A Parochial View of Glasgow , (Glasgow, 1997).
Bunnets n Bowlers: A Clydeside odyssey (2009)
‘This collection of poetry is my Clydeside Odyssey from when I left school at 15, working for a year as an office boy then serving a four year apprenticeship as a boilermaker’s plater, then becoming a journeyman plater, much of the time working on the QE2’.
Contains poems from Industrial Deafness and Ergonomic Work Stations and Spinning Teacans plus many more.
Brian Whittingham, Bunnets n Bowlers: A Clydeside odyssey , (Edinburgh, 2009).
A Rose Loupt Oot (2011)
David Betteridge (ed.)
A celebration of poetry and song to mark the 40th anniversary of the UCS work-in. Contains a mix of previously unpublished anonymous works from the time, well known works and newly commissioned poems.
David Betteridge (ed.), A Rose Loupt Oot, (Middlesbrough, 2011).