Building Ships

One song that struck a chord* with me during one of the concerts that took place during the Celtic Connections festival was Building Ships, performed by Glasgow based singer Findlay Napier. While mourning the passing of a once great industry. It pays tribute to the workers who built the mighty ships for which Glasgow was renowned.

On his Bandcamp site, the singer tells us that

From a conversation about reopening Scotland’s shipyards with my Dad. He was a marine engineer and occasional builder of ships. It became clear to me that without a long plan, agreed on by all political parties, we’ll never see industry like that in Glasgow again.

Glasgow Shipyard- Shipbuilding in Wartime, 1944 Imperial War Museum (IWM Non Commercial Licence) via Wikipedia

Given my line of work, these lines particularly resonate with me

There’s ten guys in the hospital, four men in the ground
And everyone worked there breathed that dust into their lungs
And everyone worked there breathed that dust into their lungs

“That dust” would have been asbestos, which was used for insulation and fire protection throughout ships built before July 2002. Consequently many shipbuilders contracted serious, usually fatal, lung diseases – asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma (a particularly nasty cancer of the outer lining of the lung).

https://greatacre.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/p1080472.jpg
Asbestos insulation photographed during a visit to HMS Belfast in London

There were other health hazards too – noise, damaging hand-arm vibration and exposure to welding fume (another lung carcinogen)

Asbestos hasn’t been used in ships since the end of 2010 – but there’s plenty of vessels out there on the sea that contain lots of it. And there’s a particular risk of high exposure at the end of their life when they’re broken up.

Oh aye, as Findlay sings

Everyone among them should get fair and equal pay

7 thoughts on “Building Ships

    • Yes it was still being used in buildings too right up to the 1980’s. Much of it is still there posing a danger to workers and others during renovation or demolition of the buildings if it isn’t managed properly. And there are still some countries where it can still be used legally.

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