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

Whitby Museum

IMG_1788

The weather on the Wednesday of our holiday was rather mixed to say the least. It rained during the morning but the afternoon promised sunny spells. So we decided to go into Whitby, look round some of the shops and old streets and visit the Whitby Museum in Pannett Park. The weather certainly was mixed. At one point we were standing in bright sunshine getting rained on!!

The museum is in a lovely setting – Pannett Park on the west side of the river in the area developed during the Victorian period. It’s a fascinating Victorian museum – old fashioned, but in a good way!

It has a rather eclectic collection of local fossils, natural history exhibits, model ships, carved jet, toys, costumes, items relating to social history and local notables, including Captain Cook.

These are just some of their collection of fossils found in and around Whitby, many of them from the local alum quarries, including this Ichthyosaurus

IMG_1773

a marine crocodile

IMG_1769

and many others.

IMG_1771

There’s a large collection of jet jewellery and other objects. I particularly liked this chessboard

IMG_1774

I also liked this clockwork model of a jet workshop. Put a coin in the slot and the workers started to carry out the various tasks involved in jet manufacture.

IMG_1775

The museum website tells us

the jet workshop model (over 120 years old)….. was made by George Wood, a jet worker, in 1889 and this model stood for many years in the doorway of Elisha Walker’s jet shop at 97 Church Street in Whitby. The heads of the 6 jet workers were carved from the bowls of clay pipes and were caricatures of George Wood’s fellow jet workers. It is driven by clockwork and the men treadle their machines such as polishers, turners, finishers, grinders, working the jet, whilst the foreman’s head turns periodically to see that everyone is working hard!

There was a statue of Captain Cook in the room devoted to maritime history

IMG_1776

Whitby was a whaling centre and their were exhibits related to this rather gruesome industry including these rather viscous looking harpoons and flenshing tools

IMG_1777

These are narwhal tusks

IMG_1779

and a complete narwhal skeleton

IMG_1780

I found the display about shipbuilding in Whitby interesting on two counts. First of all I’m always interested in industrial history. Secondly we were staying next to a former shipyard owners house and above where his shipyard once stood.

IMG_1784

We learned that an old building we passed walking to and from the town centre was a former sail making and repair loft that had been located next to the Whitehall shipyard.

IMG_1799

There was plenty more to see and we ended up spending a couple of hours looking around – longer than I expected – and could probably had stayed longer.

After, dodging rain showers, we had a look around the park

IMG_1792

IMG_1791

IMG_1790

IMG_1789

Walking back to the town centre we passed Bagdale Hall, the old building that is now a hotel and restaurant

IMG_1793

where I spotted this rather attractive Art Deco statue in the courtyard

IMG_1795