Workman and Clark

Rivals to Harland and Wolff known as the ’wee yard’. While Harland and Wolff has long dominated Northern Ireland’s cultural consciousness, other names that embodied Belfast’s shipbuilding industry have often been forgotten. While Harland and Wolff has long dominated Northern Ireland’s cultural consciousness, other names that embodied Belfast’s shipbuilding industry have often been forgotten.

While Harland and Wolff has long dominated Northern Ireland’s cultural consciousness, other names that embodied Belfast’s shipbuilding industry have often been forgotten. The firm of Workman and Clark, or the ‘wee yard’ as it was known, was started by Frank Workman and George Clark in 1880, who had both been apprentices at Harland and Wolff. Their yard was based on the Antrim bank of the River Lagan in north Belfast. In 1893, they took over Harland and Wolff’s original rival, McIlwaine and Coll, who had been located in the Abercorn Basin and Queen’s Island.

Perhaps the yard’s greatest claim to fame was the pioneering of refrigerated shipping, utilised by the West Indian banana trade, South American beef importation and many of the booming transoceanic trading routes. In keeping with the rest of Belfast shipbuilding, the yard reached its zenith during the first world war, employing 12,000 men. {PAGE BREAK}

The period after the war brought a low point in shipbuilding. The pre war high of 25,000 employed in the yards fell to 2750 in 1933. Workman and Clark were bought over by the Tyneside company Northumberland Shipping, and declared bankruptcy in 1928. A management buyout was arranged, but a combination of the Wall Street Crash and a serious fire on the dock-bound liner Bermuda finished off Workman and Clark in 1935.

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