FIRST Minister Peter Robinson has unveiled a plaque commemorating the eight men who lost their lives during the building over a century ago of the mighty passenger liner Titanic – but it was only five-eighths of the story.
For three of the victims are ‘unknown’ on the plaque at the Harland and Wolff Welders Club in Dee Street, east Belfast, as their identity has been lost in the mists of time, overshadowed by the terrible loss of 1,517 souls when the ship stuck an iceberg in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912.
Mr Robinson told the News Letter: “In an era when the phrase ‘health and safety’ did not exist, it was sadly inevitable that lives would be lost during any major construction or engineering project. The eight men who perished during the construction of Titanic are an integral part of the story of the ship, and it is right that they are commemorated within the heart of east Belfast where the vast majority of shipyard workers came from.”
The plaque was the brainchild of Welders Club official Tommy ‘Tucker’ Smith and east Belfast MLA Sammy Douglas, who – not entirely impressed by the various statues and works of art depicting the loss – felt that a more personal approach was required. Thus, they sent out an appeal for the plaque, with local businesses subscribing generously.
Said Sammy: “Five of the names were known – Samuel Scott, John Kelly, William Clarke, James Dobbin and Robert Murphy. But despite the shoals of books written on the life and death of the Titanic, the other three names are still a mystery.”
Said Tommy: “With the Welders Club being born out of Harland & Wolff, it was only fitting that the plaque should be sited here. But we’re very keen to know the other three names. Sammy is researching for all he is worth, including his own team at Stormont and at Queen’s University.
“There were many casual workers in the shipyard then – some may not have even been registered – but their descendants may be awash with the stories.” All information to Tommy at the Welders Club on 9041 5930.
First Minister Peter Robinson and Tommy Smith, organiser of the plaque, at the unveiling of the memorial at the Harland & Wolff Welders Club
PICTURE: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press