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Harland and Wolff Project Thought to be mid/late 1980s

Early Years of Queen's Island

Belfast shipyard has been going for 136 years. It was founded by Thompson and Kirwan in 1851 when they moved from the west bank of the Lagan to build wooden ships. Two years later Robert Hickson started a company to build iron ships. A year later a young man called Edward Harland cam from Newcastle (England) to manage Hickson's yard. In 1858 Hickson sold out to Harland. A firm called J. Bibby & Sons & Co from Liverpool placed an order for three big ships named Venetian, Sicilian and Syrian. Harland took on a partner called Gustav Wolff. So from then on the yard has been called Harland & Wolff.

Darren & Keith

In 125 years of shipbuilding Harland and Wiolff has moved with a changing world market. The skills of this Belfast workforce were capable of turning out beautiful luxury liners from the late 19th century up to 1960, when the last great vessel of this type "Canberra" was launched. 
When required, Admiralty orders were carried out, perhaps the most famous being the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Eagle and H.M.S. Belfast, now anchored on the Thames, the largest surviving European warship of World War II.
In recent years, with th growing popularity of air travel, and the subsequent decline of the ocean liner, Belfast has adapted to the more recent needs of world shipping and is capable of building supertankers and bulk carriers. Recent orders have included work for the Admiralty and car/passenger ferries, indicating the companys ability to construct a diverse range of vessels.
It is perhaps a sad reflection on the Belfast shipyard that it is best remembered for the greatest peace time shipping disaster, the tragic loss of the White Star liner RMS "Titanic" in the Atlantic Ocean in April 1912, after striking an iceberg. Approximately 1500 people lost their lives. The "Titanic" is often incorrectly referred to as th first ship designed to be "unsinkable", although its identical sister ship "Olympic" had successfully been sailing the North Atlantic rout for one year before the disaster.
Belfast's shipbuilding workforce, like that of the other European yards has sadly been reduced to about one fifth of its maximum number. However, the company feels it is capable of accepting the challenge of an upswing in the demand for new vessels expected in the 1990s.


Edward Harland designed new ships in Belfast which were longer than normal ships but not broader. He made the bottom of the ship as flat as possible but he depended upon the strength of the iron decks instead of the wooden decks. The iron decks were used to make the vessels stronger. He removed figure heads and sails from the prow of the ships so it would be easier to see ahead. Rivals called them coffin ships.

by Paul, Willy and Ian

The table and grpahs show the tonnage of ships built at Belfast in ten year periods from 1859 to the present. Figure are displayed in thousands of tons. Ships built in Harland and Wolff yards in Scotland are not included. The steady growth of the yard to the end of the world war one is clear.
Depression in the 1920s and 1930s is indicated by felling tonnage figures. World War two led to a massive recovery in the industry and the last wat rebuilding boom led to what was perhaps the best period for the shipyard. By the 1960s the demand for passenger ships was falling off and there was a switch in emphasis to large oil tankers and bulk carriers.
To facilitate this a new building dock was constructed in the 1960s. Tonnage remained high in the 1960s and 70s, although the number of men employed fell sharply from the 1950s as the large numbers of employees required for the "fitting-out" trades had fallen sharply. The statistics were compiled from "Shipbuilders to the world" by Michael Moss and John R Hume (Blackstaff Press 1986).

William Moore, Darren Miller, Ian McIntosh, Keith McWilliams

Auckland Star

The Auckland Star was named on the 5th of November 1985 by Lady Vestey. The Auckland Star was one of the six vessels built for the Blue Star Line. Boys and girls from Elmgrove Primary School attended the naming ceremony along with other schools. Before the ship was actually given its name, bands played and children were furiously waving Union Jack flags. After the ceremony and the ship had been named the children of Elmgrove Primary School were taken round the building docks in the coach. At lucnh time we all went to the canteen and had our lunch. The food provided for us was hamburgers and chips and to follow was cherry pie. We also had a tin of Fanta and Coke each. We all had a very enjoyable time.

Julie Annne and Karla


This disaster could have ended up with not as many deaths if there had been enough lifeboats. There were only 16 lifeboats and there should have been at least 32. The ship was equipped to hold 64 boats and the fact that it only had 16 was a disgrace.
It is amazing that just over twice as many people died as were saved. It is not at all fair that the chairman of the White Star committee was allowed into the lifeboats before any other man. 560 more men passengers were killed than women passengers. Over half the children died. Was it murder?
A similar disaster occurred in 1916. Titanic's sister ship the Britanic struck a German mine, and damage similar to the Titanic's was causedf. All the passengers and crew excaped in lifeboats and the only deaths were caused when one of them crashed into the propellers. With the correct number of lifeboats most of the Titanic's passengers and crew would have been saved.

Ian McIntosh

Comments on the Titanic

The number of people lost was nearly twice the number saved. All the first class children were saved but only about one third of the third class children were saved. Most of the men stayed on board, women and children got into the lifeboats first, so mostly men were lost.
There were only 16 lifeboats on the Titanic, but there was room for 64. All the people probably would then have been saved. The Britannic had 78 lifeboats and when it sank only 20 people died. The Titanic was a great disaster and people still remember it now.

Alison Hodge

In The Past

In April 1901, Oswald and Eustace Short started to manufacture balloons in Hove, Sussex. By 1908 they had been joined by their brother Horace, moved to London and began to develop heavier than air machines.
When larger premises were needed, the company moved to Eastchurch and later Rochester. In 1937, a factory to build aircraft was set up with the shipbuilders Harland and Wolff in Belfast harbour. The company headquarters was moved to Belfast in 1948.


Shorts own aircraft include the freighters, Skyvan and Sherpa and the 330 and 360 small airliners. The company also produces parts for other aircraft builders, Fokker, Boeing and BAE.
The Tucano trainer is now being built for the R.A.F. Blowpipe, Seacat amd Starsteak anti-aircraft missiles are also produced.

Jayne Campbell and Emma Scott

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