Harland and Wolff - Shipbuilding and Engineering Works
THE MESSAGE BOYS - 1973
Some families have very strong H&W links, and nowhere is this more evident than among the youngest group of our employees — the message boys. Most or the boys from a recent "batch" interviewed for this article (H&W News No.40 14th February 1973) are the sons of employees, and most of them also have a liberal sprinkling or uncles, cousins and brothers throughout the firm.
"Message boys" is really a misnomer for these lads — "pre- apprentices" would be a better description, for having passed selection interviews and aptitude tests, they act as messengers for a strictly limited time and do that only until they can take their rightful places in the Training Centre as craft apprentices.
One such is young Stephen Baxter, who, despite his considerable assurance, confessed to feeling a 'wee" bit nervous about his first day as an apprentice, a feeling shared by most of the other boys.
Stephen and Plant's Bobby Hamilton, are both planning to become plumbers. A later arrival, Tom McAuley, who is in the Shipyard Drawing Office, also hopes to do a similar course, but will join a later group at the Training School. All three are soccer enthusiasts — Tom plays for his B.B. team, and Stephen and Bobby are "Glens" supporters. Robert Leeman and Tommy Hamilton — no relation to Bobby — both play for Glentoran's Thirds. Robert is in Ship Repair Department, as is his father Ernie, the Department's well-known "right-hand man". Tommy is also following in his father's footsteps by learning the sheetmetal trade. A chatty newcomer is John McDowell, who "axes enthusiastically about his "Excelsior" 150 c.c. motor "bike." Only 15, he hasn't yet got a licence to ride it, but has high hopes of doing a bit of racing later on.
SPPD's William Johnston, a pre-electrical apprentice, and Time Office's William Telford, who is going to be a sheetmetal worker, are scrambling enthusiasts, and are in the process of assembling a cycle so that they can compete in their Club's activities at Nutt's Corner.
Brian Large, from Central Personnel Department, is an ardent footballer, while his colleague in Personnel, Robert Oliver, who has now started his apprenticeship. Robert, however, is torn between his two hobbies of fishing and football. "I'd like to join H&W's Angling Club," he states, "but they fish on Saturdays, when I'm playing for Linfield Rangers.
Body-building sessions at a Health Club may have something to do with Jim Cranston's physique, for at 16 he is a strapping lad. He was also a Royal Marines' Cadet, and still occasionally hankers after a Navy career. He has been filling his pre- apprentice time as Mail boy, delivering and collecting the mail to and from the G.P.O., and also doing miscellaneous duties in the Secretary's Office.
Sixteen on the day he was interviewed for "H&W NEWS" Robert Greer cheerfully answered "A birthday present from the other boys? You must be jolking!" He dodges a well-aimed kick from his posterior by one of his mates - "that's about all I'd get from them," he says. He is a volley-ball enthusiast, and also likes making plastic Airfix models. With refreshing candour he says, "I made a boat from my own design, but it sank!"
It is a disappointment several football Scouts that Time Office's Sammy Fisher, a "natural player, is not keen on football as a career. An ex-member of Oranefield School's First Eleven, he prefers boxing and has representing the East End Boxing Club in "Under 16" Junior Championships. He also, along with colleague Tommy Hamilton, plays the flute in the "Gertrude Star" band.
On the first rung of the ladder to the top?