The story of shipbuilding in Belfast is known throughout the world: the great ships, including Titanic, HMS Belfast and SS Canberra; the towering cranes; its contribution to making Belfast a great industrial city. Less well known, but just as fascinating and illuminating, is the remarkable story of the Islandmen - the men who worked in the shipyards and built the world-renowned vessels. Author Tom Thompson comes from a proud line of shipyard workers. In 1949, aged sixteen, he started work at Harland and Wolff's Joiners' Shop. He found himself in a new world, of apprentices and Gaffers, Hats and Bulkies; where lunchtime religious services ran alongside illegal gambling, and where hard graft and good craic went hand in hand. This book is a first-hand account of the close-knit community that flourished in the yards, and a wonderful compendium of memories that captures the spirit of a bygone era and provides a fascinating slice of social history.
Tom Thompson is from Belfast. In 1949 he became an apprentice in Harland & Wolff's Joiners' Shop, where he worked for almost nine years. He spent twenty-eight years with the Civil Aviation Authority as an Air Traffic Engineer before retiring in 1993, and in 1985 he set up the family business, Bargain Books. He is co-author of Standing Room Only: Memories of Belfast Cinemas.