From 1859 the Harland and Wolff shipyard produced some 1,750 vessels during over a century of continuous shipbuilding. It was the shipyard's contracts with the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, better known as the White Star Line, that produced some seventy-five vessels for the shipping line. The most famous ships amongst those vessels were the Olympic class liners Olympic, Titanic and Britannic.
The Olympic class liners were built on two massive slipways at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Construction of the Olympic began first and, from the end of March 1909 and for the next three years, thousands of workers at the Belfast shipyard of Harland and Wolff laboured to built the Titanic.
Today in industry the safety of workers is taken very seriously. Workers follow procedures for the use of plant and equipment, and activities are risk assessed to mitigate as much possible the risk of incidents occurring. Workers are provided with personal protective equipment; high-visibility clothing, hard hats and protective boots to help protect them when they come into contact with plant and equipment. Businesses record injury frequency rates and take action to remedy failures in procedures and learn lessons where injuries occur.
However, in 1912 the working standards in industry were lacking, and injury and death were a daily threat to workers. This wasn't a situation unique to shipyard workers, workers in other industries such as mining also faced the same daily threat. Sadly, during the building of the Titanic eight workers are believed to have lost their lives.
The genesis of the tablet came from the Harland and Wolff Welders Football and Social Club, located on Dee Street within walking distance of the shipyard. The club's official Tucker Smith and east Belfast MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) Sammy Douglas both worked together to gather funds and commission the tablet, which is affixed to the exterior of the club's building in the city.
The tablet is a rectangular slab of black marble, with an inlaid impression of one of Harland and Wolff's iconic gantry cranes, Samson and Goliath. Beneath is an inscription in gold lettering.
In MEMORIAM This plaque is to commemorate the eight brave men who lost their lives during the construction of the R.M.S. TITANIC built in Harland & Wolff Ship Yard, Belfast.
Below, the tablet has the names of the eight victims, sadly only the names of five of the eight workers are known. The youngest was just fifteen years old. The workers were Samuel Joseph Scott, aged 15; Robert James Murphy, aged 49; John Kelly, aged 19; William Clarke, aged 27; James Dobbin, aged 43; and three unknown men. Below the plaque has the following dedication:
These men will never be forgotten God Bless
The tablet was unveiled in a ceremony on 6 July 2012 by First Minister Peter Robinson.