Amongst the Titanic memorials in her birthplace, the city of Belfast, are a growing number of recent public sculptures. Through the imagination and creativity of the sculptors the story of the Titanic, and her memory, is captured in unique public art installations. Standing in front of the Dr Pitt Memorial Park on the Newtownards Road in the east of the city is the 'Titanic Yardmen 401' sculpture.
The sculpture remembers the men of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, especially those who built the Titanic. Over the decades of shipbuilding at the Belfast yard many of the men would have worshipped at the Westbourne Presbyterian Church (known locally as the 'Shipyard Church'), standing opposite the sculpture on the south side of Newtownards Road.
From 1859 the Harland and Wolff shipyard produced some 1,750 vessels during over a century of continuous shipbuilding. Latterly, following the decline in liners built for companies such as the White Star Line and the Union-Castle Line the yard built bulk carriers and tankers, but with declining fortunes in shipbuilding the yard produced its final ship MV Anvil Point in 2003.
Belfast is synonymous with its murals, painted on the gable-ends of houses through out the city. Many murals are associated with the sectarian divide in the city, but following the Good Friday Agreement some of the more controversial murals have been replaced. Now murals depict the Titanic, and the sculpture is part of a wider scheme - the East Belfast Partnership's Re-Imaging Newtownards Road project - to re-imagine the local area with community-based artwork.
'Titanic Yardmen 401' depicts three yardmen from Harland and Wolff, dressed in trousers and shirt, with a waistcoat and wearing a traditional 'duncher' (flat cap), striding on the way to the shipyard. The central figure carried a satchel over his right shoulder; the right figure carries a rolled-up newspaper. The figures were sculpted by Ross Wilson, who described the project as "a dream...to be the sculptor involved in this iconic community sculpture".
On the railings besides the sculpture is a sign carrying the following dedication:
The Yardmen is a Titanic centenary sculpture that celebrates the history and achievements of East Belfast's shipbuilding workforce. The people of Belfast are proud of their shipbuilding heritage. For over 150 years the names Harland and Wolff have been universally known for excellence is shipbuilding. Thousands of men worked and sustained their families through the yards [sic] order books. The shipyards [sic] years of production saw the creation of 1,700 large ships the most famous being the Titanic, a great ship now locked into worldwide history and romantic myth, fact and myth riveted together.
This sculpture honours all generations of Yardmen and is a tribute to their culture, life and legacy. To the memory of men who built giants.
- Belfast Telegraph (2012) Titanic workers sculpture unveiled Belfast: Belfast Telegraph, http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/titanic-workers-sculpture-unveiled-28731593.html
- Connswater Community Greenway (2012) Titanic Yardmen Cycle and Walk Belfast: Connswater Community Greenway, http://www.connswatergreenway.co.uk/sites/default/files/TitanicYardmenLeaflet.pdf
- East Belfast Partnership (2013) The Yardman Trail Belfast: East Belfast Partnership, http://www.connswatergreenway.co.uk/sites/default/files/EB%20Yardman%20Trail%20FINAL.pdf