Hear the Hammers Ring: Shipyard Workers, Literary Culture and Communities in Clydeside and Belfast, 1840-1914.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: English


This project investigates how shipyard workers represented their working lives, and situated themselves as a professional community within wider Glasgow and Belfast communities, in the period when the major shipyards were established and became dominant industrial forces. By locating and researching a body of little-known writings by workers themselves, including literary sources such as autobiography, poems, songs, speeches and essays, the PhD will evaluate the use and significance of this intangible heritage in contextualizing the tangible heritage held by maritime museums. As such it will contribute to a broader movement reconsidering the representation of workers within industrial heritage organizations.

The PhD will centre on 3 key areas:
1. Representing working lives in the shipyards. How did shipyard workers in these areas represent their work and their workplace? What kinds of writing and oral/performance cultures did they engage in? What were the strategic uses of this engagement in different contexts/media? (For example, reciting a poem at a shipyard public event is very different from publishing it in the radical press).

2. Comparing working lives in the shipyards. What are the differences and similarities between Clydeside and Belfast shipyard workers, and how was the frequent migration and interchange between these areas represented by these workers? What can literary sources tell us about, for instance, sectarian tensions, linguistic communities, intersections between culture and nationalist or Orange politics in the shipyards? Are the internal hierarchies and groupings in this workforce represented similarly by workers located in Scotland or Ulster and identifying as Scottish or Irish? And are workers' voices from beyond Britain and Ireland represented in the historical archive?

3. Including long 19thc. working lives in 21stc. industrial heritage. How can these sources be integrated into industrial heritage museum contexts, physical and virtual, and deployed by museums, in order to increase staff expertise and public engagement with material collections?
In a specific example, 'Hear the hammers ring' is from an 1890s poem by Tom Burns, Clydeside riveter, Irish immigrant, newspaper poet and amateur playwright. The poem describes the sounds of daily labour. What is the value of this poem for the Maritime Museum and its audience, given that the museum holds the physical tools that a worker like Burns used? And how can these physical objects, and the curatorial expertise that understands their use, and where a riveter was placed in shipyard hierarchies, inform our interpretation of Burns's life and works?
Such questions will enable the PhD student to integrate original archival research with substantial scholarly value as an intervention in the fields of labour history and working-class culture - deploying both digital and physical archives in Glasgow/Belfast, e.g. the Mitchell, the Linenhall Library, Public Record Office NI - with an understanding of why this research matters to the contemporary heritage sector. But the student's research will also add value to the maritime heritage sector, by bringing local Scottish and Irish 'literary' works to curatorial attention. It will thus expand existing personal enterprises with a predominant twentieth-century focus, like Bellamy's 'Shipyard Songs' website and 2001 anthology (Bellamy is a Glasgow Museums curator, known to Blair and Moran


10 25 50