Industrial Homage - The Titanic Yardmen
Visitors and residents of Belfast are often left in no doubt as to the City’s rich maritime history. The cranes of Harland and Wolff dominate the Belfast skyline, the Titanic visitor centre reflects the light brightly like a beacon on the water. The city is filled with tributes to a well-known past, one of these tributes can be found on the Newtownards Road at Pitt Park. A sculpture by the esteemed artist Ross Wilson who also brings his artistic brilliance to another piece in East Belfast.
Wilson is known already for his CS Lewis centenary sculpture at Holywood Arches Library just around the corner from the Titanic Yardmen 401 which opened on the Titanic centenary. This piece features three yardmen, in bronze as a tribute to the long history of shipbuilding in the area. The shipyard’s horn would blast over the area up until into the 70s and 80s when the yards when into decline. In the heyday of the yards the swell of men on their way home would flood through the Dee Street Bridge. It seems particularly fitting that the depiction of yardmen in bronze should sit perpetually on their way home. These were more than just workers though, as the plaque depicts, these were ‘men who built giants’ the ships unparalleled at the time in size and design.The Titanic Yardmen 401 does more than just celebrate the past though, it reflects the growth of a city, and its presence on the Newtownards Road still does just that. The sculpture reminds the area not only of its past but provides a stimulus for the future. It represents a dream of impossibility which was attained and exceeded and speaks to the populous of the area that achievement is always possible. On the same sites that once housed the shipyards new businesses, colleges and digital companies are forging their way into the world and though they aren’t ships the offer the same chance for achievement.Wilson’s bronzes are very much in the spirit of his other work and it should be noted that any visitors to the site must search for the small replicas of the Titanic which are placed on each of the yardmen, it has been alluded to that this was Wilson’s way of indicating that there is a little bit of greatness in everyone. It could also be looked at in another way, that the small models of the Titanic speaks to the idea on the plaque, that these were ‘men who built giants’; perhaps in fact the sculpture indicates that these men were the giants, giants of the shipbuilding world, giants of their time, giants of their trade and giants in our memories. It is though just a theory and really each visitor must work out for themselves what they think.
The Yardmen are located on the Newtownards Road, visitors who are in the area must also see the C.S Lewis sculpture, and the Memory Chair sculpture on the Albertbridge Road which is a tribute to politician David Ervine, maybe you can spot the Titanic ticket on the chair.
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Dawn is a drama lecturer and Chief Executive of a Shakespeare charity in Belfast. She’s worked in the arts for longer than she cares to remember, her focus is on youth drama and opportunities for young people in the creative arts. As editor of Inanity and the Girl she spends her free time writing about vintage living on the retro inspired blog where she discusses vintage styling, baking and tips on period design. She also investigates the social history of recipe books. She consequently can be found most weekends delving into the vintage stores of Belfast in search of the perfect atomic leg and, like The White Queen has often believed in, six impossible things before breakfast.