As someone coming at the history of shipbuilding backwards, it is fascinating to learn the ins and outs of the business but can also be a bit bewildering and often surprising. During my conversations in person and in email with workers and their relatives who were at Robb’s for some part of their working lives, it has become clear that there were many skilled workers all brought together for the building and finishing of the ships.
Some have mentioned demarcation as a positive and others as a negative, suggesting that this may have been a contributory factor to the demise of shipbuilding in general in Scotland and specifically at Henry Robb’s. I would welcome comments on this below.
So, what trades and other job titles have I identified thus far?
Anglesmiths, apprentices, blacksmiths, boatbuilders, boilermakers, brass finishers, bumpers up, burners, cabinetmakers, catchers, caulkers, countersinkers, cranemen, draughtsmen, drillers, electricians, engineers, estimators, fettlers, fitters, frame turners, French polishers, furnacemen, holders up, iron saw men, joiners, labourers, loftsmen, machinists, millwrights, painters, pattern makers, pilots, planers, platers, plumbers, redleaders, riggers, riveters, sailmakers, sawyers, scarphers, stagers, sheet metal men, shipwrights, storemen, toolsmiths, turners, welders, winchmen.
This is a generic list from a range of information on shipbuilding in general. Some of these words are completely new to me, I would be delighted to learn what fettlers, scarphers and stagers are, to name but a few.
I know some are linked within others – apprentices for example, but it only seems right to list them as they were all over the yard in all trades (mind you, that perhaps means I should also have included journeymen and foremen as well. Perhaps the levels within the trades need to be a subdivision of their own when all is completed for the book). Another subdivision I include on my list is catchers who were essential to the riveters teams, and boy did they have to get it right!
Similarly, I have included pilots, although I am aware they did not work for the yards per se but they were vital in showing that all the work that had gone into a ship would meet expectations.
I would also be interested to know which ones people can confirm existed in the Robb’s yard in particular and if I have missed any, whether trades in their own right or subdivisions of these.
Copyright: Ruth Patterson 2010
Cartoon by “Baird”