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JOHN HARKER SHIPYARD

ADDED 17 AUGUST 2007

I am writing to congratulate you on your excellent Knottingley and Ferrybridge Online website. Although I am not a Knottingley man, I married a Knottla lass and I worked at John Harker’s for twenty-one years.

It was while I was looking through the photo gallery that I came across a photograph called ‘Harker’s Spare Parts 1935’ and it brought back many memories. I recognised most of the men on the photo as they were still working at Harker’s when I started my apprenticeship in 1945. Syd Berry was the blacksmith, Fred Jordan the foreman plater, Arthur Kiernan was the chargehand fitter and later became foreman, Cliff Bissett was a welder and Bill Hodgson, Tiffy Hodgson and Fawcett Harker were all shipwrights. Bill later succeeded Johnny Banks as foreman. I recall an incident at a launch when Fawcett inadvertantly took a leading role but unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the boat. The launchways had been placed in position and wedged up by the shipwrights with military precision and the trigger mechanism fitted. All that was left was to knock out the stools on which the boat had been built. Each of the shipwrights were assigned a stool. Fawcett, being the smallest man, was put on the tightest stool under the stern of the vessel but try as he might he couldn’t hammer it free. Eventually somebody gave the signal for the trigger to be released and the launch started with Fawcett still hammering away assisted by more men but to no avail and as a consequence the front of the boat was launched but the stern remained ashore.

The staff at the shipyard attended the launches mainly to collect the soft soap that the launchways were smothered with as a lubricant and in case anything untoward occurred, so we must have had a good day that day. The soft soap was used for washing our hands, and mixed with a bit of fine sand ‘nicked’ from Gregg’s glassworks, it made an excellent scourer!

Phil Thompson
17 August 2007


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