The Dockside: A Hive of Activity
The dock was a hive of activity with up to two ships being worked on by large teams of men from the shipyards. The workers stood on wooden platforms called stages.
Brand new ships were also 'fitted-out' in the dock, with their final fixtures and fittings, including propellers, chains and anchors, before embarking on their maiden voyages.
Employed by Belfast Harbour Commissioners, the Harbour Master kept a meticulous record of the harbour's affairs. He 'should have a fair education, be of unimpeachable character and be possessed of a master's certificate.' He was employed to oversee a section of the port including Abercorn Basin and Hamilton Dock.
Deputy Harbour Master
A Deputy Harbour Master was in charge of the staff and day-to-day activities at Hamilton Dock. His office stood on the other side of the dock directly opposite the pump house.
The Berthing Master earned 27s 6d per week, double the weekly salary of a farmhand. He assisted the Deputy Harbour Master night and day in the berthing of vessels on the Co. Down side of the harbour and graving docks.
The Dock Gateman earned 18s 6d a week, which was significantly less than a foreman in a country mill who would have made 50s 0d a week. He was in charge of all chains, tackles, gear, shores and stages of Hamilton Graving Dock and attended to the cleaning and maintenance of the dock.
As general labourers, the Deck Hands were employed by the Commissioners to board vessels and 'anything he is required to do'.
The Belfast Harbour Commissioners employed many staff to administer the running of the Harbour. Hamilton Graving Dock was operated by a team overseen by a Deputy Harbour Master.
[Photo captions read]
Below Men working to repair SS Graphic after the ship had been damaged in a collision. Alexandra Dock, 1923.
Bottom This ship has been dry docked for extension - it has been severed in two so that a section can be added in the middle to make it longer.
The Belfast Harbour Commissioners leased the use of Hamilton Dock to the shipyards. Once a ship had been safely dry docked with the help of a team of Harbour Commissioner's [sic - Commissioners'] employees, the shipyard workers would carry out whatever work was needed on the ship.
The time spent by ships in the dock was measured in tides rather than in days. Typically, ships would spend a maximum of two weeks in the dock, being cleaned,
As the dock was filled, the huge volume of water could move the keel blocks and other materials could wash into the dock when the caisson was removed. The Harbour Commissioners employed divers to move any stray underwater items and to check the position of the keel blocks before the dock was emptied and a ship's hull came to rest upon them.
Propellers could not be fitted during a ship's construction on the slipway, as they could spin as the ship was being launched, causing the ship to veer dangerously as she entered the water. Shipyard workers fitted propellers in a dry dock after the launch.
Ships were painted in dry docks, where shipyard workers were able to access every part of the hull. Ships were not painted just to look attractive; several layers of paint helped to prevent the corrosion and rusting of their hulls. A final layer of anti-fouling paint was applied to prevent marine life growing on the hull, which, if left unchecked, could reduce a ship's fuel efficiency.
A ship that had suffered serious damage would have had to be repaired in a dry dock. But ships needing less urgent work were also dry docked for period servicing. This would have included inspecting the hull and propellers for minor damage and repainting.
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The shipyards mixed their own paints, which were stored in barrels.
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A damaged clipper awaits repair at Alexandra Dock.
[Photo captions read]
Above Propellers lie on the dock floor at Alexandra Dock before they are fitted to SS Teutonic in 1889. The first White Star Liner to be built without sails, she relied on steam engine power only.
Left Paint room
Below Hard hat diver entering the water.
Location. 54° 36.393′ N, 5° 54.678′ W. Marker is in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in County Down. Marker is on Queens Road, on the left when traveling north. Part of the Titanic Belfast complex. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: Hamilton Dock, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT3 9DT, United Kingdom. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Hamilton Dock: Refurbishment and Restoration (here, next to this marker); Bigger Ships and Bigger Docks (here, next to this marker); Keel Blocks (here, next to this marker); On Board SS Nomadic (here, next to this marker); Features of the Dock (a few steps from this marker); Operating the [Hamilton] Dock (a few steps from this marker); 1908 Harland and Wolff Shipyard (a few steps from this marker); Nomadic in Hamilton Dock (a few steps from this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Belfast.
Also see . . .
1. The Hamilton Graving Dock. (Submitted on June 17, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Shipbuilding in Belfast. (Submitted on June 17, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Categories. • Industry & Commerce • Man-Made Features • Waterways & Vessels •
More. Search the internet for The Dockside: A Hive of Activity.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 17, 2019. This page originally submitted on June 17, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 42 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on June 17, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.