New York Times - Ships and Shipping

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Douglas Michael's 50 years on the Barrow shipyards

Douglas Michael has worked on some of the most recognisable vessels to come from the north-west of England during his 50-year tenure on the shipyards in Barrow in Cumbria.

Douglas Michael
Mr Michael with his leaving present from his colleagues

Mr Michael had two roles when it came to HMS Invincible, which was one of the largest ever ships commissioned by the Royal Navy.
He said: "One of the best service craft I worked on was HMS Invincible as a pipe welder and as an inspector.
"It was brilliant, there was a lot more room to work in and they had never built anything like that before."
During HMS Invincible's open day, he took his family to see it.
He said: "My family were very impressed with it. Everybody was so proud of it.
"It wasn't one of those where you thought 'I'm glad that's finished', it was a wonderful and smart boat to work on."
Mr Michael began his apprenticeship at Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd as a structural welder in February 1963 at the age of 16.
Then, after 12 years as a pipe welder, he spent 33 years as a quality control inspector from September 1979.
Mr Michael was one of the first inspectors to work at Devonshire Dock Hall when it opened in 1986.
Built for the construction of submarines, the hall also meant workers who were used to working in all conditions were now sheltered from bad weather.
He said: "When we first saw it get built, we were a bit reluctant. You're always a bit sceptical about a new environment, but it's brilliant."
The Devonshire Dock Hall (DDH) in 2004
The Devonshire Dock Hall (DDH) in Barrow in Furness
The Vanguard class of nuclear submarine, first built in Devonshire Dock Hall to carry the Trident nuclear missile system, entered service in the 1990s.
Mr Michael said: "We hoped they would never have to use it, that's what we thought.
"I was really proud of the Trident submarine. Once you saw the scaffolding come off I thought, 'blooming heck, that is big'."
He added: "When I started work on Trident, there were about 14,000 people that worked here and now it's down to about four to five thousand.
"We're dependent on other countries supplying engineering, I think it's about time that we started supplying our own instead of building supermarkets."
Source: BBC, UK.

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