Turning ideas into ships at Readhead’s

Staging erected around a ship on the berth.
Staging erected around a ship on the berth.

In its heyday, Readhead’s, in South Shields, was one of the most successful shipbuilders of its time.

As John Bage revealed in the first two parts of his detailed work “A Ship Is Born”, (published earlier this week)the yard, which employed around 1,000 people, took an idea for a new ship and then used the workers’ skills and know-how to turn those plans into reality.

Today, John tells us more – as the ship under construction continues to take shape

“The stagers would be required to erect the staging and scaffolding around the ship on the berth, and within the holds wherever it was required to provide a safe working platform for the other workers,” explains John.

“The storekeepers were well organised people who controlled the issue of items for the various jobs being undertaken by their individual department, such as the plumbers, electricians or joiners.

“The plumbers sketched or made templates which were taken to the plumbing shop where the plumbers made the pipes.

“They then took them aboard, set them up, and tacked them up, before taking them back to the plumbing shop where the plumbers welded them, tested them, while some were sent to the picklers and galvanisers.

“On returning, they were final-fitted by the plumbers.

“The main engine lines, that is, hydraulic, oil etc. were fitted by the mechanical fitters as their main job was fitting the engine, plus the tail-shaft and any machinery in the engine room.

“All hull pipe-work was also done by the plumbers.

“ When it came to ship trials, the fitters did these with plumbers on hand to tackle any leaks.”

John explained that domestic pipe-work in the accommodation would be made and fitted by the plumbers , while the engine room equipment was handled by the fitters.

Ventilation ducting would be formed by the sheet metal workers.

“They could also be involved in making anything of thin gauge steel, such as lockers, switchboards and cabinets, from drawings supplied by the outfit drawing office.

“The blacksmiths would make all of the ship’s steel ladders, rails and stanchions, chains, eye-plates and similar items, again from drawings supplied by the outfit drawing office.”

l Tomorrow, John completes the story.