NIWM Copper Frieze – Sections H & I
Today we are highlighting Sections H and I of the hammered copper frieze by James McKendry. The first section shows the shell of a factory which has been destroyed in the air raids of 1941. Rubble can be seen in the foreground and a tree still stands. A mill and chimney with a barrage balloon tethered above can be seen in the background.
After a slow beginning, Northern Ireland’s war production steadily accelerated. There was extensive expansion in ship building and repair, aircraft production, munitions, engineering, linen and clothing manufacture and rope making. At the time, Belfast Ropeworks was the largest in the world. One third of the ropes required by the War Office were made at Belfast Ropeworks (250,000 tons of rope), and it manufactured parachutes and camouflage netting as well. This industrial output meant that industry in Belfast was a prime target for the Luftwaffe which attacked the ill-prepared city in April and May 1941.
McKendry included a collapsed factory alongside an operational mill to make the point that ‘somebody is working back there… even though this area has been bombed… there’s a mill carrying on and a barrage balloon above it’. This reminds us that industry had to recover quickly after the air raids. Some, like Short and Harland Ltd dispersed aircraft production away from the city to rural sites.
In Section I James has included a reference to Belfast’s ship building industry, with a dockside scene and a crane ‘which is also reminiscent of a gun’. This nods to the various munition factories across Northern Ireland such as the Frazer & Haughton in Cullybackey and Ewart’s Mill on the Crumlin road. A cargo ship can be seen in the background, making the point that many dangerous journeys were made under the threat of German U-boats.
With all of this, McKendry intended to encapsulate that blitz spirit… ‘you can come and bomb our factories, but we’re going to carry on!’.