NIWM Copper Frieze – Sections J & K
The final sections of the hammered copper frieze (J & K) highlight the shipyards in Belfast during the Second World War. Harland and Wolff completed 147 naval vessels, including 4 aircraft carriers, 2 cruisers, 24 minesweepers, 9 frigates, 47 corvettes and 550 tanks which were assembled in Carrickfergus after the blitz. Nearby, 1,200 Stirling bombers and 130 Sunderland flying boats were made at Short and Harland and its 11 dispersal factories. In addition, 3,000 aircraft were repaired. The first Worker’s Playtime radio broadcast from Northern Ireland was from Short and Harland’s aircraft factory at Sydenham. Both industries suffered greatly during the Belfast Blitz, as the shipyards were a key target for Luftwaffe raids. Both were able to recover and continue wartime production.
McKendry explained that the first figure shown in this part of the frieze is a Harland and Wolff shipyard welder and that gas bottles and gauges can be seen nearby. Another dock worker is waving. James explained that when the frieze was displayed in two parts in the original War Memorial building on Waring Street, the shipyard worker was waving at a GI on the other part of the frieze which was on the opposite side of the room. Close to the waving dock worker is a cog or a wheel which has the added symbolism of stars and stripes, paying tribute again to the US presence.
The frieze ends with a countryside scene, highlighting the importance of agriculture and the Dig for Victory campaign once again. There is a round tower which James based on The Steeple in Antrim, a 10th century round tower which stands almost 30 metres high.
We hope you have enjoyed learning more about the hammered copper frieze by James McKendry. We look forward to reopening soon so that you can see it with your own eyes. Where possible, we will arrange for the cleaning conservation work to be completed during our opening hours so that visitors can learn more about that important process.