Harland and Wolff - Shipbuilding and Engineering Works

The Steel Chest, Nail in the Boot and the Barking Dog


The men of Harland and Wolff were notorious for nicknames. Some of the characters in the Shipyard had nicknames based on their names, but others got nicknames, through things they said or did, or even through mannerisms.  From Managers down to labourers, some accepted these names and proudly answered to them whilst others were used behind the persons back. 
“A manager was sometimes called a ‘hat’. They wore white helmets but in bygone days they wore bowlers. A foreman was a ‘gaffer’.

Most of the names where given with affection and In some cases people even invented their own nickname as they felt out of place without one. Not only the men got nicknames, but areas and equipment around the Yard fell foul of the general slang. The two large Gantry cranes are better known as Samson and Goliath. The Whitehouse, Big Fut, Big Boss, Joe 90, Royal Avenue, The Deep Water, the Abercorn Yard was known as "Boys Town". Even the founding partners Harland and Wolff didn't escape, often when they were there together, they were nicknamed Majestic and Teutonic  respectively, after two famous liners built in 1889.

The Harbour Police got the name of the Bulkies. Those leaving the Yard with a homer would often stuff them up their coat, to which others would warn them that the item was too bulky!  hence the term "Watch out for the Bulkies". 

Many of these names refer to not only one person, but many people being called by the same nickname, for example “Nail in the boot” or "Snipers Nightmare" for those that walked with a limp.

Some of the more common names are Fitzy, Minty, Scotty, Jock, Jonty, Wee Joe, Big Joe, Wee John, Big John and so on, some were even called after where they lived, Comber Bob, Portavogie, Annalong.

Arkle, Awesome, Banacheck, Bap, Battler Nelson, Beefer Moore, Big Bird, Big Hen, Big Joe, Billy Hensen, Billy Two Rods, Bin Bag, Black Bob, Blondie Craig, Bo Daddy, Bootsy, Budgie Kerr, Buff Duncan, Bullybeef, Bunter, Busted Drum, Buzz, Capt Ahab, Cat Weasel, Chalky, Cheeky Charlie, China, Chopalot, Chunky, Cochise, Comber Bob, Corky, Crazy Horse, Danny Doors, Dollar a Half, Duck Morrow, Father Jack, Fish, Fitzy, F.L.U.B., F.U.B., Galpin, Geordie Beep Beep, Geordie Walkabout, Grasshopper, Hamburger, Happy Feet, Hard Core, Hard Head, Harry O, Harry Sackem, Harry the Horse, Heart Attack, Heavy Bangle, Hoss, Ichy Coo, Inch High, Jim Jim, Jock, Joker, Jonty, Larry the Lamb, Lazer Beam, Locksley, Mad Millar, Marlie Head, Me Mammy, Minty, Mucker, Nail in the Boot, Nerves of Steel, Nipper, Nuck-Nuck, Onion Eyes, Parking Meter, Pick em and flick em, Pinky and Perky, Plum and Malky Mo, Pockets, Poker, Pop-up, Puskas, Rawhide, Rocky, Rubber Gub, Ruby, Sammy No More, Scoobie Breasly, Scotty, Scud Martin, Seaspray, Seldom, Shipyard Joe, Silver Back, Skin, Slasher Steel, Slugger, Snake, Snipers Nightmare, Sonic, Spitting Pig, Split-Pin, Steadyman, Stuffer Kane, Suck the Butt, Tank, Tanto, Tarzan, Tea Bags, The Badger, The Brown Bomber, The Cardinal, The Clock, The Cloud, The Gabo, The Galloping Major, The General, The Hawk, The Heart, The Honeymonster, The Hulk, The International Welder, The Likely Lads, The Olympic Flame, The Penquin, The  Plank, The Pup, The Rat, The Rat Catcher, The Sandancer, The Scarf, The Screaming Skull, The Seagull, The Shadow Boxer, The Skinny Man, The Skip, The Tull, The Wee Soldier, The Wireless, The Womble, The Wooden Welder, Tiny Tears, Tommy Snags, Tugboat Wilson, Uncle and Scoop, Waldo, Warewolf, Wee Huck, Wee Jack Russell, Wee Joe, Wee Legs, Wee Wheels, Whalebone, Why Me, Wooden Top, Wurzell Gummage, Yellow Pack, Seagull , tinopener, Blackie, Spam , Blondie , Whistler, Johnny scissorhands, Jelly Man, Rab-Rotten-Root, The Black Prince,  Rod-the-Prod, The Cardinal,  Horizontal ,  Short-Arse,  The Dickler,  Lazy-Hands , Rab-A-Dab, The Way We, The Brown Bomber, The Gabo/Gabalooney, Parking Meter, The Screaming Skull, Wee Jack Russell, The Galloping Major, The Skinny Man, Nail in the Boot, Bootsy, Larry the Lamb, Harry the Horse, Corky, The Likely Lads, Rawhide, Jamsy, Pinky & Perky, Inch High, The Womble, The Honeymonster, Locksly, The Penguin, Teflon, Tugboat Wilson, Budgie Kerr, Hard Head, Bullybeef, Whalebone, Uncle, Scoop, The Badger,  The International Welder, Silver Bark, Dollar a Half, Billy Two Rods,  Hoss,  Waldo, Rocky, The Hulk, Big Bird, Wee Huck,  Nuck-Nuck, Itchy Coo, Sammy no More, The Rat,  Stuffer Kane, Battler Nelson, Danny Doors,  Mad Millar, The Sandancer,  The Pup, Lazer Beam, Bin Bag,  The Rat Catcher, Plum,  Tank, Buster, Bunter, Joker,  Scud Martin, Tommy Snags, Slasher Steel, Beefer Moore, Crazy Horse, Cochise, Capt. Ahab, Black Bob, Tarzan, Tear the Beef, The Clutching Hand, Zebo Man, Wishbone, The Mexican.............  but some of the real Nicknames are classics:-

The Wooden Welder - this name was given to a welder who tried to weld wood to steel on a ship. Both were painted grey and looked very alike he spent a number of hours and a large number of rods before he discovered his mistake. By the way he was a well known Irish League and International Footballer who still takes a ribbing over that incident.

Washing Soda - he was the guy who ran the first aid room and treated everybody and injury with washing soda.

Hard Wrought - so called because he did nothing but made it look like he was worked of his feet.

Wire Sail - was given this name because he was a tall thin man who wore a flat cap.

Tired Hands - given to a man who every time he was asked to do something said 1 cant my hands are tired.

The Barking Dog - He was one of the best known of all the characters in the yard the story is that if he liked you he talked to you if he did not like you and that was most men he barked like a dog at you.

Lemonade Walker - Lemonade was employed by H&W for over 30 years and spent the most of it running a shop giving tic to men so as they could get fags. He also sold crisps arid other tuck shop goods and got the name because he was a whiskey and lemonade man very rare in those days to have someone drink lemonade with a Black Bush.


Bits and Pieces - a fitter who wrecked more than he fixed.

The Mandarin - He was a man with a toe missing and when was walking his feet turned out he had a moustache and was very yellow in appearance hence the name.


Dread the Winter - he had a hole in his boot and always said he dreaded the winter coming.

Bungalow - He was a man who had plenty downstairs but nothing upstairs.

Forty Watts - he was not too bright.

One Run Dick - he was a foreman and he would only pay you for one run on plate if the plate was wide you needed two runs but he would still insist on paying bonus on one run to save the company money.

Desperation Dick - another foreman who would come up to you and say, leave that job and come with me “I am in desperation”.

Fowl Pest - he insisted on feeding the seagulls and gannets. He also fed the rats and the wild cats.

Buckets McGaughey - Now buckets was an old boxer and street tighter who fought in the Chapel Fields and the booths at York Street. He got his name because no one could knock him out and the only way sometimes to stop him was to hit him over the head with the ringside bucket.

Blaze Away - OBE. This man worked as a burner and would have knocked you out of the way so he could work. He was on the staging before the starting horn went and also at lunch time so he could get started right away. He worked in the yard for 35 years and never had a day off ill in that time and he was rewarded for his service with an OBE from the Queen for his services to the ship building Industry. Sadly he was laid off in the 1990s and as a result he could not live without his work and also the Shipyard that night he took his own life. Many of the men who spent their lives in the yard really could not adjust to life without it.
Alan Thomson - was called Seaweed because he and a couple of apprentices used to go for a swim in the building dock before it was finished. He came out of the water one day covered in seaweed, hence the nickname. He had "Seaweed" tattooed on his arm.

A Man they called "Stanley Matthews" every time something was to be lifted, he would say "Ill Take This Corner".

Triple D (Deeply Depressing Davey)

Onion Eyes - A manager (Frank Piggott) that made a man cry when he paid him off

Bob Cosgrove (Paddy) - He started in H&W in 1912 to serve his time as a riveter he was told that their was no future in riveting and he would be lucky to finnish his time as an apprentice. Fifty one years later he retired still employed as a riveter. He was regarded by many of his workmates as one of the best the yard had produced, quite a complement.
At his Funeral a couple of older men were standing Crying, one “Wee Gordie” was his heater boy and the other "Davy" was his holder-up they had worked together for 36 years as a riveting squad. He was a member of what was called the “Millionaires Club” this was the name given to the riveters because they earned good money on peace work (Bonus).

Photo Finish  The man who walked with a forward stoop.

The Sniper’s Nightmare.  Jack Johnson after falling down a hatch and getting a side-to-side limp.

A stager called “Seaspray” (pointed the wrong way when doing a pee in the wind).

The White Rhino.  The joiner who lived in Kenya for a few years.

The Barking Pup.  The barking dog’s son.

Franz Von Piggott – written on the dirt on the joiners van surrounded by swastikas. 
Sailor McCracken – ex submariner.

The Chief – Billy Steele who always said “I’m the fukin chief”.

Indian Joe -  A swarthy joiner.

Everton Mints -  Hughie McCrea who always rattled his new false teeth when talking.

The White Knight -  Spark in Kings Works who always had spotless white overalls on.

Sooty Campbell -  Always had dirt on his face.

The Desert Rat -  Electrical foreman who had fought at El Alemein during WW2. 

The Muppet - Had an appearance like the drummer in the Muppet Show. (John Hill, electrical foreman).

The Budgie - Wore a yellow jumper.

The Cardboard Cut-out - becacse he leaned over the hand rail till he seen a foreman.

The Passing Cloud - Crane driver who was always smoking

Me Mammy - Always talking about his mother.

The Ghost - A manager who always appeared from nowhere.

The Scarf - A foreman who was always hanging around you.

Yabie Dabie - An electrician who was always singing the Flintstone song.

Drill Bit - Someone who was boring.

Frank Sinatra, every job wee went to he would say to me "ule do it my way "

The Clock - He had one arm longer that the other.

F.U.B. - Fat Useless B@#tard

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