It's vanishingly rare to find sculpted figures of working men at work. But here's a striking and wonderful exception.
These figures of the engineer and the shipwright flank the entrance to what was the offices of the Fairfield shipyard in the Govan district of Glasgow.
This elegant red sandstone building, completed in 1890, is now a successful community museum. We visited earlier this month and would encourage you to do so.
The building was designed in part by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and the sculptor of our two working men was James Pittendrigh Macgillivray. He was a prolific artist and a Scottish nationalist and the Fairfield figures are powerful representations of skilled workers and the wealth they brought to Victorian Clydeside.
The shipyard was building boats from the 1860s - it took the Fairfield name in the 1880s - and in 1968, it became part of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, the site of the renowned work-in of 1971.
The yard is still in some use but the offices were derelict and in a very poor state before the local initiative that saved the building and set-up the heritage project.
Form the photo below, taken in 1932, you can see the locations of the offices (bottom right fronting the main road) and the yards behind on the Clyde.
There was a personal aspect to my visit to Fairfield. At the time the photo above was taken, my maternal grandfather, Thomas Graham, worked there. He was born and brought up in Belfast and apprenticed at Harland and Wolff as a boilermaker. He moved to Glasgow in the early 1920s, got a job in the Govan shipyard, and lived nearby at Copland Place in Ibrox, which is where my mother spent much of her early childhood.
A little before the Second World War, when my mother was aged about nine, her father got a job at a steel plant in Gildersome and the family moved down to Yorkshire. This photo of my mother's parents, Betty and Tommy, was taken at their wedding in (I think) Paisley in July 1928
I never met Tommy - he emigrated to South Africa and died there when I was very young. But I am pleased to have, in some measure, trodden in his footsteps.
This wonderful photo shows shipyard workers spilling out of Fairfield - the main facade of the offices is hidden behind the tram.
The photo below is from the mid-1950s, long after Tommy's years as a boilermaker, and shows Fairfield workers on the staging of a ship under construction watching the Queen launch another ship. What a great image!
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