Tuesday, 14 August 2012
The company was founded by William Laird, who had established the Birkenhead Iron Works in 1824, when he was joined by his son, John Laird in 1828: their first ship was an iron barge. The company soon became pre-eminent in the manufacture of iron ships and made major advances in propulsion.
In 1903 the businesses of Messrs. Cammell and Laird merged to create a company at the forefront of shipbuilding. Johnson Cammell & Co. had been founded by Charles Cammell and Henry and Thomas Johnson: it made, amongst many other metal products, iron wheels and rails for Britain's railways and was based in Sheffield. Between 1829 and 1947, over 1,100 vessels of all kinds were launched from the Cammell Laird slipways into the River Mersey. Read more on Wikipedia
Lowry refers to the company in a list of signs on board the ship Oedipus Tyrannus in his novel Ultramarine; "Cammell Laird Shipbuilding Company, Birkenhead" (Pg. 54).
Lowry also mentions the shipbuilders in his poem 'Freighter 1940' (Collected Poetry Pg. 143);
A freighter builds in Birkenhead where rain
Falls in labourers' eyes at sunset. Then
She's launched! Her iron sides strain as merchants gaze;
A cheer swoops down into titanic ways.