Cammell Laird Boilermaker

James Carroll left school in Liverpool at the age of 14. His mother and father found him a job on a milk round but James ‘wanted to work on ships.’ So he went to Cammell Lairds shipyard in Birkenhead by himself and secured a job. In the following extract he describes what his first day and working routine was like first as a labourer and then as a boilermaker’s apprentice.

Click on the above images for a lager picture of James Carroll’s boilermaker indentures from Cammell Lairds 1952-1957.

length of audio clip 1 min 57 secs

Hilary: Can you remember what your first day at Cammell Laird’s was like?

James: Me first day. Yeah. I was, I was put with this old boilermaker, an old plater, because every, all the platers had a mate or a labourer working with them and I thought well they’ve put me with this, I can’t think of his name now, Ernie Beck, Ernie Beck, that’s it. Yeah, and he was from the other side, he lived on the Wirral and… he just, I’d just help him and I’d do whatever he wanted me to do, lift that piece of steel up, put that there, hold that. Clean that, brush that out, you know, you’re just a general dogsbody but you’re learning a trade, you see. And I worked with him for quite a while. And then it was, it was then that I learnt that I was there as a labourer. And then I said ‘oh I’m not having that’. So they let me, they allowed me to serve me time, an apprenticeship. But I still carried on working for Ernie Beck. And when he wasn’t in they put me with somebody else. And then after eighteen months or two years, I went on me own then in the apprentice’s squad, they’d have a charge hand looking after a load of apprentices. And then they’d go by your ability, ‘you can do that’ and ‘you can do that’. So when you’re learning your way up they might put you on a stamping machine where you’re stamping things out which is dead easy, you see. And then when you get two … you know, they know you can handle that, they’ll work your way up slowly. So eventually you’re doing the, you know, you’re doing anything like or you’re doing the top work.


  1. Hi,
    I have similar remories of CL as JC.

    I part in the 1990 campaign to keep shipbuilding on merseyside.
    During this time the BBC interviewed me and the tape is archived I have a copy and it it a no holes barred view from me about life at CL from 1964 to 1991. If it is of interest to u I will make arrangemnts for u to have a copy via EMAIL.


    Brian Tartt

    • Brian, that would be great! thanks a lot for anything you can supply. Selina

  2. I am a student at the University of Chester, 3 other students and I are currently researching the history of Cammell Laird and would be very interested in the recordings of interview of workers at the shipyard. We are hoping to use this sort of item in an exhibition to be held at the University Gallery in October 2011.

    Anything that you have with regard to Cammell Laird would be of great use to us.

    Thank you for your kind assistance.

    Julie Wem

  3. Hi,

    I worked at the shipyard from 1970 to 1984 as a platers helper on the slipways, in the basin and the heavy plate shed and other bays. I remember the name Brian Tartt and I am sure I knew you. I would very much like a copy of your interview with the BBC

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