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Farewell to iconic crane

A WARTIME shipyard crane that became an icon to generations of townspeople is to be dismantled because it is going rotten.


BAE is mobilising a team to take down the big yellow, hammer head crane which stands 165ft tall on the ship-outfitting quay on Buccleuch Dock.

The 68-year-old edifice was erected in 1942 as the Second World War raged.

The crane had been used to fit out liners and warships and replaced one knocked down by German bombers in an air raid that killed two fire watchers on its top in May 1941.

BAE said about 6ft of the base will remain and a one fifth scale model of it, made by a BAE apprentice, mounted on a plinth at the site together with a plaque to make it a war memorial.

The crane was last used for the outfit of HMS Bulwark, which left Barrow in 2004, although the weight it could lift had been downrated to 25 tonnes. It was condemned last year.

BAE spokeswoman Alyson Russell-Stevenson said: “We have been looking at this for a really long time. The crane has not been used for a good number of years. It is starting to rust. It has to come down for health and safety reasons

“It will be safely dismantled and will be gone in six to eight weeks. We need to take it down while it still remains in a safe state for us to take it apart, that is why we are doing it now. It has got asbestos in it so we would not have been able to get it fixed up.”

BAE has contacted the sister-in-law of one of the wartime firewatchers who died on the crane it replaced. Ms Stevenson said: “She thought everyone had forgotten about it. She is delighted that we are going to do something.”

The crane can be seen from many points, including by people walking up Dalton Road, and has often featured in TV items about the town.

Barrow artist John Duffin said he was glad BAE was handling the demolition sensitively and leaving a memorial model and plaque at the scene.

He said: “It is such a shame because it is such an iconic image. I have painted it several times. I have also stood and sketched it on many occasions. It is the last big shipyard crane that is left. I suppose being non-sentimental about it they are utilitarian objects and they are there to do a job. I suppose if they are not doing a job they have to move. Cranes like that speak of another age of Barrow, at a time when the ships were rolling out. There is something monumental about them, almost a piece of sculpture. My job was to help people see the poetry in them.”

Shipyard trades union convenor Azza Samms said: “Historically, cranes are a symbol of shipyards. We had a whole lot of cranes on the berths in Walney Channel which we lost and I think that was a sad occasion.

“When people of the town see cranes they see the shipyard and the place where they get their livelihoods, so yes, I think it will be a bit of blow when they see that crane going down.”

Terry Waiting, chairman of the shipyard lobby group Keep Our Future Afloat Campaign, said the removal of the crane would not prevent future surface ship work.

He said: “If they needed them they would hire cranes in because that crane is not fit for purpose.

“Obviously it is something we have seen all our lives in Barrow. It has been on the skyline all that time, but there is no money to preserve it by the town and it would become unsafe.”

Have your say

Ewan (age 6) is sad that 'cranky' the hammerhead crane is being taken down....please keep it up.

Posted by Ewan Macmillan on 4 September 2010 at 09:50

I can see why old and new employees reflect on the old hammer head crane,my grandad worked in the yard as a foreman shipwright but even he if he was still alive would see no sense in pumping heratige funding(tax payer's money) into a rusting unsafe crane.
p.s this should of been done before the cuts i.e used the money for the emlyn hughes building!

Posted by o k now on 13 August 2010 at 22:51

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