Posted by: twobigyellowcranes | 20 January 08

So why two big yellow cranes?


“So, what I am going to call it then?” That was the question that was running through my mind for longer than I will ever really say after I decided I was going to start my own blog. I had a lot of ideas and even I knew that, almost without exception, they were awful.

As I said in my first post, I live and work in Belfast. I am proud to be a citizen of this infamous city, particularly now as it starts to look to the future after the Troubles. It is hard to say exactly why I am so proud of this place of my birth over which I had no control and from which so many of my peers and the previous generations choose to leave in a manner close to fleeing (my father and mother were almost among their number). This is one of the things I’ll try to cover on this blog, to root it in what I myself am rooted in.

As I drive from the suburbs to the east of the city every working day, two great yellow-painted gantry cranes called Samson and Goliath dominate the skyline of the city centre before me. These are, for me, the defining icons of Belfast and part of the Harland and Wolff shipyards that gave the world the Titanic (and lots of other ships that didn’t sink). Goliath began work in 1969 and stands at 315 feet tall, whilst Samson began five years later and is 33 feet taller. At those times, Belfast was still an industrial city and Harland and Wolff was still one of the world’s great shipbuilders, employing over 30,000 workers.

That was then and this is now. The workforce of Harland and Wolff is now in the low hundreds and for many years the cranes were not operational. Indeed, it was a concern of many that their future may be in doubt. Much beloved Belfast landmarks they may be, but there must be fairly heavy costs associated with maintaining and insuring them for a commercial entity to bear for no return. However, their future was assured in 2003 when they were scheduled for preservation as historic monuments. They are now operational, but with their glory days behind them.

The two big yellow cranes dominate my city and are two of the big constants in my life. Hence the title of the blog (which was almost called ‘Johnny the Jig’ after a statute at a park in the town of Holywood which I grew up in and which lies a few miles from Belfast).

Two non-historical facts about Samson and Goliath to close. Firstly, during a Coldplay concert in Belfast in 2005 which I was at, Chris Martin changed some of the lyrics of “Speed of Sound” from “Japan and China all lit up” to “Samson and Goliath all lit up”. Nice touch Chris (and a lot more personal than the usual “Good evening Belfast!”) Secondly, if you go to youtube, I think you can still find a film of Samson crashing into a smaller crane (its still pretty high) and sending it flying to the ground. Hopefully no-one was hurt…



  1. Alright D

    Nice page – looking forward to reading it!

  2. to blog or not to blog? . . . perhaps one of the defining questions of modern times
    If i could spell it i’d ‘applod’ you
    keep me posted . . . .(blog humour?)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: