Frank and Sara Workman commissioned the erection of a memorial to the men from the Workman Clark shipyard who died in the Great War. The memorial was unveiled by Sir Edward Carson on 8th August 1919, the day before the Belfast Peace Parade. It took the form of a triptych which was built into a corner of the company’s head office at the North Yard at Milewater Basin. Yard workers who had served in the war, or who had lost relatives in the war, would have passed the memorial each day as they entered and left the yard.
The memorial was constructed by Purdy and Millard, monumental masons, of Howard Street in Belfast. The entablature features three panels engraved by Sophia Rosamund Praeger, the Holywood-born sculptress who was a member of the Royal Academy and was acknowledged as one of the finest Irish sculptors of her generation. The first panel depicted various work scenes within the shipyard, the second depicted a scene in which soldiers marching off to war are being bid farewell by mothers, wives, children and sweethearts and the final panel depicted a scene in which men are tending to the wounded Edward Workman in a German trench.
When the memorial was unveiled, the two side panels listed the names of 20 Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and 91 Other Ranks. However, examination of a photograph taken on the day of the dedication shows that a further five names had been marked out on the third panel but had not been engraved. The central panel featured a profile of Lieutenant Edward Workman MC engraved in terracotta by Sophia Rosamund Praeger followed by a personal and military biography. Below this, the names of five officers – four army and one Royal Navy – were engraved. At some stage after the dedication of the memorial, the five additional names were engraved on Panel 3 and a further fourteen names – one Second Lieutenant, two NCOs and eleven Other Ranks – were engraved at the base of the central panel. This brought to 136 the number of men commemorated on the memorial. Following the closure of the Workman Clark Shipyard in 1935, concerns were expressed about the fate of the memorial and David Cecil Lindsay, the husband of Florence (Sis) Workman and son-in-law of Frank and Sara Workman, gave an assurance that, as soon as an appropriate and permanent site can be obtained it will be restored and transferred. The memorial was eventually dismantled, and the three panels were attached to the outer wall of the pumphouse adjacent to the Thompson Graving Dock. However, the pillars and the entablature, including the Praeger engravings, were not transferred to the new site and their fate is unknown. In the years and decades that followed, the memorial was exposed to the ravages of the weather and suffered erosion to such an extent that some of the names are no longer readable. More recently, in an attempt to prevent further erosion and loss of more names, the memorial panels were covered by a sheet of thick perspex. However, as the screen had become opaque, making the inscriptions even more difficult to read, this screen was replaced in 2019 with a self-cleaning plate glass frame designed to prevent any further erosion whilst making the memorial more visible.
The following is a verbatim transcription from the report on the unveiling ceremony that appeared in the Belfast News~Letter on 9th August 1919.
Sir Edward Carson, K.C., M.P., arrived in Belfast yesterday in connection with the peace celebrations. The right honourable gentleman, who was accompanied by Brigadier-General the Earl of Shaftesbury, K.P., and Colonel the Right Hon. R. G. Sharman- Crawford, D.L., travelled from London via Larne and Stranraer. The mail steamer was almost an hour and a half late in leaving Stranraer, and did not reach Larne until 11-25 am. The visit being of an unofficial character there was no formal reception, but the Ulster leader was cordially greeted by a number of the townspeople who had assembled. He was conducted to a saloon carriage by Mr. R. Darragh, the traffic superintendent of the Midland Railway. On reaching the York Road terminus Sir Edward was quickly recognised and loudly cheered. He then entered the motor car in waiting and proceeded to Crawfordsburn, where he will be the guest during his stay of Colonel Sharman- Crawford. During the afternoon an impressive and touching ceremony took place in the North Yard of Messrs. Workman, Clark, & Co. Ltd., when Sir Edward Carson, in the presence of several thousands of workmen, unveiled a memorial to Lieutenant Edward Workman, a managing director of the firm, and of the employees who lost their lives in the war. Sir George Clarke, Bart., D.L., presided, and amongst those on the platform were Brigadier-General Sir William Hacket Pain, K.B.E., C.B. ; Colonel the Right Hon. R. G. Sharman Crawford, D.L. ; and Rev. R. G. Paton, C.F. Special seating accommodation was provided for the relatives of the men who had fallen, and of these there was a large attendance. In their eagerness to witness the ceremony and hear Sir Edward, the workmen climbed on to the roofs of the adjacent buildings, and set up a prolonged round of cheering when the motor car in which the Ulster Leader was seated reached the shipyard. The memorial, which has been erected by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Workman, is situated in a prominent position on the right hand side of the main entrance to the head offices, and is an excellent example of the sculptor’s art. It consists of three stone panels, at the head of which are three groups of figures in relief. The first shows a number of men at work in the shipyard, the second has for its subject the call to arms, and the third is the representation of a battle scene. On the panels on either side are seen the names of some of the officers and men who have made the supreme sacrifice. In the centre a medallion of Lieutenant Edward Workman M.C., who fell in action, below which appears the following inscription:— “In loving memory of Edward Workman, B.A., Camb., a managing director of Workman, Clark, & Coy., Ltd., the only son of Frank Workman, one the founders of the firm; Lieutenant 5th, attached 2nd, Battalion Royal Irish Rifles; Mentioned in despatches, Hooge, 25th September, 1915; awarded Military Cross, Le Toquet [sic], 19th January, 1916; died of wounds received in action, 26th January, 1916; aged 29 years.
“What did we hope for him we loved?
Life, fall and fair, renown;
Nay, greater fame can no man win
Than a life laid nobly down
For England’s needs: a soldier’s death
God giveth him the victor’s wreath.”
Across the head the memorial is engraved:—
“Eternal Honour give hail and farewell to those who died in that full splendour of heroic pride that we might live.
In memory of the officers and men of the Belfast Shipyard who fell in the Great War 1914-1918.” The fallen include 5 officers, 20 noncommissioned officers, and 97 privates.
SIR GEORGE CLARK
Sir George Clark said they were met there to take part in the unveiling by Sir Edward Carson of a memorial that had been erected by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Workman in memory of the officers and men of those works who fought and died in defence of justice and liberty in the great war in which their nation took such an important part. When war broke out and the call went forth for volunteers, they all remembered the magnificent response that was made by their province, and how the flower of Ulster’s manhood came forward to join the ranks of Britain’s great citizen army, whose splendid achievements, under Providence, they owed the fact that they were now celebrating victorious peace. (Cheers.) In the early days of the war the numbers who volunteered from the shipyards were many, but later when the submarine menace and the necessity of supplying sufficient munitions for the Army and Navy became acute, recruiting from the shipyards was practically stopped, and of those who joined up many were sent back to assist in this all important work. From those works 2,600 volunteered, and of these a large number made the supreme sacrifice, and on that memorial they had already the names of 5 officers, 20 noncommissioned officers, and 100 men, and they were daily getting more names to add to the honourable roll of those who laid down their lives for their country. Of the officers, Lieutenant Edward Workman was one of their managing directors. He was the only son of one of the founders of the firm. He took a commission in the Royal Irish Rifles, served with distinction at Hooge in September, 1915, being mentioned in despatches, and was awarded the Military Cross at Le Toquet [sic] in January, 1916. He died of wounds received in action in January, 1916. Another officer, Captain George Smith, of the City Line, also one of their directors, was a captain in the Gordon Highlanders (Territorials). He refused a staff appointment, preferring to share the same dangers as the men with whom he was associated. He was killed at Neuve Chapelle in the spring of 1915. He (Sir George) had had the privilege of close friendship with both these officers, and could testify to their nobility, character and kindly disposition that secured for them the love and esteem of their many friends. The other three officers—Captain Nixon, Lieutenant Hooton, and Lieutenant Torrens—enlisted from the drawing office and served with distinction, and the non-commissioned officers and rank and file were all the very best type of young men of the city, and they all left good posts to do their duty to their country. Their hearts were sad when they thought of so many young lives being taken away in the very prime of manhood, but there was comfort in the thought of the noble death that they had died, and he knew he expressed all their feelings when he said that, whilst reverently and with bowed heads, they now took part in the ceremony of unveiling the memorial, their hearts were full of loving sympathy for the relatives and friends who mourned the loss of their glorious dead.
THE ULSTER LEADER
Sir Edward Carson, who on rising was received with loud and prolonged cheering, having performed the unveiling ceremony, said :— “Before I say a few words on this sad but glorious occasion, I would ask you for a few seconds to uncover your heads and think of your dead comrades who are lying abroad in their last long sleep, having won glory and honour for their homes, for their country, and for themselves, and having won for you and me the freedom that we enjoy to-day and the glorious peace which we celebrate to-morrow.” This request having been complied with, Sir Edward, proceeding, said:- “Ladies and gentlemen— To-morrow’s celebration of peace will be a sad one in many ways. We will miss these men, but as we miss them let us never forget them. All these occasions where we celebrate victory and where we think of the dead must necessarily be ones which make us think of what might have happened if we had not had these splendid fellows to go out and fight and win the battles of our country. Supposing we had to-day the Germans in Belfast as the conquerors in this war, and the United Kingdom had become a mere province of Germany, what do you think would be your condition and the condition of all of us when placed under the heel of the German tyrant? And that we are not in that position we owe, amongst others, to the splendid achievements of those men who built up their strength in this great shipyard, this great hive of industry, who might, if they pleased, have remained at home, but who preferred to go out and make the supreme sacrifice in order that we might be free. (Hear, hear). Ladies and gentlemen let us never forget them. Many of you, probably for many years, will go in and out of this shipyard, may I ask you every time you go in or out to turn your eyes to that memorial that I have just unveiled, and say of these men—’They have won us the liberty that we are now enjoying.’ I always think that when you unveil a memorial it reminds you of a day when you see the clouds hiding the sun, and at last the clouds break away and the sun gives you the warmth and the comfort of life. So it is with the men who have died. The clouds are the sorrows, the cries, the bitter feelings, of those who are left behind and will see their loved ones no more, but as the clouds melt away the sunshine of the heroic deeds of these men upon the field of battle comes home to our hearts and the sunshine drives away the clouds in the knowledge that their names will be handed down upon the roll of honour, and that men will say— ‘It was the deeds of these men that won our Empire and preserved our liberty and freedom.’ (Applause.) Sir George Clark has told you of the large number of men who went away from this shipyard and of the very large number who made the supreme sacrifice. There is something very glorious and very touching that those men lie there with Lieutenant Workman, their managing director in this shipyard. I venture to think if he were here to-day he would say, ‘I would not have it otherwise. I am glad that I died with my men. We died for the same cause. We died with the same ideals. We were brought up and we mixed together in life, now we sleep together in death.’ I am sure his message and their message to you would be one Not of Sorrow, but of Pride, that they had made the supreme sacrifice. Yes, but do not let their example be lost. What was it they died for? It was for their country. Why did they die for their country? Because their country was to them the emblem of all that was best amongst the nations of the world in the cause of freedom, of liberty, and of progress, and I venture to think here now as I address you with that noble example before you, there is not man amongst you who would not tomorrow, if his country was assailed in the same way, say, ‘We will drive back the aggressor whatever may be the sacrifice we are called upon to make. (Cheers.) This only I desire to say. Let us not forget, as we honour the dead, those who have been left behind, whose hearts and homes are desolate, who would long to see their sons and husbands in the march of peace and victory tomorrow. Let us not forget them. Let the country not forget them. I am bound to say this — l do not believe, and I hope we have not heard the last word of what the country intends to do for them. For my own part, I believe that there is nothing that the country could do for them which would be at all equal to the sacrifice they have made. It was not for that that they gave their lives. They gave their lives unselfishly as all great men would do, and they leave you a heritage in the message that comes from their graves that what they have won you are to maintain. And all I have to say in conclusion is this, that you as their comrades and their mates may well be proud of their achievements, that they died in the noblest of all causes—the cause of their King and their country.” (Cheers.)
A TRIBUTE TO THE ULSTER DIVISION.
Rev. J. G. Paton, C.F., who was in France with the Ulster Division, said he was present that day through the kindness of Sir George Clark, and he considered it a great honour and privilege to be associated with that memorial erected to their fallen comrades. The only claim he had to stand there was that he had served with the Division most of the time it was in France, though he was not in the Brigade to which most them belonged. He saw the men of their Brigade going over the top on the 1st July, 1916. They had to advance in the face of the most murderous machine-gun fire that any men were ever called upon to face, and it was true what the whole world said that there was no more heroic achievement in the whole history of the war than that at Thiepval. (Cheers.) A short prayer was then offered by Mr. Paton, and the proceedings concluded with the singing of the National Anthem.