From the outset of the Great War, there were appeals for funds for a range of causes – e.g. Belgian refugees, Prisoners of War, comforts for servicemen, ambulances. Later in the war there were appeals for specifically local concerns, such as the Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Services Clubs, the Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Rest House, the Ulster Women’s Gift Fund, the Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital and the UVF Patriotic Fund. Workman Clark and its employees supported many of these appeals.
One of the earliest war funds was the Prince of Wales’s National Relief Fund which was launched on 7th August 1914 with this announcement from Buckingham Palace:
All must realise that the present time of deep anxiety will be followed by one of considerable distress among the people of this country least able to bear it. We most earnestly pray that their sufferings may be neither long nor bitter, but we cannot wait until the need presses heavily upon us. The means of relief must be ready in our hands. To allay anxiety will go some way to stay distress. A national fund has been founded, and I am proud to act as its treasurer. My first duty is to ask for a generous and ready support, and I know that I shall not ask in vain. At such a moment we all stand by one another, and it is to the heart of the British people that I confidently make this most earnest appeal. Edward.
Workman Clark immediately donated £500 (which equates to £59,000 in current terms) and, on 1st September 1914, the Belfast News-Letter reported that a meeting had been held in the shipyard to determine how best to support this fund. It was decided that the members of each trade should meet separately in order to settle what sum should be decided upon as a voluntary weekly subscription. On 19th September 1914, the Northern Whig reported that the rates determined varied from 3d per week per man to 1 shilling and sixpence per week per man. Subsequent newspaper reports recorded that the refrigerating department and the shipwrights at the South Yard decided to donate sixpence per week per man. By the end of 1914, the drawing office staff had donated £12 and five shillings (which equates to £1,400 in current terms) to the appeal.
In order to raise money to prosecute the war, the Government launched the “War Loans 1925-1928” prospectus in November 1914, with the aim of raising £350,000,000. In February 1917, the Belfast News-Letter reported that the employees of Workman Clark had subscribed up to £8,000 (approximately £567,500 in current terms) to the scheme. In the same month, the Northern Whig reported that Workman Clark and its Directors had subscribed £1,000,000 to the scheme, which equates to near £71m in current terms.
By the end of 1914, over 1,000 employees of Workman Clark were serving in the armed forces. Whilst many were fresh recruits for Kitchener’s Army, approximately 200 men had been recalled from the Army and Navy reserves and were on active service on the high seas or at the Western Front within a matter of weeks of the start of the war. In September 1914, at the instigation of the workforce, the Workman Clark War Relief Fund was set up to provide support and assistance to the families of the men on active service. Voluntary contributions were made by employees and officials and the fund was supplemented by weekly subscriptions from the firm. By the end of 1914, £1,825 had been paid to 700 dependant families and on Wednesday 23rd December nearly two thousand women and children were entertained at the Grosvenor Hall. Amongst those seated on the platform were Second Lieutenant Edward Workman and his mother, Sara. In April 1915, the Northern Whig reported that more than 2,000 men had left the firm for overseas service and that £3,300 had been paid out to dependents. The article reported that the payments had been stopped with the introduction of the new scheme of higher payment by the Government and concluded with these words, the work of this fund speaks well for the loyalty of the firm and employees of Messrs. Workman, Clark, & Co. towards their comrades who have answered their country’s call to keep the old flag flying. The workforce continued to support the sailors and soldiers and their dependents in a different manner, principally by providing comforts and distributing Christmas hampers to servicemen and their dependents. In subsequent years, the company placed notices in the local press in connection with the Workman Clark Christmas Gift Fund. The notices requested relatives of soldiers and sailors now serving with H. M. Forces and who, at the date of enlistment, were employed by Messrs. Workman, Clark, & Co. Ltd, Shipbuilders and Engineers to provide detailed information about the servicemen. In December 1916, Workman Clark forwarded 1,000 Christmas Parcels to soldiers and sailors who had been in the employment of the firm prior to enlisting – a total of 285,000 cigarettes, 850 pounds of tobacco and 1,000 pipes being issued. 700 parcels went to soldiers and sailors on active service whilst 300 parcels went to men on home service or on convalescent leave. Similar parcels were sent to ex-employees who were prisoners of war in Germany and Bulgaria. The firm also sent 1,200 parcels, each containing 50 cigarettes and a cigarette case, to the wounded servicemen at local hospitals – the UVF Hospital, the military hospitals at Victoria and Holywood barracks, the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Mater Hospital. In addition, 15,000 cigarettes were sent to the Rest House for Soldiers and Sailors in Castle Place. Similar Christmas distributions took place in in 1917 and 1918.
Workman Clark, as a company, donated:
- £25 to the “Belgian Refugee Fund” in late September 1914;
- £30 to a War Funds Appeal on behalf of the British, Russian and Belgian Red Cross Societies in September 1915;
- £50 to a British Red Cross Society’s “Comforts for Belgian Soldiers” Appeal in July 1916;
- £100 to the “Christmas in the Trenches – Puddings for the Troops” Appeal in November 1916;
- £100 to the appeal to refurbish the Belfast Sailors’ Home on Corporation Street;
- £100 to the Belfast Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Service Club in March 1917;
- £10 to the “Christmas in the Camps” appeal in December 1916 to provide entertainment for local troops necessarily remaining in camp on Christmas Day;
- £100 to the Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital in February 1917;
- £50 to the Balmoral Industrial School’s “War Emergency Appeal” to clear debts arising from the rise in prices during the war;
- £100 to the Peace Celebration and Reception appeal in July 1919
The Platers Department from the South Yard made donations to several national and local funds, including the Belgian Refugees Relief Fund and the Belfast Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Service Club in November 1918. In August 1916, they donated the money (£37 and twelve shillings) that they had received for working over the “twelfth week” holidays to the UVF Patriotic Fund. This fund had been set up to provide financial assistance to men who had been discharged due to disability or illness and, after the war, it would be used to provide grants to ex-servicemen to set up businesses. In December 1917, the Northern Whig reported that the plating department at the North Yard had entertained wounded soldiers at the Hilden Convalescent Hospital at Galwally. A whist drive was organised and about 50 tables were occupied in a competition for 22 prizes donated by the plating department. This was followed by a tea and the Lord Mayor of Belfast attended to distribute the prizes and the newspaper reported his words, it was a privilege for all to do everything they could for the men who sacrificed so much for their country and that he congratulated the men of the plating department on their spirit and generosity in giving this entertainment, and also a handsome donation to the funds. The donation was money raised by the department for a testimonial to Sir George Clark on his being created a baronet. Sir George asked that the money raised, and augmented by a personal donation, be given to the hospital. Mr James Gibson handed over £20 to Dr Macintosh to provide extra comforts for the men over Christmas.
In December 1915, a deputation from the boiler department – Peter Simm, James Holliday and Alexander Callan – met with Robert M. Liddell and Richard Dawson Bates of the Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital to present them with a cheque for £48 to endow a bed in the hospital. The Northern Whig reported it is very gratifying to see the generous spirit which prevails among all classes at the present time, and the practical interest shown towards such well deserving objects as the Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital. The amount donated rose to £54-6-6 in the days after the presentation of the cheque (Belfast News-Letter, 27th December 1915)
Several departments in the shipyard made donations to the “Comforts Committee for North Belfast Regiment” appeal in December 1915, the total amount donated being £101 and ten shillings (which equates to £10,725 in current terms).
Shipbuilders’ and Engineers’ War Charity Fund
In early 1918, Workman Clark and Harland & Wolff combined to establish the Shipbuilders’ and Engineers’ War Charity Fund with the aim of raising a minimum of £5,000 (which equates to £290,500 in current terms) in aid of the Red Cross and several local organisations providing help and support for sailors and soldiers affected by the war. In addition to inviting subscriptions from companies, organisations, clubs, and individuals, the War Charity Fund Committee organised a Grand Ballot, a Flag Day (5th April), and a Gala Day at Windsor Park (6th April). The two firms kick-started the fund with donations of £100 each and the first list of subscriptions to the fund was published on 27th March. Glentoran Football Club donated Ten Guineas and the officials and workers of the Belfast Ropework Company raised £46 twelve shillings.
Nearly 2,000 shipyard workers and other volunteers took to the streets of Belfast on Friday 5th April 1918 for the Flag Day. The on-street collection raised just over £1,146, with a further £494 from subscriptions. Several of Belfast’s picture houses and theatres donated the takings from performances on 5th April 1918 to the War Charity Fund, the total raised being £349. The Panopticon Cinematograph Theatre on High Street had filmed inside the shipyards and this special footage was shown before performances.
A Grand Ballot was organised, for which the prizes were War Savings Certificates. The draw for the ballot was made during the interval in the Charity Cup semi-final at Solitude between Glentoran (3) and Distillery (0) on Saturday 27th March.
The main attraction at the Gala Day at Windsor Park was a football match between Senior League players employed at the two shipyards, the Irish Football Association having cancelled all other games to facilitate attendance. The match was watched by about 20,000 spectators, the “gate” realised £952 for the fund. The Reds (Workman Clark) beat the Blues (Harland & Wolff) by five goals to one and the match ball was auctioned after the game, being purchased by Sir George Clark for Ten Guineas (which equates to £640 in current terms).
The day also featured a ladies’ 80 yards sprint race which was won by Miss Scott representing Workman Clark, although Miss McAdams would have won had she not mistaken a chalk line drawn across the track as the finishing line. The Boy Scouts relay race, featuring boys from the two yards, was won by a Workman Clark team (all of the athletes belonging to 27th Belfast Troop), a ladies challenge tug-of-war competition was won by the Workman Clark team and the 100 yards handicap sprint race was won by Moore, the Glentoran leftwing, also an employee at the Wee Yard. The band of the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles rendered a selection of music during the day and in the evening.
In June 1918, the War Charity Fund distributed £4,500 as follows:
- UVF Hospital & Limbless Branch, £1,750;
- Hilden Convalescence Home at Galwally, £1,000;
- Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Service Club, £1,000;
- British Red Cross and Order of St John, £500;
- Wounded Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Rest House, £250.
Ex-Service Men’s Mutual Aid Association
The firm’s commitment to the well-being of its employees who went off to war did not cease with the unveiling of the war memorial in August 1919. In the aftermath of the war, men who had served in the army, navy and air force formed clubs and associations. Some of these had a battalion basis, some a regimental basis, and some a regional basis. Whilst Workman Clark men would have joined other associations or clubs, an Ex-Service Men’s Mutual Aid Association (affiliated to the Comrades of the Great War) was founded by the employees of the firm, with its support.
In essence, this was a continuation of the firm’s wartime policy of providing assistance and support to servicemen and their families. In May 1921, the Association opened a suite of clubrooms in the upper portion of the Harrison’s Hotel on York Road, opposite the Midland Railway Station.
The membership of the Association was primarily drawn from the Workman Clark shipyard but ex-servicemen employed by the Midland Railway Company could also join. In addition to providing comfortable surroundings in which the ex-servicemen could meet for recreational purposes or to reminisce, it also provided practical support to the membership. For example, a taxi was purchased to convey disabled members to and from their place of work. The first President of the association was Captain David Crichton, who had served during the war with the Royal Irish Rifles and the Army Service Corps. David was an upholsterer and living in Holywood when he married Maria Reid of Magheralave at Randalstown Old Congregation Presbyterian Church on 25th August 1897. They were living at Church View in Holywood when their first child, Elizabeth, was born in 1898 but had moved to Belfast by 1902 when their second child, Charles, was born. They were living at Ilchester Street in the Duncairn Ward on Ulster Day 1912, when David signed the Ulster Covenant at Holywood Orange Hall and Maria signed the Ulster Declaration at the Old Town Hall. David Crichton enlisted with the 15th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles and was deployed to France with the Ulster Division in October 1915. He held the rank of Sergeant when he received a commission to the 18th (Reserve) Battalion on 31st July 1917. He subsequently served with the Army Service Corps and ended the war with the rank of Captain. After relinquishing his commission, he became the representative at Workman Clark for Rowan & Boden Limited, flooring contractors and ship furnishers, of Glasgow. David Crichton, who was also Vice-President of Crusaders Football Club, was a member of Holywood Purple Star Loyal Orange Lodge 785 and of the TVP McCammon Memorial Masonic Lodge 540 and, when he died, Shane Castle Masonic Lodge 539. He had been elected as Alderman for the Duncairn Ward in January 1923 and, for much of his council career, was associated with the Belfast City Tramway and Belfast Corporation’s Transport Committee. As President of the Workman Clark Ex-Service Men’s Mutual Aid Association, he attended the annual remembrance services at the Workman Clark War Memorial. Captain Crichton was also General Secretary of the Ulster Ex-Service Men’s Association and was the President of the Randalstown Branch of the British Legion when he died at Lakeview House in Randalstown on 19th May 1957. He is buried, alongside Maria, in Carnmoney Cemetery.