As a small child growing up in post WWll Liverpool, I was familiar with the name because it frequently cropped up in adult conversations. The well-being of the yard was something of an economic barometer for the health of Merseyside. Ship launches, and particularly large new orders were given wide local publicity, as were frequent industrial disputes. I pricked up my ears when I heard the name mentioned, because I thought it funny (I had a lead camel in my Britain’s Zoo set, and being of Scots extraction I knew the Laird of the village in Kirkcudbrightshire where my great aunts and uncles lived, an elderly gentleman wearing a kilt and a Glengarry). The shipyard name conjured up for me a mental picture of a patrician looking camel, wearing a kilt and a rakish looking brimless, peakless cap with a couple of black ribbons dangling down the back. This made me laugh.
One day I took a little more interest than usual because I heard the words “String twanging strike” and asked what it was about. My father, who had served his time at Grayson, Rollo and Clover explained that to mark out a steel plate for cutting, a chalked string was stretched across the plate and “twanged” to deposit a neat chalk line. The dispute was about which trade was responsible for twanging the string. After this lapse of time, I could be wrong (I was only 4) but I think the disputing trades were Platers, Pattern or Mould Makers and Carpenters. Over a thousand men thrown out of work, for something so trivial. It was the first time I formed the opinion that the adult world was quite, quite mad. (To be honest the ensuing 60 odd years have done little to change that view!).
As a postscript, the event was fixed in my mind more clearly because the main Liverpool Pantomime that Christmas had a field day. It was Alladin, or perhaps Ali Baba it certainly had a two man camel which worked very hard for its money an apparently arthritic hip emitted a “twang” as it walked. Inexplicably Robin Hood made frequent appearances accompanied by an appropriate sound effect from the pit as he loosed off an arrow. “I wish that man would stop twanging he’s giving me a Headache!” “Why does that camel keep twanging?” – “ The Laird only knows!” –This from a Scots comedian in drag probably playing Widow “Twangey”. “If you are so clever, who painted the Mona Lisa?” “Cammell Lairds, dey do all the Isle o’ Man boats!” TWANG!
PREVIEW BELOW – MAY TAKE A WHILE TO LOAD.