John Parkinson

1907 – 2006 Belfast Titanic Society’s President The photograph of John Parkinson, holding some of his father's tools, a smoothing plane, a hammer, a chisel, a screwdriver which his father, Frank, used when working on the great ship, RMS 'Titanic'. John later was apprenticed to joinery in the shipyard and himself used the tools after his father's death which occurred during John's apprenticeship.

At the Look-Out Gallery on the Belfast Harbour (near the Custom's House and the Albert Memorial Clock) there is an excellent exhibition of Titanic with many of John's father's tools.

John has seen the Titanic on the slipway and waved to her as she left Belfast in April 1912. John was 99 years old on the 7th January 2006.

Below, is a copy of the front cover of John's book about his life and what the experience of Titanic has meant to him and his family. I have taken a short extract from his book.

My father had worked on the ship for nearly three years. Every night he would come home and tell us how big and luxurious it would be. Everyone talked about it. I used to see design pictures in the papers and I drew the ship with it's four funnels pouring out steam. Recently I went down to the docks again to do an interview when I turned into Queen's Island I could picture the big gantries housing the 'Titanic'. As a boy when I looked at it, it seemed to touch the sky and the length of it - I thought there was no end to it all. My father told me what would happen when the ship would be launched in a few weeks time. He said that all the wooden props or staging would be removed and that because this staging was covered in tallow, making the wood greasy, when they were removed, the ship, which was on a slant, would slide into the water. Strange as it may seem. I remember saying to my Dad. "How can a ship that big stay up in the water?" My Father's response was instant, "Johnny, that ship will always stay up in the water...."

How wrong he was to be. On April 2nd 1912, a few months later, my dad Frank, mother Ellen, sister Agnes and brother, Jim boarded a tram to Greencastle and took up a good vantage point on the Shore Road. Although the crowds were enormous we got a great view of the ship moving off. It was unbelievably big - 883 feet long and 92 feet wide. It weighed 60,000 tons and it could travel at over 20 knots per hour. She was so big she had to be towed down the lough. Her propellers couldn't be started till she was in really deep water. Some tug boats had actually come over from Liverpool to pull her. People sang "Rule Britannia" and waved handkerchiefs as they shouted their Goodbyes.

Less than a fortnight later news reached of it's tragic fate......
my father couldn't believe it. Later he broke down and cried.