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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 16:14 GMT
Shipyard painter's special touch
Raymond Piper
Raymond Piper: "Shipyard taught me tolerance"
Being a shipyard painter usually meant carrying a bucket of red lead, but one painter of the artistic variety talks of his days in Harland and Wolff and reveals some sketches he made while working there.

The era of shipbuilding in Belfast may be over, but for artist Raymond Piper who was an apprentice at Harland and Wolff, some of his colleagues will be captured for ever in the portraits he sketched.

These drawings were made during his time at the yard between 1940 and 1946.

He said: "When I had a moment or two to spare between jobs...I would draw someone.

"I drew everything in those days. I carried drawing books in my pocket. They're quite small. I never drew ships. I drew the Cavehill from the shipyard."

Sketching ships did not interest him. People did.

While working at the shipyard, he developed his talent for drawing and would pencil sketch workmates at any opportunity.

Sketch of a shipyard workman
Unseen: A Piper sketch of a shipyard workman
He said he was never interested in working in the drawing office as it would have been "boring" drawing other people's designs.

Raymond Piper's career might have gone in a different direction if it had not been for his father's decision to send him to work in the shipyard and not to university.

However, the shipyard taught him much of what he needed to know about life.

"Harland and Wolff taught me tolerance, it taught me understanding of human beings. It all depends on how you're brought up in your way and people in Harland and Wolff are brought up in their way.

Shipyard shock

"You learn to understand them and how to like them and see how they tick and when you know that, you've learned something quite important."

Piper said his introduction to work in the shipyard was a shock.

"I started in the toughest shop in Harland and Wolff - it was called the Abercorn Works.

The toughest men worked there. Real hard men, and if they didn't like your face? 'What are you lookin' at?'"

But his fellow workers at the shipyard loved and appreciated his talent even then.

Others have since and this is reflected in his awards for his art, notably the RUA Gold Medal and the James Kennedy Memorial Award for Portraiture at the RHA.

Raymond is also a fellow of the Linnaean natural history society and an expert on orchids.

He has discovered many wild Irish orchids and has many paintings of them.

Raymond Piper returns to the shipyard to make more sketches during a live programme from Harland and Wolff on Friday - Lunchtime in the Yard - on BBC One at 1230pm as part of A Day to Remember.

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