Historical information

A number of items once belonging to shipwright Norman Desmond McKenzie were donated to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village. They are related to Norman’s apprenticeship and certification as a Shipwright in Belfast, his Union membership and his employment as a shipwright in Melbourne. One of the items, a union Rules Book inscribed with the name H.B. Thomas and dated 1902, had within its pages Norman’s Indenture of Apprenticeship, dated 1941,

Norman Desmond McKenzie was born in Belfast in 1925 and lived at 10 Pansy Street Belfast, Northern Ireland. At the age of 16 years, he began a 5-year Shipwright’s apprenticeship with Harland & Wolff Limited, Shipbuilding & Engineering Works, Belfast. He became a member of the Ship Constructors’ and Shipwrights’ Association, Belfast (B) Branch 20. His Registration Number was 38748. He completed his apprenticeship on December 16th, 1946, aged 21 years, his address was 26 Connsbrook Drive, Sydenham, N. Belfast.

In October 1949 Norman received Clearance from his Union as a financial member to move to another branch. He completed his Apprenticeship on December 16th 1946. Two months later he migrated to Australia, and he arrived in Victoria, and he became a Financial Member of the Victorian branch of the Federated Shipwrights, Ship constructors, Naval Architects, Ships’ Draughtsmen and Boat Builders’ Association of Australia, Victoria branch.

One of Norman’s donated books is the Rules of the Shipwrights' Provident Union of the Port of London. It is inscribed on several pages with the name H.B. Thomas and includes the year 1902 and the address of 29 Brickwood Street, Gardenvale. This is a location in Victoria, Australia. The Victoria Government Gazette, February 1959, in the section “Removal from Registration on The Architects Registration Board of Victoria, during the year ended 31st December 1956” lists “Deceased – Thomas, H.B., 29 Brickwood Street, Gardenvale”. The Architects Union includes Naval Architects and Shipwrights and other related trades came under the same union.

It seems likely that when he was in Melbourne, Norman worked as a Shipwright for H.B. Thomas and was given the Rules book by Thomas, perhaps as a reference book or maybe as a gift.

Around that same time, December 1949, Norman met his wife-to-be, Daphne, in Melbourne. Daphne had migrated from London with her family and her father found work with the Melbourne Harbour Trust. They married in Melbourne in 1953 and went on to have a family of five children. In 2003 Norman and Daphne moved to Warrnambool and then years later they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Norman passed away on July 28th 2015 at Warrnambool’s South West Healthcare hospital.


Norman McKenzie's Rules Book, Union Cards, Indenture of Apprenticeship, and other documents tell the story of a young Irish lad's work and qualifications to become a shipwright and his migration to Australia. The young man found a job and a wife who had also migrated, and they raised a family in Melbourne. He and his wife then retired to Warrnambool to enjoy their later years.
The collection of documents relating to Norman McKenzie is significant for its connection with the shipping industry of the early 1900s, the migration of qualified tradesmen to Victoria, and their contribution to the development of Victoria.
The collection also shows the role of the Union in the shipping industry. The documents link shipwright Norman McKenzie to the Shipwright's Union in London and in Australia, and to shipbuilder H B Thomas in Melbourne, most likely his employer.

Physical description

Documents owned by Norman Desmond McKenzie, Shipwright: (1) Shipwright's card with a pink cover and record of contributions for 1949 (2) Clearance Certificate from Victorian Branch of the Federated Shipwrights' Ship Constructors, Naval Architects, Ships' Draughtsmen and Boat Builders' Association of Australia, 14-12-1949,4-12-1949 (3) Contribution book with blue cover and stapled in pages with payment records for 1947 (4) Apprenticeship and Employment Reference, typed, from Harland & Wolff Ltd. Shipbuilding & Engineering Works, Belfast, dated 9-9-1949

Inscriptions & markings

SHIPWRIGHT'S CARD - Printed: "SHIPWRIGHT'S CARD" "SHIPCONSTRUCTORS and SHIPWRIGHTS' ASSOCIATION" "8, Eldon Square, Newcastle-on-Tyne 1". "J ALEXANDER, SECRETARY", "38 Sandbrook Park" Stamped "BELFAST (B) BRANCH" . Handwritten "N McKenzie" "221" (Reg.) "38748" "PB"

CLEARANCE CERTIFICATE: Printed "Federated Shipwrights', Ship Constructors', Naval Architects', Ships' Draftsmen and Boat Builders' Association of Australia" Handwritten "Dec 14 [19] 49", "Norman D McKenzie" ""Victorian [BranchH]" "'til Feb 1st 1950"


EMPLOYMENT REFERENCE: Printed "HARLAND & WOLFF Limited, Shipbuilding & Engineering Works, Belfast" Typed "9th September 1949" and
"This is to certify that Norman D. MaKenzie, 26 Connstrook Drive, Belfast, served a five-year Apprenticeship with us as a Shipwright, completing this on the 16th December 1946. He continued in our employment, and is now leaving of his own accord. We would state that during the time Mr. McKenzie was with us, he was a good workman and steady timekeeper."