Lest it be thought that there was no humour in HM Naval Yard, Garden Island, during G.H. Bromwich’s long term in office, the following account by an apprentice boilermaker of that period may serve to show otherwise.
On the strength of the Establishment was a horse named Dolly whose duties involved carting coal to the residences, Main Office, Enginesmiths, Coppersmiths, and Boiler Shops.
Horse-shoeing was, in those days, a common but specialised trade. A local farrier had a standing order to keep Dolly well shod and would duly appear, being rowed across to the island at regular intervals, to do just that.
Shortly after the commencement of World War I, it was realised that the farrier had not paid his usual visit, and Dolly’s shoes were in need of replacement. Inquiries revealed that the regular farrier had joined the Army, as apparently had most of his colleagues, being in high demand for keeping the horse-drawn transport and guns in good service. Therefore, no farrier could be located locally.
As has happened so often before and since, the Dockyard had to rely on its own resources, and a foremen boilermaker was told to ‘do something’ about the problem.
The foreman detailed a young boilermaker to shoe Dolly and despite the latter’s protests of ignorance of the skills involved in such a task, the foreman left the young tradesman to his own devices.
After a discreet interval the foreman returned to find Dolly standing atop the marking-off table and the boilermaker scribing around Dolly’s hooves, tracing the pattern onto a sheet of boiler plate.
Dolly apparently survived the experience, for preserved for posterity in the Dockyard Museum are a set of her shoes – albeit undoubtedly the work of a professional.
Wally Lambert, the apprentice who related this incident to me, went on to become probably the Dockyard’s most well known Head Foreman Boilermaker.