Gareth Davis, Gleaner Writer
PORT ANTONIO, PORTLAND:A WELDER by profession, Alman Harris has been involved in the art of melting and joining metallic objects for the better part of 28 years, which has also allowed him to send three of his children to college and university.
Harris, who is affectionately called 'Maxi', developed his welding skills from the tender age of 16 while attending Stokes Hall Secondary in St Thomas, where he learned and developed the art and skill of the trade.
At age 18, Harris ventured out on his own, but not before completing work experience at the Duckensfield Sugar Factory, where he spent almost one year.
"I went professional shortly after. By then, I had completed both practical and theory. By the 1970s, I started working at the Boundbrook Wharf in Port Antonio, where I was employed as a maintenance person. I spent 18 years at the wharf, where I did welding on cargo ships, including the banana boat.
I worked in the engine room, on damaged rail, and the ballast water tank, which is close to the bow of the ship. My job allowed me to work on the ships and on the wharf itself."
Harris recounted that days before the ship's arrival, he was informed about its schedule and, therefore, had enough time to organise how many persons were needed to complete the welding work, which had to be done on schedule for the ship's departure.
But while admitting that welding has been his passion and livelihood, Harris said that the work also presented a lot of danger and is risky at times.
According to Harris, safety regulations have to be observed so as to protect life and property. He explained that gas from the cylinder can be harmful if the user becomes complacent or is inexperienced as often, the hose leading from the cylinder to the torch can catch afire.
"The cylinder releases gas; it does not suck gas. Whenever there is fire on the hose, the safest thing to do is to rush to the cylinder and turn it off instead of running away. Running away can cause more damage as varied properties, including motor vehicles and the welding shop, could be destroyed."
Harris told Rural Xpress that he had passed on the trade to many youth, some of whom are now working in Canada, while others have opened their own welding shop.
He noted, however, that youngsters are more reluctant to learn the trade today, adding that there are instances when some turn up for a few days but never returned.
Harris added: "I work on motor vehicles, machines, and any metallic equipment. This is what I do best, and once a person enters my shop requesting my service, he or she is never disappointed. I have gone to other parishes, and that was strictly on requests from persons who have experienced my style of work. I take pride in my job, and that has made the difference over the years."