Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm

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Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm (1834–1913). Co-founder of the Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff. Wolff, of German Jewish descent, was the nephew of the Liverpool business tycoon G. C. Schwabe. He joined the Belfast shipyard Robert Hickson & Co. as personal assistant to the manager, Edward Harland, and assisted Harland in his purchase of the company in 1858. Wolff was at first in charge of the drawing office, later—in 1861—entering into a full partnership with Harland. His business acumen was of considerable value to the firm, with which he remained associated until 1906. However, his verdict on his entrepreneurial record was modest: ‘Sir Edward [Harland] builds the ships, Mr Pirrie makes the speeches, and, as for me, I smoke the cigars.’ Like Harland he was an active Conservative and Unionist politician, representing East Belfast in Parliament (1892–1910). Sitting together in the House of Commons, Harland and Wolff were dubbed by the parliamentary wags ‘Majestic’ and ‘Teutonic’ after two of their shipyard's finest vessels.

Alvin Jackson