Sector - Sports, Culture & Leisure

Five famous former construction workers

UK Construction Online takes a look at some of the most famous former construction workers. Given the industry’s well-documented skills shortage, we wonder if some on the list might do the decent thing and dust off their tool bag and get grafting.

Harrison Ford

Captain of the Millennium Falcon, a whip-cracking archaeologist, the President of the United States – these are just a handful of the professions of the famous characters that Harrison Ford has brought to life on the big screen over the years.

Before being catapulted into mega stardom playing the smuggling scoundrel Han Solo in Star Wars in 1977, Ford was working as a carpenter, building cabinets for Star Wars Director George Lucas, when he was asked to feed lines for actors but ended up being offered the role of Han Solo.

Ford said: My principle job at the time was carpentry. I had a house at the time I wanted to remodel, a bit of the wreck of a house. I’d invest money in tools but wouldn’t have money for materials, so I realized this was another way of putting food on the table.”

“I had helped George Lucas audition other actors for the principle parts, and with no expectation or indication that I might be considered for the part of Han. I was quite surprised when I was offered the part.”

Famous former construction workers

Whoopi Goldberg

Born Caryn Elaine Johnson in 1955, the Oscar-winning star of Ghost, The Colour Purple, and the Sister Act films used to earn a living a bricklayer.

Whilst building walls around San Diego Zoo Whoopi demonstrated her skills with a trowel and was so good she was invited to join the bricklayers union.

Speaking on her rise from the building site to the glamour of being an Oscar-winning actress, Whoopi said:  “I am the American Dream. I am the epitome of what the American Dream basically said. It said, ‘You could come from anywhere and be anything you want in this country.’ That’s exactly what I’ve done.”

Famous former construction workers

Noel Gallagher

Noel, alongside his younger brother Liam, took the musical world by storm in the mid-90’s as part of their band, Oasis. The band’s first two albums, Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory, regularly appear in polls of the greatest albums of all time.

Before joining Liam in Oasis in 1991 as chief songwriter and lead guitarist, Noel’s older brother Paul got him a job working for Kennedy’s Civil Engineering on building sites in Manchester. Following being placed on light duties after a JCB dropped a part of steel gas pipe on his foot, Noel brought his guitar to work and composed four songs that would appear on the band’s debut album Definitely Maybe.

His best construction work?  His Wonderwall.

Famous former construction workers

Ozzy Osbourne

John Michael “Ozzy” Osbourne was born in Birmingham in 1948. As lead singer of seminal heavy metal band Black Sabbath, ‘Ozzy’ hit the big time in the 1970s.

He is probably more famous to newer generations for appearing as himself in the reality television show The Osbournes, with his wife Sharon and two of his children Kelly and Jack.

After leaving school as a 15 year old, Ozzy had numerous jobs a car factory horn-tuner, apprentice toolmaker, trainee plumber and construction site labourer.

Speaking in 2002, Ozzy said: “Birmingham wasn’t and isn’t a very rich area. It was rather dreadful and everybody in my family worked in factories. My Dad thought I should become a tradesman; to get a chance to better myself, get away from the factories.

“I tried to become a plumber. It didn’t work out; it wasn’t for me. Then I tried to become a bricklayer. It didn’t work out. Then I tried to be a construction worker – same story. Everything I tried seemed to be doomed.”

Famous former construction workers

Ian Wright

Born in 1963 in Brockley, south London, former England footballer and Arsenal legend, Ian Wright was a late bloomer as a footballer. As a 22 year old, he was on the verge of giving up his dream to play professional football but managed to land a contract with Crystal Palace. Wright represented the club in their epic FA Cup Final iFamous former construction workers n 1990 against Manchester United, recovering from a broken leg to climb off the bench and score two goals in the 3-3 thriller. Sadly for him and Palace, they lost the replay 1-0 but Wright would go on to sign for Arsenal and became the club’s record goals corer before eventually being surpassed by Thierry Henry.

Before embarking upon a career in football, Wright left school at the age of 16 and trained as a bricklayer and plasterer.

Speaking about how his life would have turned out had he finally not made the breakthrough, Wright is confident he would have prospered in the construction industry due to his work ethic.

He said: “I wasn’t somebody who had I not become a footballer, would have been in jail. No, I was ready to work hard and do whatever it took to earn a living.”


Honorary mention:

Winston Churchill

Arguably Britain’s most famous Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill didn’t work in the construction sector so his entry might be a little erroneous, hence his inclusion here.

Winnie was, however, an extremely gifted amateur bricklayer and was a qualified member of the Amalgamated Union of Bricklayers.

There is an anecdote recorded by Dorothy McCardle, a society reporter of The Washington Post. In her piece from January 1952, McCardle wrote of Churchill being asked to lay a foundation stone in Bristol.  He delayed laying the stone, saying it wasn’t level.

She wrote: “Red-faced officials produced measuring instruments and in a second discovered that Winnie was right. Solemnly, they adjusted the stone, and then Winnie the bricklayer nodded his approval, took up the silver trowel, and smoothed the cement.”

Britain’s greatest wartime Prime Minister built numerous structures at his home, Chartwell, in Kent he laid a red brick garden wall and also built a swimming pool and goldfish pond.

Famous former construction workers

Photo credits: Denis Shumov /, s-bukley /, Featureflash /,  Eugenio Marongio /