Fighting spirit of the Clyde
(From an article by Sheila Hamilton)

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It was the first time that Jimmy Reid had ever been sent flowers - a big wagon load of red roses.
Mystified, the shop stewards gathered round. The card said 'Lennon'
"Lenin's deid!" cried one of them, but the roses, it turned out, were from Beatle John Lennon and there was a cheque. "For five or ten grand, I can't remember now" says Reid, 30 years on. "But it was a lot of money at the time."
It was just one example of how the Clydeside UCS workers' work-in had caught the imagination of the wider public, not only in this country, but abroad.
UCS was a consortium of five yards - John Brown, Charles Connell, Fairfield, Alexander Stephen, and Yarrow.
The Labour Government had poured in 20million but the yards were still losing money.
When Labour lost the 1970 election, the Tories adopted a policy of abandoning lame ducks.
By June 1971, the yard had debts of 28million which the Government was unwilling to underwrite further. An inquiry signed UCS's death warrant.
The shipyards which had built the Queens were under sentence of death and it wasn't to be borne. The lame duck yards were fighting back.
There were scenes of bedlam in Parliament. In Glasgow, Cheif Constable David McNee warned he would need 5000 additional policemen to keep control of the city if the yards closed.
All sections of the community supported the shipyards in their work-in. Money poured in from rich and poor. Children held sales on street corners, pensioners gave what they could, even Conservative ladies dipped their hands in their pockets.
Thousands marched to Glasgow Green in support of the workers, among them Leader of the Opposition Harold Wilson, General Secretary of the TUC Vic Feathers, Shadow Trade and Industry Minister Tony Benn, and Shadow Scottish Secretary Willie Ross.
"You couldn't see the end of the crowd and even after I had finished speaking, they were still pouring into the Green 20 deep." recalls Reid.
They had no idea on the day that it all started of the force that they had unleashed.
The sun shone down on that summer morning 30 years ago as the men gathered under the cranes near the fitting-out berth in the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders' yard at Clydebank to hear their fate.
They had spent a bleak weekend worrying about their jobs. Edward Heath's Conservative Government had announced there would be no further help.
The clatter of the yard was stilled and a cheer rose up as the shop stewards climbed on the rostrum.
Excitement mounted as convener Bobby Dickie told them they would stage a work-in. They would occupy the yards, fulfil the orders on the books and be paid by the liquidator out of the resources UCS had left.
At that point Jimmy Reid, then 39, engineering steward and chief spokesman of the co-ordinating committee, spoke up.
"We are not wildcats. We want to work. The real wildcats are in No.10 Downing Street. We don't only build ships on the Clyde, we build men. They have taken on the wrong people and we will fight."
And fight they did.
Fuelled by anger at the Government, bitter resentment and an overwhelming feeling that they couldn't let this happen. Even the yard's middle and senior management joined the work-in.
The men of the Upper Clyde knew the wider British public was on their side and at the end of 14 months, the Heath Government did not have the bottle to force change through. It was forced to make a humiliating U turn.
Heath announced a 35million injection of cash into the yards at Govan, Scotstoun and Linthouse.
Within three years, shipbuilding on the Upper Clyde had recieved around 101million of public grants and credits - 20million to UCS, 59million to Govan Shipbuilders, and 12million to Marathon Manufacturing of Houston, Texas, which had bought John Brown.
Some felt it would be enough to build a massive yard from scratch on a better location or on creating new, more viable industries.
Jimmy Reid insists there was a very strong case for keeping the yard going. "We had 13 or 14 ships on the order books and the production performance had improved."
There were other problems. Although the Clydeside yards benefited from the boom in shipbuilding after the war, it proved their downfall because they were too busy to modernise.
The Germans and Japanese shipyards had to rebuild from scratch and they had the edge in technology. "We were trying to compete with Fred Flintstone tools." says Reid.
He remains bitterly resentful of what has happened to the shipyards considering the British mercantile fleet has enormously expanded and these ships will have been built elsewhere.
Reid is convinced they took the right action at the time.
"We were victorious and we saved thousands of jobs, guaranteeing years and years of employment in the yards and spin-offs in other industries.
There were benefits for thousands of families."

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