words by Grace Franklin. photographs by Stuart Maxwell
Two hours of tribute to Jimmy Reid who died on 11 August were not enough. The shipyard worker who led the 1970s work-in which saved shipbuilding on the Clyde, was given a worthy send-off on Thursday 19 August at Govan Old Parish Church.
And his legacy will live on because Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond told the congregation of more than 800 which overflowed into the church yard, that Jimmy Reid’s famous address when he was installed as Rector of Glasgow University, will be sent to every school along with video and back up material.
‘I want every pupil to have the chance to listen, see and be inspired – as we were inspired,’ he said.
‘In 2000 years time people will still recognise it for the masterpiece it is.’
The speech was printed in full at the time by the New York Times which described it as the greatest speech since President Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
His opening words were ‘Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today.’ He went on: ‘A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats, we’re human beings,’ and appealed for the rejection of the ‘insidious pressures in society that blunt your critical faculties.’
Coming so soon after the work-in where he impressed on the shipyard workers who were going to lose their jobs because of Government plans to stop shipbuilding on the Clyde, he said: ‘There will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us.’
And using that memorable phrase, his wife Joan and their three daughters had printed on the order of service: ‘The family requests that during this celebration of Jimmy’s life there will be no bevvying..’
That was not the only humour on the poignant day. Billy Connolly who said he was ‘ten years younger’ than Jimmy who was 78 when he died, admitted spending ‘many happy hours with Jimmy. Smoking, drinking and talking nonsense.’
Opening his speech, Billy Connolly said he was in deep trouble because: ‘everyone before me has spoken for a fortnight. I’ve only got a quick word.’ He then regaled the audience with stories of the shipyards when he was a tea boy to Willie McInnes and drew a colourful word picture of life in the yards at that time. ‘I loved Jimmy,’ said Billy with real emotion. ‘I’m going to miss him terribly.’
He went on: ‘He put complex things so beautifully simply that it knocked me back. His powers of observation and his love of fairness were simply amazing.’
Quoting actor John Sessions, Billy said: ‘So dies one great example of a Scot of working class character, verve, intellect and grace.’
From his trade union background, Bob Thomson of the Scottish Left Review and Jimmy Cloughley, formerly both colleagues of Jimmy, paid tribute to their fallen comrade.
‘Jimmy always believed that mergers of unions would make them stronger.’ said Bob Thomson. ‘He was a campaigner, strategic thinker and eloquent speaker. Altogether a charismatic man and a true internationalist.’ Once asked which university he had gone to, Jimmy replied: ‘Govan Library.’ Critical of all political parties, Jimmy always said ‘it is the ordinary family that pays the heavy price for the politician.’ recounted Bob, a friend for nearly 50 years.
Jimmy Cloughley was one of the co-ordinating committee when Jimmy Reid was the ‘electrifying orator.’
He said: ‘Jimmy gave us inspiration and hope. It was awesome to see Jimmy and Jimmy Airlie in operation. They were pivotal to the success of the work-in.’
Setting the industrial and political scene of the 1970s he described ship yard workers as ‘industrial gypsies.’ He said there was massive unemployment, but Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) had £19 million worth of order in June 1971 taking work forward to 1974. ‘But the Government was saying NO to £6million investment of working capital. Jimmy Reid told us we should be under no illusion that closure of the shipyards would be the death knell of Upper Clyde communities; sacrificed to political dogma. He refused to accept that faceless men made these decisions and told us to conduct the work-in with ‘maturity and dignity,” remembered Jimmy Cloughley.
Sir Alex Ferguson shared his memories of Jimmy never playing football but always having books under his arm. ‘But he was a great supporter. He was a great friend of the Iona Community and helping under priviliged people was his life’s mantra. He was a man who knew where he was going. When he spoke at an annual meeting of the Football Players League he was spell binding. He left us all with a bit more belief in ourselves. It was a great moment for me and all of us in football.’
Television personality and journalist David Scott, was the master of ceremonies for the service of celebration. A close friend of Jimmy’s from the 1970s, he thanked everyone who attended – some from as far away as Indonesia. He said: ‘We have lost a true son of Scotland.’
And while there was grief: ‘Joan has lost a loving and caring husband, their three daughters have lost a doting Dad and the grandchildren have lost their Papa. I’ve lost a dear and trusted, loyal friend; there is much to celebrate. Jimmy was a trade unionist, an orator, a lecturer, raconteur and journalist among many things. Undoubtedly he is one of the great British speechmakers and his words are as relevant today as when he made them. But Scotland feels diminished by his passing.’
An earlier service has been held in Rothesay on the Island of Bute where Jimmy lived. The funeral procession then went by ferry and road to Govan where he had been brought up. Passing the BAE Systems shipyard at Govan, the workforce stood along the route to pay their respects as the cortege passed. The yard hooter sounded and the flags were at half mast. On that day, appropriately, 20 apprentices started on three year craft apprenticeships as fabricators and welders with ten as technician apprentices working in Govan and Scotstoun yards.
Said current union representative Jamie Webster: ‘This wouldn’t have happened without Jimmy Reid and Jimmy Airlie. There would be no shipbuilding here without those two incredible men. When were were going through our own struggles in recent times, Jimmy phoned me to say we were doing fine and we’d get there. That was like the seal of approval from the Messiah.’
First Minister Alex Salmond has used an address at a summit in Easterhouse to announce a £34m jobs boost for Scotland.
The event, which also featured a speech by Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy, was attended by elected officials, local authorities, voluntary groups, the business community, trades unions, colleges and universities.
The package will come from European Union funds, creating at least 200 jobs and safeguarding many more, the audience at John Wheatley College heard.
Mr Murphy said some 300 jobs could be created by a boost from the Future Jobs Fund, an initiative driven by the Department of Work and Pensions.
The Scottish Government also announced a £4m package under the ScotAction banner, open to businesses to drive up the number of apprentices.
On the economic front, the Scottish Secretary explained: ‘The recovery from the recession of the 1980s, getting the jobs market back to where it was, was 19 years after the recession started.
‘After the 1990s recession it was six years. If we have a 1990s-style recovery in the jobs market, it’ll be 2014 before we get back to where we were. If we have a 1980s-style recovery in the jobs market, it’ll be 2027.
‘None of us are interested in waiting until 2027 to get us back to where we were before this recession and none of us are interested in waiting till 2014, but that has been the pattern. There is a warning within these figures.’
Education Secretary Mike Russell MSP told LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW: ‘Just as there are, on a national basis, 4,000 incentives of £1000 each to companies to take on an apprentice, there are always local initiatives. I know, on the Glasgow side, the Skills Development Scotland people will be looking for those who might benefit. That’s where the biggest skills pool lies.
‘They will need to go into Glasgow employers and they will need to make sure that those Glasgow employers are full aware of it. I would expect there’ll be substantial targeting of these initiatives within Glasgow.’
The recent launch of HMS Defender was a chance to see a rare combination of community, industry and service to country in action.
As time and overseas competition have conspired to strip the Clyde’s shipbuilding muscle away, the launch of a fifth Type-45 anti-aircraft destroyer was an opportunity for Glasgow and the West of Scotland to cherish and renew ancient bonds with the sea, the ships and the people who crew them.
The atmosphere at BVT Surface Fleet’s Govan yard on a wintry October day was festive, as parties of schoolchildren capered with soft foam swords and Defender shields. Here and there, duels would break out in the shadow of the yard’s enormous fabrication shed, a towering backcloth for the enthusiastic performers.
The day was certainly one for people-watching. Many thousands of schoolchildren were joined by services veterans, sea cadets, Royal Navy personnel, mothers and fathers with toddlers, senior citizens enjoying rekindled memories, and the curious.
Defender sat aloof on the slips, patiently awaiting her big moment as cameras whirred, spectators pointed, waved to the deck gangs aboard the destroyer or simply took in the atmosphere.
Reflecting on the day, Chief in command Fleet Admiral Trevor Soar said: ‘The thousands gathered here to witness the launch of Defender are testament to the pride Scotland rightly takes in its shipbuilding industry… Defender’s affiliation with her home town of Glasgow will ensure strong links live on and gives the Royal Navy the chance to give something back to the community that worked so hard to deliver her and her five sister ships.’
The arrival of the launch party aboard the paddle steamer Waverley underlined the sense that this was a day for tradition. Like the Defender, the Waverley is heir to a proud history. Built at A & J Inglis in 1946, she is the world’s last sea-going paddle steamer. This vessel replaced the original Waverley that joined ‘the little ships’ in the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France, in May 1940 and was crippled during the rescue.
As the dignitaries, who included Glasgow Lord Provost, Bob Winter and Parliamentary Under Secretary (Veterans) Kevan Jones, disembarked, Chief Executive of BVT Surface Fleet, Alan Johnston, said: ‘Any launch is fantastic. We see hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young people here today. In that group, I believe, we’ll find the engineers, the naval architects, indeed, the workforce that will build the ships of the future.
‘I think it’s very important that we relate to young people in this community. We continue with apprentice recruitment, young engineers, graduates, undergraduates… it’s very important that we take a wide spectrum of talent into our company.’
The workforce who built the ship were delighted with the launch. Gary Billson and Andrew Gilchrist, both first-year apprentice technicians at BVT are part of the ‘wide spectrum of talent’ incorporated
into the BVT.
‘I did physics at university for three years, then I dropped out,’ explained Gary. ‘I wanted to go for a different way of study. One of the most important aspects for me here is personal development. In the shipyard you get such a vast experience of engineering. It can take you anywhere.’
He added: ‘I couldn’t tell you where I might see myself in a few year’s time. If I’m here, great. If not; I’ll know I’ve had the best training there is.’
Andrew, from Baillieston, anticipates a busy apprenticeship: ‘In our first year at college we’re working towards an HNC and the two years after
that we’re doing day release and working towards
Like many of his colleagues, Andrew has a family tradition in shipbuilding.
‘While my family is from the East End, my mum came from the West End and she had uncles who worked in the shipyards. It’s something that Glasgow’s famous for and I’m doing my bit.’
The Defender offered the crowd an awesome spectacle and a hugely emotional occasion fuelled by music from the Band of the Royal Marines.
From the solemn service performed by Chaplain of the Fleet, the Venerable John Green, with the backdrop of the Navy hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save, to the naming of the ship and a more secular ‘blessing’ with champagne by Lady Gillian Massey, wife of Vice-Admiral Sir Alan Massey; the event almost went like clockwork.
Almost! The Defender lingered for a few moments then, urged on by the crowd and with a helping hand from Lady Massey, the ship eased down the slips, accompanied by a roar of approval from the 13,500 onlookers. The 7400-tonne destroyer entered the Clyde to a cacophony of fireworks, screaming drag chains, and a cheer that echoed across the city and, surely, down generations. As Defender was made safe, all eyes turned to the empty slip, a familiar shape gone from the Govan landscape, then across to Meadowside, where a huge gathering of onlookers stood, each with their tradition to keep and
stories to tell.
For Leslie Ross, from Bellshill, who joined a party of friends at the launch, it was catch-up time.
‘I lived in Glasgow for 30 years,’ he explained. ‘Launches always took place during the week when I was working so this was a gap I wanted to fill in. I wanted to see a launch,’ he said. ‘What struck me most was when the ship moved and she took to the water for the first time, there was a big, empty space where she had been sitting.’
He nodded approvingly towards the Defender as tugs turned the big ship into the fitting-out basin, ‘It really is a magnificent piece of engineering.’
Regional Business Manager for the Royal Navy in Scotland and Ireland, Lieutenant-Commander Gary Farmer, was part of a recruitment team at the launch. He said: ‘Our main role is to raise the profile of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. We’ve certainly had a lot of interest from the audience and hopefully, we’ll get some good candidates.’
Gary, from Clarkston, now lives in Kinross. He gave a serviceman’s perspective on the Defender and her sisters: ‘There’s no doubt the Type-45 is a fantastic class of ship. The skill that goes into building them at the BVT yard is exceptional and I’m sure the men and women of the Royal Navy who go to sea in these ships will be very impressed.’
He added: ‘The Royal Marines are an integral part of the Navy and their history goes back many years. Whether it’s by air or by land, they add to what the Navy can bring to the party.
‘The Type-45 isn’t a troop carrier, but she does have the capacity to take an military force on board. The kind of accommodation she offers is certainly above what we’ve had in the past and she offers us a platform from which the Marines can be deployed.’
As the daylight began to fade at Govan and the crowds made their way home, the Defender docked for the first time. To her port side was the bow section of the Duncan, her sister ship.
In the fabrication shed, the stern and midships are being crafted and, months down the line, another chapter in Glasgow’s shipbuilding history will be opened, another launch day will be planned, another Type-45, the sixth of the six, will take to the waters of her native River Clyde.