Prime Minister Edward Heath conducting workers from Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, in this 1972 cartoon by Bob Starret. Music was one of Heath's hobbies, and he occasionally appeared as guest conductor of an orchestra or choir.
Upper Clyde Shipyards was a consortium of five shipyards: John Brown & Co of Clydebank, Charles Connell & Co of Scotsoun, Fairfield of Govan, Alexander Stephen & Sons of Linthouse and the associate member, Yarrow's of Scotstoun. It was formed in 1967 but in 1971, after heavy losses, UCS went into receivership when the Conservative Government refused to grant a loan of £6 million. Rather than go on strike, which was the traditional form of industrial action, the union leadership decided to organise a "work-in" to complete the shipyards' existing orders and to make the case for continued investment in shipbuilding on the upper Clyde.
The Government continued to insist that there would be no further subsidy for "lame-duck" industries. Massive demonstrations in support of the shipyard workers took place on Clydeside. Shop stewards led by Jimmy Airlie and Jimmy Reid went to Downing Street for a face-to-face meeting with Heath. The Government began to appreciate that it had underestimated support for the case for continued shipbuilding on the Clyde.
The turning point came in 1972 with a telephone call to Downing Street from David McNee, Chief Constable of Glasgow. McNee warned the cabinet that if it attempted to use force to end the work-in, he could not guarantee order on the streets of the city. In a famous U-turn, Heath announced a £35 million injection of cash for the Glasgow yards (after Yarrow opted out of the group). Govan Shipbuilders was formed to manage the remaining yards at Govan, Linthouse and Scotstoun. The Clydebank yard was sold to Marathon Co, which was also provided with state subsidies.
Reference: GB 1847 G143
Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow Caledonian University, Research Collections, Archives
Alexander Stephen & Sons, cartoons, Charles Connell & Co, choirs, conductors, Conservative Party, demonstrations, Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co, Govan Shipbuilders, government subsidies, John Brown & Co, Marathon Co, prime ministers, River Clyde, shipbuilding, shipyard workers, shipyards, shop stewards, trade unions, UCS, Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, work-ins, Yarrow & Co