Jimmy Reid – shipbuilder, trade unionist, setter of standards.

Jimmy Reid has died at the age of 78. Whatever your views on him and his achievements, he was an iconic figure and the work-in which he led was a well planned, disciplined show of the power of the workers.

He set standards at the outset to ensure that those taking the action would be taken seriously and not discounted as an ill-disciplined rabble. Far from it, in his speech in 1971 he made it clear just how the men should conduct themselves, declaring that “there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying” and there wasn’t.

Rather than walk out when it was announced that 6000 of the 8500 jobs on the Clyde were to go they ignored Maggie Thatcher’s plans and continued to work on the orders which were waiting until finally Ted Heath gave in and subsidised the industry to the tune of £35 million in February 1972. The Upper Clyde Shipbuilders had achieved their aim with dignity and an impressive show of unity.

In many ways this was reflected by similar action at the Robb’s yard during the dying days of the yard. Their sit-in was, unfortunately, met with greater resistance and despite the efforts of a stalwart final 6 men and their supporters, Robb’s was closed in 1984. More of that later in another post, but it seems to me that their action and their conduct were modelled on the example set by Jimmy Reid and his men.

Although I was only young at the time, the unrest in British shipbuilding did not escape me. Everyone’s concerns about British Shipbuilders’ take over were coming to a head, my Uncle Henry (the third Henry Robb at the yard) was at the yard at the time when the tide was changing. Those in the industry could see that changes in the world economy; the government’s attitude to shipbuilding; the changing role of ships in a changing world and the problems of demarcation were all combining to threaten shipbuilding across the UK including on the East coast of Scotland, and they were right.

Read “The Scotsman” article about Jimmy Reid at:


Copyright: Ruth Patterson 2010


About Ruth Macadam

Great Granddaughter of Henry Robb. School teacher.
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One Response to Jimmy Reid – shipbuilder, trade unionist, setter of standards.

  1. Pingback: Bruce Partington’s memories of Robb’s 1962-72 | Henry Robb's Shipyard

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