Collection SOHC 18 - Glasgow dock workers oral history project

Identity area

Reference code

GB 249 SOHC 18


Glasgow dock workers oral history project


  • 2009 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

13 digital audio files, 7 transcripts, 29 photographs

Context area

Name of creator

(Established 1995)

Administrative history

The Scottish Oral History Centre (SOHC) was set up within the Department of History at the University of Strathclyde in 1995. Since its foundation the SOHC has been involved in a wide range of teaching, research and outreach activities designed primarily to encourage the use of ‘best practice’ oral history methodology in Scotland. Until 2005, the SOHC was directed by Professor Callum Brown, since then by Professor Arthur McIvor.

Name of creator

(b. 1956)

Biographical history

David Walker completed his doctorate on ‘Occupational health and safety in the British chemical industry, 1914-1974’ in 2007. He has been a member of the Scottish Oral History Centre since 2010. His publications include

  • 'Working in it, through it, and among it all day: chrome dust at J & J White of Rutherglen, 1893-1967’, \Scottish labour history\ 40 (2005): 50-69
  • '"Danger was a thing that ye were brought up wi": workers narratives on occupational health and safety in the workplace’, \Scottish labour history\ 46 (2011): 54-70

Archival history

The project was conducted by David Walker of the Scottish Oral History Centre on behalf of Glasgow Museums. Copies of the recordings, transcripts and photographs were given to the Scottish Oral History Centre at the University of Strathclyde.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Transferred from Scottish Oral History Centre, 6 December 2017.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Oral history project, conducted in 2009 by David Walker of the Scottish Oral History Centre at the University of Strathclyde on behalf of Glasgow Museums, interviewing those who had earned their living working at Glasgow’s docks. A total of 17 men were selected as suitable for the project but in the end only 12 participated, with some becoming ill and others unavailable for interview. Although a smaller cohort was used than originally intended it did provide a representative sample of workers with experience of most of the docks that operated along the Upper Clyde at Glasgow and its environs. The group also had experience of many of the jobs undertaken such as electrician, plan maker and superintendent stevedore, plater, winch operator, checker, and crane driver. One additional respondent was interviewed who had never worked at the docks but had lived at Shiels Farm and had witnessed the opening of the still operational King George V dock in 1931. The average age of those interviewed was 72 with birth dates ranging from 1926 to 1947. All of the interviews were conducted at the respondent’s home with one exception which was conducted at the Scottish Oral History Centre.

The interviews were semi-structured in style which allowed the respondents to talk beyond their working lives. Hence the testimonies provide evidence of the daily work and conditions in which their working lives were undertaken but they also touch on other aspects of their lives, including family relationships, early job opportunities and trade union activities. The respondents were not only generous in donating their memories but also in providing photographic images which help illustrate the people interviewed, the types of ships that they worked on, buildings now demolished, and tasks undertaken such as handling large steel slabs, grain, coal or scrap iron. Although each interview was conducted separately there was some overlap in the recollections mainly due to the fact that many of the men knew each other as workmates and inevitably they were exposed to similar events in their careers.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

One of the interviewees wished to remain anonymous. Otherwise no access restrictions.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright: Scottish Oral History Centre and CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collections.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

    Language and script notes

    Physical characteristics and technical requirements

    Finding aids

    Allied materials area

    Existence and location of originals

    The original recordings, transcripts and photographs are at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, 200 Woodhead Road, Glasgow, G53 7NN (tel 0141 2769300, email

    Existence and location of copies

    Related units of description

    This collection is part of the Scottish Oral History Centre Archive.

    Notes area

    Alternative identifier(s)

    Access points

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    Description identifier

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        Accession area