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Interview with William Galloway, ships plumber

Recording of an interview with William Galloway in 1989. William Galloway worked in the shipyards in Glasgow as a maintenance worker beginning in 1929 and retiring in 1979. He discusses lay-offs, the work environment, trade union membership, women entering the workforce, health and safety issues, leisure activities, the apprentice strike and sectarianism in the shipyards.

Interview with Alex Scullion, shipyard manager

Recording of an interview with Alex Scullion in 1989. Alex Scullion worked in the shipyards in Glasgow as a shipyard training manager. He discusses the working environment, fellow shipbuilders, moving between jobs, working as a shop steward, workplace politics, working conditions, improvements in working practices and disagreements between management.

Interview with Ernest Morren, shipwright

Recording of an interview with Ernest Morren in July 1989. Ernest Morren worked in the shipyards in Glasgow in a range of job roles from 1918. He discusses his life and upbringing that led to him working for the shipyards and speaks of colleagues, primitive conditions, work schedule, wages and job roles and projects worked on.

Interview with Tommy Stewart, blacksmith

Recording of an interview with Tommy Stewart in November 1989. Tommy Stewart worked in the shipyards in Glasgow as a blacksmith from the 1930's. He discusses his time working at the shipyards, trade union membership, education, his political upbringing, work activities, his family and housing conditions, wages and hierarchy in the shipyard.

Interview with Colin McEwan, marine engineer

Recording of an interview with Colin McEwan in October 1989. Colin McEwan worked in the shipyards in Glasgow as a marine engineer, starting at the age of 15 in the 1940s. He discusses the work environment in the shipyards, processes, tools and safety issues in the shipyards, as well as leisure activities that the workers participated in.

Interview with Pat McChrystal, foreman

Recording of an interview with Pat McChrystal in October 1989. Pat McChrystal worked in the shipyards in Glasgow as a foreman from the 1940s. He discusses his time working at the shipyards, facilities, wages, job roles, leisure activities, conditions, trade union involvement, involvement in the war, and promotion to foreman making him the first Catholic foreman at his yard.

Interview with Andy McMahon, boilermaker

Recording of an interview with Andy McMahon in November 1989. Andy McMahon worked in the shipyards in Glasgow as a boilermaker and a shop steward before becoming an MP for Govan. Andy discusses his time working at the shipyards, trade union membership, serving in the navy, travelling around Scotland and religious divides within the workplace and wider society at the time. He also speaks about his time as a member of parliament for Govan.

Interview with Alex White, shipwright

Recording of an interview with Alex White in October 1989. Alex White worked in the shipyards in Glasgow from the age of 14 in the 1930s and 1940s. Alex describes the work, tools and processes involved, as well as the working conditions and trade union membership.

Voices from the Yard oral history project

  • GB 249 SOHC 46
  • Collection
  • September - November 1989

Oral history project conducted in 1989 by Glasgow Museums with eight former workers in the Clydeside shipbuilding industry. The project documents, from the workers' own perspectives, life in Glasgow's shipbuilding industry in the 1930s and 1940s, and includes their recollections of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Based along the river Clyde in the west of Scotland, the Glasgow shipbuilding industry grew dramatically in the late 19th century, becoming one of the world's major centres of shipbuilding construction, employing tens of thousands of people in a host of different firms, constructing ocean liners, steamships and battleships, for export around the world. At the turn of the 20th century, Glasgow was responsible for a large proportion of the world's ship production. After suffering a severe downturn during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Glasgow shipbuilding industry went into terminal decline in the post-war decades, and by the 1990s was at a fraction of its former capacity.

The interviewees held the following occupations within the shipbuilding industry:

  • shipwright/boilermaker
  • 2 x shipyard blacksmith
  • 2 x shipwright
  • caulker
  • ship's plumber
  • marine engineer
    In addition, one of the interviewees (Pat McChrystal) describes in detail a myriad of other roles, and the overall process of ship construction.

The interviews reference a range of shipbuilding companies on the Clyde, including Fairfields, Alexander Stephen & Sons, and Harland & Wolff. As most interviewees spent most of their working lives in the industry, interviews chart the career trajectories of workers, often involving changes of role and employer, including time spent in the broader industrial marine ecology of the Clyde, such as the merchant navy and ship repairers. Comments are also made on wages, hours of work, the hierarchy within jobs, and differences in skilled/semi-skilled labour.

Most of the interviewees started their working lives in the 1930s and 1940s in the shipyards. Although the interviewees talk about their working lives across the decades, most of the specific detail focuses on their experiences in the yards in the 1930s and 1940s. The impact of the Great Depression of the 1930s is a notable feature of the material, and this period's effect on the shipbuilding industry on the Clyde is described. In particular, the interviewees outline the personal impact of the collapse in shipbuilding, describing the impact of periods of prolonged unemployment. The development of cycling and hostelling around Scotland as a popular leisure activity for unemployed men in the 1930s is also featured.

One interview is with Andy McMahon, a former shipbuilder, who was also the Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Govan, between 1979 and 1983. Leaving school at 14, McMahon became an apprentice in the Fairfield shipyard in the early 1930s and later became a trade union shop steward. McMahon describes his periods of unemployment during the depression of the 1930s, and details his emerging political consciousness in the shipyards in this period, which included membership of the Communist Party and being blacklisted for political activism.

The interviews cover the entrance of the worker into the shipbuilding industry, which was typically on leaving school, aged 14 or 15. The interviewees discuss parental attitudes towards employment, as well as the influence of fathers - who typically were also employed in the shipyards - in securing work. All entrants to the shipyards underwent a 5 year apprenticeship, leading to a skilled trade, and this apprenticeship period is heavily described in the material, including entrance examinations, rival gang fights, an apprentice strike in the 1930s, and the impact of the Great Depression.

The interviews also document everyday experiences in the workplace environment. There is material on interviewees' day-to-day routines, detailing the challenges and tasks required by specific roles within the shipbuilding process, often going into detail regarding specific industrial techniques, typically involving skilled manual labour. Interviews also cover the various tools and equipment used to perform specific roles, and comment is often made on the provision and availability of tools. Interviewees frequently discuss how they were expected to make their own tools. The impact of new technology in the shipbuilding industry is also touched upon.

The interviews also provide details of the working conditions in the shipyards. Interviewees often describe the conditions of the shipyards which they encountered on leaving school and starting work there. Frequent comment is made on the physical conditions of life in the shipyards (noise levels, extreme heat, working outdoors in winter etc), the provision of specialist equipment (or lack of), and the various strategies adopted to ameliorate demanding conditions. The sheer physical demands of the work is often commented on, and the provision of on-site facilities (eg. canteens, toilets) - or lack of - is also outlined. Interviews also cover the health and safety procedures (or lack of) in the shipyards, describing workplace accidents, workplace risks to injury, and exposure to hazardous substances, including asbestos.

The interviews also document industrial relations within the shipyards. Interviewees discuss their relationships with management, the distinct dress codes of different groups, and management attitudes towards workers. Interviewees also outline their relationships with foremen, who were responsible for day-to-day oversight of ship workers, described by one interviewee as "very powerful". Discussion also takes place on workplace discipline, and penalties for infringements. Interviews also feature material on the development of trade union activity in the shipyards, as well as the campaigns for improved wages and conditions in the 1930s. Workers also discuss their myriad grievances in relation to their working conditions: no teabreaks, low wages, no pension, no holiday pay, lack of tools, "hire and fire" culture. Some interviewees also reference Catholic/Protestant relations in the shipyards, detailing practices of discrimination and sectarian attitudes.

Some of the interviews feature life in the shipyards during WWII. Interviewees discuss the "boom time" of the industry, the changing focus towards warships and merchant fleet, and the new influx of people into shipbuilding. In particular, comment is made on the arrival of women workers in the shipyards during WWII, undertaking traditionally male roles.

Glasgow Museums

Conversation with John Rae, Anne Rae, Jane Rae, and Norman Rae

Arthur McIvor in conversation with kin of Singer striker Jane Rae, among them Jane Rae's brother John and her niece of the same name. Recorded either 13 May 1988 or 3 November 1988.

  • sound recording (1h 33m 57s), no transcript

Jane Rae (1872-1959) worked in the needle-making department of the Singer sowing machine works and was one of those who objected to American scientific management methods introduced at the factory. She was one of the 400-1000 (accounts vary) who were sacked for participating in the industrial action. Around the time of he strike, Rae became an ILP activist.

Giving voice. An oral history of British women who qualified as speech therapists between 1945 and 1970.

  • GB 249 SOHC 37
  • Collection
  • 2017 - 2019

Oral history project carried out by Jois Stansfield for MSc Health History at University of Strathclyde.

This is believed to be the first oral history of speech and language therapy in the UK. Early members of the speech and language therapy profession were recruited from retirement networks and via the professional body, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Interviews were held across England and Scotland, taking a life-story approach with each participant. Personal testimony, previously unheard, from these pioneers of the profession demonstrates the degree to which these women were products of their age, class and gender and the individual ways in which they negotiated challenges in their personal and professional lives.

Stansfield, Jois, b.1951, speech therapy historian

Oral history project on women’s experiences of work and closure at James Templeton & Company Ltd, Glasgow, c. 1960-1981

  • GB 249 SOHC 32
  • Collection
  • May - September 2018

Oral history project, conducted in May - September 2018 by Rory Stride, with women formerly employed at James Templeton & Co., carpet manufacturers, between c. 1960 and 1981. A total of six women were interviewed. The interviews last approximately between 45 minutes and 1 hour 15 minutes and were conducted at a variety of places across Scotland. The interview questions were semi-structured and largely directed by the responses of the participants.

The interviews focus on the women’s working lives and their first experiences of employment after secondary school but specifically exploring their experience of work at James Templeton & Co., the preeminent carpet manufacturers in Glasgow during the 1960s and 1970s. The company had seven factories, located in the east end and southside of Glasgow with the company’s Crown Street factory being the last to close in early 1981 when Templeton Carpets amalgamated with Stoddard Carpets. Topics discussed include trade unions, working conditions, gender divisions in labour, staff camaraderie, management and staff relationships, and periods of redundancy, unemployment and re-employment after leaving James Templeton & Co. The interviews also cover the women's feelings and opinions regarding the gentrification and redevelopment of the former headquarters and factory of James Templeton & Co. located at Templeton Street on the north eastern edge of Glasgow Green.

University of Strathclyde | Scottish Oral History Centre

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