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Only top-level descriptions University of Strathclyde | Scottish Oral History Centre Collectie
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Asbestos-related diseases in the West of Scotland oral history project

  • GB 249 SOHC 4
  • Collectie
  • Original recordings, 1998-2000

27 interviews with sufferers from asbestos-related disease and/or members of their families. Sound recordings and transcripts (17), transcript only (10), or sound only (1). Also questionnaires.

Anonymity was assured to all project participants. Only Owen and Margaret Lilley (SOHC 4/14) opted out.

One recording had been mistakenly aggregated with this oral history project but was found not to relate to asbestos. As a result , there is no interview with the reference number SOHC 4/12.

McIvor, Arthur J., b. 1956, social historian

Coal miners and dust-related disease oral history project

  • GB 249 SOHC 6
  • Collectie
  • Original recordings, 2002, 2004-2005

Oral history project "Coal miners and dust-related disease" aimed to reconstruct the story of the human tragedy of coal miners' respiratory disease. It sought to "write the history of 'black spit' from its early discovery by Scottish physicians in the 19th century, through to the official recognition of coal workers' pneumoconiosis in 1942 and on to the campaigns to recognise bronchitis and emphysima as industrial diseases in the second half of the twentieth century that culminated in the landmark legal judgement in January 1998".

Of a reported number of 52 interviews undertaken, 27 survive as sound recording and transcript (14) or transcript only (13).

University of Strathclyde | Scottish Oral History Centre

Conversations with workers at the former Linwood car plant

  • GB 249 SOHC 1
  • Collectie
  • Original recordings, 1981-1985

A series of interviews with former employees at the motor manufacturing complex at Linwood, Renfrewshire, 20km west of Glasgow, Scotland.

Manufacturing activity first started at Linwood during WWII, under the government's shadow factory scheme, specialising in steel processing and gun barrels, managed by the Glasgow engineering company Beardmore's. After the war, the Pressed Steel company began to manufacture railway carriages, tractors, and body parts for cars and trucks. In the early 1960s, after government pressure, the Rootes car group built a new factory at the site, commencing the full-scale production of new motor-car models, including the Hillman Imp and the Avenger, massively expanding the Linwood site. The Linwood site was taken over by the American Chrysler corporation in 1967, and was again taken over by the French company Peugeot-Citroen in 1979. Following a prolonged period of financial difficulties and industrial unrest, the Linwood plant was closed by Peugeot in 1981. During its operation, Linwood was the only full-scale motor-car production facility in Scotland, employing 8,500 workers at its peak, one of the largest single manufacturing sites in Scotland. The former factory has now been demolished.

This project was a research project undertaken by Clifford Lockyer, an economist based at the University of Strathclyde, in the early 1980s. Lockyer had previously worked at the Linwood car factory, and in his own words, "sought to record the life of the Linwood factory from shadow war factory to closure".

The interviews cover the life-span of the entire plant, including a few workers who worked at the site during WWII. The evolving nature of the site, describing the varied work of the 1950s, is featured, including the production of car parts for Vauxhall, Ford, Rolls Royce, as well as the production of railway carriages, mostly for export, with India a main destination. The most significant development at the plant - the sudden move into full-scale car production in the early 1960s, and the resulting dramatic transformation of the site - is also strongly represented in the material (this expansion is often referred to in the material as a difference between the "south site" and the "north site"). Finally, the tumultuous years of the 1970s are also featured, including the events leading up to the plant's closure in 1981. Interviews cover a wide range of jobs roles at the plant, including operators, foremen, management, and trade union officials. A key division of labour at the site was between those operators in the "tool shops", and those who worked on the car assembly line "track", and both sets of workers are represented.

The overall flow of the interviews centres around the topic of industrial relations, which was Lockyer's specialist research area. Management policies, and their effects, as well as the changes in ownership are discussed by many interviewees. Management relationships with the shopfloor are frequently mentioned. Trade union activity at the plant is heavily featured in the interviews, and some interviewees describe their roles as shop stewards. Various industrial disputes and their consequences are also relayed in detail, including the trajectory toward plant closure. A large number of different trade unions operated at Linwood, and some workers describe the interrelationships and tensions between them, as well as the organisational structures and main personalities of each union group. Many workers also discuss their own attitudes and interactions with trade unions.

The Linwood plant was largely non-unionised in the 1950s, which some workers discuss, including its impact on working life. A strike in 1948, which led to the banishment of unions, is touched upon by a few interviewees. The unionisation process of the late 1950s, resulting in the comprehensive unionisation of the entire workforce, is featured in the material, including the impact on working conditions and management relations.

The working conditions of the workplace and the everyday routines of a car factory are highlighted. Interviewees discuss their own daily routines and the organisation of their particular work section. Some interviews go into detail about payment arrangements, including the "piece" system, and bonuses. The introduction of a nightshift in the 1960s is also mentioned. Health and safety risks are very occasionally alluded to. Workers discuss their own attitudes towards their job, their frustrations and motivations, and how this changes over time. The interviews feature discussion on day-to-day problems and difficulties at the site, commenting on production and design problems, as well as quality control.

Since many interviewees worked at the Linwood plant for many years, interviewees often comment on the rise and fall of the Linwood plant over time, making allusions to the wider economic and business climate. Interviewees chart the dynamics of changing workforce morale, changing work practices and changing management attitudes over time, and try to pinpoint "where it all went wrong", reflecting on reasons for the gradual demise of the Linwood plant and the motor industry in Scotland.

Finally, a handful of interviews feature the topic of women in the Linwood workforce. Women were typically employed in a few roles at the site, but changes to this configuration are also mentioned. One interviewee discusses how many women labourers were employed at the site during WWII, undertaking roles vacated by men. Another interview discusses how - in the late 1970s - women were employed in significant numbers in jobs which previously were exclusively performed by men, including on the car assembly line "track". At least one interviewee is a former female worker, who reflects on the lack of union representation among female workers.

Lockyer, Clifford, b. 1946, economist

Men's work in heavy industries in Glasgow oral history project

  • GB 249 SOHC 8
  • Collectie
  • Original recordings, 2005

Conversations between Neil Rafeek and witnesses of working life in the Clydeside heavy industries.

Includes notes and draft publications relating to a project about the working culture and notions of masculinity in Clydeside heavy industries.

University of Strathclyde | Scottish Oral History Centre

Glasgow dock workers oral history project

  • GB 249 SOHC 18
  • Collectie
  • 2009

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.

University of Strathclyde | Scottish Oral History Centre

Singer strike, 1911

  • GB 249 SOHC 2
  • Collectie
  • Original recordings, 1988

Conversations between members of Glasgow Labour History Workshop and former Singer employees, discussing working conditions and the strike at the Singer sewing machine plant in Clydebank, Scotland, March / April 1911.

Clydeside industrialists began to introduce scientific management practices in 1910. The Singer sewing machine plant in Clydebank became the site of the first explicit confrontation between capital and labour in Scotland resulting from the ensuing reorganisation of work processes. Within two days of twelve female cabinet polishers going on strike, the Singer works became paralysed as the majority of the 11,000 workforce joined in.

University of Strathclyde | Scottish Oral History Centre

Oral history project on the changing work identity of Govan's shipbuilders c. 1960-2016

  • GB 249 SOHC 33
  • Collectie
  • August - October 2016

Oral history project conducted in 2016 by Rory Stride as research for his undergraduate history dissertation, ‘“Proud to be a Clyde shipbuilder. Clyde built”: The changing work identity of Govan’s shipbuilders, c.1960-present.’ The collection comprises interviews with seven men who were employed as shipbuilders between c.1960 and 2016 at Govan’s three shipyards: Alexander Stephen and Sons, Fairfield’s, and Harland and Wolff. The interviews were conducted in a variety of places across Glasgow. The interview questions were semi-structured and largely directed by the responses of the participants. Topics discussed include trade unions, working conditions, occupational injury, masculinity, politics, staff camaraderie, redundancy and periods of employment at different companies. There is a focus throughout the interviews on indicators and expression of masculine identity including alcohol consumption, paid employment and macho attitudes in the yards. The interviews also cover the workers' interactions with the trade union movement, focusing on their experiences of strike action. In addition, some of the key episodes in the Clyde’s shipbuilding history during the twentieth century are covered including: the closure of Harland and Wolff; the closure of Alexander Stephen and Sons; the Norwegian company Kvaerner’s takeover of the Fairfield yard from British Shipbuilders in 1988 and the withdrawal of Kvaerner from Govan in 1999 which threatened the existence of shipbuilding on the Clyde heading in to the twenty-first century.

Stride, Rory, fl. 2016, student at University of Strathclyde

Chemical workers oral history project

  • GB 249 SOHC 7
  • Collectie
  • Original recordings and transcripts 2004-2005

Eight interviews conducted by David Walker in pursuit of his doctoral research on ‘Occupational health and safety in the British chemical industry, 1914-1974’ (PhD thesis, University of Strathclyde, 2007: http://strathprints.strath.ac.uk/6429).

The oral history project was designed to capture the human experience of working within the British chemical industry. The desired outcome was to find respondents with a range of job descriptions that had worked in different types of plant. Although comparatively small, the cohort interviewed represents a good coverage of the industry in that the plastic, chromate, explosive and fertiliser sectors are all represented.

In total, nine respondents were interviewed with one, Richard Fitzpatrick, being interviewed twice (Mr Fitzpatrick was 87 years old at the time and grew visibly tired during the first interview). Three respondents from Cheshire (who were related to one another) were interviewed as a group. Normally interviews were conducted on a one-to-one basis in the homes of the respondents although wives and other family members were also present in all cases, with the exception of one of the anonymous respondents from Dumfries who was alone.

The average age of those interviewed was 71, with birth dates ranging from 1917 to 1945. The employment histories of the respondents ranged from the late 1930s to the late 1970s.

All those interviewed were asked standard questions at the outset such as the respondent’s name, date of birth, where they were born, if they had brothers or sisters, if they had children, at what age did they leave school and what was their first job. Thereafter, in a relatively unstructured manner questions were asked of the respondents about the experiences they had in connection with the chemical industry.

With the exception of one former manager of a chemical plant all the respondents had worked as process workers or were related to family members who also worked as process workers. Why no former directors or technologists came forward to participate in this study cannot be explained by reference to the design of the recruitment material. One reason that may explain the general problem in recruiting respondents was made by two former process workers from Dumfries who admitted that their former colleagues had seen the recruitment article published in the local press but had refused to make contact because they were fearful that Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) would stop their pension if they talked to an outsider. Although ICI would not take such a step it is nonetheless interesting that former employees of the firm offered this as the reason for not sharing their memories.

Walker, David, b. 1956, historian

Scottish Oral History Centre Archive

  • GB 249 SOHC
  • Collectie
  • c. 1981 - present

The Scottish Oral History Centre Archive is an extensive collection of oral history recordings focussing on the history of work, occupational health and the social impact of de-industrialisation. Most of the recordings originate from projects carried out by Scottish Oral History Centre staff and students but there are also large collections of interviews originating from other organisations, for example Glasgow Museums and the Scottish Working People’s History Trust.

University of Strathclyde | Scottish Oral History Centre