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Upper Clyde Shipbuilders was a Britishmarker shipbuilding consortium created by amalgamating five major shipbuilders of the River Clyde in Scotlandmarker.



The Company was formed in 1968 from the amalgamation of five major Clyde Shipbuilding firms: Fairfields in Govanmarker, Alexander Stephens and Sons in Linthousemarker, Charles Connell and Company in Scotstounmarker, Yarrow Shipbuilders Ltd in Scotstounmarker and John Brown and Companymarker at Clydebankmarker.


In 1971 the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders went into receivership and the then Tory government under Edward Heath refused it a £6m loan.

Union strategy

Rather than go on strike, which was the traditional form of industrial action, the union leadership decided to have a "work-in" and complete the orders that the shipyards had in place. In this way they dispelled the idea of the workers being 'work-shy' and also wanted to illustrate the long-term viability of the yards.

The work-in was led by a group of young shop stewards, including Jimmy Reid, Jimmy Airlie and Sammy Barr all of whom were then members of the Communist Party of Great Britain. They ran a well organised campaign in which the shop stewards in each yard remained firmly in charge. Reid wanted to ensure the workers projected the best image of the yard workers he possibly could, and insisted on tight discipline. He famously addressed the workers at the yards where he instructed them that there should be "no hooliganism, no vandalism and no bevvying (drinking)".


Reid's tactics worked and public sympathy in the Glasgowmarker area and beyond was on the side of the workers who took part. This was backed up with demonstrations in Glasgow, one of which was attended by around 80,000 marchers. At one demonstration Tony Benn addressed those in attendance, and Matt McGinn and Billy Connolly (both former shipyard workers) offered entertainment to the gathered crowd. The campaign was also well backed financially, and at one meeting for the campaign Jimmy Reid was able to announce that the campaign had received a £5,000 contribution from Lennon, to which an attendee replied "but Lenin's deid! (dead)".


In February 1972 Heath's government relented and retained two of the yards (Yarrow and Fairfields, as Govan Shipbuilders), and sold off another (John Brown). Two major shipyards on the Upper Clyde (the former YSL and Govan Shipbuilders) remain in operation: as BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions, both owned by the defence contractor BAE Systemsmarker, focusing principally upon the design and construction of technologically advanced warships for the Royal Navy and other navies around the world.

Some commentators have remarked though that the work-in was hugely successful at halting the laissez-faire, free-market ideas that many in the then Conservative government wanted to implement (and which the later Thatcher Conservative government would go on to do).


  1. University of Glasgow Archives
  2. Modern Shandon shipbuilding boss Helensborough Heritage, 29 December 2008
  4. There will be bevvying The Scotsman, 16 July 2002
  5. Scran database
  6. Fighting Spirit of the Clyde
  7. Hollowell, Jonathan, Britain since 1945, Page 45

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