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Shipbuilding on the Clyde

It is often said that Glasgow made the Clyde and the Clyde made Glasgow.
From a time in the 18th century when the river was shallow and silted, making navigation to Glasgow difficult a number of Victorian engineers deepened and widened the river leading to dock facilities that made it preeminent in shipbuilding in the early 20th century. Alongside other great British shipbuilding areas in Belfast, Liverpool, Sunderland, etc. Glasgow became a centre of shipbuilding excellence



In addition to access to a wide and deep river with dock facilities Glasgow also had a ready supply of workers, skilled and unskilled who could work togetherto build Atlantic liners and navy battleships.

Many Kilkie family members worked in the shipyards. James (Jimmy) Kilkie, b 1923 worked in a number of the yards including Fairfields in Govan through the 1960s. Jimmy was a skilled worker, a welder who supplemented the basic riveting technique used to join large plates of steel into waterproof ships. The work was hot and dangerous. Often Jimmy would come home with “splashes” where molten steel had flowed down through the eyeholes of his protective boots and burned through the leather into his feet. Often he would tell stories of workmates flattened or squashed when lifting large plates of steel went wrong. It wasn’t a safe place but it was a well-paid job for working class families.

The Glasgow yards were the birthplace of much of Scottish Socialism and the “Red Clydesiders” were instrumental in the formation of the modern Labour Party in the UK (not New Labour, which would have been hated).

Last modified onThursday, 22 December 2016 08:36

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