-the twentieth century

The Scotland Guide
© David Williams


In general, a wide variety of ships were made on the river, but while some yards` reliance on naval orders ensured a steady flow of orders before the First World War, the end of hostilities meant that they had to become active in seeking out new business. From then on there were periods of boom and slump, and while the prospect of war had ensured lots of naval work, periods like the Great Depression of the 1930s made the yards idle and put huge numbers of workers on the dole.

The Second World War was a busy period on the Clyde but by the 1950s there was drastic contraction in the industry. There were many reasons for this, including the results of low reinvestment, the emergence of new competition from the Far East, undercutting by government-subsidised foreign yards, fewer emigrants to the Americas and also cheap air travel. The government was forced to intervene in this crisis and in 1966 Upper Clyde Shipbuilders was formed as a means of restructuring the industry. This collapsed in 1971 and led to the workforce`s famous UCS `work-in` which gained support from all over the world. This quite remarkable action involved the men taking over three shipyards and controlling who and what went in and out of the gates. Although the yards` liquidator had declared many men redundant these workers were kept on and their wages paid by the large funds which were donated from all over the world. Eventually, the government was forced to do a `U-turn`, ensuring that there was at least some viable shipbuilding left on the upper reaches of the river.

This article is based on the guidebook "The Glasgow Guide".

The Finnieston Crane was used to lift boilers into newly-launched ships and also to transfer heavy cargoes such as railway locomotives into ships` hulls.

This imposing monument is one of the greatest reminders of Glasgow`s shipbuilding history.

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Echoes of the past
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The nineteenth century
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