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Modern Times: 1950s to The Present Day

Industry and Technology


By Michael Moss

UCS Cartoon In 1963 William Denny & Brothers of Dumbarton closed their yard, which had a reputation for innovation in design and construction. This event was the beginning of a series of closures along the length of the river. The problem was that there was no longer any demand for the products which had been the staple of the Clyde industry: warships, passenger liners, ferries and even traditional cargo boats. Shipowners wanted larger and more powerful vessels which most Clyde yards were too small to build. Fiercely independent, they were reluctant to amalgamate. The government intervened to form the ill-fated Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) in 1968 by merging the yards of John Brown's at Clydebank, Fairfields at Govan, Alexander Stephen & Sons at Linthouse, and Charles Connell & Co and Yarrow & Co, both at Scotstoun. Known to the workforce as Unconditional Surrender, UCS collapsed in 1971. The shop stewards led a work-in which forced the Conservative government to keep the Govan yard open.

River Clyde The whole of British shipbuilding was nationalised in 1977 but even this could not avert the inevitable collapse. By the end of the century there was only one shipbuilding business left on the upper reaches of the Clyde, the owners of the old Yarrow and Fairfield yards, which specialise in warship building. The collapse of shipbuilding since the 1950s had repercussions for many other industries across the city, which supplied the yards with materials and components. With new development along the length of the river there are increasingly few traces left even of the sites of many of the yards.

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