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​© 2017 by Cartsburn Publishing

REMINISCENCES

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  • The idea that I was part of history of Scotts' Cartsburn Shipyard make me saddened that the skyline of this area has long gone. This exhibition reminds me of the characters that worked in the yards; journeymen who passed on knowledge and the pride when that ship slides into the water. You were part of that ship. Witha launch bounty you toasted that ship. I toast this exhibition. Angus Campbell shipwright/plater 1971-77

  • "Good days - days of work and dignity for the working class - probably never to return

  • During the War my mother worked as a tracer in Scotts and in the sixties I worked in the wages department. All the girls sat in one long room to do the mens wages. Chrissie Buchanan, the supervisor, sat at a table at he top of the room watching us on the machines calculating the wages. The job satisfaction when you got the whole Electricians Department, for example, to tally up to the last half penny always got a round of applause. It was a great place to work. Irene Henry(nee Buchanan)

  •  22/2/2017 You've heard of the 3 men in a boat, well in Scotts at night we had the 5 fitters and a boat, daeing all the pipework, on the subs, rigs and the ships. We fitted mare pipes. valves and pumps than the day shift. We torque doon the Voith Schneider units, we fitted the thrusters on the Sea Explorer, John Williamson and I fitted oot the snake pit on the Orpheus. The night shift fitters in Scott's during the early 80's were, in charge wiz TY (Tommy Younger) , Wullie Heggarty, Peter Welsh, John Williamson and the apprentice, me. It was a pivotal time of my life and the memories are always there. The camaraderie was extremely strong amongst the men in the yards, it wiz like living in another dimension. I've never experienced that feeling since. Cheers fae doon under. Frank McGrath

"When I was a kid all you heard was the old rivet hammers and caulkers.. it used to rise and fall, the sound of the shipyards"

Mr Ramsay

 

"This is No.3 Ratho St. & Kincaids Engine shop.. they tested all the diesel engines for six weeks.. thump, thump, thump, thump, all night long. The cranes were working and the riveters were hammering. These people slept there, practically in the middle of the noise"

Bill Hendry, born 1916

 

"The charge hand had the power of God - he could say You're off. The men that were looking for work would stay out around the gate to see maybe  if the gaffer would come out."

Bill Hendry, born 1916

 

"First thing in the morning the boy , he'd need to go down before the horn blew and light his fire. And then after he got it lit he would cover it over wi' the char, till he had a wee red fire. now after he had it nice and red then we would start. He'd put his rivets in.... they used big tongs. You could just lift up the rivet and catch it by the head and sink it into the char and blow till they got red hot, then white hot. And then they started fizzing, and as soon as they were fizzing ye had to watch they didna burn the rivet. Out wi' it and shove it in the hole. And the holes had tae be filled up. And as soon as he had done that you banged, banged, knocked it right up. And then you held on and the riveter, two riveters, they hammered that rivet till they knocked it in flush."

 

"the song o' the Clyde a' these noises'"

Robert Rorison

 

With regards to pneumatic rivet guns "They were heavy but you got used to them.... it's a steel bullet and it hits the die and makes the die go oot. That's whats knocking the rivet doon..... the noise was terrible. The noise just knocked you crazy; you'd no ear plugs or muffs in them days. When I started my time there were 32 apprentices working in the yard. For every apprentice working in the yard there had to be four journeymen. So you can imagine the riveters that wis in the yard at that time. If you were on a bridge ye'd maybe get 12 squads of riveters plus three machine caulkers. It was oot o' this world, deafening."

Mr J Docherty, riveter in Scotts and Lithgows

 

"Everyone had a check number and I always remember my first check number was L27 and when you went into Scotts you shouted your number through a pigeon hole and out came a hand with the check number and you threw it into a box."

Jim Reynolds

 

"So the rivets, when the rivet boy took the rivet oot the fire, it had to be white hot. There was a slag came off it, the white hot metal would come off it.... Sometimes the rivet went cool before ye really got it staved in. You had to get a burner tae heat it for ye. All in all it was a tough job, it was really tough the riveting."

 

"When I started as a catch boy it wis hand riveters. This consisted of a rivet - boy, a holder-up and two hand riveters. There was a right hander and a left hander, so as the hammers wouldn't clash. They were the real, we used to call them the 'iron-men'. There was no blast fire, it was a hand fire. There was a handle on it and you had to pump it .... bellows on the bottom of it, you pumped and pumped air all the time. It was really hard work."

Mr J Docherty, riveter in Scotts and Lithgows

 

"Well on the shell of the boat I've seen me maybe put in six, seven hundred rivets a day. That's on the one day maybe the next I'd only get two hundred rivets"

Mr J Docherty, riveter in Scotts and Lithgows

 

"....After the war years... well Lithgow had a boat in the water every month.... they built a lot o' Clan boats.... oh aye there was plenty of work. Big change now. It's sad when you look at the riverside now all the cranes are disappearing now. It's sad when you think about it, no work. They say they're still after orders but if they get an order who's going ae build it? They've got no workmen, they've got no apprentices, there's nobody knows anything about it now."

Mr G.McLellan who worked in Hasties 1930 - 1976.

 

"You had to be in the yard at quarter tae eight or you were locked out, that was you. Then it came to pass that they brought in a quarter, that gave ye tae quarter tae eight tae eight o'clock tae get intae the yard. You were what they called quartered, but you were only allowed two quarters in the week"

Mr J Docherty, riveter in Scotts and Lithgows

 

The actor, Richard Wilson's father was timekeeper in Scotts

 

"I don't know if it was a cross between the hordes of Ghengis Khan or the gathering of the Gadarene Swine, but at five thirty when the horn blew there was about 3,000 men heading all over the place. Suddenly before the gates opened, one minute before, there was a mad rush. In many instances the gates failed to open. Eventually they had to put in electric motors, make them power operated, and such was the great herds charging Scotts gate that eventually they had to put policemen to stop the traffic as some people were seriously injured in the mad rush out of the gate, such was the joy to get home from working in such conditions."

Mr J Reynolds

 

"At that time of course the Lower Clyde bustled with activity. There were Scotts of Greenock, there was the Greenock Dockyard called 'Klondyke', there was John Browns and James Watt Dock which was called 'Siberia', there was the Kingston Yard, Hamiltons, Dunlops and Lithgows - Inch Green St to Coronation St practically and you had Lamonts Castle Yard in Port Glasgow. So when your job was finished or one ship was launched and one ship went on its maiden voyage you did the rounds of all the yards. You got to know the foremen and you went up and saw him and ask him if he was looking for any men. He said 'Yea' or 'Nay' as the case may be and the bush telegraph - it was amazing how it worked"

J Reynolds

 

"Can you understand a situation where you are confined in the one ship for at least 18 months with 500 men of all different complexions - some brilliant - in fact I learned all about Greek Mythology from one old labourer. Another labourer, an electricians' labourer, was a great mathematician"

J Reynolds

 

"You can't tell a man's job by his clothes any more, and you could nearly always do that in my day. A shipwright wore a monkey-jacket, and the top button had to be brass. A rivetter, well a rivetter had moleskins, dark-coloured, with straps round the knees; and a joiner, he was cleaner dressed than the average, and he wore a stiff collar with no tie"

D.D. Graham, 1956

 

"It's about Big Donald Livingston. This squad of Donalds was gey fond of a pint, and Donald was gey fond of a pint himself. They used to go down to a wee pub in Baker Street when they had the price of a drink, and when they hadn't Big Donald had a way of getting it. He'd convince the foreman that one of his men had to be paid off on the spot right there and then, and when he got his money the whole squad adjourned to the wee pub. The plate would be heating while they were there, so there would be no time lost. The next day Donald would convince the foreman that he couldn't get on without this man, who as it happened was at the gate ready to start. The gaffer knew fine what was going on, but it was a hard working squad. It was a terrific job... heat, heat, heat all the time... and a good squad was worth keeping together."

Alexander Campbell, Head Foreman Fitter, Rankin & Blackmore, 1955

 

"I'm not one for talking about the good old days. The old days weren't all that good. We build better ships now, and we're building them under conditions that are cleaner, easier, and safer than anything I knew in my young days."

James Trann, Engineer, Lithgows, talking in 1953

 

"The sounds of the Yard in those days are clear in my memory; caulking mallets on a sunny day, and the wonderful rhythmic sound of the rivetters at work with their plying hammers, the sweat pouring off them, and each with his bully-beef tin of water by his side"

Stanley Martin, Lithgows Drawing Office, talking in 1954

 

"People worked harder during the war because it was always at the back of their mind if they didn't work they would be going to the army"

Archie Kennedy,

In his youth, John Calderhead worked in Cartsburn Dockyard insulating submarines, a messy process involving copious amounts of candles, bitumen, cotton tape and grey varnish. Work over, a varnish-covered John visited the paint shop, asking the nearest bystander about the best thing to remove the muck from his forearms. "Use the stuff in that barrel there, " the man replied. After John did so, he needed his arms bandaged for a fortnight: he'd been advised to use paint-stripper. John still blames himself for his verbal inaccuracy: "I should have said 'safely remove'."

_______________________________________________________

Name; Year Born; Job Title(finishing)

 

Alex Carruthers  DOB 07/08/1945    Apprentice Draftsman Scotts 1961-63

 

2. Can you tell us about your apprenticeship? 1st day impressions?

 

Willie Nicol was my Leading Draftsman and Mr McCrae was the Head Draftsman at the time.

My apprenticeship was mainly on the building and modifications to Leander Class frigate (HMS Euryalis) and submarine projects and for a young lad, this was the bees and ees.

My daily life was full of technical drawings, visits to the yard and of course, the old Watt College in Greenock for the ONC in Naval Architecture course.

 

3. What were the working conditions like?

 

The Drawing Office was at the top of the entrance building and was bright and busy.  It shared space with lots of  ladies supporting the DO making the environment friendly and open.  Each draftsman has his long drawing desk and work space and was allocated work by the Leading Draftsman responsible for a particular Job (Ship).

 

4. What were the people you worked with like?

 

Interesting, helpful, generous and realistic about the future of the yards at that time.  Some were fairly pessimistic whilst others of a more senior age seem resigned to the changing age.  All were excellent at their craft with artistic and meticulous drawing skills.

 

5. What was the social life like? Were you part of any clubs etc..?

 

I was a member of the darts club in the Drawing Office, and the Social Club for Snooker in the evenings.  
The Drawing Office would have very professional darts competitions with time plans, programmes and a prize at the end.  I remember being runner up on one competition.

 

7. Overall – what was It like to work for Scotts?

 

The work was not well paid  and the Christmas bonus was eagerly awaited to supplement the wages.  But conditions for the Drawing Office staff were better than others.

My management were approachable and sincere, and my working time at Scotts was relatively fascinating.  To watch a ship came together from pencil and paper, with the help of teams of skills from pattern maker to welder, from electrician to carpenters and so on, was sheer magic.

 

8. How do you feel about how shipbuilding finished in Greenock?

 

The demise of shipbuilding in Greenock was inevitable and as a result of  many reasons which I now understand.  One main regret is that there is little or  no residue of the yard left for posterity and history-----nothing for visitors to see, or research, enjoy, experience or learn from.  Its as though the importance of and the history of shipbuilding has almost been wiped out in Greenock.  Thank goodness for the few who captured some of the time in photographs and print.

Although easy to look back and criticise, the rapidity of new technologies and the change in working attitudes was not adopted quickly enough by the yards or people to allow survival in the long term. 

 

9. Do you have any favourite stories? Anecdotes?

 

Whilst not a story as such, my recollection of the Drawing Office in-house newspaper was hilarious. Using the artistic talent of the staff and the ground breaking humour of the Greenock soul, made this newspaper a treat.  The cartoons of the staff current at the time made them instantly recognisable and the subliminal text of the writing of events of that moment made for hysterical reading and a led to a strong bonding with the Drawing team.

 

10. Is there anything you would like to add?

 

In my not so long time with Scotts – I have been left with a whole life experience and memories of its people and the wonder of the skills that built ships.   I feel that there is an element of privilege in being a small part of its history and wished that I had appreciated and captured more at the time.

_______________________________________________________

 

Willie Forsyth, on left, Foreman Engineer on submarines. His daughter, Jacqueline came in and told how he died at 64ish – they think through some sort of cancer – probably asbestos related but he didn’t want to do anything about that. She thinks that perhaps they should have done something because her family was affected financially with the loss of the main bread winner but it was too late. Very typical of that generation of man – accepting what was happening and not making a fuss until it was too late. He was best friends with Buck – Alex Buchanan. She recalls a vivid memory of her dad polishing his work shoes every night – recalling the beautiful black shine. He stayed till the end and like others saw the effect it had on him – the stress of not having something to get up for work – a meaningful days work– the start of mental issues. He would be up at his normal time – early – but with nothing to do. Treated badly by Trafalgar House

--

Jim Jenkins

Born 2/7/1938

Drawing Office Manager

 

Started as Office Boy, 1953, in Shipyard Buying Dept.

Filing and delivering purchase order copies and deliver notes to all yard departments which allowed me to visit most of the yard departments and witness their function within the construction of the ships.

Interesting characters were old Jock Chalmers, in his early 80's working on shell plating and Jock Lindegreen, in his late 70's looking after the frame bending. Their work was very manual and in fact a lot of the frame bending was carried out by hand, heating the frames in large furnaces and hammering to shape to moulds supplied by the Moulding Loft.

One of the most fascinating characters was the model maker, whose name escapes me, who produced the half models of current builds for use by the Drawing Office to mark out frame lines and shell plates. He also produced some  full ship models ,although even at that time they were being phased out.

Early impression when leaving the Buying Department and entering the Drawing Office as an apprentice draughtsman was as if I was entering a different world.

A lot of the senior draughtsmen were of advanced age ( one had been in the Royal Flying Corps during the first world war), everyone wore old ink stained jackets ( this, a result of cleaning their drawing pens) and the jackets were elbowless from leaning constantly on the Drawing Board. Many of the draughtsmen had calluses on their elbows from leaning on the flat boards which were 4 to 5 metres long to cater for some very long drawings

The drawing office at that time was in the loft space above the Joiner Shops and the Moulding Loft, with skylight windows no air conditioning

or proper ventilation. It could be freezing in the winter months and reach almost unbearable temperature in the summer. As the normal code of dress was collar and tie I can remember the then Assistant Chief almost blowing a gasket when, George Byng, our current senior weightlifting champion, stripping to his vest when the temperatures soared into the 90's.

At that time all of the senior draughtsmen had specific drawings that they were responsible for producing, and they produced these drawings for ship after ship.

Tea breaks at that time were not allowed but were unofficially taken, with the management turning a blind eye as long as the tea cups etc were not in plain view.

There were a great crowd of lads in the DO and through friendship with some I was introduced to the Rankin Park weightlifting club and the Greenock Mountaineering Club.

There was also the annual Halkshill Cup Golf outing, organised by the company. It was playing in this competition that I discovered that one notable director could not count!

All in Scott's was a good company to work with and it was good to witness the high level of craftsmanship within the Shipyard and Engineering departments.

Lots of these craftsmen are still working in the off-shore industry and various other industries throughout the world and are a credit to the training they received locally.

The demise of shipbuilding was tragic and I'm sure that greater efforts could have been made to sustain a viable industry, not only in Greenock but elsewhere in the country., but lack of investment and the political will, across all parties was partly to blame for the run down of the industry'

There were of course other factors outwith the control of the industry that needed political intervention.

Anecdotes- Only one that I can think of occurred when we had Hong Kong trainees in the DO gathering experience and on the occasion of one of them returning to Hong Kong on of the Greenock lads asked him ' you will be looking forward to going back?'. A blank look came over the Chinese lads face and he quizzically enunciated slowly ' looking forward ? To going back?' 

I hope this is of some interest

 

Jim Jenkins

Jim Eardley

 

Worked in X-ray dept at Scotts – remembers finding two tins of spam in between the skins of an Australian sub in for refit. – the sub was full of cockroaches. Remembers on the Pacnorse one guy being asked to empty the moon pool – worked with Burkes or something. It is of course impossible to empty the moon pool as it is in fact the Clyde. Hated working on the legs of the rigs – there were always people above you – things dropping etc..

Dangerous job – their monitors were always beeping – due to amount of radiation. One of the tricks was when they used to put all the plates out people used to think that they had to process each plate one at a time. They took all at the same time but could then have rest etc..

 

They used to wash all the x-rays into the sink – i.e. into the Clyde until someone came along and asked for the residue – which had silver and other materials. They used to get a cut of the profits via their manager(all buckshee of course).

“During the War my mother worked as a tracer in Scotts and in the sixties I worked in the Wages Dept.

All the girls sat in one big room to do the men’s wages.

Chrissie Buchanan, the Supervisor, sat at a table at the top of the room watching us on the machines, calculating the wages. The job satisfaction when you got the whole Electricians Department, for example, to tally up to the last half-penny always got a round of applause. It was a great place to work!”

 

Irene Henry(nee Buchanan)

HUGH MCINTYRE

 

SCOTT’S SHIPBUILDING & ENGINEERING Co. SCOTTS ENGINEERING Co
1964-1965, and 1967-1980

 

I started as a draughtsman in Scotts Engine Drawing Office in 1964 after two spells in a similar capacity with Babcock & Wilcox (Renfrew) and one with Fergusons (Port Glasgow). These came after I left the Merchant Navy in 1959. Before the MN I’d served my apprenticeship as a fitter with John G Kincaid before transferring to their drawing office. Until they settled somewhere in their maturity, draughtsmen moved around a bit, here and abroad - indeed, they were half expected to, to get experience.

 

The Scotts advert I replied to said seagoing experience would be an advantage. At that point, I still wore the MN tie, and more than once I was asked by a Shipping Company Superintendent on a visit to the DO, “Who did you sail with?’ This question would never be asked nowadays. It wasn’t idle curiosity on their part, more an assessment of who they were talking to.

 

The office building was right at the back of the works, long side parallel to the railway, running west to east. On the way in, we passed the posh entrance and walked along the roadway between the building and the railway wall to the tradesman’s entrance, then up three flights of stairs. The Drawing Office was on the top floor, with the clocking in clock just on the right through the entrance. Ranged along the left as one went in were, in order: (1) a small room where the messengers lived - they took drawings, etc, to and from the office ; (2) the gents’ cloakroom with substantial steel racks for hanging coats - when feeling stiff, some of us would spend a few minutes hanging by the arms from these, to allow the muscles, etc, to straighten out - and the windows gave a view over to Baker’s Brae, just the thing to relieve eyes that were tired after too long on close up things, as per advice to draughtsmen that was often ignored ; (3) the gent’s toilet, one cubicle having a lock to which only management had a key. Near that end was the stairway down to the print room and the drawing safe, also the hot water boiler for tea. Running up the right hand side was the separate tracing office, glassed in - later on, they ceased to use tracers, and the shafting squad moved into the vacant space. The tracing office occupied more than half the length of the DO on that side (the railway side) - then there was the Chief Draughtsman’s office and his secretary’s office. Counting from the clocking in end, there were the two pipe arrangement squads (they were never referred to as sections) running up the middle of the office - Archie Crawford’s then Colin Ferguson’s - then the turbine squad and, lastly, the submarine squad run by Bob McKaig. Alex Dempsey’s shafting squad ran up left hand side, followed by the diesel engine squad. At the far end was the separate design office.

 

Scotts drawing boards were the same as those I’d left behind in Kincaids in 1956 and Fergusons in 1963, long and almost horizontal, only slightly inclined on wedges. Babcocks had vertical boards with sliding straight edges. For some reason the flat boards were called “ulcer boards” - Scotts retained them at least till I left in 1980. They suited Scotts way of working, which involved lots of paper. I didn’t have strong views one way or the other - I worked with what I was given.

 

I was assigned a board in Colin Ferguson’s section - I took over a set of drawings started by Alex Stewart, who was going back to being a plant draughtsman. He had done the greater part of the Steam Systems for the R.F.A Resource - Superheated, Saturated, and Waste and Exhaust. I hadn’t much to do beyond finishing off the drawings and detailing the pipes for manufacture by a firm in England whose name has slipped my memory. My pipe detailing procedure was based on what had been standard with Babcocks, and it raised a few eyebrows in Scotts. Babcock detailed the whole geometry of the pipe, whereas Scotts (and other shipyard related places) left a lot of it to the plumber and coppersmith. However, Messrs so and so were Babcock oriented, and everything fell into place. For pipes made in Scotts I reverted to the Scotts way of doing it. Less trouble that way.

 

One day in 1965 I decided to go home at midday - we lived on Newton Street. Waiting at the bus stop, a colleague passed me the Scotsman and drew my attention to a job advert. The Odense Staalskibsvaerft in Denmark were looking for draughtsmen. I applied, and in July 1 sailed for Denmark.

 

My association with Scotts resumed in November 1967, a few months after I’d come back to the UK in April. I had spent a short period with Yarrows in Scotstoun, not the easiest place to get to without a car.. Little had changed since 1965 - there were still people working on Engine No 790, RFA Resource, though the ship had been delivered. I can’t recall whether I was first assigned to Colin Ferguson or Archie Crawford. Staff moved between these two squads to suit the requirements of Colin and Archie. We didn’t always shift boards at such times, which could lead to odd confrontations. Once I was physically in Archie’s squad, but doing some work for Colin. I opened a cupboard to consult a file within, as I had been used to doing. Quick as a flash, Archie was upon me to point out that the file didn’t belong to Colin Ferguson, so I should leave it alone and go look for one of Colin’s. Archie could be irascible, but he never held a grudge. Life was never dull in his squad - one had to be able to take it as well as give it with him. Many a ding dong we had, all forgotten five minutes later. I used to end arguments about the job by promising to do exactly as he was insisting I should do. At this, he would look at me suspiciously then go away, only to come back after a few minutes and accuse me sociably of being an awkward so and so, before asking me what the problem was. By contrast, Colin was quite urbane - I don’t recall ever hearing him raise his voice. Colin told me he only expected to be consulted if I needed his help in ”political” negotiations with other departments.

 

Some memories.
More than once we were amused to read in the Telegraph that Scotts had secured an order for such and such, when we’d been working on it for months.

 

At a certain (early) stage in a job, the foreman plumber, John Barnett, would appear in the DO and head for whoever was doing the Underfloor Pipe Arrangement. If he hadn’t already got one, he’d negotiate for an advance print of the Plan View. Getting that print off him when later prints were to be issued was sometimes difficult, since all his planning was on it.. Print or no print, he would inquire about the positions of double bottom tank air pipes. These air pipes were run up the shipside by the plumbers, and they liked to get them in early. Inquiries would continue until action was taken, or at least started. And round about the same time the Ship DO would be looking for positions of double bottom tank manholes from the same draughtsman. Manholes competed for position with pump seats and sounding pipes, so priorities had to be discussed with those concerned at an early enough stage for there to be room for manoeuvre. Diplomacy and the ability to tell the future were handy skills.

 

A variety of board games were played during the dinner break, though not all at once. Games went in and out of fashion. Shove ha’penny was one, and for a while there was a strange game someone had got from Playboy magazine that had nothing to do with nude women. I’m told some played cards, but I don’t remember card games.

 

Until it ceased to happen through social changes, once a year the male Engine DO staff would organise what in earlier times would have been called a “smoker”. All dressed up, we would gather at a hotel in Gourock for a drink and a meal. This was probably followed by an entertainment in which those who could sing, sang, but I haven’t got a clear memory of such. It may well have been so, for it was so with Babcock’s, where we used to get the train from the station at the works along to the Brabloch Hotel on a line Dr Beeching got rid of. By 1980, when I left Scotts, the annual outings had lost their original atmosphere, and they eventually dwindled into a night out at a pub before fading away altogether.

 

On Fair Fridays, and the day of the Christmas break, the works didn’t so much close as drift to a stop, but the DO used to be obliged to soldier on. Sometimes this was a bit farcical, when all the drawings and files had been put away, and the boards removed to leave the support tables bare for the electricians to stand on while seeing to the lights over the holiday. On one such occasion, the sight of so many draughtsmen sitting around idly caused the powers that be to wonder, and we were told we could leave 10 minutes early, as long as we left in small groups. We walked out backwards in twos and threes, in the spirit of the season, which greatly puzzled the powers that be. The following year, a few of us had arranged to meet wives or sweethearts in town after stopping time, assuming the worst as per the year before. However, in an access of goodwill, management said we could leave early, but it was absolutely pouring down, so we said, “No problem, we’ll work on.” We didn’t work on, of course, but we stayed till the rain stopped. We saw no point in getting soaked - there was no Mall at that time. Once again, the powers that be were puzzled, but they could hardly throw us out. The latter did happen in Kincaids DO one Fair Friday. Around 3.00, the entire place was empty, works and offices, all bar the residue from the DO knocking off party. Security ejected us on the grounds they had to lock up. Nowadays it would be elfin safety.

 

Just before the summer and winter holiday periods, everything was put away in its place - if it had one, which was sometimes not the case. In Scott’s we used large folders to hold folded prints of drawings received from other offices and firms. Much of the time, most of the drawings were out, so the most recent folder had plenty of room in it. Come the day before the summer or Christmas break it was spring cleaning time and 4 people at the last minute tried to get 6 drawings each into a folder that was already 8” thick and bursting at the seams after others had stashed away their stuff using crowbars.

 

Hector McGregor ran the diesel squad at one point. Hector came from up river, and he wasn’t the type one would associate with practical jokes, which worked in his favour at times. Once, he secreted a squeaky cushion in his desk drawer and squeaked away with it, all the time loudly demanding to know who was doing it. None of those searching for the culprit suspected Hector.

 

The Work
Here is the list of ships I worked on. Unless there were changes to a ship in a group after the first one, drawings were only done for the first one.
Eng Nos 808, 809 and 811, bulk carriers for World Wide Shipping. World Hong Kong and World President. What about 811?
Bulk carrier, Eng No 810.
Bulk carrier, MV Ingeren, for Jebsens, Eng No 814.
Bulk carrier, EngNo 816.
Products tankers for BP, Eng Nos 820, 821, 822 and 823. MV British Tweed, etc.
A vessel for the Great Eastern Shipping Co, Eng No 832. MV Jag Priya. Only one?
Underwater research vessel URVO1, HMS Newton, Eng No 835. (Still sailing)
Deep sea drilling vessel, Ben Ocean Lancer for Ben-Odeco, Eng No 840. (Still sailing)
Deep sea drilling vessel, Pacnorse I, for Jebsens, Eng No 843. (Still sailing)
Three vessels for Ocean Fleets (used to be Alfed bIt & Co), Eng Nos 849, 850 and 851.
MV Maron, MV Myrmidon, MV Mentor.
LbS Tobruk, a vessel for the Australian Navy, drawings only, Job No 8850. (1 don’t know its status)
HMS Challenger, the SOV, Seabed Operations Vessel, Eng No ??? (Yard No 752). (Still sailing)
Ships not noted otherwise have been scrapped.
I left Scotts on 14-3-1980.
Hugh Mcintyre
30-4-2011

My name is Frank Lopez. I live and work in Kirkcaldy, Fife, now. However I am Greenock born (21-06-54) and served my Apprenticeship as a Fitter in the Scotts Engine Works and Cartsburn Yard.

In fact, in the photograph you have posted in last Wednesday’s Tele, of the Sulzer Engine (No 833) I am the person bottom right leaning on the pipes.

I worked at Scotts from 1969 till 1975 when I went to sea with Ben Line Steamers.

I started at Scotts when I was 15 years old, too young for the apprenticeship, they started me in the Mail Office with another lad named Graeme and two Ladies. Miss Gair was the head post mistress and Miss Frazer who was actually the limousine driving Chauffeuse for the Directors and VIPs used to help out with the Mail. My duties were to collect the mail from the GPO, sort and deliver the mail to the Directors (Mr Ross Belch etc), managers and departments all over Cartsburn and Cartsdyke Yards. twice a day. Late in the afternoon Miss Gair or sometimes Miss Fraser would Log every outgoing letter into a large ledger and we would “frank” the mail and deliver them to the GPO at the end of the day.       

                I started the first day of my apprenticeship at the Scotts Training Centre in Garvel Dock. It was a bit daunting with what seemed like hundreds of 16/17 year olds. It was quite strict and seemed to me a bit borstal like. We were split up into groups and rotated round all trades over the months including so called “black trades”, Plating, Welding, Sheet Metal work and Finishing Trades, Bench Fitting, Turning and Machining and a bit of Electrics. For some reason we spent some weeks travelling up to another training centre for Engineering at Hillington.

                2nd year I started in the Engine Works where firstly I worked in G Dept under the Foreman Jimmy Hart doing bench fitting, drilling etc. Sam Hutchieston was the Engineering Manager.

From there I progressed to F Dept carrying out sub assemblies and main engine assemblies (as photo in tele). We worked on the engine test trials, and strip downs for transporting down to the yard. The Chargehand was wee Donald Kennedy.

We had a bonus system where we were given a time to do a job and if you completed before time we were paid a bonus. There were certain jobs like removing sand and cleaning up castings (sand dancing) that paid “shop average” We had to negotiate the bonus payments with the bonus clerk Jim Jamieson.

I met a lot of good friends there. Alex Thompson was my mate. He was a “Slinger”. I became good friends with Bill Thomson in the Engineering Stores and also guys in the Pattern shop.

                3rd Year I was transferred down to Cartsburn Yard installing the Engines and pumps and auxiliaries in the ships. I remember we worked on BP tankers, British Forth and Tweed etc.

We went on sea trials with the ships where the apprentices monitored temperatures, pressures etc.

                4th year I was back up at the Engine Works. Our Apprenticeship Supervisor Arthur Hay told us that the Engine Works Drawing Office was looking for Apprentices with promise to do some extra time in the drawing office and become a Draughtsman. Just as my time was out I eventually moved up to the drawing office and worked in the Submarine Squad under Ronnie Shaw and Derrick Marshall.

The Engineering Director Mr Johnston Robb was a nice man. He used to give me the keys of his Rover 3500 car to go and take his wife for her groceries. They lived in South Street if I remember correctly.

In the Submarine squad I did minor designs and drawings. The subs were the Oberon Class being built For the Austrailian and Chillean navy. I used to go down to the yard to inspect the submarines and take sizes etc and alter the drawings to “as fitted” status. The two apprentice Fitters that went up to the Drawing Office were myself and my mate Andy Scott who eventually went to work as a Draughtsman for British Aerospace. I wanted to go to sea and after a year or so in the office decided that Draughtsmanship was not for me. Mr Robb spoke for me to Ben Line Steamers management as we were designing and building the drillship Ben Ocean Lancer at the time. I joined the Merchant Navy in 1975 but have always harked back to the happy days of my apprenticeship with Scotts. (By then Scott Lithgow)

1. Name; Year Born; Job Title (finishing)
Donald R. Ross; Born 1936; Draughting Manager.


2. Can you tell us about your apprenticeship? — 1st day impressions
I spent a couple of months as an Office boy before starting my apprenticeship as a draughtsman in 1951. My early impressions were of working in a very small way in an extremely large place and being sent constant errands to just about every department in the Yard leaving a lasting impression of the variety of trades required to build ships. I remember my first venture walking below a large cargo ship on its berth, It was a vast forest of tree trunks supporting the ships steel bottom of which was surprisingly flat ; a dark place, not for the claustrophobic. During your apprenticeship you would often be required to visit a ship in the Yard to check whether there were any differences between the drawings and the finished article. I can remember going into an Engine Room which was cloudy with asbestos dust. Asbestos was widely used at that time to lag the exhausts and various other pipes etc... The adverse health problems associated with this practice was at that time little understood. On the other hand you could find yourself having to climb on exposed scaffolding with very few, if any, safety rails.


3. What were working conditions like?
In our Drawing Office each draughtsman had his own 4 to 5 metre long drawing board to lay out his drawing etc. The Office at that time was in the Loft of the building with skylights along both sides. The place was often too cold in Winter (especially on Monday mornings) and we frequently had to work with our coats on! (The ‘Chief had an electric heater in his glass office though!) Quite a different story in the yard itself where men often had to work in harsh weather conditions. Even in the big sheds it was freezing and damp and of course many were handling cold steel. The staff used to hand in discarded jackets and jumpers for the men because their clothes very quickly became worn out. This was in the 50’s when there were no special overalls or boots etc..


4. What were the people wu worked with like?
In such a big Office (about 70 draughstmen and 15 female tracers) there were the usual variety of hard workers and skivers. In the main though we were hardworking. The banter was great. The age range 15 to 65 (one or two older) and most of the older men encouraged and helped the young ones in learning their trade. The Office camaraderie was brilliant.


5. What was the social life like? Were you part of any Clubs etc?
Occasionally we had bowling (grass) competitions between the various Departments in the Yard and other Yards but like the Cricket matches preceding them they died out by the ‘70s. The Office annual dances were good. I used to make up the big programmes for them — very structured affairs (a far cry from the jungle moves of today). Hair was let down at New Year, of course, (only one day off (i.e. New Years day) and a blind eye was turned when for instance I marched up the Office (after lunch I) playing my accordion. There were quite a lot of fit competitive young types in the Office and at lunchtimes we used to do gymnastics, swing and do pull ups on the steel rod roof spreaders and arm wrestle. We also dangerously played football on the flat roof of the adjoining building with a ball made of taped up paper. A group of us also spent many weekends hill walking and climbing, especially in the Winter. I remember one freezing morning reaching out of the tent to get my boots and when I lifted them by the laces one of them snapped — no fancy sleeping bags, air beds or GPS in these days!!! During the Sixties some of the workers in Scotts, including those in the Drawing Offices were members of Scotts’ Car Club. We used to compete by rallying on Saturdays — following vague instructions which if solved led you a merry dance around Renfrewshire and far flung place such as Stirling etc. I, with another draughtsman navigating (Jimmy Strapp from Kim) proudly won one of these Rallies. I talked to him a couple of years ago and he still had his wee trophy as have I. I also still have the Scotts Car Club badge.

6. What was it like bringing u a family in the Area during this time?


It was uncommon for our wives to work after our children were born. In fact many like mine didn’t work until the children left school. I suppose our wages must have been comparatively good then right enough. I still have some very old wage slips. When our children were young we lived within sight of the Shipyard and I often took them round the Yard while the ships were being built. This, I believe, instilled a sense of pride in them especially when they saw the finished product knowing their Dad had been part of it. Sadly with so many people now working in Service Industries this link has been lost.


7. Overall — what was it like to work for Scotts?
This varies by date — my marks out of 10 are:

1950 - 1975 Brilliant 10 out of 10
1975 -  1980 Going down 7 out of 10
1980 - on Terrible 1 out of 10 (1 is for the money!)


8. How do you feel about how shipbuilding finished in Greenock? Deep anger tinged with sadness.

I never worked for Scott's but my Grandfather did Dugald McAlpine and as a family we were taken to many of the launches where we were all made to feel very important all dressed up in our Sunday best.

On those occasions my Grandfather was so proud explaining in full every detail of the ship, submarine.

The men who worked for my Grandfather also made me a pair of stilts and how my Grandfather managed to get them out through the yard gates is beyond me, though I am led to believe that many things made there way out of the gates at the end of each day.

Though my Grandfather was very proud of his work, he would often tell stories how hard it was especially in the winter months and vowed that no member of his family would ever work in the yards.  Sadly my Grandfather died whilst still working for Scott's and the number attending his funeral was amazing from apprentice to senior manager.  I was only a child at the time but the memories of that day are still very vivid.  He always would say that his men were like an extension of his family and on that day that was exactly what they were.

As a child I would love to be on a bus with my Mum at the time the yards were coming out and everything would stop and a sea of man would appear, men who having had a long hard days work still had life in their eyes and smiles on their faces and bringing in a wage to the family home.

Inverclyde died when Scott's closed down I believe the heart went out of the Community.

Anne Clark