Robert Peel

Robert Peel was born in 1788 in Bury Lancashire. He was an MP at 21 and was soon known as the rising star of the Tory party. He was the first notable MP to come from an industrial family. His first job was as a secretary to Ireland, then he moved to the Home Office and had two terms as Prime Minister.

Robert Peel was a grammar school boy, who modernised the Tory party as the country changed from an agricultural economy and adjusted to the industrial revolution. Britain had become the powerhouse of the world. His first job in Parliament was as a secretary in Ireland. He would witness first-hand the poverty and the overpopulation that would allow the potato famine to ravish the country 25 years later.

He was the rising star and quickly became the deputy to his mentor and Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington. He took over at the Home Office and did outstanding work at modernising the British legal system. He created the Metropolitan Police Force in London which greatly reduced crime. He reduced the number of crimes that attracted the death penalty, consolidated criminal law into a sensible system, paid jailers and educated prisoners.

Gradually he would take over from Wellington, and he had the chance of the premiership in 1834, but he did not have the seats to stay in power. He announced the Tamworth Manifesto, that defined the modern Conservative Party.  He remained in opposition until 1941, when he did get the chance to be Prime Minister.

Having a workable majority, he got to work passing modern legislation. The factory’s act was a vital piece of work for health and safety of the new industrial workforce. He also improved conditions and working hours, especially for children. He regulated mines and railways which were expanding greatly at the time.

In 1841, he inherited a growing national debt. Reinstituting an income tax of 3%, he started to reduce import tariffs. He was a firm believer in free trade, but was unable to put much legislation through parliament due to the influence of the landed gentry, who were agriculturalists.

Peel was an opponent of Catholic emancipation and often came up against Irish leader Daniel O’Connell. Or though it is said they never met, they nearly had a duel when younger. He did appear to have a bias against the Irish, but it is hard to tell. Often in the commons he would take a traditional Conservative stance, then reverse his position and promote liberal reform.

There are times in Government when not a lot happens, and there are times when small decisions can have dramatic events. The important thing is to have someone with ability in power to make the right moves. His time came in 1946 with the Irish Potato famine was claiming many lives, action needed to be taken. Many MP’s, Peel included, doubted reports of mass starvation a few hundred miles away. But Peel took the opportunity. He used the famine as a pretext for repealing the Corn Laws. They imposed tariffs on foreign grain imports, therefore protecting the profits of the landed gentry with their agricultural power base. Bread was the staple diet and removing these laws would allow cheaper flour to the working people, most of whom did not have the vote. Peel’s main aim was to promote free trade, the traditional Tory MP’s were not happy and voted against him, thus splitting the party and losing power. There is a suggestion that Peel knew his time was short and wanted to promote a liberal agenda for the future.

The upshot was that the Whigs helped pass the Bill, the people had cheaper bread and hailed Peel as a hero, Peel and the Tories were out of office, free trade was promoted, but the Irish who were supposed to benefit did not. They needed free food, not cheap food. It is estimated that one million starved and another million emigrated. The staple diet of the Irish agricultural worker was the potato and nothing else. The blight killed all spuds and there was nothing left but charity. Western Ireland was devastated.

Peel promoted measures such as imported Indian Corn, work houses and infrastructure projects to allow people to earn money. But these were not properly instituted by the incoming laissez faire Whigs.

The great tragedy of Ireland in the 1840’s was that it could have been prevented. Peel had Irish experience and maybe could have done more. By using the famine, a context for his own agenda, he may have been disingenuous. Another great tragedy was that Daniel O’Connell strength was fading and he was soon to pass away. He promoted the same ideas Peel had. Whose ideas they really were, we don’t know, it does not matter. Tragedy struck Ireland as in the past as it would in the future.

The truth is not easy to get at. Peel was not a great man of principle, not as much as Pitt. He argued from both sides of an issue, but he got things done. He pushed through a lot of important legislation for Britain, like no other politician before or since. But like many Irish myths, we can never know the truth. What was his motivation, there is no point in wondering what might have been?

The lesson from history is if you can be a legislator like Peel, grasp the opportunity with full force and get it done. But if you are not really represented by your politicians, you must get elected, and do it yourself.

God bless Robert Peel, and may God save Ireland.

Conway-Laird (2017)


Ronald Reagan

Ronnie Reagan was the darling of the 1980’s America, at least to the Republicans. He was a two term President, whose style and policies were mirrored by Margaret Thatcher who ruled during the same period in the UK. He was born in Northern Illinois and started life as a sports commentator, mainly for the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

In his mid-twenties he started a new career as an actor in Hollywood. He had a few successful roles, but the Second World War curtailed his acting. He was an Air Force administrator for the duration and did not get back any good acting roles afterwards. He was famous as a B movie actor. The Cinema’s would show a shorter less serious film, a newsreel and then the main attraction. This was all before the television take over. One of his most famous roles was “Bedtime for Bonzo” about a Chimpanzee living in his home. Some opponents would claim he was out acted by the Chimp!

He had been a Democrat and represented other actors in the Screen Actors guild. He was always opposed to Nuclear weapons and the lunacy of “Mutually assured destruction”. He started to move to the right in the 1950’s, supporting Eisenhower in ‘52 and ’56. He was even further to the right when he supported the unpopular Barry Goldwater in 1964 and became a right-wing spokesman.

He was elected Governor of California in 1966 and stayed in the post until 1975. He was a strong opponent of the anti-war movement and would send in the National Guard and other armed groups to deal with the growing and protesting Social Revolution whose roots came from San Francisco in his state.

He ran for President in 1976 and was beaten to the nomination for the Republican party, by the sitting President Gerald Ford. He tried again in 1980 and won a famous victory against Jimmy Carter.

The previous 20 years of politics in the USA had been traumatic. The new dawn of the 1960’s was heralded by the young and popular John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated. His deputy Lyndon Johnson had to deal with Vietnam War, which was played out nightly on the evening news. Film reports coming back showing the atrocities of War, which had never been seen before, inspired the youth to protest. The country was deeply divided, and the social revolution took to the streets as violent clashes were also shown on TV. Richard Nixon was elected in 1968 but his promise to end the war, did not come true until four years later. By then he was embroiled in the Watergate affair. People connected to him were using dirty tricks to defeat the Democrats. His impeachment followed in 1974. The country was on its knees politically. Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976. A well-meaning southerner, with little experience or the required toughness was not appreciated by 1980.

So, the stage was set for Ronnie. He ticked all the boxes for Republicans. He was a Christian, pro-business, anti-tax, for small Government, hated Communism and he spoke like a Cowboy. The reality was more-subtle. Paul Wolfen……, a neo-Conservative selected Reagan for the above reasons. An atheist who recognised the need for a moral code, he also had George H.W. Bush, James Baker and Alexander Haig, under him. These were the political heavyweights who got things done. With Reagan, the actor, on point delivering with his presentation to the country. It was a wise move and very successful.

They promoted supply side economics, reducing tax and controlling the money supply. Inflation was greatly reduced, business was stimulated, and the Government was made smaller and more efficient. A similar Monetarist policy was applied in the UK. Reduction in benefits would stimulate the lazy to get out and work. Whether it worked or not only history can decide. But unemployment did not fall and increased military spending increased the Budget deficit dramatically. The rich had more freedom financially and saw an increase in their wealth, but the plight of the poor became worse. Closure of traditional heavy industry led to the need for more benefits and failure of communities, the country would divide. He employed drastic cuts in social spending, except for the military. He acted tough and the poor suffered, but overseas the Communists knew they were up against a serious foe who would not back down.

He showed he could be tough, with the War on Drugs in 1982, bombing Libya in 1986 and middle eastern involvement. But he was lacking when it came to tackling the AIDS crisis.  After 1000 deaths, his administration had only invested $1M in research. By his second term he had the USSR (Russia) in his sights.

The Cold War had been raging for 40 years since the Second World War. USA versus USSR, Capitalist West versus Communist East. They faced off with nuclear missiles, ready to destroy the planet. Somehow, we survived Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Afghanistan all were flash points that could have set a chain reaction of nuclear destruction that would end life completely. The 1965 film “Dr Strangelove” taught as to laugh at the ludicrous threat to human existence.

In his 1985 inauguration speech for his second term, Reagan claimed that the US was developing a Strategic Defence Initiative. This would be able to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles as they approached the USA. It was a bold claim that has not lived up to expectations, but the Russians started to talk peace. The new more progressive Soviet President was Mikhail Gorbachev, his country was buckling under the need to spend militarily and support the people with an agricultural system that could not cope. The threat of matching a Nuclear Defence system at vast expense led to talks.

Between 1985 and 1988 Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to greatly reduce their nuclear arsenal and formally end the Cold War. For those that lived under the shadow of nuclear destruction it was an end to that fear. The Berlin Wall came down symbolically and Communism was replaced by a Russian version of Capitalism.

He had always fought Communism. The Iran Contra affair was a complex financial arrangement that channelled funds to the Nicaraguan Contras, from covert funding of Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. He broke the law and then acted dumb claiming he did not know what he was signing. Considering he was 77 when he left office it is possible. But Congress had ruled against funding the Contras, Nicaragua had a democratically elected Socialist Government that had improved the people’s welfare dramatically. But there was blind opposition to anything left of centre in some circles and Reagan thought he was being patriotic in funding a War in his region.

SDI never did work, maybe it was never supposed to, but it stopped the threat of Nuclear War. Whether Reagan knew this, whether he was told it was all a ploy by someone cleverer than him, we do not know. Not yet anyway. There are many people who are poorer and weaker due to his bend of politics.

He put patriotism back into the heart of America. He led his country out of the darkness of the sixties and seventies and made America great again, the nightmare was now a dream again for some. A better President would have made it great for more of the people, but the USA has always had winners and losers.

But we have to say hail to the chief. His strength, courage, tenacity and down to earth common-sense defeated the greatest threat to life on earth.

For the land of the free and the home of the brave, Ronnie Reagan, we salute you!

Conway-Laird (2017)


The 2nd New Zealand Division

When the 2nd World War broke out, New Zealand stood with Britain in our time of need. New Zealanders spent more time in contact with the enemy than other nationalities. Probably because they were the best. The served in the Royal Air Force, the Pacific and with the British Army, the Desert Rats.

The 2nd Division was on the Western flank in Greece, at the start, but as the Greek forces collapsed against the German Panzer tanks, the New Zealanders had to withdraw through Greece to Crete. Intelligence predicted an airborne attack on the island and General Freyburg prepared the defences.

Without the required resources the Kiwis fought tenaciously with incredible bravery until the airfield was captured and the Germans were able to reinforce. They evacuated to Egypt.

They suffered heavy losses recapturing Tobruk and were sent to recuperate in Syria. But General Montgomery had taken charge and the tide was turning. The 2nd Div. worked its way through German minefields at the start of the Battle of El-Alamein and led the attack that repulsed Rommel’s unsupplied army all the way back to Tunisia.

The 2nd Division landed at Bari and was responsible for the East coast of Italy. They were diverted to help with the problem of Cassino. They continued pushing north into Italy, finally reaching the key City of Trieste by the end of the War.

Some of the heroism was unbelievable, on Crete Captain Forrester, in his shorts, led a disorderly mob of Greeks armed with anything they could lay their hands on, right at the Germans. They fled. If they tried the Haka the Kiwis may never have left! the 28th (Maori) Battalion must have been an awesome site. At times fighting in hand to hand combat, the tenacity and eagerness for the fight made the Kiwis the elite.

Freyburg received many medals and was made Governor General. He knew Churchill from the 1st World War, and they set about some Brandy one time. Winston asked him to strip and count his wounds. “My God Freyburg, you have 30 wounds”, “Yes Prime Minister, but there is one bullet hole on the way in and one on the way out!”

Thank the Lord he put you in a beautiful country miles from anywhere, you could take on anybody if you want. Just stay on our side please, and you can continue to demolish us at Rugby!

Conway-Laird (2017)


Matt Busby

Matt Busby was born near the Orbiston pit, Lanarkshire in 1909. Son of a miner, he was one of the first of a rich seam of Scottish footballing talent from the area. There were many players schooled in the physical world of coal mining, but also managers, trainers and philosophers. With him there were his friends Jock Stein and Bill Shankly, Jock from down the road in Burnbank and Bill out in Glenbuck. Matt’s family had Irish roots and he was brought up a Catholic, and maintained his faith throughout his life. It was a faith that stood him in good stead through the tragedy of the Munich disaster that was to define his life.
Inevitably, he worked down the pit, but was a good footballer and hoped to be signed for his beloved Celtic. Rangers had an interest in him, but rejected him for being Catholic and Celtic rejected him for talking to Rangers. But he was given a trial in England and joined Manchester City. He was started in the reserves as an inside forward or a right winger, but he could not settle. He was homesick and was on the point of giving up football, but his chance came when he was moved to half back because of injury. He soon made the position his own, tackling well, but his creativity in passing was what made him stand out. By 1933 he had a cap for Scotland. This was quite an achievement as if there were FIFA rankings then, Scotland would have been the best in the World. That year Matt would win the FA Cup with City.
He was a claimed the finest attacking half-back in football, his bewildering footwork, weaving and deceiving, followed by deceptive but accurate passing delighted the crowds. But in 1936 he grew restless and moved to Liverpool. Already thinking about management, he had seen Herbert Chapman build the all-conquering Arsenal and others around the league, he was at his peak and getting rave reviews. The war interrupted his career and he became a PT instructor and played in some War matches.
Matt knew Louis Rocca from Manchester and in 1944 he instigated an offer of management for Manchester United after the war. Matt accepted, and while playing some exhibition games in Italy and Greece at the end of the War he came across Jimmy Murphy. Jimmy was a desert rat, Welsh of Irish extraction and the two talked about football and was impressed enough to offer work at Man Utd. He kept his promise and a career long partnership ensued. Matt arrived in Manchester and installed the family in a suburb house and got to work. He was to be in sole charge.
He made an immediate impression on the returning players. He was anything but remote, he wore a tracksuit and got involved. The philosophy was simple, entertain the crowd and educate the instinct in the players. Matt and Jimmy would take the players they had and make the best of them. Old Trafford was badly damaged and they had to play at Maine Road, there was no money and they intended to bring on the youth. Rocca had started a scouting network and Murphy was to supervise the training of the youth and bring them up to the standard for the first team. They would play with wingers and attack; the midfield would lie deep in space to create in a Scottish style. His emerging team would win the FA Cup in 1948. He was becoming very popular in Manchester, not just for victory but because of that style. The board was pleased, as gate receipts were up and they let Matt have his way. They would go to win the league in 1952, but some of the team were getting old and others were demanding more money. This would almost always be futile as Matt would give little more in the pay packet. One of the only criticisms aimed at him was his tightfistedness. He would closely control players wages at the same time getting much higher increases for himself.
The second Busby team would be the one of unfulfilled talent. The youth that was nurtured through the system, would be known as the Busby Babes. Trained by Murphy and including Duncan Edwards who seemed destined to become the best footballer in the world, they would have that world at their feet, before their cruel end.
There were a few old stagers in that team, but most of the players were averaging 21. They played attractive football and were passionate in the way they played it and the way they celebrated it. In 1956, they won the league and Matt’s eyes would turn to Europe. The Hungarians had so impressed him at Wembley in defeating England 6-3, that he was eager to pit his wits against European opposition.
The European adventures were as interesting for the travel, food and accommodation. The tactics had to be adjusted to counter foreign methods. Opposition threats had to be negated, and they had to be studied in advance. In 1957, they advanced to the semi-finals and played Real Madrid. But their strength and arrogance were not enough to defeat the champions and they went out.
They won the league in 1957 by a mile and were regarded as one of the best ever teams. The next season would see them see their dreams smashed. While returning from a European leg in Belgrade, they were forced to stop at Munich. The chartered plane carried the players, staff and journalists. The conditions were marginal and slush on the runway prevented the plane from reaching maximum speed and it crashed at the end. With 21 dead and 2 dying the club had been ripped apart. Duncan Edwards and the majority of the babes had gone. Bobby Charlton lived as did the heroic goalkeeper Harry Gregg.
Matt was hospitalised for a long time with chest injuries. Back in Manchester Jimmy kept the club alive by recruiting new players. Of those that survived there were few that reached their potential. Bobby Charlton the exception. Matt was losing interest, but his wife Jean encouraged him to get back and fight for the memory of his players and the families. They managed to get to the cup final with a makeshift team, but were beaten. Other teams were scared to touch them. The sentiment from across the globe reached Manchester as has happened on other occasions. Real Madrid saw them as sportsmen and friends and arranged testimonial matches.
Matt started to rebuild again. New kids coming up would be struck by the mood in the club. The likes of Charlton would be morose as they remembered their dead comrades. Most were replaced with new young talent. Nobby Stiles, Manchester and hard as nails anchored the midfield. Denis Law was finally enticed to Old Trafford and the precocious talent of George Best would set the game alight. They would start by winning the Cup in 1963. Then the league in1965 and 1967, George Best was the best player in Europe, hungry for the ball, with skill, trickery, delivery, pace and goal scoring desire. He was also tough and had to be as he became a target in the evermore physical league. Denis Law was scoring for fun and Bobby Charlton was the best player in England.
They reached the final in 1968 at Wembley and played Benfica with the outstanding Eusebio. An exciting and closely fought game went to extra time on a sweltering night that was finished with three goals in 8 minutes. The European Cup was Matt’s at last. His desire to go to Europe had inadvertently led to the loss of his loved ones. He had to seek vindication. Munich was never discussed but the outpouring of emotion for those that were involved was clear for all to see.
Matt’s management style was one of a clam presence. He had a moral code in personal behaviour that meant those with morals that did not suit the clubs’ image had to go. Those that transgressed the rules would be fined, if they got caught. He and Murphy would carefully select and nurture the talent, preferably through the ranks, then let them play. His calm, emotionless, patrician aura empowered the players. If they transgressed they would feel guilt, as they would if they upset a loved father or grandfather. His human qualities were legendary and would never forget a face, even after many years he would remember people from a single meeting. His influence was his presence and his honest and diplomatic dealings. He was a true gentleman. Even after his retirement from management, the aroma of his pipe smoking would remind people of his influence when he was at Old Trafford.
Once the cathartic victory at Wembley had been achieved, the team started to decline. He could not bring himself to leave, but stayed as a parental figure in the new aggressive and uncertain 70’s. The team struggled until Tommy Docherty rebuilt a great team before his transgressions meant he had to leave. It was not until the third Scotsman, Alec Ferguson arrived that the club started to return to true greatness on the pitch. Matt knew he had a man of his liking and Bobby Charlton now on the board recognised it too. Fergie would struggle to rebuild the club, but after 4 years found success. He had concentrated on building up the youth, and after winning the league in 1993, won it with kids in 1996. Alec coming from the tough ex-shipbuilding area of Govan was out of the same mould as Matt and followed his example and that of Stein and Shankly. Europeans cups followed, but throughout that period Matt would turn up with a word of encouragement for player or staff however important. These well timed kindly interventions could turn a person’s game or even their life. Such was his humanity, such was his influence.
Through tragedy he made the club realise the potential of his form of management. He knew that the club had to fight back from the place it found itself. No one was to blame for the loss at Munich, but Matt fought back with love. Love for his players, the game and for his adopted Manchester. It was not just the winning, it was how you win and why you win. A true gentleman of a past era. How much does the current game owe him, Stein and Shankly? There would not be a modern game. But now the overpaid Primm donnas who parade their skills for the rich may find that these things don’t last forever. If that happens then a return to hard, but fair, passion and flair of the Scottish Football Enlightenment would not only be important it would essential.
Conway-Laird (2017)

Clyde Shipbuilders

The river Clyde rises in the southern uplands of Scotland and flows north-west and then broadens out into a major river as it approaches the Atlantic in the West. It is flanked by the picturesque Highlands and Islands as it becomes tidal. One of the reasons for the Union with England in 1707, was that the country could benefit from the approaching trade with the colonies. Scotland had little navy and had mightily failed with its own Darien Project. Union with England would bring much benefit in trade to the country, according to the movers and shakers in Edinburgh.

They were right, and one of the first things that happened was Glasgow became a major port. Glasgow was much smaller at the beginning of the 18th Century and any seaborne trade was carried by cart to Irvine or other Ayrshire ports. This was not efficient enough. The Clyde was shallow and needed dredging and its banks controlled. Once this was completed the way was clear for a major import and export venue. This included Greenock down the water in the tidal part of the river. Sugar and tobacco were major imports, also Glasgow was unfortunately involved in the slave trade. There were exports of timber and rope, one route to the new world was from the Clyde.

There were many fine shipbuilders on the Clyde. There were yachts built and many small craft used to ply trade to the West coast. But as the industrial revolution developed in the rest of the country new techniques were being tried in the inexorable progress of the British Empire. Ships became steam driven, powered by coal, locally sourced in Lanarkshire. The wooden craft became less able to handle the stresses of a steam engine and iron clad and then iron ships began to be developed. Iron ore from Lanarkshire was smelted and transported to the Clyde where shipyards began to grow on the banks of the river.

Shipbuilding became a bigger and more complex business. There was the need for skilled labour, iron, coal, timber and many other supplies. These could be found in local area and anything else could be brought to the port from the UK or abroad. There were paddle-steamers, boats with steam engines and sails, puffers for the West Coast trade, Merchantmen to travel the world, naval ships and specialists.

Shipyards sprang up from the River Leven in Dumbarton and on the north-bank from Bowling to Glasgow Green, then the south-bank up to the White Cart river and on into Renfrew and Paisley. There was Port Glasgow, Greenock and Gourock up the coast. For many years the Clyde was the centre for shipbuilding in the world. The once small town grew around the shipyards to provide housing and amenities for the burgeoning workforce.

There were many Irish men and women who immigrated to Glasgow. There was the pull factor of work, and the push factors of over population and especially the potato famine of the late 1840’s. It is estimated that the population of Glasgow is 40% Irish genetically. There were many people coming down from the Highlands and Islands with a Gallic tongue and a Protestant faith. There were some from the North of Ireland which added to the potent sectarian mix.

There were many entrepreneurs who led the Industrial Revolution in the UK. They were encouraged by favourable trading conditions, access to raw materials, technological advantage and helpful financial services. There were patricians of the Clyde like Robert Napier whose attitude to quality, design and the pride of City were to bring about the phrase Clyde built which was a of a badge of superiority quality.

In Dumbarton, where the River Leven discharges the waters of Loch Lomond into the River Clyde, a busy shipyard industry was established. There were 8-16 yards on the river. The two most famous were Denny’s and MacMillan’s. Denny’s were to be a great influence on the industry. This family run firm were dedicated to scientific methods to improve design. There were many draughtsmen who would be expected to train in Naval Engineering. They had a code of conduct, as there was so much technical knowledge that they had acquired it was important that it not be leaked. There were courses established at Glasgow University and the technical college which became Strathclyde University. The designers would become educated and apply the knowledge and creativity to building some great ships. There were testing tanks at Denny’s and they established a set course for the trialling of new ships. These facilities were used by many other yards in cooperation. They were dedicated to Dumbarton and were intent on benefitting the community who worked for them.

Further up river on the north-bank was the area of Clydebank. John Brown’s yard was built there and the city started to move and grow around it. This area built the largest ships. There were 400 large merchantmen and warships that were built here. Liners were built there including the Lusitania, Queen Elizabeth’s and the Queen Mary. Such large ships proved a challenge to launch, and they solved this by launching across the river into the mouth of the White Cart.

The whole of the north-bank from Broomielaw to Bowling was a continuous 11 mile stretch of shipyards. There were the large yards like Browns, repair yards with dry-docks. On the south-bank there were the massive and famous yards of Govan and Linthouse. Robert Napier and his cousin David had been the main influence. There was Harland and Wolf, originally from Belfast and the massive Fairfield. There were yards where the owners came and went, but there were those that concentrated on standard designs and high quality and others that had ships that were designed bespoke for a specific task.

Further downstream the river White Cart entered the Clyde. This river flowed from Paisley and through Renfrew. The old towns had a fading textile industry and developed the river for shipbuilding. There were technical difficulties in that the river was small and very tidal, but there were a few yards that developed a niche market in specialist craft. There were dredgers, chain ferries, survey ships and pilot cutters.

There were other yards at Port Glasgow, Greenock and Gourock. There were examples of the whole range of ships built on the Clyde. Yachts and other sailing craft, small puffers, tugs, specialist, ferries, coastal merchantmen, large merchantmen, pleasure craft, liners and warships.

There was much technical expertise required both in the design of the ship and the methods by which it was constructed. With the educational backup in the City, Naval Engineers could use theory, testing and practice to produce the best ships in the world. Cunning and ingenuity of the whole of the staff would find a way to build these ships, some of them of a highly individual nature.

Shipbuilding was a highly dangerous venture and launch day produced a whole range of emotions. There was a disaster when the Daphne was launched with 200 hundred men on it. The ship began to list to port on launching and men caught below decks were drowned. 124 men and boys died. From then on the launching process became more precise. The ships would have its supports gradually removed. On launching the last supports were knocked down and it would slide rapidly into the river with piles of chains to slow it down. It would then be moored for the fitting out process.

Launch day was a special occasion. The shipbuilders would stop and attend the ceremony which would attended by local dignitaries, the owners, clients and potential clients, school children and sometimes royalty. It was a happy occasion when the whole city could see the birth of the product of their labours.

The one hundred years before the First World War had seen the height of Clyde shipbuilding and the British Empire. The War, with a new emphasis on large steel ships, required a change to the type of ship being built. But as many skilled shipbuilders from apprentices to owners, were sent to the War, there was a serious skill shortage. Many never came back. When the war was over the lack of skills and the lack of people to pass on those skills led to a decline. The area had converted to Warships production, but post War treaties limited that. The economic downturn brought decline and unemployment and the future began to look bleak as competitive countries began to catch up.

The onset of the Second World War improved the order book, and the skilled trades were protected. The Atlantic War meant there was plenty of work. 2000 new ships were built and there was plenty of repair work. After the war, there was a boom, but the problems of the need for modernisation and industrial relations were not dealt with and the Clyde fell behind. The lack of competitiveness meant layoffs and some owners ran for the hills with their fortunes. The yards began to dwindle to almost nothing.

But the history of the Clyde is incomplete without talking about those characters that worked there. The work and effort that was put into each ship, produced a pride and passion that the whole city could share in. Whenever a Clyde ships was seen or mentioned then a Glaswegian thought of it as one of their children. It was a community that bred tough men who worked hard in punishing conditions in the outdoors. It was not for the faint-hearted. Within the yards there was dirt everywhere, the noise was literally deafening, the darkness brightened by fire and flame gave an impression of hell.

Like a building site there were many different trades. Platers, riveters then welders, joiners, finishing trades, shipwrights and all sorts of ancillary trades that were all proud of their knowledge and position. There were draughtsmen in the office, sitting in silence creating their works of art on paper. There the foremen who ran the gangs, who were augmented later by many different management roles. There were timekeepers and other bowler hatted managers who were hated for their pedantic adherence to petty rules. And of course there were the owners.

There was a whole range of possibilities for injury and death. There were high up scaffolding points with the threat of falls. There was fire and gas risk. Injury from hot rivets and other falling material. There was the threat of the river. There was little in the way of health and safety at the beginning. But this made the men aware of the dangers and they took care to look after themselves.

There was strict timekeeping, but little sanitation. The toilets were a thing to behold, made famous by Billy Connolly, but they could be a long from where you were working and men had to make the use of the area they were in. There was cold water but no hot. There was a lot of rubbish and general filth that collected in the bilges and under the ship and the rats were prolific.

Beyond the gates there were various levels of housing, with the poorest nearest the yard. The basic was a room and a kitchen, then there was a two or three room tenement. There were terraced houses and eventually there were nice houses for the owners and managers on the outskirts. The tough work bred tough men and fierce drinkers. Not all the men drank, but a favourite drop would be a half an a half. A downed whisky followed by a half of strong Scottish bitter warmed you inside. The proud households would breed strong women to run the home and bring up the kids and there was a constant battle between the man and women over their drinking habits. There were the dancehalls that were a popular weekend entertainment, especially as this was where the courting was done. In the twenties the pictures gave a people a release from the hard work and transported them to another world. But the main entertainment was at the fitbah.

Close to Govan the mighty Glasgow Rangers were the toast of the City. Their bitter rivals Glasgow Celtic in the East End would meet them on the pitch in sectarian conflict. There were many other Glasgow clubs. Partick Thistle, Clydebank, Queens Park and in Lanarkshire Motherwell, Airdrie and Albion Rovers. The city was fitbah daft and the passion, pride were released in full throated aggression on a Saturday afternoon. The results would lead to plenty of banter between the various supporters that could spill over into violence.

There was always a sectarian issue. The racial mix when the City grew led inevitably to that. In general the banter was good natured, there was plenty of offensive graffiti chalked around the yard, but there were times it affected people’s jobs and some were not taken into gangs or positions because of religion. This was worst when there was a Belfast influence.

But the characters, banter and the humour were legendary. Unfortunately there is much that can’t be repeated. In an all-male environment the lack of restraint can lead to some unsavoury things, but the humour can be an inspiration to keep motivated. There were many nicknames and endless stories, whether true or not was less important as the entertainment value.

But one of the biggest problems that would hasten the demise of the yards was industrial relations. Some of the management was petty. In an effort to cut costs, people were fired for minor infringements of silly rules. There was constant checking on work rates leading to cutting of pay by the quarter of an hour for minor management infringements. A “them and us” culture grew from the beginning and was difficult to shift. A reaction was a militant socialism and unionism that led to the name of Red Clydeside. As workers and management scored points off each other, the business suffered. Management tried to protect profits at the expense of the workers and unions had restrictive practices to protect their members which made work inefficient.

The tragedy was that the inability of the two sides to sit down together and resolve their differences, was partly to blame for the Clyde’s demise. The owners won eventually and some were able to protect their wealth. But did they win? There was a reduction in living standards, living conditions, the loss of pride and a generation untaught in the Glaswegian school of men.

It must have been a place of wonder to see all that mass of humanity crawling all over these ships, some giant monuments that would visible for the whole population. Gradually taking shape and being birthed into the Clyde.

But what of the future. Can the character of the Clyde survive? Even now the friendly, generous, funny and fearless nature of the area is prevalent. But is it just in the genes or does it need nurturing. This special, unique place that gave the World ships, cannot be allowed to merge into the faceless grey globalised world that we see through the mass media. The Clyde will always flow and this area is built on its people and its character. They will never be shut out.

Conway-Laird (2017)

Bill Shankly

Bill Shankly was born in Glenbuck Ayrshire in 1913. It was a small mining town, his father was a tailor and his mother had ten children. Her family were football daft and all her sons went on to be footballers. Bill worked at the pit, on the surface and pushing wagons underground. Here he became fit and tough, learnt the value and principles of good honest work, loyalty to the working man and socialism. The local football team was the Cherrypickers and for such a small place it was remarkable that 50 of their players went on to be professionals.

Bill was an uncompromising half back and went on to play, briefly for Carlisle. But in 1933 he went on to play for Preston North End. He earnt a reputation for being able to break your legs, but he would never cheat you. It was a man’s game then. Preston developed a good team by the end of the decade. They had a good few Scot’s and the remarkable Tom Finney a small but skilful player. Bill’s job was to guard him. He also talked to him about football a lot. Even then in that great team Bill would entertain and amuse the players and his infectious enthusiasm improved morale.

Preston won the FA cup in 1938 against Huddersfield after extra time. But the war years were to take the best football years away from Bill. He was 26 at the beginning and 32 at the end. He had a handful of caps for England and played a few war matches as well. He carried on after the war and retired in 1949. He went straight into management starting at Carlisle for two years, then Grimsby for three and Workington for two.

He was adept at making improvements to lower division clubs, which were in towns not known for their great footballing interest. His main goal was to encourage the players. The facilities could be rubbish and he insisted on improving them. He wanted triers and people who would work hard for him. He managed to buy some players to improve things with the little cash available. Sometimes it worked sometimes it did not.

By 1955 he had been appointed manager of Huddersfield Town. A bigger club under achieving in the second division. He was able to recognise some talent, even securing the 16 year old Denis Law who was eventually become a legend for Man Utd and Scotland. There were a few other decent players but he could never put a team together good enough to reach the first division. Then out of the blue in 1959 Liverpool offered him a job.

They were a large club who were in the second division. When he joined, he discovered that there were a nucleus of staff who were committed to the club. The likes of Paisley, Moran, Fagin and Bennett. He liked what he saw and instead of bringing in his own staff he stuck with them. He said he wanted hard work and loyalty. He established the boot-room where they would sit and discuss the team and the opposition together and work out their plans.

Bill fell for the city, it was similar to Glasgow, being a big port. It had the rivalries of the two big teams. It was passionate and football daft. It was socialist and it was about to explode onto the world map.

Many of the players he inherited were not up to standard. There was a large playing staff and it needed to be reduced. He was able to let some go and sell some and he set about the task of buying the players he needed. He was able to get some Scottish plays like the giant Ron Yeats and the goal-scoring Ian St John. A player here and there from the lower divisions sometimes paid off and sometimes not. But by 1962 they had won the Second Division and the love affair with Liverpool was in full swing. The Kop was a massive stand that could hold 25,000 supporters all standing, the atmosphere could be electric. They started a new trend of singing and chanting. Whether it was a Beatles song, a chant of their own or their own “You’ll never walk alone”, they were a mouthpiece for the city and others had to follow. The Beatles had their first single in 1962. There were other Mersey-beat groups. Inspired by the crew of the ocean liners who would bring back rare R&B records from their trips across the Atlantic. Liverpool was buzzing and Bill was in the centre, representing a new force in football.

His methods were all about inspiring the players. He would make them feel ten feet tall. He would rubbish the opposition and undermine them with mind-games. He always had time for the press and had a one-line quote for them. His door was always open and although he had a snappy dressing, hard gangster image, he had a heart of gold. He would repeatedly tell the players, it’s about the fans, you win for the fans. There was nothing else but winning.

He spent all his time in football. He would go and have kick about in the park with the kids. His training was about playing five a side, practicing close control and short accurate passing. He would make sure the players would warm down afterwards to avoid injury. In fact an injured player was ignored by him as he thought it unnecessary. He was not interested in the office work and was not particularly educated. But he knew people and how to encourage them and get them motivated.

Now in the first division, he was targeting Everton with some success. Eighth in 1963, they would go on to win the league in 1964. With success came greater revenue and that would lead to more money for players. He was able to go out and buy almost anybody he wanted now. Europe was his next goal and he was successful in 1965 getting to the semi-final. Liverpool had won the FA cup and were playing Inter Milan at Anfield. The FA Cup was brought out to rapturous applause that was a prelude to an electric night of European football, not to be the last. The all-conquering Italians had been overawed and lost 3-1, but in the return two disputed goals meant Liverpool were out.

They reached a European Cup Winners Cup final, but were beaten by an excellent Borussia Dortmund side. The team carried on finishing in the top five for the rest of the decade but failed to win anything. The team Shankly built was getting old and some of his new players were not making the grade. But he had instituted a good scouting system and he was getting tabs on new players all the time. He rebuilt with the likes of Tommy Smith and Emlyn Hughes in defence. Kevin Keegan up front and Steve Heighway on the wing. There was now a new team, they were the red machine. Passing and movement, a simple style with commitment and a team ethic. There were no prima-donnas in this team, Bill would never allow it. If he watched a player and he started rolling around with a fake injury, he immediately lost interest.

They lost the 71 Cup final, but went on to win the 73 League and finally victory in Europe. The UEFA cup final was a two leg affair with Borussia Monchengladbach. The first leg at Anfield was dominated by big John Toshack. A welsh striker who did not succeed for Bill as he would later. He dominated the Germans and they won 3-0. In Germany it was harder and they had to hang on with the Germans coming back to 2-0. But Liverpool were old hands at Europe now and they understood the preparation, the need for secluded hotels and proper travel arrangements. But most of all they knew what it took to win, mainly by defending abroad.

The next year there was less league and European success, but a cup run led them to Wembley and a tie with Newcastle United. It was virtually an exhibition match as the red machine put on a show and won three nil. A simple passing move went through most of the team ending up with Keegan burying it in the net. It summed up the team and the ethos. He had won everything, but the European Cup. His friend Jock Stein did in 1967 for Celtic when he felt he had a chance, but the method and the framework had been prepared by him for future success.

He went out and took the acclaim of his adoring followers at Wembley, punching the air as he did after every victory in front of his beloved Kop. They were his people, they were the ones he was playing for and they were the ones who represented the 12th man of Liverpool.

But the man whose life was football, was getting tired as was his family. He could not go into o Liverpool without getting mobbed and would always have time for the fans, getting them tickets if they were real fans that needed them. In the summer of 1974 he decided to retire and spend more time with his wife Nessie. The news shocked Liverpool and the board thought that they could talk him out of it, but they couldn’t. But football was his life and he realised that there was nothing else. He could not come back and eventually had to be told by the new manager Bob Paisley that he could not come to training with the lads.

There was sadness for Bill as the team would go on to greater heights as they were to win the European Cup he coveted three times over the next seven years. But he had made the club, the system and the structure. It was his club, but the continued success emphasised the fact it was a team from bottom to top. Not a place for prima-donnas, but there were superstars that joined. Dalglish and Souness the Scottish greats, also countryman Hansen developed into one of the best. Phil Neal from Northampton and McDermott and Kennedy from Newcastle. The Red Machine carried on, but Bill helped others like Everton, Tranmere and Wrexham, but he appeared heart broken and died at 68 too early.

The City and the world mourned a great manager and folk hero. Not only was he a success he did it as one the fans. “Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, cos you’ll never walk alone. You’ll never walk alone.”

Laird (2017)      

Jock Stein

Jock Stein was one of the classic triumvirate of Scottish football managers from the coalfields to the south-east of Glasgow. With Matt Busby and Bill Shankly he took Britain and Europe by storm and imposed a Scottish style of management and play on all-comers. Jock did it in Scotland and with Scotland. His crowning glory came in 1967 when his Celtic lifted the European Cup. The legend of the Lisbon Lions was born.

He was born John Stein in Burnbank, North Lanarkshire in 1922. Son of a miner, he became a miner in the heavily industrialised area. He was clearly intellectual, but had no hope of attaining the proper education to advance out of the pit. He was able to kick a ball though, and learnt to play to a modest standard at school. He was from a protestant family and his father was a staunch Rangers man. The town of Burnbank was divided on sectarian lines with one end of the town for the Catholics and the main Protestant area in the centre.

He was genial, intelligent, shrewd, tee-total, a dancer and a singer. He spent a lot of time socialising in the pubs, but never drank, as his co-workers did to excess, and was never known to take his “jaiket aff” and get in a fight. His loyalty to the miners never wavered and would shout abuse at scabs during the 1984-85 miners’ strike out of his speeding Mercedes.

He started playing fitbah for a local side and was reliable and solid. He was left footed and used his right leg to stand on, but developed the use of his knee to compensate, and he was good in the air. But he could be tough and when necessary he would sort out the opposition. He started playing for Albion Rovers in 1942, but his limited ability and passion for the game, drove him to analyse and think tactically. He studied all the other players in the league and had a cunning bordering on deviousness with which to defeat them with his wits.

There was not much call for this in football, as the manager would turn up for the game and announce the team and let them play. But Stein was becoming the manager in his own right. Throughout this period he was still working down the pit. By 1949 he was getting disillusioned and moved to Llanelly (now Llanelli). He was paid well and for a season and a half had an impact on a non-league team that needed a solid player at the back. The mining background probably produced an affinity. But to play a cup game against local rivals Merthyr Tydfil with 13,000 watching was quite impressive.

But his wife Jean wanted to return hame, and he had to go back. He decided he was giving up football and fade into obscurity. But Celtic scout Jimmy Gribben, was asked to find a replacement by Chariman bob Kelly and he remembered Jock’s name. He signed for Celtic and his career was revived.

There were those in Burnbank who never forgave him. His friends had come to terms with him marrying Jean a Catholic, but for even his closest friends playing for Catholic Celtic was not acceptable and he was rejected. In private moments he would reveal the pain it caused him. The Celtic fans were not best pleased either, they had a massive following but had seriously underachieved since before the war. To get a moderate player signed from the non-league was not what they wanted. Fortunately not that many knew about his background yet.

When he arrived, in December 1951, there had been some injuries so he was straight in the first team. He had a steady performance and exuded confidence that impressed. Celtic finished 9th that year. The next year Jock led them to the league title as captain. Unfortunately the next season he injured his ankle and it he never regained full fitness, retiring as a player in 1957. He was made reserve team coach by Bob Kelly and trained some of the legends he was later to manage in the first team. But a Protestant would not go any further in Celtic at that time and he moved to Dunfermline as coach.

His first managerial post brought immediate results. Six wins out of six saved the Pars from relegation. He brought an energy, passion and determination to the dressing room that rubbed off on the players. There was not much time for tactics but he had lit the blue touch paper. He would start to employ mind games to good effect, out thinking the opposition manager about the mental state of his players and how to react.

The improvement continued in 1961 and reaching the cup final he booked the Seamill Hydro, Celtics traditional pre-final hotel, to get one up on his rivals. After a titanic clash, Dunfermline triumphed in the replay. Jock had won a trophy and put himself in the public eye. The next year he took to Europe with relish, and reached the quarter final of the Fairs Cup with an attacking style. But despite the love they had for him in Fife, Hibernian tempted away in 1964, he won a summer trophy that year, but looking ever westwards he was snapped up by Bob Kelly at Celtic. Insisting on getting his own way he started his tenure at the club he elevated into International stardom on the 9th of March 1965. The end of the season saw them win the Cup and the first trophy for 11 years and they played in an attacking style worthy of the clubs traditions.

The next season he was after the dominant Rangers. Despite his wide emotional range, Jock was a private man. He had a burning desire to defeat the Ibrox side, hatred was not too strong a word. Did he harbour resentment at being called a turncoat, did he have to prove himself as a protestant in an ostensibly Catholic club or more likely was it just his professionalism that dictated what the priorities were. I think the latter, but whatever it was he was coming for them.

His first old firm game was a 2-1 loss. But revenge was coming in the League Cup final. Jock got the team on edge in preparation and got his team to sort out Willie Johnston Rangers threat early on. He was clattered and it set the tone. Celtic set down the agenda with a physical encounter. It was a statement that they were not going to lay down and was a blueprint to be followed for the many years. Celtic won the cup 2-0.

A close loss to Rangers in the cup final was followed by winning the League with a draw at Motherwell on the last day.

Jock was awarded Manager of the year, also British manager of the year. A tour of North America cemented the team for the next tumultuous season that ended in glory in Lisbon. They were an unstoppable juggernaut, not only in victory, but in attacking style and determination to win driven by the manager’s hatred to lose. A confidence based on a no fear mentality. The league was won against the background of a serious challenge in the European Cup. Different environments, player behaviours and above all tactics challenged his ebullient team.

They reached the final and not only did twelve men from Glasgow triumph against champions, Inter Milan, they trounced them. Dismissing their defensive catenaccio style with attacking élan. Mind games with the opposition and the referee, who after the award of a dodgy penalty against Celtic early on, was the subject of unbelievable tirade from Stein as he walked off the pitch and up the tunnel. Typically of the big Barra, he summoned up his rage and targeted at a man who could have been bribed by the Italians. He made it clearly known his suspicions and let the whole world hear. Any possible bribery issue was out in the open. He continued to berate Inter’s manager, Herrera, in the tunnel. The language barrier was a problem, they nearly came to blows, but the message was clear enough. In the half-time dressing room, Jock was serenity itself, urging the players to keep playing the way they were.

The genial giant from Burnbank was able to access the fierce strength of a miner when it suited him. His team went out and played Inter off the Park. It could have been a cricket score, but for the goalie. A stunner from Tommy Gemmell on the hour, and a late winner turned in by Stevie Chalmers were a mere formality. Not only had Jock and Celtic arrived, but they had changed the style of European football that was to be continued in the Dutch total football style. But did it all come too soon?

Domination at home continued as Rangers were never allowed a kick. The league was won nine times in a row. The 1970 European Cup semi-final was a classic and a fine example of Stein’s and Scotland’s dominance over the best side in England, Leeds led by Don Revie. But the final was a disappointment going down to Feyenoord. Stein’s meticulous preparation failed him and the team he watched were significantly better in the final, losing in extra time. Could the Dutch have learnt from him and played a trick on the master that they had learnt from. In a sense this started a slow decline for Celtic. Rangers started to catch up and won the cup in dramatic style in 1973 and the league the next year. European success evaded them and he moved to Leeds in 1978.

But he was not happy in England and managed to engineer a move back as Scotland manager as the hapless Ally MacLeod resigned. He had taken on the job in1965 and was disappointed, failing to qualify for the 1966 World Cup finals when much of his talent was unavailable. People worried about his relationship with Ernie Walker, his boss at the SFA. But the two had a similarly distracting public front and were football mad and had a similar attitude. It was a new lease of life for the big Barra. His new start was at a time when the fans were in beast mode, much like the nihilistic English supporters. There were serious dangers from the crowd in and out of the stadium. They were banned from Wembley in 1981, but still got tickets and swamped the stadium. Jock asked for calm and respect and he got it, applauding the fans after a hard won 1-0 victory.

Qualifying for the 1982 World Cup in Spain, playing Brazil and USSR in Scotland’s group and the game was afoot. A stunning early goal against the Brazilians only tempted them into a samba leading to a famous 4-1 loss. An early lead against USSR was squandered late on with defensive mistakes. Although the performances had been good and the spectre of Argentina had been partly vanquished, qualification for the second round had failed to be grasped again.

More losses followed, but a resurgence for the 1986 World Cup qualification, led by Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish took them to Cardiff for a date with destiny. A draw gained from a late penalty took Scotland through. But in the final minutes Jock suffered heart problems that took his life. Bereft, Scottish football mourned the loss of their greatest son. The agony on dying at such a moment was not lost on many thoroughout the World of Football. It would never be the same. Success, for Scotland abroad could possibly be delineated by the breadth of his career and influence.

He would play the same way in Scotland, with the first team being replaced by youngsters coming from the same training pitch, with the same tactics and methods. Europe required new tactics, the players had to listen because he would only explain once. He would be the first to get out on the training pitch in a track suit and work the lads. He would terrify them with his shout “Hey you”, amuse them with his banter, occasionally smothyer them with his love. He had the full range of personal attributes for his performance. For he was a private man, and protected his family aggressively. Perhaps for him it was a job, that he threw his whole being into and had another life at home. His work rate was phenomenal and would travel to England watching games, driving to Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. He became a popuylar pundit at the BBC, where he would be able to give them an incisive sound-bite that accurately summed up the game. He was immense presence that was always ready to give advice to others in the game. He always had a comment for the press and savaged them if there was any criticism at all, phoning them at home and terrifying them into respect.

His effect on the sectarian issues in Scotland are worth considering. On signing a Rangers player, the press were eager for a statement on the issue, he merely commented on the player’s ability and how he would be a useful contribution to the club. When his bitter rival, Willie Waddell manager of Rangers, made a press statement against sectarianism in 1972, Jock had his own response. At a Celtic game at Stirling Albion, he dived into the crowd to sort out some of his fans singing IRA songs and impounded the tricolour. This was his only statement on the issue, the rest he demonstrated on the pitch and his football hatred of Rangers in battle.

But the players he had were outstanding, there were the Lions themselves immortalised elsewhere. There were the gifted but troubled who could not be cajoled into reaching their potential. Foremost of these was Jimmy “Jinky” Johnstone who many view as the greatest Celtic, Scotland and even World player. Him of the run that would befuddle the best defenders and the goal scoring mentality and best of all the motivation on seeing a Rangers shirt. He was like a son to Jock, but his drinking got him into a lot of trouble and Jock had to get him out of it many times. Eventually he had to be let go. He was brilliant, but would he have been such a free-spirit if tamed, maybe we are greedy in retrospect.

The new breed of Kenny Dalglish, a fellow Protestant who spurned the club of his upbringing and was joined at the hip to Jock in the 1970’s. But Kenny’s independence took him away to Liverpool. Celtic expected loyalty and that meant low wages. By the lure of English lucre was too great for many a Scottish talent.

But above all he kept his working class roots and treated the players hard but fair. He did not stand for prima-donnas and would read out the team before the game without explanation. If you did not like being dropped tough, you did not need an explanation.

As the new era of superstars dawned, perhaps his methods were not as effective. The old Scottish style of football hard, but fair, passion and flair was being replaced by chequebook management. But he brought a new sense of professionalism to Scottish football. From my backward perspective he was Scottish Football.

Sorry Rangers fans, if you don’t agree, prove me wrong and go out and win. But I expect you will have to learn from Jock Stein to do it though.

Conway-Laird (2017)