REMINISCENCES

"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

 

"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

 

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,

 

 

Comments