I started as a Mechanical Engineer in Clydebridge in 1972 and worked in most parts of the works, finally becoming Plate Mill Engineer before leaving in 1981. I became interested in the history of Clydebridge after discovering a series of old photographs, probably taken to record the works as they existed when David Colville and Sons took over in 1916. I started to copy and collect old photographs and took many photographs of Clydebridge myself. I was also fortunate to meet John Murray, Chief Engineer from 1928 to 1960, at the closure of the Melting Shop and Cogging Mill, in 1978, and he gave me a fascinating technical history of Clydebridge that he had written just before retiring.
I have also been helped with information, and names of staff, by Margaret Hawthorne (John Murray's daughter, who worked in Clydebridge drawing office, between 1942 and 1953, as a tracer), Tom Findlay (Fuel Engineer), and Alasdair Grant (Plate Mill, Shearline and Heat Treatment Engineer). Since setting up the website I have visited Clydebridge to see the remaining plant and to view historical information about the works. Thanks for arranging this to Peter Phillips and Thomas McCallum.
With the closure of much of the works by 1982, my own photographs have also passed into history and I have gradually realised that I had collected a unique history of Clydebridge that should be preserved, expanded and shared, so that this major contributor to Scottish industrial history should not just slip into oblivion.
This website contains extracts of what I have collected. The photographs are of low resolution to fit the current website size limits. I have not included photographs or information on people, or on the Heat Treatment Plant (which is still operational). I have recently spent a considerable time researching several archives, including all of the Colvilles Magazines, from their inception in 1920 to 1967, when Colvilles was nationalised to become part of the British Steel Corporation. I have copies of almost every Colvilles Magazine entry about Clydebridge and from this have compiled a list of some 500 people, either recorded in the Colvilles Magazines or whom I remember personally. At present I do not have many copies of the Steel News that followed the Colvilles Magazine.
Although many individuals worked at Clydebridge (at least one for 59 years!) there were 2000 to 3000 people working there at times, and as Clydebridge has existed for over 120 years this spans several generations. Thus many thousands of people must have passed through Clydebridge. I have come across many interesting stories but there must be very many more and I would be interested in hearing from anyone with stories, information, or indeed those wishing to know more.
Since starting the website thanks to: Charlie Tait, Fuel Engineer for photos of Clyde Iron in the 1950s; William Cowan, for cooling floor experiences; Terry Young, for melting shop experiences; Sandy Sibbs for photos of pusher furnaces; Margaret Hawthorne for photos of John Murray and office staff; Jean Harvey for photos of her father Duncan Rodger, and his locomotive at Clyde Iron Works. Thanks also to Jim Griffiths who saved a large box of photographs, that was about to be thrown out in the 1980s, recording the progress of new constructions at Clydebridge between the 1930s and 1960s. I have been sorting through and scanning the photographs and will add some to the web site. Thanks also to Roddy MacKenzie for his photographs of Clyde Iron Works and to Bill Crossan for his photographs of Ravenscraig.
Apart from this website three other public locations have photographs of the steel industry in Scotland: RCAHMS, the Motherwell Heritage Centre and the Mitchell Library (see the links page). John Hume and Miles Oglethorp at RHCAMS have very kindly allowed me to use their photographs, and the Motherwell Heritage Centre has provided a few photographs and helped greatly with material for my research. The Mitchell library has a great collection but are very restrictive on copies, so you need to visit personally and know where to look. As a result most people will never see these photographs unless they are eventually added to the admirable 'Virtual Mitchell' website.
As so little has been preserved of the great industries that created the West of Scotland, North Lanarkshire Council deserve support for their work at the Heritage Centre and at Summerlee in preserving some of the industrial history of their area. Hopefully, more of this will gradually become available on-line for access by those not able to make a local visit. I would also hope that some effort will be made to preserve what little remains of the Steel industry in Scotland, at Dalzell and Clydebridge, so that future generations do not have to rely on archeologists sifting through obliterated remains, as they have had to do at Summerlee and will no doubt do at places like Ravenscraig and Clyde Iron Works in the distant future.
P.S. I have been collecting slide rules - to help preserve the calculating tool used by engineers until calculators took over in the 1970s - please also contact me if you know of any that may be available.