Photo montage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Jimmy Reid and in front of the Titan crane in the former shipyards of Clydebank
Photo montage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono and Jimmy Reid in front of the Titan crane in the former shipyards of Clydebank. Montage image credits: Titan crane image used with permission of ©Alan Ingram (www.caingram.info) John & Yoko and Red Mole images used with permission of ©Verso Publishing, Typed dedication card used with permission ©Glasgow Caledonian University Archives: Papers of Jimmy Cloughley, Jimmy Reid image licensed from ©Alamy.

50 years ago today – in the summer of 1971 – John Lennon was putting the final studio touches to his global anthem, Imagine. At the same time the Government announced the imminent collapse of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. Within weeks defiant workers had seized control of the yards.

Clydebank-born Chris (Barra) McGachy – author of Globe Trotsky – investigates this personal, childhood story uncovering the full facts behind Lennon’s donation to the work-in and exploring John’s journey from affable mop-top to militant activist following the breakup of The Beatles.

jimmy-reid-victory

Fighting for the Right to work

The Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ (UCS) stunning victory against Ted Heath’s Tory government in early 1972 has become the stuff of political legend. It was a time when ordinary workers and communities united in solidarity to demand the right and dignity to work.

With mass redundancies already on the cards, Bankie resident and UCS shop steward, Jimmy Reid cautioned the co-ordinating committee that conventional strike action would not win this battle. His ingenious idea was for the workforce to take control of the yards and continue to produce the ships for which the River Clyde yards had become world-famous: On 31 July 1971 – 50 years ago today – the famous work-in began.

Though one of a number of shop-stewards, Reid along with Jimmy Airlie became the local and global face and voice of the UCS campaign in which 8,000 men took control of four giant shipyards on the Clyde. The yards were famed for building both the largest liner and aircraft carrier in the world and their ships held a clutch of Blue Riband prizes for the fastest Atlantic crossings.

Heath’s Tory government had come to power in 1970 and signalled its policy; refusing to prop up industrial ‘lame ducks’. Cash flow issues at the Clyde yards early in 1971 meant a crisis developed with owners looking for a bail-out, causing panic among creditors.

The joint shop stewards committee was well prepared before Industry Secretary, John Davies, told Parliament on 29 July 1971 that liquidation was the only option. Clydebank – my hometown – was described as a town in mourning.

‘Their graves should have been inscribed: ‘killed by capitalism’

– Jimmy Reid, on the childhood deaths of his older sisters

A devastated Jimmy Reid would be reminded of the haunted times in the 1930s when, as youngest of seven children, three of his sisters died in infancy. It led to his scathing accusation that their graves should have been inscribed: ‘killed by capitalism’. It was a formative family heartbreak which had propelled Reid to life as a political activist. “Socialism was in your mother’s milk,” he contended.

Perhaps the UCS’ most famous supporters were Yoko Ono and John Lennon, who sent red roses and a huge financial donation to support the workers control to keep Clyde shipbuilding – and their communities – alive.

From Mop-Top to Militant

On 25 November 1969, John Lennon visited his Aunt Mimi’s bungalow in Bournemouth from where he removed his MBE medal from her mantelpiece. Back at Apple’s London HQ he dispatched his chauffeur with the medal to return it Buckingham Palace in protest in Britain’s involvement in Nigerian civil war and support for the US in Vietnam.

It was one of many stunts Lennon and new wife Yoko devised as he stepped away from the lovable mop-top Beatle transforming himself into a celebrity activist with global appeal.

While musical history records Let it Be as the last of The Beatles 12 world-changing albums, the band’s split had been coming for a number of years. The death of manager Brian Epstein and the romance with Yoko Ono served to liberate Lennon from the claustrophobic rollercoaster of touring and Beatlemania.

It allowed him to freedom to imagine life beyond the band. And when the break came in 1969, he took the chance to experiment – as a musician, an artist and activist.

Escaping from Esptein’s stuffy managerial conformity and fired by Yoko’s radicalism, John began a journey of self-discovery leading to political activism as an iconic, anti-establishment figure.

Lennon had the unique ability to compose global anthems, beginning with All You Need Is Love in 1967. Two years later he followed that with the solo hit Give Peace a Chance. The Lennon songbook was gleefully adopted by peace campaigners and football fans alike.

John had written and performed different versions of Revolution to appease his bandmates, the public and his growing political persona – counting himself both ‘in’ and ‘out’ of radical change. Lennon’s ambivalent lyric captured much attention.

PR stunts, such as turning their honeymoon suite into a open-door ‘bed-in for peace’ reported by the world’s press to a global following, spurred John and Yoko on to develop their radical agenda; their antics assured of worldwide media coverage.

The signs of a more political phase were reinforced when John became the first Beatle to release a solo album. Fresh from primal psychotherapy with Dr Janov in 1970, the LP Plastic Ono Band included the track Working Class Hero, complete with taboo swearing. It was brutal and bleak, personal and political.

Celebrity Sell Out?

Since the Beatles release of Revolution from the ‘White Album’ along with establishing Apple Corp in 1968, Lennon had been forced to defend himself against criticism from left-wing radicals who viewed him a phoney and capitalist sell out.

Lennon was a keen letter writer and engaged with fans and critics alike in the pages of both music and counter-culture publications.

After moving to Ascot in Berkshire where Imagine was written and recorded, he was a regular reader and contributor to radical, left-wing publications such as Black Dwarf and Red Mole.

In January 1971 he invited the Red Mole editors Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn down to his mansion at Tittenhurst for an interview.

Lennon was avid reader of the left-wing newspaper, Red Mole, and had publicly brandished the paper on demonstration marches against British troops in Northern Ireland and against the USA war in Vietnam.

John Lennon at home in Tittenhurst reading a copy of Red Mole.
John Lennon at home in Tittenhurst reading a copy of Red Mole.

It was Red Mole’s coverage of the UCS dispute which sparked his interest in the Clydeside workers.

The next morning following his day-long discussion with Red Mole – galvanised politically from the interview – Lennon went into the studio and recorded a new political anthem: Power to the People, which reached the top 10 in both the UK and US.

Donation fuels worldwide solidarity

Lennon’s donation to the UCS fighting fund helped propel the local struggle to a sympathetic international audience. Money and solidarity poured in to the UCS to sustain the work-in. £2,700 from the shipyard workers of the Soviet Union, £1,000 from the National Union of Mineworkers, £600 from Dutch shipyard workers, and many more large donations.

However, the bulk of mail was from smaller groups, individuals and public collections. By the end of August, the total had reached £46,353, and it was necessary to seek the services of an accountant.

The leading shop stewards – mainly communists with a strong understanding of strategy and discipline – managed to keep decision making inside the yards, fearing a sell out by union barons. It proved a wise and winning tactic.

Yard stewards tapped into widespread national support with unemployment reaching the one million mark in the UK. Their broad coalition included workers, unions, suppliers, local traders, councillors, politicians, community and religious leaders; not to forget mentioning creditors and even the liquidator.

A day after Lennon started work on his latest album on 23 June, around 100,000 Scottish workers downed their tools and walked out in solidarity; with 50,000 joining a march in Glasgow against yard closures.

It was followed up the same week as the donation on 9 August by another half-day walk out with almost a quarter of all Scottish workers (200,000) participating and one of the largest demonstrations Glasgow has ever seen since the 1926 General Strike.

This time around 80,000 people marching to hear Jimmy Reid – flanked by senior Labour Party figures say that: “No title, no rank, no establishment honour can compare with the privilege of belonging to the Scottish working class.”

Despite a cynical government offer to save two yards and divide the workers, the stewards committee addressed mass rallies with Reid and Jimmy Airlie convincing the shipbuilders to remain united and reject any plan that didn’t save all the shipyards and jobs.

The occupation held firm and those involved went on to complete a dozen ships before the government had capitulated in February 1972. Having originally refused a £6 million loan, Heath’s government agreed to invest £35 million to keep all four shipyards afloat, with only voluntary redundancies. Two continue to this day.

Serious Spokesman

It has generally been assumed that John and Yoko became aware of the dispute through television news reports.

But in his updated autobiography (Street Fighting Years), Lennon interviewer, Tariq Ali, revealed that it was his publication Red Mole which brought the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders to the couples’ attention.

In his day-long interview for the newspaper John explained that his latest musical material was trying to shake off the teeny-bopper image. The ex-Beatle confirmed he wanted to transform himself into a serious spokesman for the revolutionary movement.

‘I want to make what I have to say very simple and direct… In my case I’ve never not been political.’

– John Lennon

“I want to get through to the right people, and I want to make what I have to say very simple and direct,” he insisted to Red Mole.

“I’ve always been politically minded…and against the status quo. It’s pretty basic when you’re brought up, like I was, to hate and fear the police as a natural enemy and to despise the army….

“It’s just a basic working-class thing, though it begins to wear off when you get older, get a family and get swallowed up in the system. In my case I’ve never not been political.

“I’ve been satirising the system since my childhood. In the two books I wrote… there’s many knocks at religion and there is a play about a worker and a capitalist. I used to write magazines in school and hand them around. I was very conscious of class, they would say with a chip on my shoulder, because I knew what happened to me and I knew about the class repression coming down on us – it was a f*ck*ng fact; but in the hurricane Beatle world it got left out, I got farther away from reality for a time.”

Asked about his song Revolution, John explained: “On the version released as a single I said; ‘when you talk about destruction you can count me out’. I didn’t want to get killed. I didn’t really know that much about the Maoists, but I just knew that they seemed to be so few and yet they painted themselves green and stood in front of the police waiting to get picked off.

“I just thought it was unsubtle, you know. I thought the original Communist revolutionaries co-ordinated themselves a bit better and didn’t go around shouting about it. That was how I felt – I was really asking a question. As someone from the working class I was always interested in Russia and China and everything that related to the working class, even though I was playing the capitalist game.

“At one time I was so much involved in the religious bullshit that I used to go around calling myself a Christian Communist, but as Janov says, religion is legalised madness. It was therapy that stripped away all that and made me feel my own pain.” (1)  

Student radical Ali reveals that the day following the interview, John phoned him up the play Power to the People down the phone to him, looking for his approval. “It’s a good marching song,” the student leader told him.

Ali, who later became an acclaimed author and broadcaster, concluded that Lennon’s politics had changed dramatically and that his wife Yoko was the major influence on the solo Beatle.

With Power to the People reaching the top 10 in both the UK and US, in the coming months before his donation to the Clydeside workers, Lennon was beginning to map out his musical masterpiece for humanity, Imagine.(2)

Imagine in Progress

The day after a mass walk out by 80,000 union members in solidarity with the UCS for ‘the right to work’, on 24 June, Lennon began recording tracks for his latest solo album, Imagine, which John described as a sugar-coated Working Class Hero: It was, in fact, the original title for the film documentary to accompany his second solo album.

One week later on 1 July Red Mole published a special issue dedicated to the Clyde dispute. On the same day that the cover is published, John Lennon joined producer Phil Spector at New York’s Record Plant recording studio where he concluded work on the Imagine album before its release on 11 September in UK (9 September in the USA).

Cover of Red Mole which captivated Lennon and inspired him to support the UCS workers
The July cover of Red Mole Lennon loved while composing Imagine

Recalling the events of the summer of 1971, Tariq revealed that Lennon has ask him to visit his home. “He would phone me once or twice a month and talk about the state of the world.

“After he had finished Imagine, he rang and asked Robin Blackburn and myself to come down for tea. They were making a movie of Imagine and he wanted us to be filmed chatting to him,” he said.

In his memoir Tariq Ali explains how UCS story in Red Mole had caught Lennon’s attention: “Our cover was a reprint of a 19th century caricature of a fat, ugly, bloated capitalist confronting a strong, handsome and noble-looking worker.

“He loved that cover more than the convoluted articles on the inside and later showed it to Phil Spector and others at Tittenhurst.” (3)

Undoubtedly inspired by the Red Mole cover and workers seizing control, on the 9 August John and Yoko sent a bunch of red roses which were delivered to the gate of John Brown’s shipyard in Clydebank. At the same time a cheque for £1,000 (worth around 15,000 today) was sent to the unions’ solidarity fund.

Underlining his wholehearted support for the workers and their tactics, the dedication card repeated the message from his recent hit single in capitals: “POWER TO THE PEOPLE with love from JOHN AND YOKO, AUGUST 9th 1971.

John & Yoko UCS donation dedication card dated 9 August 1971
John & Yoko UCS donation dedication card dated 9 August 1971.
Picture ©Glasgow Caledonian University Archives: Papers of Jimmy Cloughley

Dan Richter, who acted as a personal fixer and drug courier for the couple, told me that the cheque and bouquet were dispatched by secretary, Diana Robertson, who had started coming to Tittenhurst from the Apple Offices in London’s Saville Row. It was Diana who was also tasked with returning John’s MBE to the Palace.

By the end of the August, John and Yoko had flown to New York to take up permanent residence in order to secure custody of her daughter. He would never again set foot in England again.

Though he continued to campaign, releasing the hit Happy Xmas (War is Over) and taking out billboard advertising in 12 cities worldwide, his activism was set to stall.

His outspoken anti-Vietnam war stance had made a number of powerful enemies in the Nixon administration. Immigration chiefs used a 1968 drug conviction to begin deportation proceedings against him.

Despite more political anthems and hit records with Sometime In New York City in 1972 which included the hit single Women is the Nigger of the World and The Luck of the Irish, John – now under FBI surveillance – was forced to keep a lower profile with his residency status in the balance.

It was not until 1976 that John received his coveted “green card” and US citizenship. Lennon became a house-husband bringing up their son Sean. He had only returned to studio in 1980 when he was fatally shot outside his apartment.

Flowers from the Lennons

When the flowers arrived at John Brown’s shipyard in Clydebank they were taken in by union members manning the gate and delivered to the shop steward’s committee with a message and the now-famous anecdote they were from Lenin. “But he’s deid” (meaning dead) an old Communist is said to have replied; thinking they were from the Russian revolutionary leader, Vladimir Lenin.

Recalling the story some years later Jimmy Reid revealed that, until the wheel of roses arrived from John and Yoko, he had never previously received a bunch of flowers in his life.

But we do now know where the flowers ended up. The union convenors had held daily meetings with the national press to ensure their side of the story received regular coverage and their side of the story.

Speaking in 2002 on the 30th UCS anniversary, Pat Milligan explained that she had been pregnant during the work in. Her husband Arthur happened to be a journalist covering the famous dispute and attended the press briefings and mass meetings.

Looking back Pat revealed: “I was part of that because I was married to Arthur Milligan who was the Daily Worker reporter [who was gifted the roses for his wife in labour].

“I gave birth to my daughter and that’s where John and Yoko’s flowers ended up – in the maternity ward at the [Glasgow’s] Southern General Hospital. (4)

The dedication card became a rare and valued souvenir from this world-famous event sent by a superstar couple. Jimmy Cloughley was an engineer and a member of the work-in co-ordinating committee. For many years this trivial collectors’ item lay boxed among Jimmy’s papers along with his audio recordings of meetings, photographs and press reports from the heroic occupation.

In the decades since this legendary resistance there have been regular anniversaries to commemorate the UCS work-in. Its enduring legacy is that it remains one of the few conclusive industrial victories over a government by the trade union movement since WW2.

With many of those involved either elderly or passed away, a 30th anniversary exhibition was hosted in 2002. Jimmy Cloughley donated his personal papers including John and Yoko’s dedication card, to a special UCS archive curated by Glasgow Caledonian University where it remains to this day.

Icons of Music and Politics

The 40th anniversary in 2012 came too late for voice and face of the UCS work-in – Jimmy Reid died on 10 August 2010, aged 78. He has since been described as the ‘best MP Scotland never had’. His torch is carried on by the Jimmy Reid Foundation.

In 2007, before Reid died, Yoko Ono recalled the donation she and her husband had made to the shipyard workers back in 1971. She offered Reid congratulation on reaching his 75th birthday in an email via the author of a play about the work-in entitled Jimmy Reid: From Glasgow To Gettysburg.

Despite changing eras, I suspect Jimmy Reid would have remained steadfast in his political views that solidarity and constructing wide alliances are the way to build real resistance when communities come under threat from faceless boardroom bureaucrats and political butchers.

Working Class Heroes

Perhaps we should leave the last word to Tariq Ali – then an upstart student radical and now a renowned author, broadcasters and left-wing commentator ­– who can best triangulate this unique story.

Recalling his deep connection with Lennon, Tariq said: “He wanted to leave Britain because he and Yoko were repulsed by its provincialism and by the tenor of tabloid racism that was directed against her. I last spoke with him in 1979 when we discussed the likely impact of Thatcher’s victory.

“He didn’t sound too unradical in that conversation,” Tariq tellingly recalls.  “If there is a record of it in some British intelligence archive, I would be grateful to see a transcript.”

And he put paid to a later interview where Lennon confessed his militancy had been out of guilt. Tariq revealed: “Clearly, his views changed somewhat but I can’t see him as a neo-con supporting the wars and occupations in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The loss of his voice was a tragedy for millions.” (5)

I personally suspect – had John Lennon lived – he would have been a stalwart against the USA’s never-ending wars and a global spokesman for world peace, and, like Jimmy Reid, the struggle for economic and social justice in a globalised world.

Reid and his comrades believed politics and union activities had to take place in the community as well as the workplace. The UCS work-in demonstrated that unity and solidarity create real strength which can lead to victory, even against all the odds.

And in this world of war and global injustice, (feeling not unlike the 1970s) both men remain icons and rallying figures in the respective worlds of politics and music; to me they are working class heroes whose lives touched me personally and continue to shape my thinking.

Rarely does a story criss-cross the overlapping playgrounds of music, politics, family and childhood. As a proud Bankie and a lifelong Beatles fan, that all of this happened in my hometown aged 9 and I got the chance to write about this remarkable vignette, is of immense pride and enjoyment.

Even more so today as my heroes are dead and my opponents are in power.

Chris McGachy
(Globe Trotsky)
31 July 2021

(Scroll to bottom of page for References and Bibliography)


UCS Lennon Timeline

Still looking for more on John’s journey and Reid’s route? Explore this detailed year-by-year, month-by-month, multimedia timeline.

In it you will find much more detail and commentary on the specific events and individuals who shaped this unforgettable story.

Follow the ‘Read More’ button on each entry and link to watch additional film, Beatles’ music, rare photographs and archive interviews from key moments in John and Yoko’s story to support the workers of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders 50 years ago in August 1971.

1932

Jimmy Reid born in Govan
Jul

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Jimmy Reid is born on 9 July 1932 in Govan to parents Leo and Isabella Reid. Jimmy was the youngest of seven children. Three of his sisters died in infancy leading to his scathing accusation that their cause of death should be "killed by capitalism". It was a formative family heartbreak which had propelled Reid to life as a political activist i...
Jul Read more
1933

Yoko Ono born
Feb

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Yoko Ono was born in Tokyo, Japan, on 18 February 1933 to Isoko and Eisuke Ono. Her father, Eisuke – a former classical pianist – was a wealthy banker. Both parents came from wealthy Japanese families.   Read the full blog: The Beatle, The Bankie & The Bouquet . The full story behind John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s d...
Feb Read more

Tariq Ali born in Lahore
Oct

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  Tariq Ali was born and raised in Lahore, Punjab in British India (now part of Pakistan). He is the son of journalist Mazhar Ali Khan and activist mother Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan. Ali's mother was the daughter of Sir Sikandar Hyat Khan, who led the Unionist Muslim League and was later Prime Minister of the Punjab from 1937 to 1942. Ali's ...
Oct Read more
1940

John Lennon born in Liverpool
Oct

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  John Winston Lennon was born in Liverpool on the 9 October 1940. Lennon was born at Liverpool Maternity Hospital to Julia (née Stanley) (1914–1958) and Alfred Lennon (1912–1976). Alfred was a merchant seaman of Irish descent who was away at the time of his son's birth. His parents named him John Winston Lennon after his pate...
Oct Read more
1948

Reid joins Communist Party
Jan

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  Jimmy Reid joins the Communist Party aged 15. Biographers said it was the library rather than the classroom that shaped Govan-born Jimmy and his political activism. Read the full blog: The Beatle, The Bankie & The Bouquet . The full story behind John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s donation to Clyde shipbuilders of the UCS in 1971 a...
Jan Read more
1958

Reid moves to London as young communist leader
Jul

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  Jimmy Reid becomes National Chair of Young Communist League (YCL) and moves to London to take up the full-time party post. On the 9 August 1958 – while still living in London – Jimmy marries Joan Swankie at Old Kilpatrick Register Office selling golf clubs to pay for the bar tab…which still ran out, causing an argument between the...
Jul Read more
1963

John rattles royal conventions with jewellery joke
Nov

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  On November 4, 1963 the Beatles perform at the Royal Variety Performance in London attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. Prior to ripping into a rousing rendition of their closing number, Lennon said, “For our last number I’d like to ask your help. Poking fun at the royal guests in the Prince of Wales ...
Nov Read more
1964

Jimmy Reid settles in Faifley
Jan

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  In 1964 Jimmy Reid, who had been working in London decides to move back to Scotland and, despite being born and hailing from Govan, settles in the Faifley district of Clydebank with his wife Joan and young family. His father Leo had died in 1962. By 1965, following his return to Clydebank, Jimmy is elected to the full time post of Scott...
Jan Read more

Beatles reject racial segregation
Sep

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  The Beatles were booked to play at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida in 1964. But when they found out the crowd would be racially segregated the band threatened to cancel the gig. The promoters backed down. The policy was in defiance of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson t...
Sep Read more
1965

Tariq Ali elected President of the Oxford Union
Jan

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  Tariq Ali is elected President of the Oxford Union in 1965. Ali's tenure at the Union included a meeting with Malcolm X in December 1964 during which Malcolm X expressed deep consternation about his own risk of assassination. In 1967 Ali was one of 64 prominent figures, including the Beatles, who signed a petition calling for the legali...
Jan Read more

Establishment recognition with MBE
Oct

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  Due to their phenomenal international success in June 1965 it is announced that the Beatles would be each be made an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). In a break from tradition, it was the first time that such an award was bestowed upon mere "pop stars" and working class ones at that.  Previously the only ...
Oct Read more

Vietnam Solidarity Campaign established
Dec

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  The English philosopher, Bertrand Russell was an early campaigner on Vietnam, tearing up his Labour Party membership card in disgust at the failure of Labour to take an independent stand on Vietnam. Russell, a prominent aristocrat and polymath, had spent time in jail during the First World War for his pacifism. An anti-imperialist and n...
Dec Read more
1966

John’s ‘Jesus’ grenade explodes
Mar

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  A casual comment in a newspaper interview was to cause a huge controversy for John and his bandmates, when he claimed the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. It was so typical of Lennon to be analysing the status of the band in philosophical terms of wider culture. But his remark in an interview with journalist Maureen Cleave for the London...
Mar Read more

Lennon first ponders life beyond the Beatles
Sep

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  John admits he first contemplated life beyond The Beatles while on set without his bandmates in 1966 on film location. "Of course, I was a Beatle, but things had begun to change. In 1966, just before we met, I went to Almeria, Spain, to make the movie 'How I Won the War.' "It did me a lot of good to get away. I was there six weeks. I w...
Sep Read more

John meets Yoko
Nov

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  John Lennon meets Yoko Ono at an exhibition in London. Unfinished Paintings and Objects was hosted by the Indica gallery and bookshop in Mayfair in November 1966. The Japanese avant-garde artist was a seminal influence on John and fired his interest and adoption of radical politics. As the romance grew, the couple became inseparable. h...
Nov Read more
1967

Lennon calling Planet Earth live! Are you receiving?
Jun

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  Planet Earth, this is John Lennon, can you hear me? This is the next Beatles single and my first international anthem. "I'm a revolutionary artist. My art is dedicated to change." John Lennon June 1967 For the first time in human history people all over the planet Earth are watching the same television programme; aptly entertained wi...
Jun Read more

Black Dwarf first published
Aug

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  Black Drawf established and edited by Tariq Ali.  Black Dwarf took its name from the 19th-century radical paper of that name which was first published in 1817.  John Hoyland and the musician John Lennon had an exchange of letters in the newspaper regarding Lennon's supposed bourgeois values. Hoyland in "An Open Letter to John Lennon...
Aug Read more

Queen visits Clydebank for ship launch
Sep

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The Queen visited Clydebank to launch the latest new ship at John Brown’s Yard. It was a huge event for the town. As a kid we had watched this monster of a vessel grow and dominate the skyline. I recall watching it from the rooftop of a the high flats in Radnor Park where I lived. [caption id="attachment_4025" align="aligncenter" width="1...
Sep Read more

Beatles manager Brian Epstein dies
Oct

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  Epstein’s sudden death from a drug overdose aged just 32 was one of the major events leading to the breakup of the band without his guiding influence. Though they were to continue to make ground-breaking music and increase their influence, left to their own personal devices, the band drifted apart. In parallel with Yoko’s growing rad...
Oct Read more
1968

1968 sees mass movements and protests
Jan

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  As the decade comes to a close, the peace and love of the Swinging Sixties gives way to a year of violent and bloody protest across the globe. Mass protest, civil disobedience raged throughout 1968 as a year of huge social unrest. A huge backlash against state repression began with the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia. The US suffered ...
Jan Read more

Tet offensive turns public opinion
Jan

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  At 3:00 a.m., January 31, 1968, 70,000 North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong guerrillas launched surprise attacks throughout Vietnam. On this holiday morning known as Tet, more than 100 cities and outposts were attacked. In Saigon, a suicide squad penetrated and briefly held U.S. embassy grounds. Fighting was fierce. Throughout Vietnam, se...
Jan Read more

UCS established in shipbuilding shake up
Feb

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  With many shipyards on the Clyde going to the wall, nearly 30 in 1950 to under 10 in 1968 and a huge loss in market share from intense international competition, Minister of Technology, Tony Benn, implements a proposal to reorganise yards. The amalgamation of five shipyards leads to the formation of a new company – Upper Clyde Shipbuil...
Feb Read more

Tariq Ali leads Vietnam War protests
Mar

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  Mounted police clash with anti-Vietnam war demonstrators outside the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London on 17 March 1968.  The Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC) organised a major demonstration in London which drew more than 100,000 ant-war participants.  Serious police violence was captured by press and television cameras d...
Mar Read more

Beatles record Revolution
Aug

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  Beatles record John Lennon composition, Revolution. Recorded between 9–13 July 1968 and released 26 August 1968. The song, its lyrics and political message was to become the focus of the left's conversation with John's credibility and direction as he shed his teeny-bop image.   Read the full blog: The Beatle, The Bankie...
Aug Read more

John's costly drug bust
Sep

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  John Lennon and Yoko Ono leave Marylebone Magistrates’ Court after their hearing on drug possession charges, 19 October 1968. The case was to dog Lennon for a number of years, preventing him from gaining residency in the USA and partly ending his political activism. Senior police involved in the costly drugs were later jailed f...
Sep Read more
1969

John and Yoko tie the knot
Mar

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John and Yoko are married at the registry office in Gibraltar and spent their honeymoon in Amsterdam, campaigning with a week-long Bed-In for Peace.
Mar Read more

John buys Georgian mansion at Tittenhurst
May

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John and Yoko buy the Tittenhurst estate in Berkshire. The couple paid £145,000 for the Georgian mansion and 72-acre grounds which had belonged to test pilot and business tycoon Peter Cadbury. Though the couple only stay there for two years, much of our story takes place at Tittenhurst and it features large in Beatles folklore.  [capti...
May Read more

Anti-War Movement adopts Lennon hit
Jul

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  Give Peace a Chance was released and became an anthem of the anti-war movement reaching the top 14 in US and 2 in UK. The Master (Take 4) of Give Peace A Chance was recorded in Room 1742, The Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, Quebec, in the very early hours of 1 June 1969. Read the full blog: The Beatle, The Bankie & The Bouqu...
Jul Read more

Tittenhurst hosts last Beatles photoshoot
Aug

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  John's recent new home at Tittenhurst is the setting to host the last images of the Beatles together as a band. Any pictures of the band after this were strictly business related and didn't feature all four members. The photoshoot was held on 22 August 1969 – two days after their recording session together for the Hey Jude album. The...
Aug Read more

Lennon returns his MBE
Nov

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John makes the anti-establishment war formal by returning his MBE. He returns to his Aunt Mimi's house in Bournemouth  to collect the 1965 award. In typical Lennon-infused grandstanding he combines the political with the humorous. His main aim is to undermine the combined political and royal establishment by opposing British actions in the Nig...
Nov Read more
1970

Red Mole publication established
Mar

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  In March 1970, The Black Dwarf's editorial board split over differences of Leninism. A second newspaper was established, Red Mole, which Tariq Ali edited alongside an editorial board with an IMG (International Marxist Group) majority. Red Mole was a "revolutionary internationalist" paper that carried a broad range of left-wing opinion. J...
Mar Read more

McCartney publicly breaks up the Beatles
Apr

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Ahead of his debut solo album McCartney, Paul decided not to promote the album with media interviews as was the norm. Instead, he asked Apple’s Peter Brown to compile questions which he supplied the answers. They included his relationship with John, who had privately left the band in September 1969. (Lennon requested a "divorce" from the Be...
Apr Read more

Beatles' final album, Let it be, released
May

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  Let It Be released, The Beatles' final album, is released on 8 May 1970 The Beatles’ last album to be released, Let It Be was mostly recorded in early 1969, prior to Abbey Road. The music was produced by George Martin, and was then prepared for release in 1970 by Phil Spector. Following the often fractious sessions for the White Albu...
May Read more

Reid stands in election as Tories return to power
Jun

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  Already a Clydebank local councillor covering Faifley, Jimmy Reid stands as a Communist candidate for East Dunbartonshire constituency in the General Election held on 18 June 1970. The election was won by the Conservatives and Edward Heath became Prime Minister. The Conservative election victory was to mean major changes in industrial p...
Jun Read more

Lennon's first solo album starkly personal and political
Sep

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  Such was the reputation, appeal and longevity of The Beatles; it took a long time for people to appreciate that the band had actually split up. That intensified the focus on John’s debut solo album, entitled John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Recording began on 29 September 1970 at Abbey Road studios. [caption id="attachment_4252" ali...
Sep Read more

John reveals new solo direction in Rolling Stone interview
Dec

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  Following the release of Plastic Ono Band, John and Yoko conducted a mega interview which was featured in Rolling Stone magazine on 8 December 1970. This is the famous interview in which Lennon utters the famous words "I can make a guitar speak," makes fun of Mick Jagger for "wiggling his ass," calls Paul's music "rubbish," and declares...
Dec Read more
1971

Lennon interviewed by Red Mole
Jan

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On 21 January 1971, John invites Red Mole editors, Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, for a lengthy interview at Tittenhurst Park. It was through Red Mole that Lennon was to become acquainted with the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in. The newspaper had regular coverage and analysis on the work-in. In his day-long interview for the newspaper John e...
Jan Read more

John pens a 'marching song for the movement'
Jan

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Exhilarated and inspired by the nature of the discussion and interview the previous day with Red Mole, John goes into his studio at home in Ascot and writes his latest political hit, Power to the People on Friday 22 January. According to John, “I wrote ‘Power to the People' the same way I wrote ‘Give Peace a Chance,’ as something for th...
Jan Read more

UCS is forced to enter liquidation
Jun

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  On the evening of Friday June 11 the axe falls on Clydeside. The board of UCS told the government that the firm was technically insolvent. Without an extra £6m the company will fold. Heath’s government and the Industry Department was unresponsive causing a crisis among an estimated 2000 creditors. UCS is forced to enter liquidation ...
Jun Read more

200 shop steward agree to propose work-in
Jun

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The day after the devastating news that liquidation was the only option for UCS, on Saturday 12 June 1971, senior shop stewards met to discuss the workers' response. 200 senior shop stewards, including Jimmy Reid and Jimmy Airlie (pictured, left to right at front), endorsed the proposal of a work-in, taking control and continuing production wit...
Jun Read more

Hundreds lobby for the 'right to work'
Jun

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On Monday 14 June a mass meeting of all workers takes place in Clydebank Town Hall while leading stewards fly to London to attend a Commons debate on the crisis. Meanwhile in London, Industry Secretary, John Davies appoints a provisional liquidator and sets up an expert committee with a remit to report by the end of July. The following day, Tu...
Jun Read more

John begins recording Imagine
Jun

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On Wednesday 23 June John begins recording tracks for his new album Imagine. On the first morning he plays his new song to the other musicians which will turn out to be the title track of the album. Then, using an eight-track machine which the Lennon's affectionately call ASS (Ascot Sound Studios), the recording sessions produce the following s...
Jun Read more

Red Mole cover catches John's attention as he completes Imagine
Jul

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  On the first of the month, the July edition of Red Mole is published with a cover dedicated to the developing Upper Clyde Shipbuilders dispute which had become a national news headlines in the UK. It was this edition which was to capture the attention of John Lennon. Writing in his memoirs Tariq Ali – at this point regularly speaking...
Jul Read more

Lennon donation fuels international support
Aug

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John and Yoko's donation to the UCS fighting fund on 9 August 1971 helps propel the Clydeside struggle to a sympathetic international audience. Money and solidarity pours in to the UCS to sustain the occupation and pay wages to the courageous workforce. (Top image of Dedication Card: ©Glasgow Caledonian University Archives: Papers of Jimmy Clo...
Aug Read more

Prime Minister Heath in choppy waters
Aug

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Far away from the still, murky waters of the Clyde, Prime Minister, Ted Heath, is in choppy waters of a different kind leading Britain’s Admiral Cup team to victory aboard his 42-foot yacht, Morning Cloud. Heath is at the helm in the punishing 600-mile, five-day race from Cowes on the Isle of Wight to Fastnet Rock off southern Ireland returni...
Aug Read more

UCS captivates Lennon despite hectic schedule
Aug

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  Despite chaotic professional and family life, the UCS occupation mesmerises Lennon. While working intently to complete Imagine, four transatlantic trips in a month, the torturous and never-ending search for Yoko’s missing daughter, the fall out with Paul, the Beatles business dealings, promotion of the new album, filming for the Imagi...
Aug Read more

Two-yard proposal and Occupation at stalemate as Davies steps in
Aug

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  UCS stewards outflank government by sidelining the Govan proposal at meeting organised by Sir John Eden. This and huge public support undermines the government position. By the end of the August, Industry Secretary, John Davies, takes personal control of negotiations. It was Davies most associated with the ‘lame ducks” phrase having...
Aug Read more

Morale dips but Reid's rhetoric holds nerve
Sep

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On 17 September a bonus for the workers when Ken Douglas, Managing Director of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, reveals record productivity and improved industrial relations in a widely reported newspaper interview. The Government, meanwhile, appoints a management board to two-yard proposal to isolate Clydebank and divide the workers unity. The ...
Sep Read more

Lennon settles in New York and composes new peace anthem
Oct

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  Having flown to New York at the end of August 1971, lawyers representing Yoko suggest to her that to secure her custody rights for her daughter, Kyoko, she and John must take up permanent residence in the States. Although he didn’t know it at the time, John would never again return to his native country. John explains: “Yoko and I w...
Oct Read more

John advertises Peace as a Product
Dec

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  Happy Xmas/War is Over released on 1 December 1971 and the advertising campaign starts two weeks later in the run up to Christmas. John’s anti-war, anti-violence and peace campaigning has been a regular strand of his political activism since the bed-in on honeymoon in Amsterdam and the release of Give Peace a Chance, both back in 1969...
Dec Read more
1972

Beatles duo outraged by Bloody Sunday
Jan

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The cold-blooded killing of 13 Catholics after a civil rights march in Derry in Northern Ireland by British paratroopers causes outrage. Both John Lennon and even the less politically inclined Paul McCartney compose songs about the murders in February 1972. John had been a sustained critic of British involvement in Ireland. Indeed, both he and ...
Jan Read more

BBC bans McCartney’s Bloody Sunday single
Feb

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'I wasn't really into protest songs – John had done that – but this time I felt that I had to write something, to use my art to protest.' Paul McCartney says the British army killings are so shocking, he had to react with a song about Bloody Sunday in February 1972. Being a lifelong Beatles’ fan, I can’t resist the opportunity to bring ...
Feb Read more

Nixon urged to deport Lennon
Feb

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  A secret memo addressed to the US Attorney General, John Mitchell, from Senator Strom Thurmond, suggests that John Lennon should be deported from the United States as an undesirable alien, due to Lennon's political views and activism. The document sent on 4 February 1972 claims Lennon's influence on young people could affect Nixon's cha...
Feb Read more

Breakthrough as government caves in with £35 million extra funding offer
Feb

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  The government, stung by the level of support for the UCS workers and with a wider eye on their getting their Industrial Relations Bill through parliament, had long realised the need to end the dispute having failed to split the workers with their two-yard solution. They had already privately acknowledged the need to end the fight regard...
Feb Read more

Old drug bust starts deportation as Lennon plans radical US tour
Feb

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  On Tuesday February 29 1972 John and Yoko’s original US visa expires. They are immediately granted a 15-day extension. But this sees the beginning of a three-and-a-half-year struggle by John to reside in America. The government’s opposition to his request is apparently based on his 1968 UK drug conviction by Sgt Pilcher. By the end o...
Feb Read more

Reid’s rousing Rat Race speech as new Rector of Glasgow University
Apr

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  With the earlier stalemate between the Clydeside yard workers and government, Reid uses time and his new-found public profile to stand for election as Rector of Glasgow University. His popular campaign means he becomes the youngest Rector to hold the office since its establishment in 1648. It allows the newly elected the opportunity...
Apr Read more

UCS work-in ends in victory
Aug

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  Having reached agreement with US oil rig company Marathon two days earlier, on 9 August 1972, the unions agree to the terms of the Govan proposal and the occupation ends in success. One week later, Govan Shipbuilders became a reality. Sixteen months after the "work-in" campaign started, on the 9th October 1972, the terms of the sett...
Aug Read more

Ringo buys Tittenhurst
Sep

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  As the work-in came to a successful conclusion, things were changing fundamentally on John’s journey too. Deciding to stay permanently in the USA and fight for residency and a coveted green card, John and Yoko put the once, forever home up for sale instructing estate agents to put it back on the market. In a twist on Tuesday 18 Septem...
Sep Read more

Bent cop chief Pilcher is jailed for corruption
Oct

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  As Lennon battles deportation, the main who arrested him for drug possession was himself in the dock. Sgt. Pilcher – in charge of the drug squad at Scotland Yard in London – is jailed for six years on corruption charges. John has long claimed that Pilcher was responsible for planting the illegal substances in his flat when he was bus...
Oct Read more
1976

Reid resigns from the Communist Party
Feb

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On 9 Feb 1976 Jimmy Reid leaves the Communist Party. After "sleepness nights" he shocks party leaders who had once nurtured him as a future leader and sends a resignation letter. Having joined aged 16, Jimmy has been a member for 25 years of his life and met his wife Joan through the party. Return to The Beatle, The Bankie & The Bouquet bl...
Feb Read more

Lennon finally gets his green card
Jul

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And in a triple triumph as Lennon celebrates his 35th birthday and the arrival of his new son, Sean, he finally receives his green card.   Return to The Beatle, The Bankie & The Bouquet blog. This blog is strictly non-commercial. All material is the property of the photographer/artist/copyright holder concerned. Any copyright owner...
Jul Read more
1977

Jimmy joins Labour Party
Oct

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  In October 1977 Jimmy joins the Labour Party. It is a huge political move in which he is vilified as a traitor on both sides. From the Communist Party whom he abandoned his lifelong membership following his UCS fame and from the Labour Party which he had excoriated following election defeat in the 1974 elections. Members of both parties ...
Oct Read more
1980

Lennon murdered in New York
Dec

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  This remains one of the saddest moments in modern history. John Lennon is fatally gunned down outside his New York home. Having brought up his son Sean at home, while Yoko went to work, John had recently returned to the studio with material for a new album. It was the first time in six years that the ex-Beatle had written worked on an ...
Dec Read more
1997

Death of UCS leader Jimmy Airlie
Mar

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In March 1997, Reid’s long-time comrade in the Communist Party, in the trade union movement and, most importantly, as his double act in the UCS occupation, Jimmy Airlie dies following a six-month battle with cancer, aged 60. Airlie’s unfortunate passing did not make for any happy ending. The pair were rumoured to have fallen after Reid’s ...
Mar Read more
2010

Death of Jimmy Reid aged 78
Aug

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  On August 2010 Jimmy Reid is taken to hospital from his home on the Isle of Bute. Across the very river, the River Clyde, on which he made a living, and led a nation and the working class to an momentous victory. In Greenock, aged 78, Jimmy dies from a brain haemorrhage. Despite leaving the Communist Party for the Labour Party and t...
Aug Read more
2021

Tariq Ali
Jul

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July 2021 Tariq Ali is 77 years old and lives in London with his wife. The activist, historian, filmmaker and novelist has written numerous books subsequent to the his memoirs Street Fighting Years. He is a member of the editorial board of the New Left Review and, as an intellectual commentator contributes article to newsapers and magazines. ...
Jul Read more
2021



References

1 Pg 361-364, Tariq Ali, Streetfighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties, Verso, 2018

  1. Location 1361, 23 June 1971, Keith Badman, The Beatles Diary Volume 2 After the Breakup, 1970-2001, Omnibus Press, 2009
  1. Pg 331-333, Tariq Ali, Streetfighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties, Verso, 2018
  1. Govan Hidden Histories, Power to the People! Roses from Yoko Ono & John Lennon, in support of the 1971 UCS Work-In, Blog Post by Chani Bond, 2015
  1. John Lennon’s Power for the People, Tariq Ali, Opinion, The Guardian, 2.2.2010

Bibliography

W.W.J. Knox and A. McKinlay, Jimmy Reid: A Clyde-Built Man, Liverpool University Press, 2019

K MacAskill, Jimmy Reid: A Scottish Political Journey, Backbite, 2017

Keith Badman, The Beatles Diary Volume 2 After the Breakup, 1970-2001, Omnibus Press, 2009

Dan Richter, The Dream is Over, Quartet, 2012

Tariq Ali, Streetfighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties, Verso, 2018

The 1971-72 UCS work-in revisited – Our History Pamphlet No 9, Communist Party, 2017

Claire Fowler, Daniel Kodjo French, Jennifer Hunter, Fiona Young, The Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work In 1971–72, Glasgow Caledonian University Research Collection, 2007

Piers Dudgeon, Our Glasgow: Memories of Life in Disappearing Britain, Headline Publishing, 2009

Morning Star, People Press, Various online articles

Jimmy Reid Foundation, YouTube Presentation, The UCS work-in: a celebration and commemoration 50 years on,

Govan Hidden Histories, Power to the People! Roses from Yoko Ono & John Lennon, in support of the 1971 UCS Work-In, Blog Post, Chani Bond,

Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-in, 1971–72, stugglepedia.co.uk website.


Dedication: In My Life; there are places I remember!

If I’m totally honest about this story, I just missed the Beatles; I was born in 1962 when they were just starting out and I was around 12 when I first ‘got into music’ in a big way. So the 1970s were my real musical education and playground.
But they were always around and I was aware of them. My dad liked Neapolitan music but to his credit and catholic taste, The Beatles Red and Blue albums were in the collection and did get airtime.
Brothers and friends were my seminal musical influences. My instinct for songs and bands came later.

The UCS work-in happened when I was nine years old. My father was a trade union man and would have fully supported the UCS on both moral and political grounds.
He had recently fought to save Babcox and Wilcox in Dalmuir where he worked. So the UCS work-in would have appealed tactically to him.

We were later featured in an STV programme about unemployment which made me a early poverty porn pioneer well before Love Island became the lifestyle choice of working-class scum.
I have a vague memory of heated, dinner-table discussions about the priests’ sermons telling parishioners that they should not vote for communist candidates around the 1974 election when Jimmy Reid stood for Parliament.
I vividly recall my devout and socialist father was conflicted but compliant, such was his Catholic conformity. So in the first instance, I recall this tale for him as a trade unionist and a socialist.

I left Clydebank in 1980 aged 18 for a job in London. My hometown was such a blackspot of unemployment there was little to entice me to stay trying to get a job – never mind establish a career, whatever that was.
In fact until I started researching this nebulous, childhood memory, I honestly didn’t realise the UCS work-in had ended in victory; such was the devastation wreaked on Clydebank in the 1970s.
In fact, I was shocked to see a recent BBC News story use Clydebank as the location for a package about social deprivation. Despite the UCS victory, Thatcherite politics were to ultimately win a eventual, satanic victory.
So, these days I take my pleasures and battles in small ways. Music, football, politics.
Leaving Clydebank as a teenager, I had a great circle of friends. So much so they remain close to this day. And The Beatles were and remain a common factor in this personal narrative.
Vincent Reid introduced me to St Andrews’ school mates Chris Willet (Waddle) and Michael McCann. Chris lived in an old Victorian detached house in Old Kilpatick. Such a big house was a place of refuge; of space for people and mind. We illicitly smoked and drunk; and we played [loud] music. We introduced each other to our influences. But most of all we played The Beatles. We were the next generation catching up. A journey new generations continue.
The fact we can know the lyrics to every song is a heartfelt memory; a joint Clydebank commission.

Band from near the Drum


I recently devised a McCartney-inspired name for our new WhatsApp group – Band from near the Drum.
We also frequented St Stephen parish hall. The Saturday morning disco, ran by my brother Peter at one point (the original Barra) was a regular haunt. On my final Saturday before leaving for London in February 1980 this song was chosen as their parting memory. It combines Clydebank and The Beatles.
So, to Chris Willett, Vincent Reid and Mick McCann, 40 years later, this Beatles song will always remind me of you and our lives and times together. It’s an appropriate way to sign off this story of the Bankies and The Beatles. We are personally entwined in the story. Clydebank and The Beatles are places and people I will remember all my life!

From Clydebank?

Is your dad, my dad? A hilarious family history as an old image helps solve a McGachy family dispute.

Montage of Enoch Powell, Jim McGachy and Neil Kinnock

1970s atheism beatles celtic chelsea citybreak clydebank communism communist destinations egypt football hampden heath history Leeds lenin lennon london manchester united maps marx memes moscow photography politics prague race racism red mole reid religion scotland shipbuilding socialism tech tittenhurst trade unions transport travel trips ucs USA vietnam working class

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3 Comments

tim64w · at

I beieve that that the refusal to support ‘lame duck’ industries was later abandoned by John Davies and the Heath government, much to the dismay of some of their more strident backbenchers.

    admin · at

    Rolls Royce also went into receivership and the Tories bailed it out, so they weren’t consistent. Plus Yarrow, with defence contracts was left out of UCS for that reason. The Tories were more focused on getting their Industrial Relations Bill through and wanted to end the UCS dispute to concentrate on that being the coverage. They did not expect the level of widespread support for UCS. But the butchers learned their lesson. By the time Thatcher came to power they were intent on breaking the unions and provoked the miners strike having stockpiled supplies. The 1984 miners strike was a political battle to break the union organisation and solidarity. You have to admit Thatcher succeeded. We now have a free market economy, little job security, fire and rehire along with cuts to the post war welfare state. But the Tories wont be happy till the unemployed are picking fruit and veg in Lincolnshire Tim.

The Beatle, the Bankie and the Bouquet – Culture Matters · at

[…] Read the full story and multimedia timeline at www.globetrotsky.com/lennon. […]

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