Crossing the Bar

BookCrossing the Bar

Crossing the Bar

An Oral History of the British Shipbuilding, Ship Repairing and Marine Engine-Building Industries in the Age of Decline, 1956-1990

Research in Maritime History, 51


October 18th, 2017

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This book is a collection of sixty interviews with key figures in British shipbuilding, ship repair, and marine engine-building industries across the United Kingdom, plus government and civil service members in the sector from the 1960s to the 1980s. The aim of the project is to understand the economic, social, and political environment of the shipping industry from the perspective of those who worked in it. The interviews place the twentieth century decline of British shipbuilding into a firm context. The topics covered include international competition (a recurring, pertinent theme); labour difficulties; industry modernisation; the attitude of shipowners; the strong belief in traditional methods which kept many of those in the industry from recognising the cheaper, faster, and better quality work taking place overseas and leaving Britain behind; ship production and production control; the postwar boom; shipyard overcrowding; the decline of the domestic industry in favour of the international; marketing weaknesses; trade disputes and trade unions; and nationalisation and privatisation concerns. Opinions and viewpoints often conflict, particularly between the perspectives of those working within the industry and the civil servants working outside of it, but the interviews are presented as a unit, and the reader is encouraged to draw their own conclusion. The result is a unique historical archive that offers a multitude of firsthand perspectives on the British shipping decline, open to interpretation by historians and future researchers. It includes a preface, introduction, and select bibliography. The interviews are grouped together by location and role.

Author Information

Hugh Murphy is Senior Caird Research Fellow at the National Maritime Museum and a Researcher at the Centre for Business History in Scotland at the University of Glasgow.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page3
About the Authors15
Preface: A Shipbuilding Libretto17
Lower Clyde25
1. Alexander Ross Belch, Lithgows, Scott Lithgow, British Shipbuilders Plc25
2. Johnston Robb, Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering, Scott Lithgow Ltd.31
3. Willie Ferguson, William Hamilton and Sons, Lithgows, Scott Lithgow Ltd.36
Upper Clyde43
4. Sir Eric Yarrow, Weir Engineering, Cathcart, Yarrow Shipbuilders43
5. Dr. Brian Baxter, Yarrow Shipbuilders45
6. Bob Easton, Yarrow Shipbuilders50
7. Sandy Stephen, Alexander Stephen Shipbuilders and Engineers53
8. Professor John Rorke, Alexander Stephen, Denny Brothers, Brown Brothers57
9. Fred Walker, Denny Brothers, Fairfield, Connell and Hall Russell60
10. Jolyon Slogett, Denny Brothers, Houlder Bros., British Shipbuilders Plc64
11. Dr. John Brown, John Brown, Clydebank67
12. Graham Strachan, Alexander Stephen, John Brown and Scott Lithgow71
13. J.F. Starks, John Brown, Upper Clyde Shipbuilders75
14. Anthony Hepper, Upper Clyde Shipbuilders78
15. Harry Osborne, Civil Engineer81
The Tyne83
16. G.H.R. Towers, John Redhead and Sons Ltd.83
17. J.E. Steele, Swan Hunter, British Shipbuilders Plc86
18. Peter Milne, Swan Hunter, British Shipbuilders Plc98
19. P.D. Christie, Swan Hunter101
20. James Jardine, Smith's Dock, Swan Hunter104
21. Eric Crowdy, Hawthorn Leslie, George Clark NEM, William Doxford Engineers106
22. M.F. Pyman, Mercantile Dry Dock Co. Ltd., Jarrow111
The Wear115
23. Arthur Storey, NEM, Doxford and Vickers Engineers, Austin and Pickersgill115
24. Ken Douglas, Wm. Gray, Austin and Pickersgill, UCS, British Shipbuilders Plc117
25. Derek Kimber, Fairfield, Harland and Wolff, Austin and Pickersgill125
26. Bill Richardson, Vickers Armstrong, Swan Hunter, British Shipbuilders Plc133
27. Roy Turner, Vickers136
The South Coast143
28. Peter Usher, Vosper Thornycroft143
The Humber149
29. John Leathard, Richard Dunston, Hessle149
30. Dr. Denis Rebbeck, Harland and Wolff153
31. T. John Parker, Harland and Wolff, Austin and Pickersgill, British Shipbuilders Plc157
32. Eric Mackie, Harland and Wolff Ship Repairers, British Shipbuilders Plc162
British Shipbuilding Industry Officials167
33. R.D. Brown, SRNA, AWES167
34. Joseph Charles Asher, SEF, Shipbuilding Conference, BSRA169
35. G.R. Snaith, BSRA, British Shipbuilders Plc173
The Trade Unions177
36. James Airlie, Lobnitz, Faifield, UCS, Amalgamated Engineering Union177
37. Jim McFall, Boilermakers Society181
38. Alex Ferry, AEU, Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions184
The Civil Servants, Board of Trade, Shipbuilding Enquiry Committee, Shipbuilding Industry Board, Ministry of Technology, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Industry187
39. Reay Geddes, Shipbuilding Inquiry Committee188
40. Victor Chapman, Board of Trade, Ministry of Technology, DTI, SIC189
41. Cliff Baylis. Ministry of Technology, SRNA193
42. Barry Barker, Shipbuilding Industry Board196
43. Vivian Marchant, Dept of Industry199
44. Ron Dearing, DTI203
45. Tony Benn, Minister of Technology, Secretary of State for Industry/ Energy207
46. Norman Tebbitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry212
47. Teddy Taylor, MP, Scottish Office Minister for Industry214
48. Bob Clay, M.P, Sunderland North215
British Shipbuilders Plc217
49. Admiral Sir Anthony Griffin, Chairman, 1977-1980219
50. Michael Casey, Chief Executive, 1977-1980225
51. Ken Griffin, Deputy Chairman, 1977-1983228
52. Michael Haines, Acting Finance Director, 1977230
53. Reg Arnell, Director and Board Member, Finance, 1977-1991232
54. Dr. Martin Stopford, Group Economist, Director Business Development, 1977-1988234
55. Richard Dykes, Director of Industrial Relations, 1977-1980238
56. R.J. Daniel, Board Member Warshipbuilding, 1979-1984240
57. Robert Atkinson, Chairman, 1980-1983242
58. Graham Day, Chairman, 1983-1986244
59. Geoff Fuller, Board Member, Warshipbuilding, 1983-1986247
60. Maurice Phelps, Director of Personnel, 1980-1987, Chief Executive, 1986- 1987249
Select Bibliography261