Yes, Yes, Yes: UCS – Unity Creates Strength

On the occasion of the beginning of the 50th anniversary in 2021 of the UCS work-in, we reprint a book review by Gordon Morgan from Scottish Left Review (no 67, Nov/Dec 2011).

Betteridge, D. (ed.) A Rose Loupt Oot – Poetry and Song Celebrating the UCS Work-in, Smokestack Books, 2011 978-0956417503, £8.95.

Oor faithers fought this fight before/ Maclean, McShane fought fairly/ And we will fight them once again/ Wi’ Jimmy Reid and Airlie (extract from Wi’ Jimmy Reid and Airlie by Matt McGinn)

This book is as described a celebration of the UCS work-in through a collection of 40 poems and songs, some contemporaneous, others specially commissioned for the book. The book launch at Clydebank College, on the site of the former John Brown’s, was attended by around 100 including many participants in the work-in and we were entertained to a selection of the songs and poems performed by 12 of the writers including George McEwan and Arthur Johnstone.

With your hammering, your caulking/ Your gouging and your burning/ Snow in your face and tired inside/ The conditions are bad, apprentice young fellow/ But please hang around and fight from inside/ Please hang around and fight from inside. (final chorus from ‘The Great Iron Ship’ by Danny Kyle)

The book has several short introductions from Ann Henderson, Jimmie Macgregor and Jimmy Cloughley. These outline the timetable and political background to the work-in and some lessons for current struggles. The collator David Betteridge outlines the steps taken to produce the book in time for the 40th anniversary of the work-in and explains the book’s title is taken from MacDiarmid’s A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle in a passage about the 1926 General Strike. Ewan McVicor then gives background to the songs and songwriters, including Jim McLean, Tony McCarthy at the time and later Iain Ingram, Leo Coyle and Geordie McIntyre.

The big ships are gone, the boatyards stand idle/ And they must leave Glasgow, no more may they bide/ Their torches are dimmed and their hammers are silent/ And the cranes stand still, mourners at the death of the Clyde/ (chorus from The Death of the Clyde by Tony McCarthy)

Several common songs included are anonymous such as
The Hell wi’ Ridley, Heath and Davies/ The Hell wi’ Ridley, Heath and Davies/ They say it is too late tae save us/ But we’ll show them they’re not on. (chorus of UCS)

David Betteridge introduces the poems and poets including Freddy Anderson, Bill Sutherland, Jim Aitkin, Edwin Morgan, Tessa Ransford amongst many others.

Their emblem was the banner red/ they were no craven crew/ like Clyde has served you with its streams/ they lived and fought for you/ Their tribe still live throughout the years/ nor change with Time nor Tide!/ For Liberty come sing with me/ this ballad of the Clyde. (last verse from ‘Ballad of the Clyde’ by Freddie Anderson)

Some poems were specially commissioned for the book such as
I saw shipbuilding dying/ Till men began to fight/ To stop the closing of the yards/ Showing solidarity is might/ People came together/ With their passion and their pride/ I felt at one with them/ And proud to be the Clyde. (verse from ‘I See the Salmon Flow’ by Peter Scrimgeour)

The book is illustrated with photos and cartoons from the time. Further reading is courtesy of John Foster. Finally, Smokestack Books only publishes radical song and poetry and can be visited at where the book can be purchased.
Jimmy Reid and Airlie/ Barr, Gilmour, and the rest/ They aa went doon tae London Toon/ The government tae face/ They telt them we were workin in/ That we were gaun tae stay/ When the government relented/ UCS had won the day. (verse from ‘Doon through the Years’ by Arthur Johnstone)