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Famous Scots - James Jimmy Reid

Reid came to prominence in the early 1970s when he led the Uper Clyde Sipbuilders Work-in to try and stop Edward Heaths Conservative Goverment  from closing down the shipyards on the River Clyde In Glasgow The government had decided that the shipyards should operate without state subsidy, which would have resulted in at least six thousand job losses an engineer by trade and shop steward of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers Reid, along with his colleagues Jimmy Airlie andSammy Barr  decided that the best way to show the viability of keeping the yards open was by staging a 'work-in' rather than by going on strike.This meant that the workers would operate the shipyard until the government changed policy.In a famous speech given to the workers, Reid announced the workers control and discipline over the shipyard:

“ We are not going to strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike. Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission. And there will be no Hooliganism, there will be no Vandalism, there will be no Bevvying because the world is watching us, and it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves with responsibility, and with dignity, and with maturity. ”

The occupation received support from across the world, with a series of fundraising events and foreign unions, celebrities (such as John Lennonn and Billy Connolly) and members of the public providing donations. The campaign was successful in persuading Heath to back down the following year, and the Clyde shipyards received £101 million in public support over the next three years.[

He was elected as a Communist  councillor in Clydebank, where prior to the local government reform of the mid-1970s there were a few Communist councillors. He stood for the Communist Party of Great Britan in East Dunbartonshire in the 1970 general election.

Reid also served as REctor of the University of Glasgow, elected in 1971, largely on the back of his union activities. When installed as Rector he gave a critically acclaimed speech, which became known as "the rat-race speech". TheNew York Times printed the speech in full and described it as "the greatest speech since President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address ".

“ Reject the values and false morality that underlie these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We're not rats. We're human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts and before you know where you are, you're a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. Or as Christ put it, "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul ”

In the February 1974 General Election, Reid stood for the Communist Party in Central Dunbartonshire , which was dominated by the town of Clydebank, against sitting Labour member  Hugh McCartney Central Dunbartonshire. He got 18% of the vote, the best result for a Communist Party candidate in Britain for some time, but it seemed like a disappointment as some thought he might win. It was a controversial campaign, the ballot paper described him as "Engineering Worker", which some thought was disguising his Communist identity. One Roman Catholic priest gave a sermon advising his parishioners only to vote for candidates who were consistent with Christian principles. In his speech at the count, Reid described his opponents as Falangists" in reference to their perceived Catholic nationalism. He stood again in October 1974  when his vote was down slightly.

Political career - leaving the CPGB for Labour
Around 1975 Reid left the Communist Party. The breakaway Scottish Labour Party considered recruiting him, but its leader Jim Sillars said: "If we have that chap in he'll be taking time away from me on the box".

About a year after he left the CP, Reid joined the Labour Party. He was their candidate in Dundee East in 1979, but lost to the then Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Gordon Wilson The decision by Dundee East Constituency Labour Party to select him as their candidate was controversial as he had been a party member for less than the two years normally expected. He is sometimes referred to as "the best MP Scotland never had".

Reid then became a journalist and broadcaster, writing opinion columns for various newspapers, including The Daily Mirror, The Herald, The Sun and The Scotsman. He also presented a chat-show called the Reid Report for Grampian Television. In 1984 he wrote and presented a series of documentaries entitled Reid About the USSR when his previous status within the Communist Party gave him unprecedented access and resulted in three BAFTA awards. In 2000 he helped establish the Scottish Left Review, a bi-monthly publication. He also wrote an "As I Please" column in Tribune, emulating George Orwell

During the UK Miners strike (1984-1985) Reid was highly critical of the strike and its leader Arthur Scargill in his newspaper column. Reid's stance led to he himself coming under strong criticism from many former supporters in the labour movement, he was described by Mick McGahey as "Broken Reid and by Dennis Skinner as "Jimmy Weed". 

Headstone Photograph

Further Information

Firstname: James Jimmy

LastName: Reid

Cemetery: Craigton Crematorium

  Berryknowes Road

Town: Glasgow

PostCode: G52 2DB

Region: Glasgow and Clyde Valley

Country: Scotland


Please Note, the marker on this map indicates the Cemetery location, not the location of a particular grave. is a privately owned website with no affiliation to any Local Councils.