Benny McGoogan Interview

 
 
 

Benny McGoogan, who was born and grew up in Coatbridge, started in Fairfields as a plater in 1975 having served his apprenticeship. He became a full time shop steward in 1978 for the Boilermakers Union, a position he held until 1988 when he became a Health and Safety Manager. Benny left Fairfields in 2001 to work in Health and Safety Management in Land Services for Glasgow City Council and then City Building. He retired in 2015.

All of the extracts which appear here are taken from oral history life narrative interviews which were conducted by Valerie Wright in 2017 as part of the Leverhulme funded project ‘Employment, Politics and Culture in Scotland 1955-2015’ (RPG-2016-283) based in Economic and Social History at the University of Glasgow.

In each case the individual named selected the extract that appears on this site.

On the right are links to the audio and corresponding transcripts of the shipyard workers who were interviewed, they are listed in chronological order of when each individual started in Fairfield.

The audio and transcript below contain an extract of an interview with Benny McGoogan taken from a collection of oral history life narrative interviews which were conducted in 2017 as part of the Leverhulme funded project ‘Employment, Politics and Culture in Scotland 1955-2015’ (RPG-2016-283) based in Economic and Social History at the University of Glasgow.

Benny McGoogan himself selected the audio extract below.

 

Audio Extract     (6m 45s)

 

Audio Extract Transcript

Valerie:    

So what was…what was it like to become a full-time official and be off…off the tools? To make that transition.

Benny:    

Well again you’re…you’re learning something else.

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

You’re getting steeped in trade union…you know, er, being a shop steward…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…so your…your…your…your whole focus is looking after your membership…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…and the people that’s elected you. So that…that…you’ve got a different focus then…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…as well as…you’re still a plater. First…first and foremost, you’re a plater. But you’re…you’re now representing three hundred and fifty people.

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

You’re their spokesman.

Valerie:    

It’s a lot of responsibility, isn’t it?

Benny:    

It’s a lot…it is…it is a lot of responsibility. And again out of they three hundred and fifty people, you’ve got people who are not very nice…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

…eh…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

You get a lot of nice…you’ve got more nice people than un-nice…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…people…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…but again, you’ve got a lot of people that fly men, eh…

Valerie:    

Yeah. Yeah.

Benny:    

Er, I can remember Jimmy Airlie who was a…a very famous, er, convenor in here…

Valerie:    

Fae the UCS days.

Benny:    
 
 

…when I be…first became a…a young shop steward and as I say, I was only about twenty-five or twenty-six, I can remember Jimmy saying to me, listen, Benny, he says, you’re now a shop steward. He said, and everybody will be your enemy. Everybody will be your enemy, he said, ‘cause see the guys down there, they represent you…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

…he said, not every single person you’ll be able to agree wi…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

…and they won’t be able to agree wi you. So see the ones that don’t agree wi you, they’ll be your enemy…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…and it’s the same with the management. So you canna win. You’re in a no win situation…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

You’re in a no win situation. He says, but always…

Valerie:    

You just haven’t…yeah.

Benny:    

…remember, he said, trade…trade…stay truthful to yourself. Best bit of advice I got...

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…fae big Jimmy Airlie.

Valerie:    

Go with what you…what you think, what your gut reaction is.

Benny:    
 

Yeah. Go…go…go…go wi your gut and go what you think’s right. Er, but the most important thing is, the easiest thing to do is noise the troops up and put them out in the…out on strike. The hardest thing to do is keep them at their work.

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

The negotiating skills to keep at their work…

Valerie:    

At their work.

Benny:    

…and go to a…a meeting and…and say, listen, here’s the way we’ve got to go down and here’s the way we’ve got to go.

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

But the most important thing, you can’t negotiate out in the street…

Valerie:    

No.

Benny:    

You can only negotiate inside.

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm. Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

But they were always great bits of advice I got.

Valerie:    

That he gave you. I mean, he had all the experience of the UCS work in behind him and…

Benny:    

Ah, Big Jimmy’s a great big guy. Brilliant…brilliant, the guy.

Valerie:    

Did you learn from him?

Benny:    

Och, he…you learned…

Valerie:    

And others, yeah.

Benny:    

…fae every…yeah, but again you, kind of, look up to people like that.

Valerie:    

Oh yeah. Yeah.

Benny:    

I mean, you’re only a young guy, twenty-five, and here’s a guy in his forties…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…you know, who’s seen it, done it and bought the t-shirt. Come right through the UCS crisis…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

…eh…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

Along Jimmy Reid and all the other people. So you’re, kind of, looking up to these guys…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

…er, and wealth of experience. Worldly wise.

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

Er, won’t gie you bad advice.

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

Only gie you good advice. Um, and again people like that, from the shop stewards’ movement in here, we’d one focus and the focus was to keep this shipyard open.

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    
 

Because we all looked on it at…every job we’ve got in here…my job as a plater, it wasn’t my job. I was only holding that temporarily until I decided that I wasn’t wanting to hold that job and it was my own [point 46:22] to pass it on to the generation coming behind me. Valerie: Yeah. Yeah.

Benny:    
 

So the number one priority in here for all the shop stewards and all the convenors, the joint shop stewards’ committee was to keep the shipyard open. Not at…at any cost because there’s got to be a bit of give and take…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…wi management. But equally we’ve got to give and take with them.

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm. Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

So that…that…that’s a skill itself.

Valerie:    

But you talk about, you know, keeping people at their work. ‘Cause, I mean, this is the seventies where it’s a period in Scot…British and Scottish history that is seen as strike prone.

Benny:    

Maggie Thatcher.

Valerie:    

Winter of Discontent…

Benny:    

Oh…

Valerie:    

…all that sort of stuff, you know.

Benny:    

…aye, well we went through all that, er…

Valerie:    

That’s the caricature we have of the seventies.

Benny:    

Oh yeah. Yeah.

Valerie:    

But the reality was that, you know, you’re trying to keep your men at their work.

Benny:    

Well again…again you had the Thatcherite government…

Valerie:    

Yeah, yeah.

Benny:    

…and, er, again they weren’t…well put it this way, they weren’t for the working class…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

The Thatcher government were not for the working class. Er, the turmoil in the mines then…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm

Benny:    

…er, Arthur Scargill…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

…um, so you’d all sorts of turmoil. Yeah.

Valerie:    

And I guess you were following all of that in the news while you’re working in here…

Benny:    

Yeah. And again…

Valerie:    

…and you’re…

Benny:    

…we were supporting the miners. We would actually…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…go to the miners’ rallies and we would go and support them if they were on strike. Er, as far as monetary…not…not…not only monetary, but, er…which was important to them…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…because…were on strike, they had no money…

Valerie:    

No.

Benny:    

Er, again they were shutting mines left, right and centre all over Britain and, er, Arthur Scargill was demonised…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

…in the press…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

…er, and basically…yeah, not everybody agreed with what Arthur was saying. But all the guy wanted to was to keep mines open, to keep…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…people in jobs.

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

What was wrong with that? Now forget the guy’s politics. Forget the guy’s politics, but overall his fundamental policy…

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    

…was keeping the mines open and keep people in work.

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm

Benny:    

And keep mining communities who…they are communities.

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

They’re communities just like a ship…shipyard. The community out there in Govan got built up around this shipyard…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    
 

…eh. So it’s the same wi a mine. The community…the mining communities got built up, be it Scotland, Wales and England…Yorkshire especially, where Arthur came fae. The amount of pits there were colossal. And just to…to…to just…you know, overnight more or less, you know, shut them down was a crime again humanity...

Valerie:    

Uhm-hmm.

Benny:    
 

…er, for the working class. And, yeah, when...when you looked at things like that, it…it…it just seemed to be every month the Thatcher government were having a…a…a go with some industry, be it shipbuilding or the mines or…whoever it was. Er, the railways. And it was all the nationalised industries she was picking on…

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

…eh.

Valerie:    

Yeah. Yeah.

Benny:    

Because again, er, they…they…they saw privatisation as the be all and end all.

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    
 

Now I'm not saying that certain parts of privatisation isn’t a good thing, but you can’t overnight move from nationalised industry and the next month move to privatisation and think it’s going to be all sweetness and light…

Valerie:    

Yeah. Yeah.

Benny:    

…and roses in the garden. Life…life doesn’t work that way.

Valerie:    

Yeah.

Benny:    

Er, so, yeah we’d…we’d a great affinity wi, er, people that were fighting causes like that, as they had wi us when we were fighting our cause.

 

Other Interviewees

Davie Torrance
Alan Glover
Alex Wright
Brian Glen
Benny McGoogan
Tam Brady
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