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Billy Connolly and Sir Alex Ferguson pay tribute to Jimmy Reid

19 August 2010

Thousands of Glaswegians lined the streets of Govan to mark the passing of NUJ member, Jimmy Reid. People from all walks of life attended the Humanist funeral service, which took place in Old Govan Parish Church.

Hundreds of his friends and former colleagues could not get into the church, but, instead, listened to the service relayed by loudspeakers to those outside. They heard Billy Connolly and Sir Alex Ferguson, both former shipbuilders on the Clyde, relate personal anecdotes in this public tribute.

The self-taught, working class intellectual Jimmy Reid was a legend in Scotland, as a trade unionist, writer and philosopher whose political career was expansive across parties. He spent time as an activist in the Communist, Labour and SNP parties, as well supporting many causes, including latterly the Scottish Pensioners Forum.

Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish organiser, writes:

"Jimmy first came to national and international prominence as inspirational leader of the Upper Clyde Shipyard sit-in in 1971-72. This momentous dispute forced the then Conservative government of Ted Heath to keep shipbuilding alive on the Clyde after they previously announced the closure of all the Glasgow yards.
"His typical Glasgow sense of humour, coupled to a sharp, well-read Marxist mind meant he was never short of an audience. Those platforms ranged from mass union meetings to appearances on television such as the Parkinson show or the Press Bar where he engaged and spread his humanist approach to life.
"He was well-known for his long speeches at union conferences with some of us labelling him Fidel of the Fringe, not just for his love of Cuban cigars, but particularly when he was first up and you were waiting for your shot as the next speaker.
"His eloquence, confidence and extensive knowledge led him to a new career in journalism in print and as a broadcaster, at which he excelled. He was given his own political and cultural show, which he hosted with panache, unimaginable now in these days of bland infotainment.
"The NUJ Scottish office came to know him when we offered to take up his case for compensation for hearing loss, damaged after years on the yards. Angela Austin, former NUJ assistant organiser worked with Jimmy and Thompsons Solicitors to get a decent settlement and they bragged about it being the first case for a journalist to get 'deefy money' as it was known among the shipbuilders.
"I knew him well and worked with him behind the scenes in a number of campaigns to which he brought his influence at union and political level. Along with his pal Bob Thomson, he created the Scottish Left Review, an influential magazine, available in print and online, which tackles the issues of the day from a Scottish perspective.
"I was due to speak with him at an SNP fringe meeting last year on the future of the press. It was booked for 8.30am on a Saturday morning. Remarkably over 50 people turned up, but were disappointed to find that Jimmy wasn't feeling well and he had been told by his wife Joan to give it a miss for his own health's sake.
"He was totally committed to the cause of socialism and sought the best platform from which to influence the political agenda. He was an inspiration to many people and his books should be on every school curriculum.
"A real working class hero who will be missed."

Tags: , jimmy reid, scottish left review, scotland, snp, communist party, broadcasting, newspapers, labour party britain