I worked in the railway workshops in Springburn at St Rollox, known locally as The Caley after the old Caledonian Railway Company which used to own the site.
In the 1970’s with the factory near its peak, it employed around 3500 workers. As the main line workshops for Scotland, it stocked every conceivable item used on railway vehicles. As you can imagine, such large stocks led to a roaring trade in “homers” as you could get virtually any piece of furniture made and delivered by railway lorry. And in the finest mahogany too ! There was a bewildering array of tradesmen employed, from the usual fitters and electricians to more esoteric trades like French polishers and signwriters, all of them top class professionals. The electricians considered themselves the cream of the crop and looked down on all other trades as the lower orders.
I remember watching a football game in the works tournament at Glenconner Park (The Coup) at which the Electrical Shop played the Machine Shop at which the ultimate insult was hurled. Some spark spectating by the side of the park shouted “Get into them, they’re nothing but a bunch of fitters !” Words were exchanged and a scuffle ensued among the spectators but nothing compared to what happened on the park as rivalry within the factory was quite intense. Many a works committee meeting had to be convened after a football game to adjudicate on the punishment for some player who assaulted the referee.
As the factory was surrounded by pubs, there was a continual battle with the foremen and gaffers trying to ensure everyone was present and correct throughout the day. Guys were always sneaking out via various ingenious escape routes, one of which was a hole in the fence about 30 feet above Springburn Road which came out conveniently at a lamp pole which the thirsty escapees would shimmy down to street level and disappear into Sighthill and a pub.
Other “exits” were through Sighthill Goods Yard over to Petershill Road and Sherry’s Bar or The Peasie Club or through Germiston to The Wee Glen. Despite the foreman suspecting some men were missing, their workmates stamped their clock card ensuring no pay was lost.
It was a sad day when Maggie and privatisation kicked in with the factory being reduced from 3000 to 300 staff in the 80’s. Many a grown man cried at his last long walk down Springburn Road after a lifetime working in the railway industry. Many were simply unemployable as their specialised trades disappeared along with their jobs, a situation familiar to many shipyard workers also,