Reid Jimmy

Jimmy Reid

Born in 1932 in Govan, Reid joined the Young Communist League aged 16 and later became its national secretary. Later, he was a Clydebank councillor for many years until he became the Scottish Secretary of the Party in the late 1960s.


His most prominent claim to fame arose from his joint leadership of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in from February 1972, which saved the yards from closure.  Reid and his comrades Jimmy Airlie (see separate entry) and Sammy Barr mobilized support from across the globe, eventually managing to pressure the Government into saving two of the five threatened yards and selling off another.


Reid was also one of three Communist councillors in Clydebank at this time.


Students at Glasgow University voted him Rector. In his inaugural speech he famously said “The rat race is for rats” in arguing for a fairer, more compassionate and better society. So powerful was his oratory that Reid’s Rectorial Address at Glasgow University was published in full on the cover of the New York Times.


He stood three times as a Communist candidate in General Elections for Dunbartonshire Central in 1970, 1974 (twice). In February 1974 he tripled the Communist vote to just short of six thousand, beating the Scottish Nationalist.


Reid left the Communist Party in February 1976.  John Kay, who worked with Jimmy Reid as a full-time organiser, when Jimmy was Scottish secretary of the Communist Party – and before that national secretary of the Young Communist League – felt that his resignation was a real surprise. Kay’s view is that Reid felt Party membership was “an encumbrance to the use of his undoubted talents in a higher sphere of responsibility”.  Interestingly, he published a memoir in 1976 – “Jimmy Reid: Reflections of a Clyde-built Man”. For all his earlier idealism, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Reid’s rightwards march was motivated by career prospects.


He was a candidate for Labour in Dundee East in 1979, but lost against the then Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Gordon Wilson. 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’. His former status within the Communist Party gave him unprecedented access and the programme resulted in two BAFTA awards.


Reid continued to support Labour up until the 1997 General Election, but became disillusioned with New Labour and urged people to support either the SNP or the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). In the 2004 SNP leadership contest, he urged SNP members to support Alex Salmond for leader and Nicola Sturgeon for deputy leader, and he joined the nationalist party the following year.

Widespread tributes were paid to his talent, especially in the Scottish media, when Jimmy Reid died on August 11th 2010 at the age of 78.


Sources: Guardian 16 August 2010 and miscellaneous pieces




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