Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


Telegram from William Weir to Lloyd George concerning the Clydeside engineering dispute, 28 Mar 1916

image from Red Clydeside collection

The climax to the dilution disputes in Glasgow came with a strike of engineering workers in Glasgow which lasted from 17 March through to 4 April 1916. These collection of telegrams, sent by William Weir Director of Munitions in Scotland to Lloyd-George and the Ministry of Munitions in London, shows quite clearly the alarm in Government circles at the CWC led strike and the close cooperation between Government agencies in London and Glasgow to ensure the defeat of the strike.

In recent years there has been some historical debate regarding the nature of the events which led to the strike at Beardmore's. Mystery still surrounds why Sir William Beardmore decided at this point in the governments 'dilution process' to withdraw a long held right within the works which guaranteed shop stewards access to new employee's. As a major employer in Glasgow with long-held experience with dealing with industrial grievances many now think William Beardmore was fully aware of the probable consequences of his actions.

The argument put forward by some historians is that Beardmore was instructed by the Ministry of Munitions, under William Weir, to revoke Kirkwoods right to access as a way of initiating the strike. Once the strike was under way the Ministry of Munitions was then able to put into effect its plans to crush the CWC, which it done by rounding up the CWC leaders and deporting them from Glasgow. These actions effectively put an end to the resistance to dilution and the level of strike action on Clydeside fell dramatically thereafter.

Source: Weir Papers, Glasgow University Archives