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Environnements portuaires

 | 
Anne-Lise Piétri-Lévy
, 
John Barzman
, 
Éric Barré

Troisième partie. Métiers, Gestes, Techniques

Glasgow docks and the impact of technological change and modernisation from the 1870s to the early 1930s

William Kenefick

Texte intégral

  • 1 G. Philipps and N. Whiteside, Casual Labour: The Underemployment Question in the Port Transport Ind (...)

1According to Noel Phillips and Gordon Whiteside throughout the British port transport industry in general the pace of technological change and the spread of mechanisation was ‘slow and limited in its effects’ - at least in the period up to 19141. At Glasgow, however, because it had a more recent trading history than older, well-established ports, such as Liverpool and London, the spread of new technology and the increased use of mechanical devices penetrated the port of Glasgow much more deeply. It is true that Glasgow could boast a long history of harbour operations stretching back over several centuries, but it was only as late as 1808 that Glasgow first became recognised as an official port of register. But it remained a relatively small operational affair. In 1820, for example, there were only eighty-four ships, totaling 6,384 tons, registered at Glasgow-less than the other Clydeside ports of Irvine, Port Glasgow and Greenock (as seen in Table 1).

Table 1: Registered tonnage and number of ship at the ports of Glasgow, Irvine, Port Glasgow and Greenock, 1820

Year

Port

Registered Tonnage

No of Ships Registered

1820

Glasgow

6,384

84

Irvine

10,487

121

Port Glasgow

18,225

114

Greenock

46.171

341

Source: J. Cunnisson and J. B. S. Gilfillan (eds.), The Third Statistical Account of Scotland (hereafter TSA): Glasgow (Glasgow, 1958), p. 313.

  • 2 Gordon Jackson, The History and Archaeology of Ports (Tadworth, Surrey, 1983), p. 104.

2But this situation was set to change by the second half of the nineteenth century by the virtual canalisation of the River Clyde. According to Gordon Jackson by the 1860s Glasgow had the largest dredging operation in Britain, and due to the deepening of the Clyde, particularly between 1854 and 1886, when twenty feet was added to the overall depth of the river, Glasgow began to flourish2. The results were spectacular and in the early 1860s the good work was starting to pay off. Many shipping businesses were encouraged to move from Greenock and Port Glasgow into Glasgow, and by the second half of the century Glasgow’s expansion was evident-when in 1860 the number of ships registered increased to 660-a combined tonnage of 212,028 tons. Further excavation and dredging-adding another 8 feet in water depth-saw a further increase in registered shipping and tonnage. By the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, noted Jackson, the last three miles of the Clyde-the ‘Harbour of Glasgow’ - was ‘gradually canalised and a succession of quays built to accommodate [the city’s] rapidly expanding trade’:

Figure One: A Summary of Building and Construction at Glasgow Docks

3On the north side of the river Clyde was:

  • the existing ‘old Broomielaw quay’

  • Stobscross Quay (1880)

  • Anderston. Lancefield and Finnieston Quays, and Yorkhill Wharf (1882)

  • Merklands Quay (1907)

  • Meadowside Quay (1911)

4On the south side of the river two miles of quays were built:

  • Windmillcroft, the General terminus and Plantation (1870s)

  • Shieldhall Wharf (1886)

  • Prince’s Dock (1892 and 1897)

Source: Gordon Jackson, The History and Archaeology of Ports (Tadworth, Surrey), 1983.

  • 3 Jackson, The History and Archaeology of Ports, pp. 132-34.
  • 4 Ibid.; in 1938, for example, there were 1,060 ships with a net tonnage of 1,371,433, noted TSA: Gla (...)

5In total the available water space was increased from 70 acres in 1863 to more than 206 acres by 1907. On the eve of the Great War, notes Jackson, the Clyde Navigation Trust (CNT) had constructed almost 20,000 lineal yards of quay space3. By comparison, while in 1938 the available water space was extended up to 368 acres, there was only a marginal increase in quay space-just slight less than 21,000 lineal yards. This effected shipping and tonnage considerably and by 1900 we find there are 1,605 registered vessels at the port of Glasgow, with a total tonnage of almost 1,600,0004 (see Table 2).

Table 2. Registered tonnage and number of ship at the port of Glasgow, 1860, 1900 and 1938

Year

Registered Tonnage

No of Ships Registered

1860

212,028

660

1900

1,600,000

1.605

1938

1,371,433

1,060

Source: J. Cunnison and J. B. S. Gilfilian (eds.), The Third Statistical Account of Scotland, 1958.

6In invested terms, before outbreak of war in 1914, the CNT had sunk almost 10 million pounds (see Table 3). Because of the increase and sustained level of investment at the port many of Britain’s main shipping firms were encouraged to move their headquarters to Glasgow, and those who did not set-up offices or made arrangements with Glasgow agents.

Table 3. Progressive Statement of (a) Length of Quay, (b) Depth of Water in River at High Tide, (c) (d) and (e) Dimensions of Largest Vessels Trading at Port of Glasgow, Since 1825 at Twenty-Five Year Intervals to 1900, and Pre-War Year of 1914

Table 3. Progressive Statement of (a) Length of Quay, (b) Depth of Water in River at High Tide, (c) (d) and (e) Dimensions of Largest Vessels Trading at Port of Glasgow, Since 1825 at Twenty-Five Year Intervals to 1900, and Pre-War Year of 1914

Source: Inquiry into the Wages and Conditions of Employment of Dock and Waterside Labourers (hereafter referred to as the Shaw Inquiry, i or ii,): British Parliamentary Papers (hereafter BPP), 1920, xxiv, Cmd 937; Appendix 85, Table H/17-1b-from Clyde Navigation Trust Treasurer’s Office Report, February 1920.

  • 5 J. D. Marwick, The River Clyde and the Clyde Burghs (Glasgow. 1909), Appendix, Table III.
  • 6 Noted in W. M. French, The Scottish Ports: Including Docks and Harbours (Glasgow, 1938), pp. 107-8.

7From 1887 onward the total number of ships arriving at the harbour never fell below 15,000 per annum5. Between 1900 and 1913 alone, total tonnage of vessels increased from 8,761,193 to 13,469,191, and total tonnage of goods increased from 7,215,368 to 10,418,324 (see Table 4) making Glasgow one of Britain’s largest ports behind London and Liverpool6.

Table 4. Progressive Statement of (a) Revenue, (b) Tonnage of Vessels, (c) Tonnage of Goods, (d) Total Capital Expenditure, and (e) Total Outstanding Debt, Since 1825 at Twenty-Five Year Intervals to 1900, and Pre-War Year of 1914

Table 4. Progressive Statement of (a) Revenue, (b) Tonnage of Vessels, (c) Tonnage of Goods, (d) Total Capital Expenditure, and (e) Total Outstanding Debt, Since 1825 at Twenty-Five Year Intervals to 1900, and Pre-War Year of 1914

Source: Shaw Inquiry, ii, Appendix 85, pp. 173-75, Table H/17-la-from Clyde Navigation Trust, Treasurer’s Office Report, February 1920 (BPP, 1920, Cmd 937).

  • 7 Jackson, Archaeology of Ports, p. 134.
  • 8 Shaw Inquiry, ii, see Appendix 129, ix, p. 165 (also Board of Trade Summaries, 1913, Cmd 758).

8Indeed, according to Jackson, Glasgow shared with London ‘immense productive capacity with vast distribution services which made her the “Second City” of the British Empire’7. In terms of the total value of trade, Glasgow’s share was to reach almost £55 million before 19148, which accounted for over 56% of Scottish totals.

9The deepening of the Clyde thus helped create the right conditions for the increase in port traffic, and the expansion of shipbuilding on the upper reaches of the River Clyde (where there was without doubt a definite synergy). But it was the great expansion in dock and wharf facilities that led to Glasgow great period of prosperity between 1870 and 1914 (and this took place largely in the wake of the revolution in steam-rail transport). The Clyde Navigation Trust was the main reason for the growth and development of the port. It was they who raised the investment to improve port facilities, and, as we have seen, this resulted in a quite extraordinary period of activity with the dredging and blasting and deepening of the river, and the building and construction of docks, quays and wharves at Glasgow.

10It is clear that Glasgow’s main phase of expansion was, therefore, relatively recent, and in terms of new technology and machinery-in the period up to 1914 at least-Glasgow was in every sense a very modern port indeed. Indeed, according to Jackson:

  • 9 Jackson, Archaeology of Ports, p. 134.

“In keeping with Glasgow’s position as a world leader in mechanical engineering, the Clyde Navigation Trust was constantly reviewing and renewing its equipment, of which the most impressive official photographic record survives to illustrate almost every aspect of dock building and cargo handling”9.

11Clearly, Glasgow, like Liverpool, had embraced modernisation and new technological advances and incorporated these whenever possible. But how did this impact on the dock labour force?

12As Glasgow’s rise came rather later than most many new recruits into dock work would have been used to a significant degree of mechanisation. For example, the Glasgow dock labour force only really begins to increase in numbers from around the 1880s onward, and this is clearly seen in the following table:

Table 5. Number of Dock, Wharf and Harbour Labourers in Scotland, Glasgow, Govan, totals for Glasgow and Govan combined, and Greenock between 1861 and 1931: including percentages of Scottish totals (in brackets)

Table 5. Number of Dock, Wharf and Harbour Labourers in Scotland, Glasgow, Govan, totals for Glasgow and Govan combined, and Greenock between 1861 and 1931: including percentages of Scottish totals (in brackets)

* 1911 includes the Police Burgh of Kinning Park within the boundaries of Glasgow-previously Kinning Park returned a total of 115 men who were identified as dock workers.
** 1921 includes the Police Burghs of Govan and Partick, which were incorporated within the city through the boundary changes of 1912. The numbers noted for Glasgow in 1921 and 1931 thus include those who worked in the docks in both these districts thereafter.
Sources: Census of Scotland, 1861 to 1931.

13It is no accident that the increase in numbers occurs at the same time as whole arrays of port facilities are brought into commission. Clearly, those who built the new facilities stayed behind to work them afterwards. It is entirely possible that some of the men seen here-a significant number of whom would have been Irish navies-were to become the new recruits, the new dockers, of Glasgow’s growing waterfront labour force. Those who did cross over from construction to dock work would, therefore, already be familiar with certain types of modern port equipment. In the first phase of port modernisation few would have had any reason to feel that mechanisation was anything other than something that was part of their new working environment.

14If the new dockers attitudes to mechanisation were to change, however, it would surely come when the Clyde Navigation Trust made its post-improvement review of existing dock equipment with a view to renewing or further modernising these, which, Jackson suggests, they did regularly as a matter of course. But even then, after they had become more fully established, the new dock labour force would have had little time to generate work-place practices designed to delay the further spread of modern mechanical devices. Indeed, without a strong trade union organisation behind them, it would be near impossible to mount such a challenge.

  • 10 William Kenefick, Rebellious and Contrary: The Glasgow Dockers, c.1853 to 1932 (Tuckwell Press) 200 (...)

15By contrast, as will be illustrated later, when the London Port Authority attempted to introduce elevators into the grain trade in the late nineteenth century they found they could not do so because the dockers there were able to hold-up this process. Thus, the more ingrained workplace traditions of ports such as London, which had a much longer history, were responsible for halting the spread of certain mechanical appliances. At Glasgow, probably because the trade was still relatively immature, as was waterside trade unionism, there were few problems associated with the introduction of this type of equipment into the port. Indeed, well before the early twentieth century equipment such was used extensively around Glasgow in those quays associated with the grain trades and even before 1914 there is evidence that suction pipes were already in use at the new purpose-built Meadowside granary quay10.

1. The impact of steam and hydraulic powered equipment: a cause of ‘speed-up’ and labour displacement?

16Eric Taplin suggests that before the First World War there was a genuine belief within the port transport industry that mechanisation was a major cause for concern. Robert Williams of the National Transport Workers Federation (NTWF), for example, reported in 1913 that mechanisation was the cause of considerable speed-up in certain areas of dock work. He noted that 5-6,000 tons of grain could be discharged in two days by ‘huge elevators’ when previously it would have taken several weeks. Before the introduction of these elevators, he argued, it would have taken between 300 to 400 men to discharge such a cargo. But by 1913, this was literally ‘carried out without human intervention’. Thus, even at a very moderate estimate, he concluded, ‘up to 80% of the labour needed for this type of work was dispensed with’. But according to Taplin, at Liverpool docks, over two decades earlier, it was claimed that there was ‘more machinery, of the greatest variety, for expediting work and economising labour than any other similar area in the world’:

  • 11 Eric Taplin, The Dockers’ Union: A Study of the National Union of Dock Labourers, 1889-1922 (Lieces (...)

“The docks themselves were considerably modernised by the use of mechanical, often steam powered contrivances. Dock gates, capstans, moving bridges, pumping gear, sluice gates and the like were remodeled to speed up the movement of ships in and out of the docks and to save on labour”11.

  • 12 Taplin, The Dockers’ Union, p. 10.
  • 13 Report of Royal Commission on Labour, 1st Report, Group B, 1892, Précis of Evidence, ii, (hereafter(...)

17While Taplin does suggests that reality of the situation may be more apparent than real, ‘more a matter of civic pride than practical innovation’, he stresses that Liverpool was always considered ‘a more efficient than London’; arguably in part at least to its more ‘highly mechanised’ state12. In evidence presented to the 1892 Royal Commission on Labour, it was shown that Glasgow was similar to Liverpool in so far as its workforce was able to load and unload cargo more quickly than London, thus indicating that there were similar technological forces at work at Glasgow13.

  • 14 D. F. Wilson, Dockers: The Impact of Industrial Change (London, 1972), p. 32.
  • 15 Taplin, Dockers’Union, p. 10.

18After 1870 the main technological change affecting the docks around Britain was the transformation from sail to steam propulsion. This not only meant a fundamental change in shipping technology, but an increase in the size of hold and, therefore, the carrying capacity of a ship. These developments not only caused problems arising from speed-up, but were also ‘seldom consistent with stable employment of dock labour’. With the advent of steam, argued David Wilson, ‘came the intensification of the casual system and the need to increase the casual pool of labour’14. Despite the many references to the adverse effects of mechanisation made by commentators ranging from Beatrice Potter to Eric Taplin and John Lovell, however, it seems clear that their are also of the opinion that the overall progress of mechanisation within the industry as a whole was still nevertheless quite slow15.

  • 16 E. Hobsbawm, ‘National Unions on the Waterside’, in E. Hobsbawm, Labouring Men (London, 1964), p. 2 (...)
  • 17 J. Lovell, Stevedores and Dockers (London. 1969). p. 29.

19Indeed, it has also been argued that quick turn-around times did not always necessitate high levels of mechanisation. This was one reason that led Eric Hobsbawm to argue that there was no uniform spread of mechanisation within the port transport industry, and that overall, where it did occur, the process was fairly slow and piecemeal. He saw that mechanisation could have been a means of rationalising the port industry, but for the process to work it had to be tied up with a more flexible hiring system16. But, as we know, the hiring system was responsible for drawing ever more men into the docks, and coupled with the casual system of employment, this allowed British dock labour employers to continue to exploit a valuable cheap labour advantage in terms of costs. Therefore, as John Lovell concluded, ‘there was little incentive to mechanise on a large scale’17.

20There was an increased use of both on-board and quayside equipment, however, particularly steam-driven winches, with hydraulic and steam-powered cranes (and at Glasgow, by the early 1910s, the installation of Britain’s first electric crane) emerging in ever greater numbers from around the mid-nineteenth century onward. But the rate and penetration of these devices around Britain’s docks, argue Phillips and Whiteside, was as haphazard as the historic growth of the dock system:

  • 18 Phillips and Whiteside, Casual Labour, p. 32.

“Prior to 1914 the nature of dock work had not been substantially affected by modern technology: the pace of mechanisation had been slow and its scope confined. Only a few bulk cargoes-like coal and grain-could be easily moved by machinery, and only if ships had been built for its use. Other lifting operations could be performed by cranes or winches, but only in conjunction with a large amount of manual labour. The more expensive installations could not be afforded except by highly capitalised dock undertakings and shipping firms. For the most part, therefore, human motive force continued to rule on the waterside”18.

21We know that developments at Glasgow were different. But why was this the case? Did Glasgow relatively late development dictate this different trend in port modernisation? Clearly, this last point is an important one, and therein lies part of the explanation. But can we look to other factors? To what extent was the lack of a strong and effective dock labour organisation part of the equation? Let us consider product relocation within the port. For example, before 1914 much of the trade in coal and minerals-the bulk trades more prone to mechanisation-were relocated from the traditional of activity near the centre of Glasgow. Thus the focus of trade shifted from around Queen’s and Prince’s Docks to Rothesay Dock-directly opposite each on the north and south of the River Clyde-to a location on the north five miles down-river at Clydebank..

  • 19 Jackson, The History and Archaeology of Ports, p. 134

22This would have seriously affected those dockers working at Glasgow, and as a result many would have become displaced. By relocating the bulk of this trade down-river the Clyde Navigation Trust may well have avoided a costly dispute had they attempted to introduce the same system of mechanisation within the area formerly used to handle the great bulk of that trade. This may not have been their sole reason for moving the trade down-river, or even the most important. But in recruiting a fresh labour force at Clydebank, however, they did circumvent any possibility of a dispute arising out of the implantation of new technology. For there is little doubt that Rothesay Dock was the very model of what a modern mechanised dock should be-including the installation of the first electrically powered coalhoist in Britain19.

23So was Glasgow a more mechanised port than others in Britain were? According to Jackson, it could legitimately lay claim to this title. But to what extent did modernisation affect the workforce? Clearly, Glasgow had a well-deserved reputation for being a modern, and modernising, port, and this process affected the workforce in two distinct ways. First, as more docks and quays were built, more labour would have been needed to work them. Thus, modernisation initially created a greater demand for labour. Secondly, many of the recently built docks of the 1870s and 1880s had modern appliances already installed, such as cranes, capstans and winches, and various other types of powered equipment. The newest recruits to dock work at Glasgow, therefore, were already familiar with such equipment.

24This would also have been the case with the new breed of ship-workers, in so far as they would have been introduced to power-driven machinery on board the more modern steam vessels. Thus, the great majority of Glasgow’s dock labour force would have matured alongside powered machinery of various types, both on-board ship and along much of the quayside. The main problems associated with increased levels of mechanisation and the possible impact this had on labour displacement, to the newest section of the dock labour force, or to those already well-established in the bulk trades-grain and coal-would, therefore, have occurred when subsequent appliances were introduced-as was to happen from the early 1890s onward.

2. Technological change, underemployment and the de-skilling of the dock labour force

  • 20 Report of Royal Commission on Poor Laws Relating to Unemployment, Minutes of Evidence, 1910 (hereaf (...)
  • 21 Taplin, Dockers’Union, p. 20.
  • 22 RC on Poor Laws, 1910, Minutes of Evidence, many of those questioned debated this matter, and there (...)

25By the first decade of the twentieth century, it was argued that modernisation was causing unemployment on a large scale. Between 1905 and 1909 the Royal Commission on Poor Law and Relief of Distress heard evidence that considered the causes of unemployment, and it is clear there were conflicting views as the causes of unemployment within the port transport industry at Glasgow-one regularly cited cause was, however, ‘the abuse of alcohol’20. There is little doubt, notes Taplin, that the dock community had ‘secured something of a reputation for hard living’, but, he added, ‘behavior of this sort could be attributed more to those on the fringes of dock work, rather than the typical docker, many of whom enjoyed a stable family life’21. Another oft-cited cause of unemployment was the introduction of the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1906, which was alleged to have ‘reluctantly’ forced employers to engage only the fittest, healthiest and, by definition, the younger elements of the dock labour force, because of increased insurance costs22 - leaving the older docker surplus to requirements.

  • 23 RC on Labour, 1892, evidence, Mr. J. Smith Spark, Q. 12,788.

26There was also a considerable debate that centered around the issue of mechanisation as a force for change within the industry and the effects of this on an industry with an already endemic unemployment and underemployment problem. There were those like Colonel J. Smith Park, who felt that mechanisation did not cause unemployment, but rather created more work, and this was consistent with the views he expressed in an earlier Royal Commission. Here he noted that the introduction of grain elevators at Glasgow had caused resistance among the men, but that this had been overcome by bringing in operators supplied by the manufacturing company. But as already touched on above, he added, that this could not have been done in a port such as London ‘as the resistance of the London men [there] would [have been] too strong’23.

  • 24 R. Bean, The Liverpool Dock Strike of 1890, International Review of Social History (IRSH), xviii, 1 (...)

27Roy Bean’s analysis of a Liverpool strike in 1890 helps sheds some light on the reasons why labour would enter into dispute over such issues, and particularly in the grain trade where ‘mechanisation now meant that one elevator and six men could do the work of sixty, thus discharging ships not only more quickly but also at less cost’24. Moreover, the reason that it could be introduced in Glasgow, and evidently in Liverpool, but not in London, was that the trade was still fairly new to the port, and that the trade unions were apparently insufficiently organised to fight such moves. But much less technically advanced forms of mechanisation had their effect too, a point that The Minority Report on the Poor Law (of 1909) confirmed, when it reported:

  • 25 Sydney and Beatrice Webb, The Public Organisation of the Labour Market: Being Part of Two Minority (...)

“It is now increasingly true that machinery is displacing the purely unskilled labourer, and causing a demand for men of more general ability and reliable character... the steam crane, the grain elevator [at the docks] are materially diminishing the demand for unskilled labour”25.

28The introduction of just two innovations-the grain elevator and the Priestman bucket-along with the newer hydraulic and electric cranes, or more powerful steam winches, turn-tables, and capstans, give some indication of the challenges facing the dockers between the late 1880s and 1914.

29The penetration of this equipment may have been further facilitated because organised labour was severely weakened by a trade depression that persisted throughout the first decade of the twentieth century (particularly severe on Clyde-side during the periods 1903-05 and 1907-09). Dock labour throughout the period as a whole was, therefore, rarely in any position to halt the steady march of mechanisation.

  • 26 Ibid., Anderson, p. 44.
  • 27 Ibid., James Ferguson, p. 50.

30William Fleming Anderson stated clearly, in the Royal Commission published in 1910, that it was his belief that ‘the steady advance of machinery’ did have a displacing effect on the labour force26. Mr. James Ferguson, Indoor Assistant Inspector of Poor in Glasgow Parish, also argued that the introduction of machinery was a major cause of unemployment. Ferguson noted that ‘at our harbour and docks modern machinery for the loading and discharging of cargo has been a means of displacing a large number of men’. He had also observed that the use of hydraulic lifts and two or three cranes working at each hold of a ship, meant that the time it took to empty a large steamer had been reduced from between ‘two or three days to two or three hours’27.

31The quest for the quick turn-around time had been sought for many years and for the most part was fought for successfully by the employers, and it was also a central tenet of the Clyde Navigation Trust. It was only when the dock labour force became stronger and more organised, that they found themselves in a position to resist the blanket introduction of mechanical appliances.

3. Research and Development: New Working Methods at Glasgow c.1910

32Clyde Navigation Trust engineer George Baxter, meticulously chronicled the effects of modern equipment at the port of Glasgow in 1910, in an article in the Glasgow Herald in March of that year. Among the many instances of mechanisation evident at the port, he particularly noted the effects of the coal hoist. The modem coal hoist (worked by hydraulics) was very economical, could move coal rapidly and ‘required fewer men to work it’ than the coaling crane.

33Baxter estimated that the old coaling crane could at best lift between twenty-eight and thirty coal wagons per hour, whereas the hydraulic hoist, ‘under favorable circumstances’, could ship about fifty wagons per hour. However, the rate of loading was dictated by the speed at which the loaded coal could be trimmed, so it was only more effective than the coaling crane, but only up to a certain point. The Clyde Navigation Trust also initiated research and experimentation into new techniques and modern appliances at the port. Baxter noted an example at Prince’s Dock where one vessel was loaded with ‘8,400 tons of cargo and bunker coal in 56 hours’ using the coaling crane. At the purpose-built Rothesay Dock, Baxter praised the effects of the electric hoist, which could lift, lower, tip and empty cargo, and was even more economical than its hydraulic counterpart at Prince’s Dock. He reported one timed experiment where the electric hoist loaded thirty wagons of 253 tons each in 37 seconds-the equivalent of fifty-five wagons, weighing 13,805 tons, in one hour.

34Baxter considered the findings of an earlier experiment at Queen’s Dock some five years previously, when three different types of ‘digger grabs’ and one ordinary tipping bucket, were tested against each other. One grab needed special fittings; the other two required no alterations. The tipping bucket was worked by a similar crane to that using the grabs and the bucket weighed 24% of the gross load raised, thus raising 76% cargo. The grabs, on the other hand, accounted for 70% of gross load raised, and with only 30% raised as cargo, speed, rather than volume, was the main aim. He further noted that one set of grabs required a drop of several feet in order to penetrate the ore. But it was found that by dropping the grabs in such a fashion damage the tank top as they neared the bottom of the hold. There were obvious drawbacks to using the grabs. The results of the experiment were as follows:

  • 28 Glasgow Herald, 8 Mar. 1910.

35Baxter concluded that the grabs worked best on ships with hatches directly underneath, but only maintained this level of performance until the bottom was nearly reached. Thereafter, conditions were more favourable for working with the tipping bucket and shovels. The trials showed that the grabs at that point were of limited advantage, particularly in relation to ships with small hatches, twin decks, and/or engines amidships. He concluded by noting the advances taking place elsewhere such as Great Lakes, where specially designed ships were used to unload cargo by grabs-taking almost all the cargo both economically and rapidly28.

Table 6. Results of Experiments with different Grabs for the Discharge of Cargo.

Cost

Time Taken (Hrs)

First Grab

£10. As 9 d.

35.7

Second Grab

£14. O.v 0d.

51.3

Third Grab

£12. 2s 10d.

43.1

Tipping Bucket

£19. Us 0d.

29.4

Source: Article by George Baxter, Engineer to the Clyde Navigation Trust, ‘Dock Equipment: Appliances at Glasgow Harbour’, Glasgow Herald, 8 Mar. 1910.

36While there was no particular use for the grabs in this instance, the grabs were of use on larger ships, where a combination of grabs and bucket were used for the unloading of ores. This example not only reveals the commitment of the Clyde Navigation Trust to modernisation and technological implementation, but shows also that they had considerable freedom about enforcing changes in working conditions. It would seem clear from the times recorded for the loading of coal, or the unloading of ores, that the method chosen must have had a significant effect on the pattern of work. Such an example shows the pressure that the dock labour force was under at this time, and it is entirely possible that these experiments aroused the wrath of a workforce increasingly determined to fight the introduction of such new methods.

  • 29 Glasgow Herald, 21 Jan. 1912, one of various reports between 17 Jan. 1912 through to 22 Feb. 1912, (...)
  • 30 Glasgow Herald, 2 Aug. 1911.
  • 31 Glasgow Herald, 2 Aug. 1911

37It is evident that employers wished to introduced new methods by 1912 when, as reported by the Glasgow Herald - less than two years after Baxter’s article appeared-they locked out Glasgow’s dockers in their attempts to impose reductions in gang sizes. They considered their action on this occasion as a ‘necessary evil’ as they could no longer tolerate the fact that ‘six men were employed to do the work of four’ and that this was now ‘a common feature of dockside work’29. This dispute was the culmination of a conflict over the question of squad sizes and coincided with the desires of both George Baxter and the Clyde Navigation Trust to further reduce turn-around times. In August 1911, a dispute arose around the question of ‘too few hands to do too much work’30. And at the heart of many wage disputes of the period lay deeper concerns over the issue of work intensification and the impact of technological change. One example was the extra payment extracted from the employers by grain-workers for the bulk discharge of vessels using elevators31.

  • 32 Glasgow Herald, Jan. and Feb. 1912.
  • 33 RC on Labour, Précis of Evidence, 1892, p. 24.

38Such factors were thus the cause of a significant degree of unrest within the workforce, not least when the employers acted to force down squad sizes and intensify work-load32. This may have been one reason behind the decision to move the mineral trade down-river to Clydebank, a change of location being favoured over the attempt to change the resistant attitudes of the dockers at the upper docks. The only recognition that George Baxter offered the workforce was to note that the unloading of Spanish ore was ‘hazardous’, implying perhaps, those new methods were less so. But, in terms of speed-up, the pressure brought upon the docker arguably increased the dangers associated with this work, rather than the reverse. This was without doubt a major concern of the workforce. The dangers inherent in dock work, in relation to mechanised handling equipment, had been recognised almost twenty years before, when Mr. Josiah Griffen, Manager of the Millwall Commercial Dock Company, admitted that for all the gains offered by mechanisation, ‘accidents were inevitable’33.

4. Mechanisation and Poverty - A Tenuous Link?

  • 34 J. Hilton (et al.), Are Trade Unions Obstructive?: An Impartial Inquiry (London), 1935, p. 117.

39Despite the early recognition of the problems associated with the use of machinery on the docks, the subject was to plague the industry for many years to come. During the First World War the trade unions claimed that the employers advanced the spread of mechanical equipment by exploiting the loophole in the Excess Profits Tax and using the ‘argument of national emergency’ to achieve their aim-’while greatly increasing output’34. Thus by the time war was ended, noted Hinton, the industry had changed significantly:

  • 35 Hilton, Are Trade Unions Obstructive Ibid., p. 113.

“Methods of production have been improved, new machinery introduced, and the rate of production speeded up, but the person who profited is neither the worker nor the consumer, but the capitalist”35.

40The Hilton Inquiry of the 1930s revealed that the employers were, at that juncture, arguing that it was the trade unions that were holding out against the introduction of new equipment. As noted by one employers’ representative:

  • 36 Hilton, Are Trade Unions Obstructive?, p. 108.

“The Unions maintain that the advantages from the introduction of machinery should be labour aiding, not labour saving, and this attitude has to an extent limited the benefits derived from the installation of such machinery”36.

  • 37 Shaw Inquiry, i, p. 274.

41Evidence from the Shaw Inquiry illustrated clearly that by the end of war in 1918, the dockers of Glasgow were not prepared to accept further labour displacement, and that there had already been problems with the introduction of a new electric grain-weighing machine. One machine, it was noted, could replace three typical grain-hand-weighing-machines and would reduce the typical gang involved in this work from fifteen to six, leaving nine surplus to requirements. But the men refused extra payment to operate the machine, and as a result the intention to purchase a further two electric machines was abandoned37.

42The main thrust of the Shaw Inquiry’s conclusions was that working men should be consulted in matters concerning mechanisation, particularly if ‘some provisions for positions being found for labour so displaced’ were to develop as a result. If this were to be done noted the Inquiry chairman, citing the evidence of Glasgow stevedore James Spencer, a ‘new era of consideration, confidence, and co-operation’ could be at hand. Unfortunately, this was not to be and the problems that were linked to mechanisation were to continue for sometime to come.

Conclusions

43As was noted on page three of this paper (see Table 4.) that by 1914 Clyde Navigation Trust had raised and invested in total £9,789,191 in modernising the port of Glasgow and its harbour. Indeed, between 1900 and 1914 alone £2,358,489 (almost 25% of total amount invested for the entire period 1825 to 1914) was ploughed into the port. By contrast, we find that by the time the Clyde Navigation Trust made their Finance and Trade Report in June 1938, only a further £2,320,004 had been invested in upgrading and modernising existing port facilities in a period 24 year between the start of the Great War and 1938-just under £8,500 less than that spent in the 14 year period before the war.

  • 38 Glasgow Herald, various reports between 17 Jan. 1912 through to 22 Feb. 1912, noted that some 7,000 (...)
  • 39 Clyde Navigation Trust Accounts, for year ending June 1938, and contained in the Finance and Trade (...)

44It would seem then, that before 1914 that the Clyde Navigation Trust had, more or less, a free-hand when it came to modernising the port-including the cost of research and development into new and improved methods of cargo handling, discharge and loading, and the expense of implanting new technology. But while the Trust may have wished to maintain their ‘rolling-program’ of modernisation, in the years before the First World War the dockers of Glasgow had become sufficiently well organised to resist such moves. This pivotal point is reached during the great labour unrest along the entire Clydeside waterfront in the strike of January to February 1912, which included upwards of 7,000 dockers (and included their traditional allies the seamen)38. After this event the dockers were at least able to resist wide-scale or wholesale modernisation when it meant labour displacement, and thereafter this restricted Clyde Navigation Trusts in making further changes without consultation with the dockers union, the Scottish Union of Dock Labourers (1911-1923), as seen in the example of the Trusts abandonment of the purchase of two grain-weighing machines in 1919. This may also account for the fall in investment in the port between 1924 and 193839.

45It could be argued, therefore, that the reason that the Clyde Navigation Trust, ‘a world leader on mechanical engineering... constantly reviewing and renewing its equipment’, modernised to the level and extent that they did was that there was nothing to actually stop them doing so. Clearly, the commercial will was there to do so, but that after the 1912 dockers dispute they faced a new challenge-not technology or finance, but the new-found strength of an invigorated and well organised dock labour force.

Notes

1 G. Philipps and N. Whiteside, Casual Labour: The Underemployment Question in the Port Transport Industry 1880-1970 (Oxford, 1985), p. 32.

2 Gordon Jackson, The History and Archaeology of Ports (Tadworth, Surrey, 1983), p. 104.

3 Jackson, The History and Archaeology of Ports, pp. 132-34.

4 Ibid.; in 1938, for example, there were 1,060 ships with a net tonnage of 1,371,433, noted TSA: Glasgow, p. 332.

5 J. D. Marwick, The River Clyde and the Clyde Burghs (Glasgow. 1909), Appendix, Table III.

6 Noted in W. M. French, The Scottish Ports: Including Docks and Harbours (Glasgow, 1938), pp. 107-8.

7 Jackson, Archaeology of Ports, p. 134.

8 Shaw Inquiry, ii, see Appendix 129, ix, p. 165 (also Board of Trade Summaries, 1913, Cmd 758).

9 Jackson, Archaeology of Ports, p. 134.

10 William Kenefick, Rebellious and Contrary: The Glasgow Dockers, c.1853 to 1932 (Tuckwell Press) 2000-see photographic section, Meadowside Granary and the ‘S.S. Mawriby, the first vessel to discharge at the new dock in May 1914’. The photograph clearly shows equipment with suction facilities already in place and presumably in use.

11 Eric Taplin, The Dockers’ Union: A Study of the National Union of Dock Labourers, 1889-1922 (Liecester, 1986). p. 9.

12 Taplin, The Dockers’ Union, p. 10.

13 Report of Royal Commission on Labour, 1st Report, Group B, 1892, Précis of Evidence, ii, (hereafter RC on Labour-BPP), 1892, xxiv, C. 6708-II); evidence presented by Colonel Birt (General Manager of Millwall Docks), Q. 6931.

14 D. F. Wilson, Dockers: The Impact of Industrial Change (London, 1972), p. 32.

15 Taplin, Dockers’Union, p. 10.

16 E. Hobsbawm, ‘National Unions on the Waterside’, in E. Hobsbawm, Labouring Men (London, 1964), p. 213.

17 J. Lovell, Stevedores and Dockers (London. 1969). p. 29.

18 Phillips and Whiteside, Casual Labour, p. 32.

19 Jackson, The History and Archaeology of Ports, p. 134

20 Report of Royal Commission on Poor Laws Relating to Unemployment, Minutes of Evidence, 1910 (hereafter RC on Poor Laws - BPP, 1910, xlix, Cd. 5068), statement by the Deputy Chairman of the Distress Committee in Glasgow, Mr. William Fleming Anderson. p. 40.

21 Taplin, Dockers’Union, p. 20.

22 RC on Poor Laws, 1910, Minutes of Evidence, many of those questioned debated this matter, and there seemed to be a general feeling among employers, agents, owners and Distress Commissioners alike, that the Workman’s Compensation Act was an important cause of unemployment at this time. Whether this was true or not is incidental; to the employing class it was real enough and it may well have forced them to alter their recruitment policies from that which existed before, to the detriment particularly of the older men who were members of the dock labour force at this time.

23 RC on Labour, 1892, evidence, Mr. J. Smith Spark, Q. 12,788.

24 R. Bean, The Liverpool Dock Strike of 1890, International Review of Social History (IRSH), xviii, 1, 1973, p. 54.

25 Sydney and Beatrice Webb, The Public Organisation of the Labour Market: Being Part of Two Minority Reports of the Poor Law Commission, 1909, pp. 187-8.

26 Ibid., Anderson, p. 44.

27 Ibid., James Ferguson, p. 50.

28 Glasgow Herald, 8 Mar. 1910.

29 Glasgow Herald, 21 Jan. 1912, one of various reports between 17 Jan. 1912 through to 22 Feb. 1912, noted that some 7,000 dockers were in dispute, principally over the employment of non-union labour, but also because of the drive to lower gang sizes and increase workload. The strike ended with squad sizes being reduced by 2, and thereafter there would be 8 men in the hold and 6 men onshore. Indeed, another related dispute during that period, reported in Forward weekly, from Jan. 17 to Feb. 22, was caused by employers attempting to further reduce shore squads sizes from 6 to 4; see also Kenefick, The struggle for Control.

30 Glasgow Herald, 2 Aug. 1911.

31 Glasgow Herald, 2 Aug. 1911

32 Glasgow Herald, Jan. and Feb. 1912.

33 RC on Labour, Précis of Evidence, 1892, p. 24.

34 J. Hilton (et al.), Are Trade Unions Obstructive?: An Impartial Inquiry (London), 1935, p. 117.

35 Hilton, Are Trade Unions Obstructive Ibid., p. 113.

36 Hilton, Are Trade Unions Obstructive?, p. 108.

37 Shaw Inquiry, i, p. 274.

38 Glasgow Herald, various reports between 17 Jan. 1912 through to 22 Feb. 1912, noted that some 7,000 dockers were in dispute, principally over the employment of non-union labour, but also because of the employers drive to lower gang sizes and increase workload, and the dock unions determination to make foremen members of the Scottish Union of Dock Labourers, who organised the dispute. For further details see also, William Kenefick, The struggle for Control: The Importance of the Great Labour Unrest at Glasgow Harbour, 1911-1912, in W. Kenefick and A. Mcivor (eds.), The Roots of Red Clydeside 1910-1914: Labour Unrest and Industrial Relations in West Scotland (Edinburgh, 1996), and William Kenefick, Rebellious and Contrary: The Glasgow Dockers c.1853 to 1932 (Tuckwell Press), 2000, chapter 10.

39 Clyde Navigation Trust Accounts, for year ending June 1938, and contained in the Finance and Trade Report, reproduced in The Scottish Ports, Compiled by William French (Glasgow, 1938). pp. 103-05.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 3. Progressive Statement of (a) Length of Quay, (b) Depth of Water in River at High Tide, (c) (d) and (e) Dimensions of Largest Vessels Trading at Port of Glasgow, Since 1825 at Twenty-Five Year Intervals to 1900, and Pre-War Year of 1914
Légende Source: Inquiry into the Wages and Conditions of Employment of Dock and Waterside Labourers (hereafter referred to as the Shaw Inquiry, i or ii,): British Parliamentary Papers (hereafter BPP), 1920, xxiv, Cmd 937; Appendix 85, Table H/17-1b-from Clyde Navigation Trust Treasurer’s Office Report, February 1920.
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Titre Table 4. Progressive Statement of (a) Revenue, (b) Tonnage of Vessels, (c) Tonnage of Goods, (d) Total Capital Expenditure, and (e) Total Outstanding Debt, Since 1825 at Twenty-Five Year Intervals to 1900, and Pre-War Year of 1914
Légende Source: Shaw Inquiry, ii, Appendix 85, pp. 173-75, Table H/17-la-from Clyde Navigation Trust, Treasurer’s Office Report, February 1920 (BPP, 1920, Cmd 937).
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Titre Table 5. Number of Dock, Wharf and Harbour Labourers in Scotland, Glasgow, Govan, totals for Glasgow and Govan combined, and Greenock between 1861 and 1931: including percentages of Scottish totals (in brackets)
Légende * 1911 includes the Police Burgh of Kinning Park within the boundaries of Glasgow-previously Kinning Park returned a total of 115 men who were identified as dock workers.** 1921 includes the Police Burghs of Govan and Partick, which were incorporated within the city through the boundary changes of 1912. The numbers noted for Glasgow in 1921 and 1931 thus include those who worked in the docks in both these districts thereafter.Sources: Census of Scotland, 1861 to 1931.
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