It has become one of the most famous speeches in Scottish political history but no-one expected it to be that way.

Forty years ago a shop steward called Jimmy Reid made front page news when he stood in front of thousands of workers at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders.

On day one of three MARK SMITH looks at what forced them to take the action and what happened when they took on the government of the day...

On July 30, 1971, Jimmy Reid took to the improvised stage at the world famous shipyard and in front of thousands of workers said they were NOT going to strike.

Just a few days before, the Government had announced it would not intervene to prevent the company going into liquidation.

Thousands of men were to lose their jobs.

Up on the stage, with the great cranes of the shipyard behind him, Jimmy Reid told the men what would happen.

"We are not even going to have a sit-in," he said. "Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission."

The meeting came about after the loss-making UCS went into receivership.

The company was formed just three years earlier in February 1968 from the amalgamation of five major Upper Clyde Shipbuilding firms: Fairfields in Govan (Govan Division), Alexander Stephens and Sons in Linthouse (Linthouse Division), Charles Connell and Company in Scotstoun (Scotstoun Division) and John Brown and Company at Clydebank (Clydebank Division), as well as an associate subsidiary, Yarrow Shipbuilders Ltd.

In June 1971 the loss-making Upper Clyde Shipbuilders went into receivership. Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, John Davies, announced a policy that refused further state-support for "lame duck" industries, which led to a crisis of confidence among UCS creditors and resulted in severe cash flow problems for the company.

After the government refused UCS a £6m working capital loan as a lender of last resort, the company was forced to enter liquidation, despite the yards having a full orderbook and a forecasted profit in 1972.

It was with this in mind that Jimmy Reid said it was to be a work-in, a completely revolutionary idea dreamed up among the organisers a few days before.

He of all people knew, however, that there was a chance that it could go wrong and famously told his co-workers: "There will be no hooliganism. There will be no vandalism. There will be no bevvying ... because the world is watching us."

In some ways, it was a curious message to put out to the world because it seemed to imply that the men were capable of all those things.

"The implication of the speech was that they might do all that," says Jimmy's daughter Eileen, 52.

"It wasn't the Rotary Club he was talking to. It was very brave of him to do it."

One of the men who was in that crowd listening to the speech was John Taylor.

He was an apprentice electrician at the time and was 20 years old.

"We were all shocked when Jimmy said to us in front of a TV camera that there would be no hooliganism or bevvying because the world was watching us, which seemed to imply that we were hooligans and alcoholics to the very same world he spoke about," he says.

"I reckon it was certainly a very effective way of telling the workers to behave while in the public eye, which they did very well."

John remembers how the idea of the work-in took off and caught the imagination of people around the world, including famously John Lennon, who sent a message of support and £1000 towards the fighting fund.

"The work-in idea caught everyone's imagination," he said.

"When vast amounts of money at that time arrived for the fighting fund from all over the world to support the work-in, hope of the survival of the yards was given a serious boost, as was the morale of the workers."

Eileen believes it was that off-the-cuff no bevvying speech that was central to the success of the campaign.

She said: "My dad never said this – but I'll say it – if it hadn't been for my dad, I don't think the message would have gone round the world.

"We had camera teams in our little tenement from all over the world.

"The history of working class struggle has always been a history – and many times rightly so – of antagonism. But this was different."

The fact that the speech is still talked about and remembered 40 years on certainly seems to be proof of its power.

Over the next few weeks, there are various events planned to mark the anniversary including a new exhibition at the Mitchell in Glasgow, a gala concert and a reception at Holyrood for some of the men and women who took part in the work-in.

Bob Dickie, a former colleague and friend of Jimmy Reid's, will be attending some of the events.

A year on from Jimmy's death, Bob is very happy to talk about the power and reach of that speech.

He said: "It was inspiration. Who would have thought you'd have a shop steward up there saying there'll be nae bevvying. come on, it's a shipyard, but it just carried the day. It was accepted.

"The workers were in a form of shock as well – this had come completely out of the blue.

"We didn't know beforehand what he was going to say.

"It caught the imagination of the workforce and latterly the community as a whole.

"What you have to remember is in that era, if there had been any disputes led by members of the communist party, there was always a negative reaction.

"That never ever happened. There was never anything other than praise for the way the UCS and the workforce handled things."

In the end of course, the work-in, and that speech, won the day, with the Government backing down and providing financial assistance to Upper Clyde Shipbuilders.

Whether the work-in was a success in the longer term is still open to question.

l An exhibition about the work-in begins at the Mitchell on September 25. There will also be a gala concert there on October 1. A parliamentary reception to mark the anniversary will also be held on September 15.