A CHANCE exchange on social media led a former Clyde shipyard worker to uncover a fascinating story.

Michael Conway posted some old Ferguson shipyard vessel photos and got chatting to John Hemphill, whose grandmother also worked for the famous shipbuilder.

“I discovered his gran, Celia, was Ferguson’s longest-serving employee,” says Michael.

“And when she died, everyone – including the yard’s former managing director – turned up to her funeral service.”

Glasgow Times: Celia with her brother Dick and their parentsCelia with her brother Dick and their parents (Image: John Hemphill)

Michael adds, with a laugh: “She even made Sean Connery a cup of tea when he came to visit…”

Celia worked at Ferguson’s shipyard in Port Glasgow for 42 years, from 1960 to 2002.

“Her father Albert worked there as a boilerman and her sisters Phylis, Elsie and Eva also worked there as cleaners,” says Michael.

“She was a much-loved person in Ferguson’s yard and offices and she meant the world to everyone there.”

Celia, whose maiden name was Pleasants, was born on August 26, 1920.

As well as her three sisters, she had a brother, Dick. Her father later became caretaker of Newark Castle, which for a long time lay hidden behind the giant cranes and sheds of the Clyde’s great yards in Port Glasgow.

Celia started at the Ferguson Brothers shipyard on August 1, 1960 and retired in 2002.

Michael explains: “Celia was always proud to work for Ferguson Brothers, later Ferguson-Ailsa, Appledore-Ferguson and Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd.

“She was head cleaner, responsible for all of their vessels and shipyard offices. Celia’s work standards were extremely high.”

Michael adds, with a laugh: “She ran a tight ship…”

Even Hollywood actor Sean Connery met Celia when he visited the Ferguson’s yard in 1982 with award-winning director Fred Zinnemann.

The James Bond star shot some scenes on location for the romantic drama Five Days One Summer, about a Scottish doctor holidaying in the Alps in the 1930s.

He was interviewed by our sister newspaper The Greenock Telegraph at the time.

Glasgow Times: Sir Sean Connery being interviewed by the Greenock TelegraphSir Sean Connery being interviewed by the Greenock Telegraph (Image: Newsquest)

“Celia met Sir Sean, and made him some tea during breaks in filming,” says Michael.

Celia married John Hemphill in 1943, and they lived in Greenock with their son, John. She sadly died on June 27, 2002.

“Such was the respect senior management had for Celia, the former Ferguson managing director John Peach attended her funeral,” adds Michael.

John Peach was managing director at the yard between 1969 and 1989, when he helped steer the Port Glasgow-based Ferguson Shipbuilders through a difficult time for the industry.

Glasgow Times: John PeachJohn Peach (Image: Newsquest)

He was in charge when in 1980 it amalgamated with the Ailsa yard in Troon (forming Ferguson-Ailsa). He was at the helm when six years later the two de-merged and Ferguson then joined forces with the Devon-based Appledore Shipbuilders. He died in 2015.

Michael is delighted to have been able to tell Celia’s story, with help from her grandson.

“She was much-loved and respected,” he says.