The Clydebank Post is serialising the content of the book ‘Asbestos and Clydebank’, produced by Digby Brown.

The book was launched in October to mark the 30th anniversary of Clydebank Asbestos Group.

Now the Post will feature case studies from the publication, with thanks to Digby Brown, CAG, and the individuals featured.


Stuart Riddle, 76, was an electrician all his days from the age of 15. Born and raised in Clydebank he has seen it all as an electrician. Two kids and five grand-kids later he now suffers from pleural plaques.

I worked at John Brown’s myself and worked on the QE2. I remember the joiner was cutting holes in the ceiling of the radio room of the ship to install light fittings.

It should have been a two-man job – one to cut the holes and the other to hold a vacuum cleaner to sook up the dust. But it wasn’t to keep us safe – it was just to keep the mess down. But this time the guy didn’t use the vacuum and you couldn’t see five feet in front of you – we all just had to bail out. There were no masks. And it’s also strange because it’s not like it got rid of the asbestos safely because where do you think they emptied the vacuum? It was just tipped into a skip.

Times back then were different than today – before I could even work at the yard I had to show I was a union member as people needed to know who they were working with and that they would all agree on courses of action should it be needed. I remember Jimmy Reid’s speech about ‘no trouble and no boozing’ – it was another time indeed. It was very political but losing it was a disaster for Clydebank.

I was laid off from Brown’s on Christmas Eve in 1968 and from there I then continued as an electrician for the burgh and district council and then Yarrows shipyard. I worked in boiler houses while monkey dung was being used by the insulators.

During my apprenticeship at James Scott Co Ltd I even narrowly missed going to Turners Asbestos Factory for work but instead I was sent to Shotts High School. I did want to work there at the time as it was good money and I’d get good expenses.

Our personnel manager hated apprentices skinning the expenses and having a long lie, which is why I went to Shotts High School and not Turners.

But knowing what we know now what with asbestos I definitely feel like I’ve dodged a bullet.

I also worked at Red Road flats and from the top you’d see the ‘white mice’ walking about on the ground – tradesmen walking about covered in white powder. The dangers of asbestos hadn’t been realised – or at least, that’s what management told us.

I developed my asbestos condition in 2018 and there’s no doubt it was because of the work I did. I actually know Bob Dickie as he used to work with my dad in the yard. I spoke to Bobby personally after my diagnosis and through him (and Clydebank Asbestos Group) I got the right help.

Clydebank Asbestos Group put me in touch with a lawyer and it was the legal team who were the first to ask about my work history. I was lucky and got compensation for my diagnosis. I felt so grateful I donated part of it back to Clydebank Asbestos Group for the work they did for me.

But you can’t look back because it happened. You can’t think you can just wash the 1960s out your lungs because it’s there. It’s done. As people we are so used to glossing over things as a way to look forwards but there’s some things you just can’t do that with.