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.

The Post has featured case studies from the publication, with thanks to Digby Brown, CAG, and the individuals featured. This is the final instalment from Gillian Murphy, managing editor of the Clydebank Post.




As the Post reports on news in and around the town, local people and their connection to shipbuilding is, to this day, a recurring thread which runs through these stories.

Many residents worked in the shipyards or had family who worked there and their experience and physical footprint that heavy industry left is still felt strongly today.

Although the collective memory of the shipbuilding industry is slowly dwindling, its grim impact on workers and their families is still felt today. But as well as stories of the glory days of shipbuilding the Post has told another story relating to this shipbuilding heritage – the far-reaching impact of asbestos.

In the late 1990s, the Post reported how the former jewel in Scotland’s shipbuilding crown had been called the asbestos capital of Britain.

At that time, the UK mortality rate from asbestos was expected to continue to rise. In fact, it was only in the last five years that the death toll peaked, with figures now slightly lower – although they are still around ten times higher than those in 1970–79. But the Post does not focus on facts and figures; we focus on people.

The Clydebank community had to fight for its people. It had to fight for justice for those hurt by asbestos, for those who have died, and it has had to fight to be heard.

This year, the Post reported Clydebank Asbestos Group is celebrating its 30th anniversary. This group has been a beacon of support for families, locally and beyond, who have been affected by the impact of asbestos.

From a personal point of view, my own grandfather, Archibald Campbell McGee (pictured), born on February 5, 1925, died from pleural mesothelioma. It is thought asbestos could have been in his lung for 30 or 40 years and was industrially acquired. When he was diagnosed in 1995, he was given a year to live.

As a young fireman on steam engines, it was Archie’s job to clean the firebox lining at the end of every shift. The lining was made of asbestos. Around the 1970s, an old fleet of diesel trains were being scrapped and moved from Corkerhill Depot to Kilmarnock.

Drivers were advised the sets were riddled with asbestos and they had to volunteer for the job. Archie volunteered, but many drivers refused.

A lawsuit instigated by Archie in 1995 after his diagnosis was successfully settled posthumously out of court with the railway’s insurers in 2001, although no liability was accepted.

My father, John McGee, who also worked in the railway, still has a passion for trains and often shares a memory of being lifted by his father onto the footplate of one of the last public steam engines in Scotland.

Scotland’s heavy industry heritage is something to be proud of but the generations to come will now better understand the dark side of this history and the pain and suffering many families went through and are still going through.

We now know and better understand the blight on families that asbestos-related disease has had. And we honour the memory of those who have died by telling the full story about the old days – both good and bad.