Marking the legacy left by Ravenscraig ... 25 years on

It is hard to believe that 25 years have passed since communities in Lanarkshire were dealt a devastating blow with the closure of Ravenscraig steelworks.

Thursday, 27th July 2017, 2:00 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 1:13 pm
Picture Alan Watson. Club 100, formerly Fir Park Social Club - Reunion to mark 25th anniversary of Ravenscraig closure
Picture Alan Watson. Club 100, formerly Fir Park Social Club - Reunion to mark 25th anniversary of Ravenscraig closure

But former workers are continuing to keep their memories of working at the plant alive by holding a reunion every two years.

And recently they came together – marking a quarter of a century since the area’s biggest employer shut down.

The factory site in Motherwell is now barely recognisable but employees like Stevie Jeffrey are determined to ensure the plant’s legacy is not forgotten.

The Ravenscraig steelworks, operated by Colville’s and from 1967 by British Steel Corporation, consisted of an integrated iron and steel works and a hot strip steel mill.

It was closed in June 1992 – a decision by the Thatcher government – and signalled the end of large scale steel making in Scotland. It also led to a direct loss of 770 jobs.

Stevie (54), from Motherwell, joined British Steel as an apprentice in 1979 and for two years he learned his trade at the Corporation’s training centre in Mossend.

After his training he was employed at the steelworks as a mechanical engineer/maintenance fitter.

He said: “I started work at Ravenscraig on August 6, 1979, as an apprentice engineer with British Steel. I spent the first two years at a training centre in Mossend and after the first year they decided where you fitted into the works.

“There were 83 boys who started the same year as I did, all doing mechanical, fabrication or electrical work.”

He continued: “I worked at Ravenscraig for 13 years in total. The people I worked with there were my second family. I spent as much time with them as I did at home. I am still very close to them.”

Stevie was 29 when the steelworks ceased operating and he still vividly remembers his last day at the plant.

He said: “I remember the last day very well. I had a numb feeling, like it wasn’t really happening. There wasn’t any work done on that last day – June 25, 1992. I remember there was a feeling of numbness, apprehension and fear.

“A lot of the guys had gone to work at Ravenscraig straight from school and had no idea what they were going to do next. We all sat on the last day having a few beers and chats and some people got very drunk – your emotions took over.

“It was very sad when Ravenscraig closed but it was time to move on. Starting off working at Ravenscraig was like a stepping stone for me. At the time it closed I had a family and a mortgage so I decided to go to Motherwell College to get an HNC in multi-discipline engineering to enhance my existing skills and improve my chances to finding work.”

Stevie considers himself lucky that he was able to secure work through a local agency after he completed his HNC and within four weeks, he found a job as a maintenance fitter.

Stevie has had 13 jobs since he worked at Ravenscraig and he is currently employed as a technical team leader at a whisky distillery in Paisley.

He said he will always be grateful for the training he received and the experience he gained while working at Ravenscraig.

Stevie also feels it is important to keep the memories alive: “Every two years we have a reunion,” he said.

“We had one last year but decided to have another one this year as it is the 25th anniversary of the closure.

“There have been around 12 reunions over the years. In the early years there were as many as 75 people who came along but last year there were only about 11. It always takes place on the last Friday in June.

“At the most recent one two weeks ago there were 29 people there.

“Some people think it’s not worth coming to anymore but I will keep it going because there are some friends who come that I don’t get to see as much as I would like. When the workers get together we reminisce about old times and look at old photographs. I think it’s brilliant.”

Fellow former employee Jim Fraser, who is from Motherwell, worked as a mechanical engineer at the plant. He said the impact of its closure is still being felt today.

Jim (64) said: “The towns have never recovered. When Ravenscraig was open, everywhere was busy – shops were open at 6am for the workers, but now places like Motherwell and Wishaw are deserted. It was the biggest employer in the area at that time and it really affected the communities when it shut.”

He added: “I have a lot of good memories from my time there and I have no regrets. I would go back tomorrow if I could and I know a lot of workers feel the same.”