Events to mark the 30th anniversary of fight to save Caterpillar plant

Caterpillar workers pictured in April 1987
Caterpillar workers pictured in April 1987

Plans are being drawn up to mark the 30th anniversary of the 103-day occupation of the Caterpillar factory in Tannochside.

In September 1986 the American firm announced a £62.5 million investment in the factory to great fanfare.

However, within just 12 weeks they management made a major U-turn and decided to close it down leading the 1,200 workers to take action and on January 14, 1987, they seized the factory.

Caterpillar Workers Legacy Project secretary John Gillen was a shop steward at the time of the sit-in.

He said: “When the initial investment was announced it really boosted the workforce so there was a lot of anger when just a few weeks later we were told the factory was to close.

“We decided we weren’t going to take it lying down and wanted to do something a little bit different than the usual trade union so rather than picket outside the plant we decided to stay inside and lock the management out.

“We held out for 103 days and I think it is important that as we mark the 30th anniversary of the occupation that the event isn’t allowed to be forgotten and ensure our story lives on for another 30 years for a generation who only really know Caterpillar for making boots and jumpers.”

A number of events will take place next year, starting with Central Scotland list MSP Richard Leonard presenting a parliamentary motion to mark the 30th anniversary on January 17.

There will be a reunion in Tannochside Miners Welfare on January 20 when guests will get their first look at a planned exhibition about the occupation.

The legacy project is in discussions with Culture NL for a full exhibition to go on display in North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre next year.

On February 25 two plays written by Anne Hogg, whose father worked at Caterpillar, will be performed at Motherwell Civic Centre.

Butterfly, which debuted at Oran Mor in 2015, is based very loosely on an incident where a man climbed the Caterpillar water tower and had to be rescued, while Out of the Bad is a brand new play about a member of the mother’s support group explaining the occupation to her daughter.

Mr Gillen said: “We had great support from a community that was deeply affected by the closure and it will be good to be able to hear our story from the perspective of someone like Anne to show how it affected the wider Caterpillar family.”