A memorial to the thousands of workers who lost their lives in Scotland’s iron and steel industry was unveiled last week on the former site of the most iconic steel plant of them all.
The Steelman, a stunning five-metre high steel structure designed by renowed sculptor Andy Scott - creator of The Kelpies - has been erected outside what is now the Ravenscraig sports complex.
The poignant ceremony followed a three-year campaign by the Scottish Steelworkers’ Memorial Fund - supported by the Motherwell Times and Bellshill Speaker - to raise a six-figure sum to pay for the memorial.
The statue, depicting a worker with a stream of molten steel pouring from his hand and sparking off the ground, was formally unveiled Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community union.
Fund chairman Terry Currie said it was difficult to pin down the statistics on deaths in the industry.
He said: “The Iron and Steel Trades Confederation say 2,302 of their union members lost their lives across the UK, but there were about eight of nine big unions in the industry and they all had heavy membership, so whatever way you look at it the number of deaths was significant.
“You can’t underestimate the importance that the iron and steel industry had in Scotland and it is long overdue but better late than never.”
“We targeted specific groups and they came forward in their droves and it’s not just cash donations - for example Highland Colour Coaters from Cumbernauld were the galvanising company who put the coating on the metal. They did that free of charge which was a magnificent gesture.”
Tommy Brennan, who was union shop stewards’ convener at Ravenscraig, said it was important to have a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives.
He said: “The steel industry was a dirty, dangerous, hazardous industry full of gaseous areas, steam and smoke, overhead cranes and heavy machinery. It was a frightening place for people to move into a plant on their very first day.
“But it was a good industry to work in. The people who worked in the industry were fantastic people. I’ll never forget it and I’ll never forget those people who went to their work in the morning and never went home at night.
“Nowadays people don’t know about the steel industry. It’s 23 years since Ravenscraig itself closed. We’ve a new generation of kids coming up now who think Ravenscraig is a sports centre and a college.
“They don’t realise within these 1200 acres there was a huge steelworks employing, at one stage, something like 11,500 people. That was just how big it was.”
Andy Scott admitted he was humbled to be asked to create the memorial and said it was important to leave a legacy for future generations to understand how important the industry was.
He said: “I shook hands on it straight away.
“It was a long job, the fundraising was difficult because of the economy at the time but we stuck with it and I hope it does justice to Ravenscraig and all the guys who worked in the works.
“I think one of the reasons the chaps came to me in the first place was that I am well known for using steel as a material. It was one of the things which really drove me to do the project.
I was trying to summarise the effort and the labour that went into the industry and I hope it serves as a proud tribute to those who lost their lives.”