Shipbuilder and industrialist; Born October 30, 1922; Died October 10, 2008

Sir Robert Easton, who has died of cancer aged 85, helped steer Glasgow's ship- building industry through perhaps its most turbulent period.

Easton - he became Sir Robert in 1990 - was a director of Yarrow Shipbuilders Ltd, when it merged with four other companies under the UCS banner in 1967. In 1970 he became deputy managing director, and the following year UCS workers launched a work-in which became one of the most celebrated disputes in trade union history.

When Edward Heath's government refused to give UCS a £6m loan when it went into receivership, the union decided to stage a "work-in" and complete the orders that Yarrow's and the other companies had in place.

Despite this constructive approach there were mutual recriminations between the management and workers as to who was responsible for the collapse of UCS.

Easton spoke of limited successes in 1972 which brought Yarrow's "back in the black" despite "the attitude of the unions". Nevertheless, one welder praised Easton for helping transform the industry from a one-time "holiday camp" into a vibrant enterprise.

Public sympathy and political support ensured that, in February 1972, Heath agreed to retain two of the yards, Yarrow's and Fairfields, as Govan Shipbuilders.

Both remain in operation 36 years later as BAE Systems Surface Fleet Solutions.

Easton augmented Yarrow's strengths in the domestic market with international orders secured through his capacity for forging relationships in the world of shipping.

Robert William Simpson Easton was born in Govan, the son of James Easton and Helen Agnes Simpson.

Educated at Glasgow's Royal Technical College, he began his 43-year career as an apprentice for the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company.

In 1951 he moved to Yarrow's to work as an estimator and worked his way up to become sales director, then managing director and chairman.

By the time Easton joined Yarrow's the Scottish shipbuilding industry was already in decline. It was a testament to his management skills that he kept the workforce together and maintained Yarrow's position as the only profitable shipbuilder on the Clyde.

In 1977 the firm, now known as Yarrow (Shipbuilders) Ltd (YSL), was grouped with other UK shipyards to become British Shipbuilders.

Easton became the managing director, adding the post of chairman two years later. He also served as vice-president of Clyde Shipbuilders from 1972 to 1979.

In 1985 YSL was sold to GEC. Easton had supported the idea of an employee buyout when it became clear the warship yards were to be sold off, but it was not to be.

Easton was chairman of the Clyde Port Authority from 1983-93, GEC Scotland from 1989-99 and GEC Naval Systems from 1991-94. Beyond shipbuilding he was a director of the Glasgow Development Agency, the West of Scotland Water Authority and Caledonian MacBrayne. In 1993 he was installed as Chancellor of the University of Paisley.

He was an enthusiastic golfer and a keen sailor.

He was appointed CBE in 1980 and knighted in 1990. He died at his home in Stuckenduff, near Helensburgh, leaving his wife Jean, 84, a son (Murray, now managing director of BAE Systems Submarine Solutions), daughter Fiona and five grandchildren.

David Torrance