Glasgow's chest can be puffed out when we remember we were once lauded across the world for our shipbuilding skills.

But what we didn’t announce to the world was that we were simultaneously wrecking the chests – and the lives – of those who worked in the industry by exposure to asbestosis.

Now, a new play, Fibres, is to highlight the legacy of asbestos in the Clyde shipyards.

The play stars Two Doors Down favourite Jonathan Watson and recent River City exiter Maureen Carr.

Johnny says writer Frances Poet has written a heartfelt tale based around those who contracted mesothelioma, the deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Indeed, he explains that Scotland today has the highest global incidence of the disease.

“I felt I knew of the dangers of asbestos, which was used as lagging for insulation in the boats,” he offers, “but I had no idea how serious it was.

“And this disease is horrific. Once it’s diagnosed you have six to 12 months and that’s it, you’re out.

“But what’s truly horrific is that these sufferers had been put into a working environment which was known to be potentially fatal.”

He adds; “The management knew of the dangers of asbestos dating back to the late 19th century and still persevered because it was practical and cheap.”

The story of asbestos poisoning isn’t confined to the West of Scotland.

“High incidences occurred in America, and Russia still mines asbestos.

“But we suffered really badly here. There are many cases of compensation still active in Scotland at the moment.”

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Fibres binds together four interconnected stories in a funny and touching tribute to families and individuals affected by this issue.

The play is set in present day, with flashbacks,” says Johnny.

“My character, Jack, is 64 and he worked in Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in the seventies.

“He is married to Beanie, and the central focus of the play is how the illness impacts upon the wives and partners of the men who become ill.”

Meanwhile their daughter, Lucy, attempts to overcome her grief.

Will she be held back by her parents’ experience, or will she have the courage to allow romance to blossom with Pete?

Frances Poet was impacted to write the play after she met a woman who had lost her parents to the illness just six months apart.

“The woman’s father had been a ship’s draftsman and had served a three-day apprenticeship on the ships,” says Frances.

“His exposure to the asbestos in those three days was enough to end not just his life prematurely but also that of his wife who washed his overalls.

“It broke my heart enough to write a play about it.”

Johnny Watson, who features in Only An Excuse? Football comedy, picks up the story.

“The wives would wash the overalls and they would inhale the asbestos dust as well.”

This isn’t what Beanie thought Jack meant when he promised “what’s mine is yours”.

However, while the play is a dark tale of corporate greed and disdain for human life, Frances Poet says her play is not without comedy.

“Because it’s a Glasgow story, I found my characters making me laugh, even in the face of tragedy.

“Their resilience was irresistible. And suddenly the play I was writing wasn’t a tragedy but a love story with as many laughs as tears.”

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She adds; “I’m so glad Stellar Quines and the Citizens Theatre are taking the play to audiences across Scotland.

“I suspect our story will be met with many more stories shared after the show. I want to hear them all.”

The play is part of the Citizens’ Women season. Johnny Watson says Fibres, which also features Suzanne Magowan and Ali Craig, is being staged in communities where the message will really strike home.

And asbestos, he says, has featured in so many of our lives.

“When my mum and dad moved down to Partick I’m sure the place they lived in had asbestos insulation.

“We’ve all been close to it.”

The actor is set for a busy year ahead. Johnny will appear in Jack and the Beanstalk at the King’s Theatre, as the King

“The last time I was at the King’s with Elaine C. Smith I played a Buttons character, the daft boy,” he says.

“I have so many happy memories of working there.

“Now, 20 years on I’m going back in as the King.”

He smiles; “Doesn’t time fly.”

It seems certain a new series of Two Doors Down will be filmed next summer.

“I’m also making a new pilot for a network comedy, set in Scotland,” he says. “So hopefully that will be developed.”

He adds, “I’ll be working on that this week, but it all seems a bit strange while talking about a play about cancer.”

Johnny adds quickly; “I know, this all sounds really serious. And it is. But this play is really funny as well. Trust me.”

The Citizens’ Women season is a season committed to putting women actors, directors and stories centre stage.

The season is dedicated to showcasing the extraordinary and wide-ranging talent of women theatre-makers.

The tour runs from October 17 to November 2. Details of all venues and ticket information is available from