HIS name was Bobby Todd and in August 1962 he was a union representative at Prince’s Dock in Glasgow. “He is”, observed the Evening Times writer, Jack House, “small, dapper, and wears a Tyrolean-type hat, a neat suit, and well-polished shoes”.

Mr Todd, second from left in the main image, watched as dockers unloaded cargo from ships' holds, including bags of cottonseed cake from Burma. In the dock shed there was a musty smell, and a light brown powder seemed to hang in the air. The dockers, covered in sweat, worked without cease.

“This”, Mr Todd said, “is officially a dirty cargo”, consulting a book that provided for extra payments for such cargo in the Port of Glasgow. “The extra payment here is 2½d per ton”. House pondered this. If his calculations were correct, the three dockers and the checker (the man who recorded the weight of each sack) would receive an extra 5s 2½d for their morning’s labours. “And, judging by the working conditions”, he added, “I’d say that they’d have to spend that on beer. I certainly would”.

Jack House could have visited the docks in Glasgow at any point over the decades and witnessed similar scenes. The picture above was taken in 1932.

On one of the days he saw that August, there were a dozen ships waiting to be loaded or unloaded, ranging from coasters to Atlantic liners; their cargoes included everything from pitch, sugar and canned fruit to boxwood, timber and paper, whisky, and miscellaneous items lumped together as “sundries”.

The dockers’ day began early. Three voluntary canteens, at Prince’s Dock, Shieldhall and Yorkhill, had to be ready at 6.30am as the first of the dockers were on their way, and they needed a hearty breakfast.

Port officers were already assessing the demand for dockers in the various docks. By 7.45am Prince’s Dock was packed. Union officials on platforms faced crowds of dockers holding up their union cards. This was the time for “free booking”, when the men tried to pick their own jobs.

“You should see this place on Saturday morning”, remarked one middle-aged docker. “That’s when the Sunday jobs are fixed ... They fight one another for jobs”.

Read more: Herald Diary