IT was August 1950, and the President of the Board of Trade was in Greenock, helping to inaugurate a new industrial estate in the town’s old Caird shipyard.

Harold Wilson had become the youngest Cabinet member in the 20th century when Labour’s post-war Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, appointed him to the post in 1947. Wilson was just 31 at the time.

In 1950 he cut the first sod on the site and later presented the chromium-plated spade to the town’s provost, Robert Boyd, as a memento of the occasion.

Afterwards, at a lunch, he announced that Greenock was now on a select list of areas which would benefit from relaxation of the restrictions on capital investment. The government would welcome development by industries regardless of the type of product they were going to make – provided that they employed predominantly male workers.

In his view it was a “serious and grave commentary” on past affairs that it was said that Greenock and his own Merseyside constituency were prosperous only in war time.

Everyone knew the great contribution that the Greenock area had made in two world wars and knew of the suffering it had endured in the interwar years. They were all resolved that the area should not be pitched into a depression such as it had known in the past.

Provost Boyd recalled that they had levelled the first church built in Greenock after the Reformation, and its kirkyard, to make way for the shipyard. Unfortunately, instead of having an extended shipyard, they had only extended the graveyard, and the hopes of the local people seemed to have lain buried in that graveyard – until now.

Fourteen years after his visit, Wilson became Prime Minister. He occupied Number 10 between 1964 and 1970, and again between 1974 and 1976.

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