NOT long before he took early retirement in October 1989, Sammy Gilmore, one of the great characters of the Glasgow shipyards, went down to London to attend a pension fund meeting.

Ian Bruce, our industrial correspondent, who knew him well, wrote that Sammy had been given a first-class rail ticket for the first time in his life. “Sam being Sam, he took along his old carpet slippers – the ones with the holes in the toes – a bottle of Irn Bru, and a half-bottle of whisky. He was reclining at his ease, with his slippered feet on the table, when a pinstripe-suited businessman asked him if he had the required ticket. Sam replied, ‘Why, are you the ticket collector? Ah always thought you b------- wore skip-bunnets an’ uniforms”.

Gilmore had been one of the prime architects of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in at the start of the previous decade (above). The stand reverberated around the world.

“Sammy Gilmore”, wrote Bruce, “is the original legend in his own lunchtime and the bane of unwary journalists in theirs. Those who drink with him have to have deep pockets, thick skins, and a head for electric soup.

“He was never a respecter of rank or personage. Prime Ministers and members of the royal family were treated with the same quick-witted familiarity as Matt the Rag and The Pig, two larger-than-life characters from the Govan shipyard which until yesterday was both his battlefield and his playground.” The Clyde without Sam Gilmore, he added, would be “a poorer and a drabber place”.

Bruce recounted how Gilmore had once told the then Industry Secretary, Keith Joseph, to “shut up”, and how he had formed a double-act with Eric Mackie, the wily, Belfast-born boss of Govan Shipbuilders.

Gilmore died in October 2011 on his 72nd birthday.

Read more: Herald Diary