THE closure of the Singer factory in Clydebank, announced in October 1979, was, this newspaper observed in a leading article, a disaster.

For Clydebank, it was more than just another in a long series of industrial setbacks.

“Singer’s has an immense historical significance for the town, and indeed for industrial Scotland.

“Although years of decline have taken it far from its heyday when it employed 14,000 people, the prospect of its total disappearance, after a century in which it has been not only a mainstay but a symbol of Clydebank, is a genuine tragedy. On the burgh’s coat of arms the sewing machine will now become as anachronistic as the ship...” (local shipbuilding had also ended in recent years).

The first Singer factory had been near Queen Street station, Glasgow, in 1867; production had been switched to larger premises in Bridgeton, but when it was realised that an even larger place was needed in order to meet the huge demand for sewing machines, the company considered Bonnybridge, near Falkirk, before settling for a site at Kilbowie.

The West Dunbartonshire Council website recalls that in the Second World War, the factory made munitions, aircraft parts and equipment for the wear effort. It suffered extensive damage during the Blitz of March 13-14, 1941, but work resumed on certain war contracts on the evening of March 17.

The American singer and actress, Dorothy Lamour, was guest of honour at the Singer sports day in 1950; she was on a week-long run at the Glasgow Empire at the time.

Mahatma Gandhi, no less, learned to sew on a Singer-made machine.

It was, he remarked, “one of the few useful things ever invented.”

Read more: Herald Diary