Jimmy Reid – Working Rector

The 2015 Third Annual Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture takes place on November 24th in the Bute Hall. In honour of the workers’ leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will address the issue of why workers’ rights are human rights. Jimmy Reid has strong links with the University, having been University Rector from 1971 to 1974. The University Archives also holds much material relating to Reid and the UCS work-in.



Jimmy Reid enjoying his victory, lifted on the shoulders of Glasgow University students (Daily Record, 26th October 1971) (GUAS: IP 6/8/10)

Jimmy Reid was born in Govan, and became a shipyard worker and trade union official. He was famously one of the leaders of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-in between June 1971 and October 1972. During this time he stood for the 1971 University of Glasgow rectorship. His opponents included the Labour MP and University graduate Margaret Herbison and the Conservative MP Teddy Taylor. The poet Roger McGough and the television personality Michael Parkinson were not allowed to contest the election on the grounds that their papers were not in order.

During his rectoral address in 1972, which coincided with the announcement that the fight for shipbuilders jobs in Clydebank had been won, Reid famously condemned the ‘rat race’. He asked students to reject the individualism and greed that had led to a growing disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. His message made international headlines, with the New York Times printing the speech in full and naming it ‘the greatest speech since President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address’.


An invitation to the official installation of Jimmy Reid to the position of rector (28th April 1972) (GUAS: DC 455/1/1/8)

A proponent of direct representation, Reid strongly encouraged student participation during his rectorship. While the previous rector Lord McLeod had promised to install a student assessor, it was Reid who finally managed to deliver.  George Brechin, then the SRC Senior Vice President, was appointed as Rector Assessor soon after Reid’s installation. Brechin himself was elected by the student body, giving students their first ever voice on the Court.


This image shows Reid’s demand for “Participation Now!” as reported in the Glasgow University Guardian (4th May 1972) (GUAS: DC 65/73)

Reid also involved himself with student affairs. During an altercation at the Queen Margaret Halls in February 1972,  five students were unfairly evicted by their hall warden. Reid worked closely with the S.R.C and took the case on, requesting information about the incident in order to help the students in question. The rector also stood alongside students in many protests against the impending reforms of the time. He was reported to have attended the December 1971 demonstration against the move to give University authorities control over student funds. He was also present at one of the largest N.U.S. demonstrations against the cutting of student grants in February, 1974.


This letter (dated 1st February 1972) from Dr Hutcheson, the Secretary of the University Court, shows his request for information about the Queen Margaret Hall case. (GUAS Ref: DC 455/5/6)


A true working class hero and advocate of the right to work, Reid will be remembered as one of the most important political figures of our time.  If you would like to know more about our Jimmy Reid collection (DC455) you can view its entry on ArchivesHub, view our Flickr set, and email the Duty Archivist to make an appointment to see the collection in person: enquiries@archives.gla.ac.uk.

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1 reply


  1. Heritage on Campus this November | University of Glasgow Library

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