AS the industry he had given so much of his life to was collapsing around him, Joe Reilly was forced to stay until the bitter end.

The Johnstone man was one of thousands in the west of Scotland whose lives were intertwined with the success – and, ultimately, failure – of the manufacturing trade.

Now, nearly 40 years on from its demise, Joe’s tales of a decade spent working as a welder at the Chrysler car factory in Linwood have been brought to life in the latest journal from the Scottish Labour History Society.

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Written over the course of the last few decades, the dad-of-five’s chapter in the book has proven to be very much a labour of love as he set out to change some misconceptions about the way the Chrysler plant went under.

Joe, 71, told The Gazette: “I wanted to tell the truth of the time as I saw it.

“There was a lot of rubbish in the media at the time that the workers had brought down the industry but that was unfair.

“Everybody who owned the factory made money in one way or another, but not the workers.

“I wanted to try to explain the strikes and what really went on.

“I know we all loved our jobs and would have been there until we retired.”

Originally born in Glasgow and having initially spent time in the Merchant Navy, Joe only moved to Johnstone after securing a job at the Linwood plant in 1971.

A wife and five kids later, the move had shaped most of his life.

Scotland’s only car factory was opened by Prince Phillip in 1963 and produced 60 vehicles an hour at its peak.

The Gazette:

Thousands of men and women worked at the factory in Linwood 

By the time Joe was finally made redundant in 1981, the industry was on its knees and many of his friends had long since left the production line.

He said: “I lost so many friends of mine that I had made.

“I was one of the ones kept on at the end and it was really sad walking around big empty buildings where hundreds of people had once been.

“I was actually rather glad when my time finally came to an end.”

When the factory eventually shut, an estimated 13,000 lost their jobs.

Joe’s chapter was picked up originally by the Johnstone History Museum, where it was discovered by members of the local history society and included in their latest volume.

The Gazette:

The factory was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh (pictured inside a Hillman Imp) in 1963

With a number of academics contributing to the journal, he is delighted to be in amongst such prestigious company.

Principally, though, he hopes it will strike a chord with those he worked alongside for so many years.

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“Hopefully people can pick it up and see where I am coming from,” said Joe. “I am just trying to balance the negative press from that time against the truth about the hard-working men and women who were there.”