by William Willis
Coatbridges last arc-furnace has now simply, all gone cold.
There is no steel to pour no more, there is no sand to mould.
RB Tennents molten ladles, of a 1000 odd degrees.
Our industry is gone, its been brought down to its knees.

RB Tennent was where I did work, for 15 years or so.
So Ii write these few verses for the ones who didnt know.
We made steel rolls for the rolling mills, we made them by the score.
What a pity that these skills,  are not used here anymore.

Our furnace it would blast, felt our eardrums they were bleeding.
Our metal was now crunching, it was melting, it was screaming.
It was just like a hell on earth, like in the Devils own back yard.
Watch you didnt get burnt, you had to be good on your guard.

With the Cranemans skilled hands, the ladle it was lowered.
And with sublime precision, the metal it was poured.
The temperature was good, it was now all systems go.
The ladle was positioned and the metal, it did flow.   

60 tons of hot metal, held by a few course of hot brick.
Didnt think what might happen, t'would just make you sick.
Many men they suffered burns and a few they even died.
They will always be remembered, by those who have survived.

The metal it was pouring, like the shot out of a gun.
It thundered and roared but shone, just like the setting sun.
Molten sparks they were flying, like fireflies running amock (OUCH!!)

Its funny how one always seemed ended up in your sock.

You would feel the spark inside your boot, it was now time for the dancing
You looked like Shakin Stevens with your silly dance and prancing
Your workmates they all had a laugh, it would burn right through yer sock
Simon Cowell would have been impressed, Oh Boy! How you could rock

It was a hot place to work and the noise, it was intense.
But we always had a laugh and the crack, it was immense.
We toiled,we sweated and worked, in our 40 hour week.
But there was always that little bit of overtime to seek.

Two nights and a Sunday was enough to feed the weans.
Extra pieces in yer piecebox but shes pit in cheese again !
Stirred yer coffee wi a pincil, that was lodged behind yer lug.
Scraped the beans oot of the can and used it as yer mug.

Turners, Furnacemen and Moulders always fighting over pay.
Sparks, Stovemen and the Labourers would also have their say.
Union Men and strikes, ye know the two go hand in hand.
Fighting for their colleagues pay and how the jobs are manned.

Thoes days I can recall, though it seems so long ago.
The Whifflet Steelworks closing down the whole town... dealt a blow.
The Meadow Works lies barren now....... in silence...... it is true.
And the Whifflet Sites now resident to that company B&Q

�William Willis 2010

RBT closed it's doors in 2003. A bout a year prior to it closing, skilled men who had worked there most of their working life, some with 45 years service were given redundancy payments. These guys were highly skilled workers and when that occurs, the writing is on the wall for a place I spent 15 years of my working life.

It also prompted me to write this poem....

  • A fond farewe�� kiss- Redundancy payment
  • Fire frothing dragon- metaphorical name for our Electric Arc Furnace.
  • Cast- where the metal is poured from the furnace.
  • Hot-spots- Red hot spots that appear on the furnace sides when the inner brickwork falls in.This was very dangerous, as the metal used to spill out onto the floor space where the furnacemen worked.
  • Cleek- a long thin iron rod about 8 foot long which was used to manipulate the crane's heavy chains.
  • Thermal lance- a 12 foot rod which cuts through metal and is attached to an oxygen line.


Somethin' seemed amiss that day, as skilled men were let go?
A fond farewe�� kiss....'afore yon final hammer blow.
No grandeur in The Meadow, yon filthy pit o' toil.
Charred an' hard oor overalls an' earplugs stained wi' oil.

See yon fire-frothing dragon, spewing peaches at the seams.
Hot-spots, nae investment, she wiz dying oan 'er knees.
Girdered limbs wid graft, till the last light of the day.
Harder work fur awe, as machinery decays.

Shovels,cleeks an' pinch bars, thermal lances, nuts an' bolts.
Gabby's, chains o' iron made in awe size and sorts.
Sand o' moulding green, being rammed tae take the metal.
Piece by piece assembled... ratcheted an' settled.

Instruction tae the Craneman, who wiz sat amoung the Gods.
"Baw hair tae the left or right !" Our finely chosen words.
Bricks an' twisted ladders lie now, broken up and sold.
South oor jobs are rolling, fleeced once more oor Scottish gold.

Tradition tae Submission! All oor pleading t'has been shunned.
Works went doon tae England, as OOR last roll.... it wiz turned.
Many men wir scolded, lost their limbs consigned tae wheels.
Bless those soaked in wave, leavin' only leather heels.

A decade noo has passed, since yon PADLOCK KEY wiz turned.
Fading recollections being reminded by ma burns.
100 years o' making steel, Coatbridge's own flirtation.
Wid oor furnace still be roaring in an independent nation?

WM WILLIS 2004 and (revised) 2014

View Site in Mobile | Classic
Share by: