"THERE was uproar when it was announced that Gartcosh steel mill was to shut in the summer of 1986, with the loss of hundreds of jobs.
On a freezing January 3 a group of men left the gates of Gartcosh for a 10-day march to Downing Street.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher refused to meet them and, instead, chose to greet England test cricketer Ian Botham.
So the walkers met Labour leader Neil Kinnock and walked from Parliament to Whitehall, where five of the marchers, along with event organiser Mary McKenna, were allowed to hand in a letter to 10 Downing Street.
They all then marched to Buckingham Palace to hand over a protest petition signed by more than 20,000 supporters before heading home in a convoy of three caravanettes.
John Reid, who later became MP, rose to hold seven Cabinet posts and is now Lord Reid Of Cardowan, looks back on the events ...
'I HAD known the Lanarkshire steelworkers for a long time because I was their Labour candidate for MP for the area.
When it came to defending their industry the steelworkers were determined to the point of obstinacy. They just didn't give up.
Perhaps it was the healthy streak of Scots-Irish running through many of them – Brennan and Quinn, (B+Q), Coyle and Carlin, Lafferty and McGuinness and the rest – the names almost proclaimed a willingness to fight.
So I should have seen it coming when Tommy Brennan, Ravenscraig works convener, asked me to meet him and a few mates at the steelworkers club for "chips and gravy" – the "gravy" always proved more plentiful (and potent) than the chips.
He said he had been talking with Ian Lawson, who had recently resigned from the Scottish Tories in support of Ravenscraig.
Lawson was an un-typical Tory – a passionate, gravel-voiced, larger-than-life figure, and rat-catcher to trade.
He was also a constant source of imaginative, radical and, at times, frankly, off-the-wall ideas for publicising the Ravenscraig cause.
That's another reason then why I should have seen it coming when Brennan casually introduced the idea of a "wee walk to support the Gartcosh and Ravenscraig Boys".
"Great, count me in," said I as the naive young parliamentary candidate. "When is it on?"
"Next Monday? A bit soon isn't it? Anyway, who's joining us?
"You, and me and Lawson, and a few steelworkers.
"Lawson? but he's a Tory."
"No, a resigned Tory, and committed to the 'Craig. Oh, and there'll be someone from the SNP and the Liberals."
"What? A Tory and the SNP and the Liberals?"
"Oh, and the Industrial Chaplain, Reverend Potter, and probably big Jim from the 'Craig, he's close to the Church Of Scotland."
"You mean all together, every party and denomination? Not easy. Still, it's only for the day. From Gartcosh to where?"
"You mean London Road? That's about 10 miles."
"No London. That's about 406 miles."
That "gravy" was obviously having an effect.
"London? But how long will that take?"
"10 days. We'll do it in relays."
"Where will we sleep?"
"Caravanettes in convoy."
"But it's snowing. It's freezing. It's bloody January."
"Good weather for a wee brisk walk."
And so it was decided. The Gartcosh March entered the folklore of working class history.
I remember the massive press coverage, highlighting the case for steel.
The Evening Times generously offered financial backing.
We had insisted it must also provide a marcher in the form of a reporter and photographer.
And so we were joined by our intrepid news hounds Ken Smith and Craig Halkett.
Real investigative journalism – they marched the whole way.
So did I – well, nearly.
Within two days my knee had frozen up (not to mention the bursting lungs on 60 Embassy a day).
Brennan said he was impressed at how I valiantly struggled out of the van every time the media approached.
Others expressed their amazement at the therapeutic effects of the heat from a TV camera on a parliamentary candidate's frozen knee.
We saw first-hand the effects of de-industrialisation.
Our route took us past the former steelworks at Consett, Durham.
I will never forget that sight, as the snow drifted down on the now desolate wasteland lying like an immense white-covered desert that had once been a busy steel-making plant.
None of us will ever forget our welcome at Corby, a Northamptonshire town peopled largely by coal and steel-working families who had emigrated from Scotland during the last industrial downturn decades before – carrying their traditions with them.
They promised us a real good welcome – band and all.
Sure enough, they laid on a massive crowd, and, to lead us in, a band – a flute band.
One of the great miracles of the march is that they managed to play for over an hour at the head of the march without once playing anything that offended anyone.
We were not the most domesticated of characters.
On reaching London, someone discovered a chicken that had been put in the oven of a van when we left Gartcosh 10 days before.
We had the very latest in communications – our very own mobile phone.
Forget sleek iPhones. Our mobile looked like a brick, weighed like a brick and, in terms of phoning, was about as useful as a brick.
It took 12 hours to charge to provide two hours battery life – less, if you actually used it to call anyone.
But we embraced it with enthusiasm – I was so often on it to the press I was soon nicknamed Buzby after the BT advert of the time.
Was it worth it all?
Sadly, Gartcosh closed. But the march and the massive publicity it provoked displayed determination and defiance; it helped prolong the 'Craig for another six years.
It also made sure that when it did close the Government had to provide the wherewithal to help provide thousands of new jobs to replace those lost in steel.
And worth it for me, above all, for the camaraderie of the common cause – a Labour politician on the march alongside those like Jim Bannerman of the Liberals, Jim Wright of the Nats, Willie Pettigrew from Gartcosh and Bill Irvine and Jim Reddiex, gems of men from the 'Craig.
And Mary McKenna, organising and supporting 24 hours a day from our World HQ in Holytown.
Forever after, we had a host of stories to tell over our chips and gravy."
MODELLED on the FBI offices in Washington DC, Scotland's first crime campus is being built on 123 acres of land at Gartcosh, where a steel mill used to be.
The mill finished off steel slabs produced at the then nearby Ravenscraig steel plant.
But the long link between the two steel works ended when Gartcosh was closed in 1986 – and that rang alarm bells for the 'Craig.
In day five of GORDON THOMSON'S articles highlighting the 20th anniversary of the closure of Ravenscraig John Reid, above, recalls the attempts to save the Gartcosh mill