Legendary trade unionist Davie Cooper, who led the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, has died aged 84

Davie Cooper had a long career as union convenor at the Govan yard and was a powerful figure behind the scenes

29 Jan 2024| News

By Kevin Maguire, Associate Editor at the Mirror:

Trade unionist Davie Cooper, a leader of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in that defeated Ted Heath’s 1971 government, has died aged 84.

A union convenor at the Govan yard and avowed Communist, Cooper was a powerful figure behind the scenes when the limelight fell on the likes of Jimmy Reid and Sammy Gilmore. Saving the 8,000 shipbuilders jobs by forcing Tory Heath into a U-turn was one of the labour movement’s most momentous victories.

Cooper was influential in enforcing the innovative work-in, workers turning up every day to defy closures. They were under union orders to follow strict “no hooliganism, no vandalism and no bevvying (drinking)” rules to maintain discipline. From the summer of 1971 until Heath capitulated in the spring of 1972, Cooper and other union leaders travelled Britain from Glasgow to rally support.

Beatle John Lennon donated £5,000, while comedian and former shipyard welder Billy Connolly entertained the workers. Heath was forced to meet union leaders and cancelled the closures after it became too politically damaging.

Cooper’s friend Charlie Whelan, a former aide to Gordon Brown, said:

“Davie Cooper was one of the finest trade unionists you could hope to meet. Nothing was ever about him – it was always about what he could do for others.”

This article was first published in the Mirror