Clydebank and Singer's

Updated Tuesday 20th July 2010

Shipbuilding tied Clydebank into the British Empire, but the town’s global links were cemented by foreign-owned companies in the Clydebank area, especially the I.M. Singer Company.

Singer’s, as they were more commonly known, built a large factory at Kilbowie in Clydebank in 1884-85 to capitalise on the growing worldwide demand for domestic sewing machines.

With both labour costs and raw materials cheaper in Scotland than in the USA, 2,500 workers were employed within months of the factory opening, one of the largest of its kind to be found anywhere in the world at that time.

From then on, Singer’s established a presence in Clydebank that was to last until 1980. In the late 1920s over 12,000 workers were employed in the factory, manufacturing machines that crossed the world. If Singer was a name synonymous with sewing machine production, then Clydebank was a town synonymous with Singer’s. Together with the shipyards, the Singer factory and other engineering firms and industrial concerns, Clydebank was very much a town dominated by industry.

There was little in the way of alternative forms of employment, which meant that when industrial downturn and decline took hold, many in the town were hard hit.

Singer’s and the main shipbuilding companies survived the ravages of inter-war depression, though unemployment among shipbuilding workers reached record levels at the height of the late 1920s depression.However, it was the threat of war and rapid re-armament that came to the rescue of the Clydebank economy in the mid to late 1930s.

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