East Kilbride at 75: Rolls-Royce plant’s demise triggered mourning in the town


Memories of the Rolly poured into the News office when locals mourned the loss of the iconic building.

Former Rolls-Royce worker Jim Paton worked at the Nerston plant for 27 years as an inspector, technical assistant, inspection planner and operations engineer.

He shared pictures of a protest march from Rolls-Royce to the civic center in March 1995 when 600 workers rallied against the company’s decision to close down their research and development department at East Kilbride.

Sadly, their battle was in vain as the site – known as the Hilton – was closed down with the loss of around 400 jobs.

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The Rolls-Royce float took part in a procession to celebrate East Kilbride’s 40th anniversary featuring the Tay engine which was developed in East Kilbride

On a lighter note, additional photos show the Rolls-Royce float featuring the Tay engine during a procession to celebrate East Kilbride’s 40th anniversary.

The engine, dubbed ‘Rolls-Royce East Kilbride’s New Baby’ was developed in East Kilbride.

Patricia Brown also got in touch to share an old photo of her late father John Gemmell.

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A shop steward for the engineers, John showed the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, around the East Kilbride factory in the mid- to late -1960s and gave the PM an overview of the mechanics of airplane engines. John lived in Tantallon Park, West Mains with wife Phyllis, daughter Patricia and son Billy. He passed away in October 2014 aged 91.

Rolly staff showed they were against the closure of the vital department

Patricia, who still lives in West Mains, said: “The Prime Minister wanted to shake John’s hand but his hands were covered in oil. Mr Wilson said that it didn’t matter but as you can see in the photo John had to use his handkerchief from him – which he said was like a white bed sheet – to wipe the oil off!

Prime Minister Harold Wilson had to use a handkerchief to shake John Gemmell’s oily hand

“I have great memories of lorries decorated as floats to take all the children to the annual Rolls-Royce gala day held at the Showpark, brilliant Christmas parties and receiving great presents from Santa.”

Rolls-Royce enabled Patricia’s family to move to a newly built house in West Mains and enjoy the experience of seeing the building of the town center and various other landmarks.

She added: “East Kilbride is a wonderful place to bring up a young family. My father was lucky to be employed by Rolls-Royce.”

Bob Fulton with Rolls Royce workers on his retirement from the EK plant in 1988

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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