THE inspiring story of the famous 1981 Lee Jeans sit in will be retold in a new BBC Radio Scotland programme.

Almost 40 years ago, workers barricaded themselves into the Larkfield factory to save their jobs, not knowing the occupation would last for seven months.

It was sparked by fears that the base would close down with machinery shipped off to Newtonards in Northern Ireland, with the loss of 240 jobs.

Shop steward Helen Monaghan told the Telegraph: "I thought it would have been over in a week.

"Management were determined and that made us more determined.

"We had to do it, we needed our jobs.

"Looking back I don't know how we did it.

"We were occupying someone's property, we had to keep it clean, the machines oiled and make sure no-one took the goods away.

"Everyone played their part."

The mainly female workforce took on a giant in the American VF Corporation and they won.

The Greenock grandmother says the latest programme to be made about their struggle shows how it continues to capture the imagination.

She said: "We have done other shows in the past - the story never seems to go away.

"It still seems relevant to people."

On the first night machinist Margaret Wallace and a male colleague crept out of a skylight window and went shinning down a drainpipe to go out for fish and chips and famously returned with 240 suppers.

Word of the workers' exploits soon got round and they received support at home from men in the shipyards to unions across the country and from all over the world.

She said: "We even had women visiting from a factory in Sweden who were having trouble and Michael Foot and Tony Benn visited the factory."

There have been quite a few reunions of the staff over the years and a play called Material Girls was staged by The Riverview Players at The Albany.

The new radio broadcast will be a part of the Our Story series in January, and producers say they are keen to hear from anyone who was involved in the protest.

This includes women who sat in, and their family members, union officials or anyone who supported them by delivering food to the factory.

Anyone who is interested in taking part should email Lucy Anderson at


Helen Monaghan (centre) with former machinists Margaret Wallace (left) and Catherine Robertson