A GIANT sculpture of a steelworker has been unveiled on the former Ravenscraig site in tribute to the thousands of people who lost their lives in the Scottish iron and steelmaking industry.
Designed by Andy Scott, The Steelman stands five metres (16ft 5ins) tall and weighs just under two tonnes.
It depicts a worker with a stream of molten steel pouring from his hand and sparking off the ground.
Fundraising for the project started three years ago, 20 years after the closure of the Ravenscraig steelworks site in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, brought an end to 120 years of bulk steelmaking in Scotland.
Mr Scott, who has designed some of the country’s best-known sculptures including the Kelpies, said he had a particular connection with his latest project.
“When I was first approached maybe four years ago there was an immediate association with my work with metals and that’s what really drew me to it,” the sculptor said.
“The fundraising was difficult but we stuck with it, and that association with the material really kept me with it.
“I guess you could say there was a deeper-rooted and more heartfelt association with the subject matter.
“I work with very modest quantities of steel compared to these guys who worked with hundreds of tonnes of the stuff, so there was that feeling of debt I suppose, I wanted to repay some of the sacrifices that they had made.”
Dozens of former steelworkers gathered at the entrance to Ravenscraig sports centre for the unveiling of the memorial.
Terry Currie, who worked with British Steel for 17 years, described it as a “magnificent structure”.
Mr Currie, who was the chairman of the memorial fund, said: “It’s difficult to pin down the statistics on deaths but the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation say 2,302 of their union members lost their lives across the UK, but there were about eight of nine big unions in the industry and they all had heavy membership, so whatever way you look at it the number of deaths was significant.
“The conditions were hazardous and safety was tightened up as the years went on but it wasn’t just at the beginning of the 20th century when people were dying, the numbers crept up to the 50s, and it wasn’t really until the 60s and 70s that the number of deaths went down.
“Andy Scott has created a magnificent structure and it will be a fitting tribute to the workers.”
Safety is a theme of the sculpture, with the steel worker wearing a mask to protect his face, but Mr Scott had his own problems while putting the finishing touches to the design and had a finger wrapped in plasters at the unveiling today.
He said: “I nearly took my finger off with an angle grinder the other day but these things happen and you just have to be vigilant at all times.
“It was worth it in the end and it’s for the people and the memories of this area.
“It’s a former industrial heartland and they should all be very proud of the effort they put in.”