Alf Young 14th March 2023
Alf Young has had three careers in a life that now stretches to nearly eight decades.. Born in wartime Greenock he had to survive a bout of diphtheria that could have proved fatal before he was five. His father, also Alf, was a shipyard joiner. His mother Amy had left Northern Ireland at 15 to live with her older sister in Port Glasgow. Home for the four Youngs, including younger brother Eric, was a single room in a three-room privately rented tenement flat, sub-let by the principal tenant, an older man the boys were taught to call Uncle Peter.
The flat was just across the road from Greenock Academy, then the Renfrewshire Education Authority’s fee-paying school. The annual fee was just a few pounds a year but was way beyond the tight family budget of the Youngs. However free education, first at Ardgowan Primary, then Greenock High School School proved the making of the Young boys.
Alf, who was school dux, toyed briefly with going to Art School but opted instead to study Maths and Natural Philosophy (Physics) at Glasgow University. From there he completed teacher training at Jordanhill College of Education and secured a teaching post at what had been another state fee-paying secondary, Paisley Grammar. He also embarked on a part-time Master of Education degree in which he won the Boyd Prize.
That led to a lecturer post at Jordanhill, where he taught a generation of Art School graduates, some of whom have remained friends to this day. As befits someone whose paternal grandmother was a founder member of Keir Hardie’s Independent Labour Party, Alf gave that education career up in the mid 1970s to work for the Labour Party as its only research officer. He succeeded Alex Neil in 1976 after Neil and Jim Sillars had quit to form the breakaway Scottish Labour Party. When Alf left that second career in 1979, at the start of the Thatcher era. he was succeeded by by John now Lord Reid.
Alf Young was about to embark on his third, extended and final career as a journalist specialising in the evolution of Scotland’s industrial economy and its business base. From the short-lived Sunday Standard in 1981, through the whisky takeover battles of the mid-eighties at The Scotsman to 22 years at The Herald, latterly as deputy editor, to a weekly column in the business pages of the Scottish edition of The Times.
The subject of Alf’s talk will be: ‘An analysis of the Scottish Government’s industrial policy’