Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Port Glasgow Rope and Duck Company

 As early as 1736 there was a ropeworks in Port Glasgow, made necessary by the increasing number of ships bringing tobacco and other goods into the port from America and the West Indies.  Ships needed ropes and canvas to keep “ship-shape” for their next voyage, so a ropeworks was not just a necessity but a valuable commercial enterprise.  Glasgow’s Tobacco Lords were quick to see the advantage in such an opportunity and it is hardly surprising to know that a couple of the most successful of these merchants were involved in the setting up of Port Glasgow’s Rope and Duck Company.  Two of the original partners were Lawrence Dinwiddie and Richard Oswald, Glasgow merchants who would later go on to be Lord Provosts of the city and who were formost among the city’s merchant elite.

The first manager of the Company was John Stevenson who corresponded with merchants at home and abroad in connection with the Company’s business.


Lawrence Dinwiddie (1696-1764) had the advantage of having a brother, Robert Dinwiddie who was Governor of Virginia – very handy when dealing in tobacco.  Their father built Germiston House in Glasgow where the family lived.  Lawrence, who was Lord Provost of Glasgow from 1742 till 1744, had a wide variety of business interests.  Like many Glasgow merchants he had his own ships which travelled across the Atlantic bringing tobacco back to the west of Scotland. 

Advertisement from 1742

The Dinwiddie brothers also set up the Delftfield Pottery in Glasgow (off what is now Brown Street) – a business which Greenock’s James Watt would later become a partner, advising on technical aspects of the works.  In fact James Watt lived in Delftfield House after his first marriage to Margaret Miller in 1764.  You can see a picture of the house on the Inverclyde Council website here.  (Decorative and everyday pottery items were in great by British merchants overseas and could be traded, with other household commodities, for tobacco and other produce). 

The Port Glasgow Rope & Duck Company also traded extensively with merchants around the Baltic -sourcing supplies of hemp needed in the making of rope.  Four ships a year travelled between the Clyde and the Baltic.  As usual ships would leave Port Glasgow with cargoes of salted herring (and other goods requested by local merchants).  They would return with hemp, flax and sometimes tar.  Richard Oswald, one of the partners requested that some of the best caviare be sent back to Port Glasgow.

Port Glasgow at this time was at the epicentre of a global trade - the importance of shipbuilding would come later.   We should never underestimate just how important Port Glasgow was in Scotland’s 18th century international trade. 

The Port Glasgow Rope and Duck Company later merged with the Gourock Ropework Company and take their name.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

The Anchor Inn, Greenock

The Anchor Inn was possibly one of the first ever hotels in Greenock.  It was situated on Shaw Street (east of William Street in what is now Dalrymple Street).  This photograph was taken just before the building was demolished in the late 1870s under an Improvement Scheme.

The photograph is one of a collection of photographs held by the Watt Institution and displayed on the Inverclyde Council website here.  On the  Fine Art Collection website is also a wonderful pencil drawing (1879) of the Anchor Inn by Greenock artist Patrick Downie (1854-1945).  It shows a vibrant street scene and you can view it here.  The Anchor Inn was described as "a building of three square storeys, surmounted by a pediment elaborately executed, having on its apex at least three solid stone urns which were the salient features of the building."  

Greenock's Anchor Inn was situated on Shaw Street across from the East Harbour and was reached by a passage from the East Harbour head.  On its east was East Quay Lane.  These old streets and lanes can be viewed on old street maps of Greenock which you can find online at the National Library of Scotland's website.

It is thought that the Anchor Inn dates from the early 1700s and frequented by travellers by land and sea.  It had a stable for carrier's horses - taking goods from ships in the harbour to places around Scotland.  Stage coaches also stopped there - bringing merchants and travellers to the town.  The Inn had a large hall for public events and entertainments.  Auctions, property sales, balls, dances, and theatrical events would have been part of the Anchor Inn's function.

However, as Cathcart Street gradually became Greenock's commercial centre and as more modern inns were opened, the Anchor Inn's reputation suffered.  That part of Greenock, once the hub of commerce and trade, became much more crowded and dirty.  The Inn became known as the Anchor Tavern and its complex of buildings became Anchor Inn Close - overcrowded, delapidated and the haunt of the poorer members of society.  It was reported that a family of seven lived in one apartment in the Close and a "wretchedly clothed daugher" of the family was apprehended going from door to door asking for money.  Disease and crime were rife.  By the 1860s, Greenock Town Council were trying to take action to improve the overcrowded areas of the town.  One step was to try and force landlords to introduce sanitary provisions in their properties - without much success. 

In 1870 the Anchor Inn was put up for sale.

By 1879 the buildings had been scheduled for demolition by the town council.  Under the Improvement Trust, the worst areas of the town were selected - The Vennel, Dalrymple Street, the Bell Entry, the Dock Entry, anchor Inn Close and some other areas.  

As can be seen from the photograph at the top of this post, demolition of the area was well under way when the photograph was taken.  The stone urns on the pediment of the building were purchased by C D Lamont and presented to Colonel John Stewart to decorate his garden.  

For more old photographs of Greenock check out the Inverclyde Council Website Collections Online page.

 



Sunday, 27 December 2020

Snowy hills

Took a walk along Greenock's Esplanade earlier today - chilly, but beautiful views across the River Clyde.


The hills across the River were coated with snow and looked spectacular.


Saw the ship Wilson Odra heading for Glasgow.

Managed to photograph some little lovelies out on the water.

Glad to be home - it is raining - again!


Friday, 7 August 2020

Port Glasgow's East End

When I was compiling my Port Glasgow Heritage Walk I had a big problem in choosing what to include and what to leave out.  So I've decided to make a list of some of the other places or buildings of interest in the town.  Let's start off in Port Glasgow's east end, there are some interesting things to see. 

I've set them out on a map to make it easier to work out where they are.  For a downloadable interactive version of this map click here.

Here's what's included in this section - click on the links to find out more about them.

A -      The Bogle Stone - a glacial erratic with an interesting history.
B -      "Future in Hand" sculptures at either end of Robert Street in Port Glasgow.  Bronze sculptures by artist Nina Saunders linking the area's history as a productive fruit growing area as well as a busy shipbuilding centre.


C -      Toll Boys Memorial - a lovely little garden area housing a memorial cross naming those from the area who lost their lives in World War 1.
D -      former Clune Park Church - unfortunately derelict, this former church has been left to rot away.  Designed by Boston, Menzies & Morton architects.  Clune Park Church opened in June 1905 and could accommodate 500 people.


E -      former Clune Park School - also derelict, unfortunately.  Designed by H & D Barclay architects and opened in 1887 it could accommodate 600 children.

It is fascinating to discover interesting buildings and sculptures in places that were once proud and  thriving local communities.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

The Bogle Stone

Just at the top of Clune Brae in the east end of Port Glasgow is an area known as Boglestone.  It is named after an actual stone, a glacial erratic the Bogle Stone or Bogle Stane as it was known in the past.  There is still some of the stone to see and it has a fascinating history.


It used to sit on the other side of the road in the days when the road that led from Port Glasgow to Kilmacolm was a quiet country track.  In "Days At the Coast" written by Hugh Macdonald in 1878 it is described -
     "At this place, in the corner of a cornfield, is an immense isolated mass of whin, which from time          immemorial has borne the somewhat suggestive titlte of the "Bogle Stane" ... the favourite haunt          of a certain mischievous imp, who took a wicked delight in frightening belated travellers."


It was also said that the stone was a favourite meeting place for young people and their rowdy behaviour annoyed a local minister so much that he decided to blow the stone to smithereens!  The local people were so annoyed by his actions that they gathered up the pieces they could find and put them back together with the help of a local landowner - Auchinleck.  A poem was written in the Stone's honour and said at one time to have been inscribed on it -

"Ye wearie travellers passing bye,
Rest and be thankfu' here,
And should your lips be parched and dry,
Drink of my waters clear;
I am the far-famed Bogle Stane,
By worldly priest abhorred,
But now I am myself again
By Auchinleck restored."


 Today the Bogle Stone is right at a bus stop on the main road.  So, still a stopping place for travellers!

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

John Wesley preached here!

John Wesley preached both in Port Glasgow and Greenock.
John Wesley (1703-1791) is well known for his evangelistic revival within the Church of England which was called Methodism.  What is perhaps less well known is that he preached several times in Greenock and Port Glasgow.  Wesley undertook several tours of Scotland preaching in most of the major towns.

His first visit to Port Glasgow was on Tuesday 21 April1772.  After preaching in Greenock in the morning he arrived in Port Glasgow which he described as "a large town, two miles east of Greenock.  Many gay people were there, careless enough, but the greater part seemed to hear with understanding."

Port Glasgow's former town hall and Lodge (before renovations started)
He returned to Greenock to preach in the evening and was again in Port Glasgow the next morning when he preached at the Masons' Lodge.  He wrote in his journal "The house was crowded greatly; and I suppose all the gentry of the town were a part of the congregation.  Resolving not to shoot over their heads, as I had done the day before, I spoke strongly of death and judgment, heaven and hell.  And there was no more laughing among them or talking with each other, but all were quietly and deeply attentive."

Showing the garden behind the buildings.
Wesley also visited the town in May 1774 when he preached (both in the morning and the afternoon) in the parish church .  Again his subject was death and judgement In the evening he preached at Greenock where the meeting attracted a large audience.

Former Town Hall and Lodge buildings being renovated.
The New Parish Church (formerly St Andrew's) building dates from 1823 but there was a previous building on the site - a cruciform shaped church.  
The Masons' Lodge is still standing ... just!  It is being renovated and is in a sorry state at the moment.  It was built in 1758 as Lodge Cumberland Kilwinning 217.  
The former Town Hall next door was built a few years later.  The Lodge continued until quite recently while the rest of the building latterly known as the George VI Club was used by the Old Peoples' Welfare Council.

Hopefully the buildings, the oldest in Port Glasgow after Newark Castle, will be properly restored.



Thursday, 16 July 2020

Inverclyde History and Heritage

Good news!  According to their Facebook Page, the McLean Museum and Art Gallery are now open, although with limited opening hours.  Check out Inverclyde Council's website for more details.

Headstone, Port Glasgow Cemetery
If you are interested in Inverclyde's history and heritage, there are a couple of great websites that will give you more information.

Tontine Hotel, Union Street, Greenock
Cottage Identity Inverclyde has a great website full of interesting information about the local area.  There are lots of stories and photographs on the site - well worth a visit.

Inverclyde's Heritage is another great site with an amazing amount of information about local places and people.  They take their name from Barr's Cottage in Greenock.  They met at the Library there.

Sculpture, Municipal Buildings, Greenock
Let's not forget Inverclyde Council's website.  Here you can download lots of local history publications and find links to other sites.


There is some really interesting information about former hospitals in Inverclyde on the Historic Hospitals website.  There's information from other parts of Britain too.


Hope you find these links useful.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Frederick Douglass in Greenock

In 1846 the former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass came to Greenock.  He gave a talk at the Blackhall Street Chapel (now Pyper’s Furniture Store, Gray Place, Greenock). 


Frederick (Bailey) Douglass was born into slavery on the Aaron Anthony Plantation, Maryland in 1818.  A later owner was a Captain Thomas Auld of Baltimore.  In 1834 he was sold to a farmer in Talbot County, Maryland known as a “slave-breaker”.  In 1838 Douglass escaped to New York City.  That same year he married Anna Murray and they lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  The couple had five children. 


Still classed as a “fugitive slave” Douglass toured Britain and Ireland in 1845-46 talking about his experiences of slavery and espousing abolition.  He was accompanied by James Needham Buffum (1807-1887), American abolitionist and George Thomson (1804-1878), British anti-slavery activist.  Douglass seems to have been a great orator and won many supporters in Britain.

Send Back the Money!
Another aspect of Douglass’ speeches in Scotland was to encourage the newly formed Free Kirk to return money it had received from churches in the American south.


In Scotland 1843 was the year of the “Disruption” in the Church of Scotland.  Many ministers and members of the Church were demanding that congregations be allowed to choose their own minister.  In many parishes it was the local landowner who had the power to choose the minister, often against the wishes of the local people (patronage).  Led by Dr Thomas Chalmers, many protestors walked out of that year’s General Assembly in Edinburgh.  They set up their own church – the Free Church of Scotland.  However, the new church needed money to support its activities and so a SustenationFund was set up to receive donations – mostly from its new congregations.
As a fundraising exercise, representatives from the new Free Church were sent to America to raise money.  Donations of about £3000 were raised from churches – some from congregations in the South which included slave owners.  Send back the money” became a popular campaign to encourage the Church to send this money back because of its associations with slavery.  The money was never returned.


In 1847 money was raised by his British supporters led by AnnaRichardson (Quaker and abolitionist) to buy Douglass’ freedom from slavery.  He returned to the United States.  He became editor of the “North Star” newspaper and gained a reputation as an abolitionist and supporter of emancipation.  He later edited his own "Frederick Douglass' Paper".
In 1858/59 John Brown tried to involve Douglass in his planned raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.  Douglass declined to take part but was implicated nonetheless.  He set sail for Britain on a speaking tour.


Douglass returned to Scotland and spoke again in Greenock in January 1860 (just before the American Civil War).  He had been invited to Greenock by the Young Men’s Christian Union.
 A report in the Greenock Telegraph stated –
         “Last night, Mr Frederick Douglass, the celebrated champion of the rights of his enslaved        brethren, delivered a most eloquent lecture, in the New Town Hall, on the various aspects of American slavery, showing its intensely criminal nature, and its blighting and degrading influence, not over the slave alone, but over the political and religious systems of the Americans themselves.  The hall was well filled, and ex-Baillie Grey occupied the chair.

Douglass again returned to America where he had meetings with Abraham Lincoln.  
His wife, Anna died in 1882.  In 1884 he married Helen Pitts, an American suffragist (1838-1903).  Frederick Douglass died in 1895.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Virtual Inverclyde

Come and visit some of Inverclyde's great places - virtually!  It doesn't matter whether you live nearby or on the other side of the world, you can still get a glimpse of what Inverclyde has to offer both tourists and locals alike.  They might be closed at the moment, but put them on your list for future visits.


Let's start with the fabulous Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Museum situated in part of Greenock's Municipal Buildings on Dalrymple Street.  A 4 Star Visit Scotland attraction is a great place to visit and talk to the wonderful volunteers who are always pleased to answer any questions.  Online, there's a short introductory talk by Graeme Kirkwood as well as a gallery showing photographs of many of the Museum's exhibits.  There are vintage fire appliances, lots of old photographs and a wonderful display of Fire Marks to view.  Please check their website to find out when they will reopen.


Didn't have a chance to visit the newly refurbished Watt Institution on Union Street and Kelly Street in Greenock before lockdown?  Don't worry!  There's a fabulous article in Architects' Journal (June 2020) - which shows lots of photographs of the building which is now an amazingly bright and up to date space.  Most of the original features of the buildings (formerly the Watt Library and McLean Museum and Art Gallery) have been incorporated into this truly amazing space.  Follow the Watt Institution on Facebook where you can also see photographs from the article as well as lots of interesting articles, photographs and links which will be of interest not just to locals, but to anyone interested in the history and culture of the west of Scotland.
Please check the Inverclyde Council website to find out when the Watt Institution will reopen. 


See Inverclyde as you've probably never seen it before in the fabulous Tour of Inverclyde, Scotland by Drone on YouTube.  Posted by Jim Phanco, Greenock Drone Guy, it shows aerial footage of Inverclyde in all its beauty.  There are some fantastic views of all part of Inverclyde in this lovely film.

Source - Inverclyde Heritage Hub
If you remember Greenock in the 1960s and 70s then you will enjoy Inverclyde TV's great film called A Walk Through Time which blends together Eugene Mehat's photographs of Greenock in the 1960s with present day images.  It was made by Chris Bradley of West College Scotland.  There are other local heritage stories which can be viewed on the same page.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed some of these virtual jaunts around Inverclyde and I sincerely hope that it won't be too long until we can all go and visit our favourite places whenever we choose.

If you have any questions about Inverclyde then please get in touch - thegreenockian(at)gmail.com.





Thursday, 26 March 2020

Greenock Gargoyles

Just recently I noticed these wonderful gargoyles on a local church.  They sit on top of the drain hoppers used to take rainwater away from the stonework of the building.


Aren't they amazing!


Each is unique and with very different facial expressions.


This is, to me, the most evil looking one!  Look at those teeth!


Brightened up my solitary walk.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Port Glasgow and Mayflower II

September this year marks the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower which took the Pilgrims (mostly Puritans) from Plymouth across the Atlantic to America in 1620.  In 1957 a fabulous replica of the orginal Mayflower called Mayflower II was built at Brixham, Devon using traditional methods where possible.  Interestingly, all the ropes for the Mayflower II were made by the Gourock Ropeworks in Port Glasgow.  Stuart Upham of the firm J W & A Upham shipbuilders who built the replica stated that "The Gourock Ropework Company Ltd are probably the only people in the world capable of producing the ropes to our specification".  For this ship, the Ropeworks produced 400 ropes of different sizes.


There's a wonderful film in the National Library of Scotland's collection showing how the ropes were made.  It is called "Truck to Keelson: Ropes for Mayflower II" (click to view).  'Truck to keelson' is a nautical term that means from top to bottom of a ship.

Former Gourock Ropeworks building in Port Glasgow
The film, shot in the Gourock Ropeworks building in Port Glasgow, shows how the ropes were spun and the various personnel involved in the process.  There's a background track of sea shanties sung by the Greenock Male Voice Choir and commentary by Jameson Clark.


There's another fabulous film (Pathe News) showing more details of the replica ship and her crew as they get ready to set off from Plymouth in 1957.

The replica has now undergone renovations in time for the celebrations surrounding the 400th anniversary and you can read more about it on the Mayflower400 website.  A vast tourism project is centered around the replica ship.


Let us here in Inverclyde be proud of the fact that in the 1950s a local company had the skills and knowledge accrued through two centuries of ropemaking to be asked to be part of this historic venture.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Alba Explorer on the Clyde

Yacht Alba Explorer (Ocean Youth Trust Scotland) on the Clyde earlier this week.


Read more about the vessel here.