Friday, 24 May 2019

The Carolina Merchant

The ship Carolina Merchant sailed from Gourock in July 1684 with the kidnapped ElizabethLinning on board.  She had been taking farewell of relatives, some of the 35 Covenanter prisoners on board the ship.   In his book “The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland”, Robert Wodrow lists the names of some of those transported – James McClintock, John Buchanan, William Inglis, Gavin Black, Adam Allan, John Galt, Thomas Marshal, William Smith, Robert Urie, Thomas Brice, John Syme, Hugh Syme, William Syme, John Alexander, John Marshal, Mattew Mackan, John Paton, John Gibson, John Young, Arthur Cunningham, George Smith and John Dowart.

John Erskine of Carnock
Another person who went on board the Carolina Merchant while it lay at Gourock was the brother of Lord Cardross, John Erskine of Carnock who described the ship as being of “170 tons and carried 16 guns”.  He also writes that when the ship set sail, a trumper “sounded several times which was truly pleasant”.

The journey was certainly not a pleasant one.  It was reported –
“Captain James Gibson commanded the vessel, and is reported to have been very rude to the poor prisoners, who were about thrity-two in number.  And his seamen and under-officers were yet harsher.  Any small money their friends had scraped together for them before they sailed was taken from them and they could have no redress.  They were disturbed when at worship under deck and threatened; whenever they began to sing psalms the hatches were closed upon them.” 
Food and water were severely rationed and many became ill while on board.

Many were still very ill when they reached Charles Town in October 1684.  They were put in houses under guard in the town and their possessions sold without their consent.  Two prisoners escaped, but were recaptured, severely beaten and condemned to perpetual servitude.  Many of the prisoners died in the colony.  It is thought that only about six ever managed to return to Scotland.

William Dunlop
As well as the prisoners, there were other passengers on board the Carolina Merchant.  Henry Erskine, Lord Cardross wished to set up a colony which would have religious freedom and had brought on board a group of people who were to settle there.  William Dunlop who would later become Principal of Glasgow University was also with Cardross.

Once ashore, many of the settlers became ill with malaria.  The survivors moved on and set up their settlement named Stuart Town (near the present day Beaufort, South Carolina).  William Dunlop became their minister.  However trouble soon started when they began trading with the local Native Americans.  They also attacked a nearby Spanish settlement.  In 1686 the Spanish retaliated and attacked Stuart Town, plundering and setting fire to it.  Many of the settlers were killed.  A few escaped and went back to Charles Town.  William Dunlop stayed in America for a while before returning to Scotland.

William Dunlop's family would later have many links with Greenock.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

The remarkable adventures of Elizabeth Linning

In July 1684 a ship lay at anchor in Gourock Bay.  She was the Carolina Merchant owned by the Glasgow merchant Walter Gibson and captained by his brother James Gibson.  On board, in the hold were 35 convicts from the tollbooths of Glasgow and Edinburgh.  Their crime – they were Covananters – those who had been on the wrong side in Scotland’s recent religious wars.  The privy council in May 1684 had ordered the commissions of Glasgow and Dumfries -
“to sentence and banish to the plantations in America such rebels as appear penitent, in the ship belonging to Walter Gibson, merchant, in Glasgow.”  
“Penitent” was not perhaps what the prisoners were feeling, they had been given a stark choice – public execution or be taken to the Carolinas and sold as indentured servants (they would work for free for a set number of years, after which time they would be given their freedom).  The Gibson brothers would share the profit from their sale.

On the shore Elizabeth Linning waited to go on board.  She had relatives among the prisoners and was taking them some provisions and preparing to say her final goodbyes.  Once on board she completed her mission, but unbeknown to her, the captain of the Carolina Merchant had decided to take her with them to be sold along with prisoners.  Elizabeth managed to escape ashore while everyone was asleep, but Gibson sent men after her and she was brought back on board the ship and taken with the others to Carolina.  They arrived in Charles Town in October 1684.

Despite the dreadful conditions on the journey, Elizabeth Linning was not one for giving up!  After the prisoners had been taken ashore, she remained on board as she was indisposed.  She overheard Captain Gibson say “Since she is sickly, let her go ashore, but see that she come aboard every night till we get her sold.”  On hearing this she managed to get ashore  and found a way of getting to the Governor of the colony who believed her story and called for Captain Gibson to appear in court the next day. 

Gibson was questioned as to whether he had brought Elizabeth Linning from Scotland with her consent.  He made up a story that she had been on board to try and help the prisoners escape.  He stated that she herself was a rebel and that he had an order from Lieutenant Colonel Windram to take her with the other prisoners.  The Governor asked to see the order, to which Gibson replied that it had been by word of mouth.  The Court ordered that Elizabeth be set free -
At a Council held at Charleston, October 17th, 1684, upon the reading of the petition of Elizabeth Linning against Captain James Gibson, commander of the Carolina Merchant, in a full council, it was ordered as follows – Whereas, upon the confession of Captain Gibson, that the within written Elizabeth Linning was, without the consent of the said Elizabeth, brought to this province by force and by a pretended order from Lieutenant Colonel Windram, but the said Gibson producing none, it was ordered that the said Elizabeth be set at liberty as a free woman.

It is thought that Elizabeth Linning returned to Scotland, Robert Woodrow (The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland) when writing his account states that she was “yet alive, attesting this account”.

She must have been a remarkable woman.  To persevere throughout hardship and being forcibly taken to what must have felt like the other side of the world and still be determined stand up for herself and her freedom must have taken a lot of courage.  I would love to know what happened to her when she returned to Scotland.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Colourful Broomhill Mural

This amazing mural by local artist Jim Strachan is in Ann Street in the Broomhill area of Greenock.

It is a fabulous, colourful tribute to the area's past and industrial heritage.

The plaques tell the story of what can be seen in the mural.  The Heid O' the Hill website gives much more information about the local history of the area as well as old photographs and more information about the mural.

It certainly brightens up that particular corner of Greenock.

Joining with Monday Mural at Sami's Colourful World.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Looking good!

After an extensive refurbishment the scaffolding is down and the outside of Greenock's Watt Library and McLean Museum and Art Gallery is looking good!  (The building, situated on Union Street and Kelly Street in Greenock is to be renamed the Watt Institution.)

The stonework looks amazing - somehow the wonderful architectural details of the building stand out much more.

Unfortunately neither the Library, Museum or Art Gallery are open to the public, and won't be until early 2020 (so we are informed).  The wonderful Inverclyde Heritage Hub which attracted many visitors and researchers was closed by the Council just before Christmas 2018, so the area has been without physical access to research resources for quite some time.  (Many local resources are accessible online at Inverclyde Council website, but it is not quite the same as a browse through old books and the serendipitous finds of unusual bits of information which that activity sometimes produces.  It was also great to have pleasant and knowledgeable staff on hand to provide information about resources to visitors.  Can you guess - I miss that place!)

This is all slightly unfortunate as 2019 marks the bicentenary of the death of Greenock's most famous son, the engineer James Watt after whom the building was named.  The building also contained the wonderful statue of Watt by Sir Frances Chantrey.

Many other places connected with James Watt will be commemorating the event.  There's a great website - James Watt 2019 which gives a fabulous amount of information about the famous Greenockian and lists of events taking place in Birmingham.  The University of Birmingham and other organisations have produced a fabulous collection of information and resources about Watt which can be accessed from this site.

I hope that the inside of the building will be as wonderful as the refurbished outside is and I look forward to Greenock having its wonderful resources available to the public once more.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The awful fate of the ship Abeona

In January 1820 the ship Royal Charlotte, Captain Hobson, arrived in Greenock with sixteen survivors of a dreadful disaster on the other side of the world.  The ship Abeona (328 tons) had sailed from Greenock in October 1819 under the command of Lieutenant Mudge RN, with James Pritchard as master.  The Abeona had been chartered by the Government to take emigrants to Algoa Bay,  Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.  With a crew of twenty-one, she picked up fourteen passengers in London and then sailed to Greenock to embark 126 emigrants.  This was part of the 1820 Settlers Scheme.

Halfway through its voyage in November of 1819 about noon (co-ordinates latitude 4 degrees 30 minutes north and longitude 25 degrees 30 minutes west) there was a terrible fire on board the Abeona.  It would appear from the evidence of Lieutenant Mudge, Agent on board, that the fire started when Mr Duff, the first mate was dishing out the rum.  A spark from his candle ignited the spirits and other combustible material in the stores. 

Three of the ship's boats, two gigs and a skiff were put in the water, the longboat could not be let down as fire had taken hold of its ropes.  The dense smoke forced passengers onto the deck.  Within ten minutes the whole ship was ablaze.  One of the survivors painted a vivid picture of the events -

     "The shrieks of the woman and children, combined with the furious element travelling on to devour us, formed a picture of human misery that must rend the stoutest heart."

People were throwing themselves overboard to avoid the flames and with the hope of getting into one of the small boats.  The first mate, Duff - who due to the guilt he felt at being the cause of the fire, elected to stay and go down with the ship.  When being encouraged to jump into the water and try and save himself he is reported to have replied - 

     "I pity those in the boats the most; for with us it will soon be over, but they will be eating each other in a few days."

In his official report Lieutenant Mudge said that Duff, "was a most excellent, steady character ... and the sole support of an aged Mother."  He also said that Duff "had forgotten his wanted prudence" by causing a spark to cause the fire.

Another survivor later wrote -

     "A few minutes after I quitted the wreck the main and mizen masts fell; the flames, rapidly advancing forward, drove numbers of the poor wretches on the bowsprit, where it was our hard lot to behold them frantic, without being able to render them the least assistance.  You will judge how the boats were crammed; when husbands, who had wives and children still clinging to the wreck, exclaimed against more being received!"

     "We kept close to the wreck till day-light next morning, in the hope that any vessel which might be passing would see the immense body of fire which continued raging till about three o'clock in the morning, when everything disappeared.  A little before daybreak, when thinking only on the awfulness of our situation, and the chance we had of reaching the Coast of Brazil in our miserable plight, with a few hammocks only to make sails of, a damaged compass, and with scarcely any water or provisions, the carpenter discovered a vessel close to us.  We seized our oars, and were on board of her in a few minutes."

He goes on to relate of one family's plight - the Barries from Provan Mill.  The parents were so anxious to save their children, the youngest just fifteen months old, that they threw them into the boats but did not save themselves their eldest daughter and another son also died.

Their rescue ship was the  Condessa da Ponte, Captain Joaquim Almeida, a Portugese merchant ship from Bahia (north-east Brazil) bound for Lisbon.  It sailed around the area looking out for any other survivors of the fire, but no others were found.  Eventually it sailed for Lisbon, Portugal.  Of the 161 souls on board the Abeona, just 49 survived.  On 21 December the survivors were landed at Lisbon and received by the British Consul-General, John Jeffrey, former MP for Poole.  The resident chaplain in Lisbon, Rev Thomas H Siely and his wife were also of great help to the survivors.

The newspapers report that ten of the children who were saved but made orphans by the fire were looked after by merchants at the British Factory at Lisbon who offered to pay for their upkeep.  The British (or sometimes English) Factory, Lisbon was a centre for British merchants living in Portugal and also for those trading with Spain, Portugal and South America.  It had its own church, burying ground and hospital and looked out for British interests in Portugal. Among the British merchants who offered to provide for some of the orphaned children were Mr Kean (James McLucky and George Barrie), Mr Munroe (Charles Coverly), John Watts Garland (Thomas Coverly), John Jeffrey, Consul-General (William McIsaac and Mary McIsaac), Sir Dudley Hill (Thomas Barrie), Major William Henry Thornton (John Bain and Lindsay Paterson) and Mr Bailly (Isabella Freeland).  From Lisbon the survivors were brought to Greenock in the merchant ship Royal Charlotte.

Crew Saved - Lieutenant Mudge RN (agent), Mr Fisher RN (surgeon), James Pritchard, master, Mr Lock (second mate) Mr Stages (carpenter), seamen - Bastoc, Mains, Jordan, Lawson, Henderson, Reece, Paterson and ship's boys - Edwards and Robinson.

Of the emigrants 10 men, 3 women, 16 boys and 6 girls were saved.  Here is a list of some of the names of those on board - whole families perished - Allan, Bain, Ballardie, Barrie, Clark, Coverly,  Dobbie, Freeland,  Hally, Henderson, Kay, McFarlane, McIntosh, McIsaac,  McLaren,McLean, McLucky, Montgomery, Munro, Paterson, Reid, Russel, Stirling, Thomson, Trotter, Walker.
Passengers - Boswell, Bottam, Mall, Suffield.

The news of the disaster led to a ballad being written that was sold around towns and villages by pedlars and chapmen.  Here's a couple of verses -

Three of the men who were saved, John McLaren (lost wife and four children),  John McLean (lost wife and one child), Robert Thomson (lost wife and five children) all petitioned the authorities to "furnish them with the necessary implements for agriculture" to allow them to go to South Africa as they had originally wished.  I wonder if they were able to put the past behind them and start again.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Through adversity to the stars

This beautiful piece of stained glass is from one of two panels which can be found in Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay Parish Church.  The panels were once windows in St Andrew's Church in Greenock (formerly on the corner of Ardgowan Street and Margaret Street) which was demolished in the 1960s.

As today is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which ended World War 1, I thought it would be appropriate to show these wonderful windows.

This panel shows the badge of the Royal Naval Air Service as well as a wonderful depiction of an aircraft of WW1 as well as two ships.  In 1918 the RNAS joined with the Army's Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force.  The RAF celebrates 100 years this year.  The motto reads "Through adversity to the stars".

The second panel has the coat of arms of Greenock with another aircraft and ships.  The windows are thought to be the work of Robert Anning Bell.

Both panels show scenes from Arthurian legends.  The quote at the bottom is from Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Sir Galahad" -
"I leave the plain, I climb the height:
No branchy thicket shelter yields:
But blessed forms in whistling storms
Fly o'er waste fens and windy fields."

The windows were commissioned by the family of Robert Miller Denholm who died on 28 July 1917 while flying over Essex.  He was just eighteen years of age and had only recently joined the Royal Naval Air Service to train as a pilot.  While on a flight, the wing of his aircraft collapsed in mid-air and he was thrown from his machine and fell 600 feet to the ground, fracturing his skull.  Robert, born in Greenock in 1899 was the son of John Denholm and Jane Miller.  The Denholms lived at Lawthorne, Octavia Crescent, Greenock.

Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay Church itself is a red sandstone building situated on the main road to Largs.  There are other fabulous stained glass windows in the church, but too many to do them justice in one post.

Joining with Inspired Sunday.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Patrick Shaw-Stewart

Patrick Shaw-Stewart's biography comprises mainly of his letters written to his family and friends over the years.  (Read yesterday's post for more information.)  In August 1911 he wrote to his sister Mary (his other sister was Katherine) looking for a contribution towards a kilt he is having made -
"… it's going to be the most lovely old Stewart tartan, because the Royal is too red, and the Hunting is, you will agree, inappropriate to the polished floor."  
The Shaw-Stewart family could trace their ancestry back to Sir John Stewart, illegitimate son of King Robert III who was given the lands of Ardgowan at Inverkip, Blackhall, near Paisley and Auchengowan (sometimes Auchengoun or Auchendoun) near Lochwinnoch.

In early 1914 he was sent to America on behalf of Barings Bank.  He seems to have had a great time and his letter home highlight the differences between the British and the Americans, especially as far as language is concerned.  He writes -
"… and don't you think "having a crush on some one" a fine phrase for being slightly gone on her?"

Once back in Britain he joined the Royal Naval Division, Hood's Battalion, and was sent to the Dardanelles in the Glasgow built ship 'Grantully Castle' he wrote to a friend that he was taking a copy of Herodotus as a guide book.  As a sub-lieutenant in Hood Battalion he joined with fellow officers making the most of the journey.  They landed in April 1915.  The fighting was brutal, and by the end of the summer among the thousands dead were three of his close friends and fellow officers from Hood Battalion.

Rupert Brooke the poet died at Scyros on 22 April, shortly after they landed.  A few days before Patrick wrote, "I got a sun-headache followed by an internal derangement …".  He later writes 

"Rupert Brooke suddenly sickened and died in thirty-six hours of virulent blood-poisoning.  He never got quite well, like I did, from that illness at Port Said … He died the day we left the island, and that same night we took him ashore, and the eight Petty Officers of the Company performed the considerable feat of carrying the coffin a mile inland, in the dark, up-hill, along the most fearfully stony track.  I had to command the firing-party, which was anxious work, as I am not strong on ceremonial drill, but all went well."

William Denis Browne a musician with whom Patrick had shared a cabin on the 'Grantully Castle' died in June 1915 and is now regarded as a war composer.  Patrick wrote to a friend later that month -
"… I was forced to think very hard about my own battalion, who suffered cruelly in a charge on a Turkish trench on the Fourth of June in which out of fifteen officers left six were killed, including Denis Browne, and five wounded, leaving only me and three others now.  I was filled with disgust and rage at the crushing folly of it for a time, but my native stolidity asserted itself …"

Charles Lister, former diplomat, died at Gallipoli in August of 1915 from wounds received.  Patrick wrote of him -
"The men, both stokers and recruits, adored him - they always called him "Lord Lister" … He had really what the dispatches call devotion to duty;".

Patrick Shaw-Stewart met his brother Basil who was also a serving officer in September of 1915.  In 1916 he was at Salonica as a liaison officer, but he wanted to return to Hood Battalion.  At the end of 1916 he returned to Britain on sick leave and was declared unfit to be sent back to the east.  He was declared fit for General Service and sent to France where he found himself in command of Hood Battalion.  On 30 December he was killed in action.

For me, Patrick's most poignant letters are those to his childhood nurse - through school, university and the war years they kept up a correspondence.  His letters usually tell of his health and some of the jollier things he's been up to.  During the war she supplied him with cake, jam and knitted items for which he was very grateful.  We are never told his nurse's name, but there's one particular letter written in October 1916 which I'm sure she would have particularly treasured.  Patrick writes -

"Once again I've finished a particularly hot Mediterranean Summer under not very ideal conditions, without having anything the matter with me (I don't count one or two odd days), which really, I think, does credit to my constitution and especially to your upbringing.  Funny think you know, Dear, I always used secretly to think you made me put on too many clothes, and that consequently I should lack "resistance" in later life - but the result is that I have developed (apparently) a constitution supremely adapted to campaigning in treacherous climates, and inside like an emu."

Such a lovely letter remembering happier days.

While Patrick Shaw-Stewart's biography does not go into very great  details of domestic or international politics, battle plans or tactics, weapons or other topics which are normally discussed, I find it all the more interesting for that.  In his letters, which or course would have been censored, he discussed some of the minutiae of life - what he ate, what type of billet he had, items he wanted sent from home, which books he had read.  To me, this is what makes a story more human.  He was just one of millions of young men who lost their lives in that awful war.  

I want to end with words from Patrick's friend, Rupert Brooke's poem "The Dead"

Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been.
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Achilles in the trenches

The poetry of those who fought and died in the Great War is quite special.  Usually it is the same works that we hear year after year.  Recently I came across a poem written by a man with links to this area - Patrick Shaw-Stewart.  

The poem itself is a reflection of his classical education as well as a  reminder that many of the battles of World War I were fought in places which had seen much conflict in antiquity.  The poem is called 'Stand in the Trench, Achilles' and was written at Gallipoli.

I saw a man this morning
     Who did not wish to die
I ask, and cannot answer,
     If otherwise wish I.

Fair broke the day this morning
     Against the Dardanelles ;
The breeze blew soft, the morn's cheeks
     Were cold as cold sea-shells

But other shells are waiting
     Across the Aegean sea,
Shrapnel and high explosive,
     Shells and hells for me.

O hell of ships and cities,
     Hell of men like me,
Fatal second Helen,
     Why must I follow thee ?

Achilles came to Troyland
     And I to Chersonese :
He turned from wrath to battle,
     And I from three days' peace.

Was it so hard, Achilles,
     So very hard to die ?
Thou knewest and I know not-
     So much the happier I.

I will go back this morning
     From Imbros over the sea ;
Stand in the trench, Achilles,
     Flame-capped, and shout for me.

Patrick Shaw-Stewart died in battle in France in December 1917 aged just 29.  This is how he met his death -
             "It was in the early morning, about dawn; he was going round his line; the Germans put up a barrage.  The gunner pressed him to send up the S.O.S. rocket, but Patrick refused, and maintained that it was only a minor raid on another part of the line, and that if he sent up the S.O.S. signal the people would only think he was "windy".  As a matter of fact, they did make a big attack about an hour later, and his battalion was the only one that did not give ground.
He was hit by shrapnel, the lobe of his ear was cut off and his face spattered so that the blood ran down from his forehead and blinded him for a bit.  The gunner tried to make him go back to Battalion H.Q. to be dressed, but he refused, and insisted on completing his round.  Very soon afterwards, a shell burst on the parapet, and a fragment hit him upwards through the mouth and killed him instantaneously."

Patrick Shaw Stewart was the great-grandson of Sir Michael Shaw Stewart (5th Bart) of Ardgowan and Blackhall.  Sir Michael's son, John Shaw Shaw-Stewart married Jane Stewart Heron Maxwell and their son John Heron Maxwell Shaw-Stewart (1831-1906) was Patrick's father.  His mother was Mary Catherine Bedingfield Collyer who died in 1909.  Patrick's older brother, Basil survived the war.

Patrick seems to have had a keen intellect and had the typical education of an upper class boy of his era - Eton followed by Balliol College at Oxford where he graduated with a First in Greats.  He joined Barings Bank and became a managing director before the age of twenty-five.   From the beginning of 1914 until just before the start of the war he was in America and Canada on business with the Bank.  On his return he became an interpreter for the Naval Division in Dunkirk.  He was a member of Hood's Battalion.

His biographer was Robert Arburthnott Knox whom he had known since he was young and with whom he corresponded throughout the war.

Knox, Robert Arburthnott, Patrick Shaw Stewart, Collins 1920

Thursday, 25 October 2018

James Watt Dock, Greenock

There's always something interesting to see at the James Watt Dock in Greenock.  Having a little bit of sunshine helps too.  These photographs were taken a couple of weeks ago on a beautiful day.

First of all there was MV Lochnevis, part of the Caledonian MacBrayne (Cal Mac) fleet servicing the Small Isles.

Next came HMS Ramsay (M110), a minehunter.

Then there was the Norwegian fishing vessel Ronja Skye.

Lots of other vessels of all sizes also filled the Marina - a fascinating place for a look around.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Heritage Hub poppies

There is a wonderful display in Inverclyde Heritage Hub at the moment.

It is in memory of those from Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow who gave their lives in the first World War.

The poppies were all crafted by local community groups and individuals and put on display by Hub staff.  The display also commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the RAF and the local men who were killed either in combat or training in those early years.

There were a couple of interesting talks given on Saturday morning at the Hub in connection with this memorial.

Hub staff also provided refreshments which were an added bonus.

If you think one of your ancestors lived locally and may have died during World War I then check out this fabulous website - Inverclyde's Great War - a searchable database of the names of those who died.  It also contains information and photographs where available.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Cecil Brooks - foully murdered?

A few words on a grave marker in Greenock Cemetery led me to discover a rather interesting story. 

In Loving Memory of
Commander Cecil Brooks DSO RD RNR
Born at Stourbridge 14th January 1873
Foully Murdered in Holland June 1933
Beloved Husband of
Alice Jane McInnes
Born 5th November 1877
Died 25 November 1965 

In  June 1933 Commander Cecil Brooks, after a business trip to Rotterdam, booked a passage on the channel steamer Prague from the Hook of Holland to Harwich.  He was seen on board on the evening of 16 June.  When the ship arrived at Harwich his luggage was still in his cabin and his bed had not been slept in.  
Cecil Brooks had disappeared!

His wife, Alice Jane McInnes Brooks made extensive inquiries abroad to try and find out what had happened, but returned to their home at Beechcroft Avenue, Golders Green without any explanation of events.

On 17 July 1933 a body washed up on Terschlling Island in Holland, it was believed to be that of Cecil Brooks and was buried on the island (100 miles away from the Hook of Holland).  Eight days later his wife had the body exhumed and returned to London for examination, the body was identified by Dr Hugh Paterson, surgeon with the P & O steamship company.  A post mortem was carried out by Sir BernardSpilsbury and an Inquiry was held.  Mrs Brooks was represented by Henry Flint. 

Commander Cecil Brooks had retired from service with the P & O line in February of that year.  He had been at sea for 43 years and had latterly had command of SS Ranchi of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company.  However he had been asked to act as marine adviser to the Egyptian Government in respect of buying ships for their merchant fleet.  It was in connection with this business that he had been in Rotterdam.  Mrs Brooks was convinced that her husband's death had been in connection with this work. One newspaper reported that -

     "Brooks himself had hinted that his work was being checkmated by certain circles in central Europe interested in making metal deliveries to Egypt."

The inquest confirmed that Captain Brooks, an experienced mariner and teetotaller, was unlikely to have fallen overboard.  But because of the time the body had been in the water and then hastily buried at Terschlling, it was difficult for the coroner to establish a precise cause of death.  It was noted that there was an indentation at the back of the skull, but this was put down to a previous injury.  After the Coroner's summing up, Mrs Brooks' counsel intimated that she wished to speak as she was convinced that there had been foul play, but this was not allowed and an open verdict recorded. 

The body was then conveyed from London to Leith by steamer and then by train here to Greenock for burial in Greenock Cemetery.  Cecil Brooks and Alice Jane McInnes had been married in the Mid Parish Church, Greenock in 1908 and Alice still had family in the town.
A newspaper reported - 

     "At the graveside a simple but impressive service was conducted by the Rev W J Nicol Service.  The chief mourners included Mrs Brooks, the widow and her sister Mrs McInnes, Mr Arnott representing the P & O Company and Mr Andrew Nimmo Town Clerk of Greenock."

However, it is obvious, from the wording on the grave marker, that Alice Brooks did not give up her views that her husband had been murdered.

That might have been the end of the story ….. but!

Five months later in November 1933 a Canadian journalist, Lukin Johnston (born in Surrey 1887) who had just interviewed the new German Chancellor, Adolph Hitler, boarded the steamer Prague for a trip from the Hook of Holland to Harwich.  On the afternoon of 18 November he was seen asleep on deck.  When the ship docked at Harwich, Johnston was not on board. 
Lukin Johnston too had disappeared!  

Once again, the family suspected foul play - in fact they have written a book about it -
"Rufus: The Life of the Canadian Journalist Who Interviewed Hitler" by Colin Castle (2014).
It's a very strange coincidence, but I don't suppose that either of these deaths will ever be explained now.

McInnes Family
Alice Jane McInnes was the daughter of Dougald McInnes (died 1908 aged 74), spirit merchant of Charing Cross, Greenock and Elizabeth Barr Clark who died in 1914.
Brooks Family
Cecil Brooks was the son of Benjamin Brooks of Stourbridge, West Midlands (then Worcestershire) and Georgiana Grazebrook of Pedmore who were married in 1869.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Inverclyde family history research

Researching family history is such an interesting pastime - but addictive!  There's nothing better than visiting the places where your ancestors used to live.  If your family history research has led you to Greenock, Port Glasgow, Gourock or any of the smaller villages in Inverclyde, then there are plenty of resources available for you to check out locally when you visit.

Ginger the Horse sculpture, Cathcart Street, Greenock
Inverclyde Heritage Hub - Cathcart Street, Greenock is the best place to find resources which will help in your research.
Here you will find lots of local information including:-

Parish Registers
Intimations of birth, death and marriage in local press (1800-1918)
Census information
Local newspapers on microfiche
Resources about local industries and clubs

Some of these are available online - just click on the link to be taken to them. 
You can also find out more about the history of Greenock and the surrounding area at the Hub as well as some exhibits about local history.  The friendly staff are very helpful.

You may know from your previous research that your ancestors got married in a particular church.  Many churches have changed names over the years or are no longer used as places of worship, but you may be able to get photographs of the building and if you visit on a Sunday you will be made very welcome when the church is open.  Some churches open especially when cruise ships are visiting Greenock.
Here are a few local churches which have their own websites full of information -

Church of Scotland - Lyle Kirk
Episcopal Church - St John the Evangelist Church
Roman Catholic Church - St Mary’s

Greenock Cemeteries
The Inverkip Street/Duncan Street Cemetery is the oldest in Greenock and is open most days.  John Galt, famous as an author and founder of the city of Guelph in Ontario, Canada is buried there.

Greenock Cemetery, South Street, Greenock is also worth a visit and you can find out more and download a map from Inverclyde Council website.  The James Watt Cairn and a memorial to Highland Mary are also situated here.

At this link you will also find many more downloadable resources all about Inverclyde - 

leaflets about local landmarks
information about interesting people from the area

and much more information.  Download a few before your visit then you'll be prepared and know exactly what you want to see and do.

Enjoy your visit to Inverclyde and get in touch if you need any more information.
Liz (thegreenockian{at}