Monday 30 December 2013

Mearns Street School, Greenock

This was once Mearns Street School, opened in January 1877.  Many of the children who attended this school would have had parents who worked in Greenock's shipyards and mills.

It has some wonderful architectural details.

I wonder if the school bell was rung from here.

It was still a primary school up until the 1970s.  It was later used as a centre for people with special needs.

Wonder what the local authority intend to do with it?  Hopefully it won't be demolished like so many of Greenock's wonderful old buildings.

The Greenockian

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Christmas Greetings from Greenock

Since its Christmas Eve, I thought I'd show you this lovely stained glass window in Westburn Church, Greenock.

It depicts the Nativity in wonderful, colourful detail.  From the choir of angels to the three wise men and shepherds, it is just beautiful.

Designed by famed Scottish artist, Douglas Strachan, the window was placed in the church in memory of a churchgoer.  The panel reads -
To the glory of God and in memory of John Haddow born 1845: died 1904
Erected by his brother and sister - Peter and Janet Haddow: Greenock 1916

John, Peter and Janet Haddow were the children of Greenock merchant Andrew Charmichael Haddow and his wife Sarah Reid Maxton who were married in the church in 1844.  They also lived at Little Galla in Lanarkshire.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas.

The Greenockian

Sunday 22 December 2013

Wonderful Westburn

This is the spire of Westburn Church in Greenock, Scotland. 

The church was built in 1840 and the spire added in 1855.

Westburn Church is still used as a place of worship.  Denomination - Presbyterian, Church of Scotland.

Joining with InSPIREd Sunday.

The Greenockian

Saturday 21 December 2013

Greenock - Keep the Pavement Dry!

This is what remains of a drinking fountain which once stood on the western end of Greenock Esplanade.  It is now in the garden of sheltered accommodation near the Old West Kirk - at least it hasn't disappeared altogether.

The wording reads - "Keep the Pavement Dry" - a bit ironic in Greenock which get a lot of rain!  I think that the bird is a heron and this is also found on many other fountains of this type.

Fountains like this with the "Keep the Pavement Dry" motto can be found not just in many British towns and cities, but all over the world - as far away as Sydney in Australia.  Many originated in W MacFarlane & Co's Saracen Foundry in Glasgow.  The company made ornamental ironwork. and published a catalogue from which decorative ironwork items could be ordered. 

The Greenockian

Saturday 14 December 2013

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Greenock and the George Washington Connection

Walter Washington Buchanan, a Greenock doctor is the connection.  He was born at Hanover (Morristown), New Jersey on 4 June 1777.  He was baptised on 6 July 1777 and George Washington, America's first president, was his godfather!  This is Buchanan's grave in Greenock Cemetery.

The inscription reads:- 
Walter Washington Buchanan born 4th June 1777 at Hanover, Jersey USA, died 11th September 1861, his son James Campbell, merchant, born 3rd Mar 1803 at New York died 10th Oct 1868.
Walter Buchanan went on to have a very interesting life.  As a child he recalls playing with the grandchildren of Martha Washington - George Washington Custis and his sister Eleanor at the Osgood/Franklin House on Cherry Street. 

Walter's family originated in Scotland and he was sent back to attend Glasgow University, graduating MD in 1798.  He returned to New York and applied to the US Navy for a position and was appointed to the ship "Ganges".  Several of his letters to the War Department remain - he had quite a flamboyant signature!   It was a short-lived career as he was discharged the following year under the Peace Establishment Act. 

He returned to Scotland and married a Greenock lass - Annabella Brownlie on 27 February 1802.  On their return to New York, they had two children, a son James Campbell and a daughter Eliza.  Dr Buchanan's career blossomed and he was elected Professor of Midwifery at Columbia College in 1808.  He was also Secretary of New York County Medical Society and was connected with the New York Almshouse (Bellevue?).

When the Anglo-American war broke out in 1812, Buchanan was re-appointed as a Navy Surgeon and worked at Sackett's Harbour on Lake Ontario.  There is an interesting letter from him in "The Naval War of 1812" Vol II edited by William S Dudley in which he objects strongly to a proposed pay cut!  He was visited at Sackett's Harbour by the writer Washington Irving with whom he seems to have been friends since they were younger.

He retired from the Navy in 1827 and was residing at Greene Street, near Broadway in New York.  In 1830 his daughter, Eliza married a wealth cloth merchant Alexander Rodger in Greenock.  By 1837 Walter and his family were residing at Mount Pleasant in Greenock.  Sometime in 1843/44 he bought the beautiful house of Bagatelle in Greenock (now a care home).  He was involved in local affairs and continued to practice as a doctor in the town.  Annabella died in 1852 and was buried in the Old West churchyard (remains later transfered to Greenock Cemetery).  Walter died of apoplexy in 1861.  In his will he left some knives, forks and spoons which "were so long in the use of President Washington" to his son, James who died in 1868.  James founded the Buchanan Night Asylum in the town which gave shelter and food to homeless people.

Walter Washington Buchanan seems to have been a very interesting man.  His daughter's family are buried nearby and also have a story to tell!

The Greenockian

Monday 9 December 2013

Neglected Past

In a pedestrian underpass leading to a car park under a busy traffic roundabout imaginatively named the "Bullring" in Greenock is an amazing mural.

It is made up of tiles depicting paddle steamers and turbine steam ships from the time when the River Clyde was as busy as the roads above the underpass are now.

The underpass is not in a main pedestrian area, so only those using the car park really get to see them.  Many of the tiles are becoming chipped and cracked.

Wouldn't it be great if they could be moved to a place where they could be better appreciated by locals and the many cruise ship visitors who come to our town.
Joining with Monday Mural.
The Greenockian

Wednesday 27 November 2013

The Greenockian Behind Those Light Bulb Moments

Light bulb moments -  what have they got to do with Greenock?

We all have to change a light bulb at some time.  A 60 watt bulb used to be the usual for a main light and 40 watt bulb for a table lamp.  The higher number of watts (symbol W), the stronger the light.  The international standard unit of power known as a watt is named after Greenock's most famous son - James Watt.  This is a photograph of a statue of Watt which can be seen right beside the Municipal Buildings in Greenock.

Watt was born in Greenock in 1736 to a well established family.  I won't go into the full story, you can read about him here.  His improvements to the steam engine kick-started the industrial revolution and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, the next time you have to change a light bulb or have an "illuminating" light bulb moment, just remember the famous Greenockian - James Watt.
The Greenockian

Monday 25 November 2013

On the River Clyde - Hohe Bank

On the River Clyde on Saturday. 

Hohe Bank - a cargo ship registered in Gibraltar.  Photographs taken at Custom House Quay and the Esplanade, Greenock.

Heading up river to Glasgow.

Looks like she's carrying parts for wind turbines.

 The Greenockian

Sunday 24 November 2013

St George's North Church, Greenock

The spire of the former St George's North Church in George Square, Greenock.

No longer used for worship. 

Now a martial arts gym.
Joining up with InSPIREd Sunday. 

The Greenockian

Saturday 23 November 2013

The Greenockian Who Built The Smithsonian

The original building  of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, known as The Castle, was built by Greenock man Gilbert Cameron who was the project contractor.  The work began in 1847 and finished in 1855.

Gilbert Cameron was born in Greenock in about 1809, the son of Dugald Cameron, a shoemaker and his wife Jane Sayers who were married in Greenock on 27 January 1806.  After serving his apprenticeship as a mason and working as a journeyman for some years in Greenock.  He then moved to America and worked as a stonemason and builder in New York before moving to Washington.

He worked as the contractor at the Smithsonian with the architect James Renwick Jr (1818-1895) of New York.  The Smithsonian was built as the result of a bequest by the British scientist James Smithson (1765-1829) who, strangely, had never actually visited the United States.  In 1904 Smithson's body was exhumed from a grave in Genoa, Italy and transferred to Washington where it was reinterred at the Smithsonian.

The money for the building was taken in boxes of gold sovereigns from London, by sea,  to Washington by a Pennsylvanian lawyer, Richard Rush.  That must have been one nerve-wracking journey!

Mr Cameron was also the building contractor for the Soldiers' Home in Washington.  The architect on this building was Lieutenant Barton Stone Alexander (1819-1878).  The two buildings are quite similar architecturally.

The money for this building came the people of Mexico City who, in 1847 when the city was surrendered (during the Mexican-American war), paid a bounty of $150,000 to General Winfield Scott to ensure that their city was not pillaged by his troops!

Gilbert Cameron returned to Greenock at the start of the American Civil War, and had an entry in the local Post Office Directory of 1865-1866 as a builder and contractor.  He seems to have taken an active part in local affairs. 

He died on 5 November 1866 at his home, Washington Cottage in Greenock.  His obituary in the Glasgow Herald states that -

"Mr Cameron was in town on Monday in the enjoyment of his ordinary good health.  He dined in one of the hotels, and returned home during the evening.  About nine o'clock he was suddenly seized with cramp and vomiting, which continued till an early hour yesterday morning, when death took place."  He had unfortunately contracted  Asiatic Cholera.  His wife, Mary Mitchell died in Washington in 1884.  They had no children.

His memory lives on in Greenock in a stone from the Seneca quarry on the Potomac River (where the stone for the Smithsonian was quarried), which Gilbert Cameron had sent over to be part of the memorial to Greenock's most famous son, James Watt.  This memorial cairn can be seen in Greenock Cemetery. 

The Greenockian

Friday 22 November 2013

Across the Clyde From Custom House Quay

View across the River Clyde from Custom House Quay, Greenock.

Joining with Friday Fences.
The Greenockian


Wednesday 20 November 2013

Call In the Rat-Catcher - Greenock 1881

For a shop to be overrun by rats is a major disaster, especially if it is a grocer's shop.  That is exactly what happened to the premises of James Malloy Campbell on West Blackhall Street in Greenock.  This unusual case was put before Sheriff Smith in October/November 1881.  Mr Campbell had taken the lease on the premises in 1878.  This was his second shop as a grocer and wine merchant , his other was in Roxburgh Street in Greenock.  All seems to have been well until a drain burst which resulted in the rat infestation in his shop.

Since the premises had been in good condition at the start of the lease, Mr Campbell decided to take his landlord (Thomas May Thorne) to court for compensation of £90 in respect of the damage done to stock by the rats.  Goods in the shop and even in the shop window had been eaten and destroyed as well as a boars head (value 5 shillings) Mr Campbell had used in his Christmas display.

As it was a condition of the lease that the premises be kept in good repair, Mr Campbell claimed that he had tried his best to deal with the problem himself by poisoning and trapping.  He stated that this had resulted in the death of a terrier dog (value £5) by accidental poisoning.  Six cats had also perished, overcome by the sheer number of rats!  He believed that the landlord should have done more to deal with the cause of the problem.

The landlord claimed that on being notified of the problem he had employed a builder, Mr Jamieson to make right the damage, which he had done.  This did not end the problem and the local rat catcher was called in.  Mr Climie, "a man of skill in rat-catching, was actively employed for many weeks ... and was successful in killing many rats."  However there seemed to be some disagreement between the parties as to whether Mr Climie was given full access to the whole of the premises by Mr Campbell - a trap stair from the shop to a cellar was not mentioned and Mr Climie therefore contained his activities to the shop alone and the rat problem continued.  After a while Mr Climie was called in again by the landlord and given access to the whole premises - the problem was finally dealt with.  I wonder if the shop was closed during all this poisoning, trapping and other means of rat catching or where it was "business as usual"!

On summing up, the Sheriff scathingly commented on Mr Campbell's claim for compensation for his losses, stating that he was claiming retail price for the goods not wholesale and that - "he wishes to convert these rats into most valuable customers, and that at his landlord's expense.  If such a claim were to be successful, where is it to stop?  This grocer goes on for a whole year supplying these customers, the rats, on his landlord's credit and unknown to his landlord.  Why not pursue the same system during the whole term of his lease?"  Sheriff Smith.

This court case could not have been the ideal advertisement for his business and needless to say, James Campbell did not renew his lease.  The trade directory for1883 shows his with just his original shop in Roxburgh Street.  However another grocer had taken over the West Blackhall Street premises.

The address given is "17 West Blackhall Street, known as Havelock Buildings".  In 1881 other commercial tenants of the premises were - a stationer, a chemist& druggist, an optician, a branch of the Post Office and the offices of a lawyer and engineer.  
There is still a Havelock Building in Greenock, but obviously street numbers have changed over the years.  On the ground floor are commercial premises, with apartments on the three floors above.   

The Greenockian