Friday 28 February 2014

Clyde Swans

Two swans on the River Clyde at the Esplanade in Greenock.

It was an absolutely freezing day, but they don't look too bothered - they were too busy preening!

The Greenockian

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Burridge Purvis Esq

I came across this interesting gravestone in Greenock's old cemetery in Duncan Street.  The name on the stone is Burridge Purvis - it didn't sound like a local name, so I decided to do a bit of research to find out more about Mr Purvis and his family.  The results are fascinating, and lead from Scotland to South Carolina in the United States.

The wording on the stone reads:-

near this monument
lie the remains of
Burridge Purvis Esq
Of Glassmount Fifeshire Merchant.
To perpetuate the memory of so
beloved a husband and parent
his disconsolate Widow
Mary Brown
has erected this frail memorial
of veneration for his virtues
and faint testimony of her grief
for alas a misfortune indelibly
engraved on her heart.
He died at sea on the 17th July
1816 aged 46 years on his return
home from South Carolina after
an absence of about 10 months.

The first thing that struck me about this is that his remains were "buried near this monument"  and yet it is also recorded on the stone that he died at sea.  Were his remains, like Nelson's preserved in a barrel of brandy and spices and landed when the ship docked at Greenock ... I wonder?!

What had Burridge been doing in South Carolina?  I discovered that he was one of many sons of John Purvis and Elizabeth Thomson.  Some of the brothers went to South Carolina and purchased a cotton plantation there as well as ships to transport the cotton back to Britain.  Burridge was involved in this family business, and seems to have travelled between Scotland and South Carolina on a regular basis.

Burridge Purvis (born 1770) was indeed married to Mary Brown.  They had (at least) four sons and four daughters - many of them were born in Scotland at their estate of Glassmount in Fife (between Burntisland and Kirkcaldy).  Mary Brown was born in Georgetown, Carolina, the daughter of Stephen Brown, an army captain and his wife Mary Jennings and went on to outlive her husband by many years, dying in St Colme Street, Edinburgh on 24 January 1861 at the grand age of 82.

This is a fascinating family and I'll be writing more about them next week.

The Greenockian

Monday 24 February 2014

Tenement Tiles

Tenements have been a feature of Scottish towns and cities for centuries.  Sharing a common entry way and stairs (in Scotland called the close), generally there are six or eight apartments in each building.  They come in a variety of styles, but perhaps the nicest tenements in Greenock are those on the Esplanade.

Sandringham Terrace, built of red sandstone about 1900, takes up a whole block between Margaret Street and Fox Street.  With uninterrupted views across the River Clyde to the hills of Argyll, they are highly desirable residences.

They are also full of interesting features.  These intricate structures top the little towers at each corner.

One of the closes (common entryway) has this lovely ceramic
tiled mural on the wall.  The scene is of the River Clyde with the hills in the background and a steamer making its way downriver.

The tiles were produced by the Glasgow company, James Duncan Ltd who provided the tiles for many shops and business all over Scotland.  There's an interesting paper on the subject here.

Sandringham Terrace is a beautiful feature of Greenock's Esplanade.

Joining with Monday Mural.

The Greenockian

Sunday 23 February 2014

Derelict Clune Park Church

This derelict building is the former Clune Park Church (Church of Scotland) in Port Glasgow.

A red sandstone building dating from 1905, it was designed by Boston, Menzies & Morton, architects.

It has the most beautiful Art Nouveau window.

Unfortunately it has been left to rot, like many other wonderful buildings in the area.

I wonder how much longer it will last.  Such a shame.

Joining InSPIREd Sunday.  Come on over and see lots more churches.

The Greenockian

Thursday 6 February 2014

The Sinking of the Belmore

On the 18 June 1908, the tug Belmore sank near Ras Gharib and  eight men, six of them local, died.  The tug, formerly the Flying Scout which was owned by the Clyde Shipping Company had been bought by the Australian company J Fenwick & Co.  Fenwick had renamed it Belmore after the area where he lived.   It was on the journey back to Sydney, Australia that the tragedy happened.

The Belmore had taken on coal at Malta and having passed through the Suez canal, met heavy seas and foundered off Ras Gharib in the Gulf of Suez.  Of the crew of twelve, only four survived.  The survivors were Donald Robertson 2nd mate, seaman Samuel Campbell, James Hepburn and Callaghan both firemen.  In a letter to his wife, which was reported in the Greenock Telegraph on 9 July 1908, Robertson tells the amazing story of his fifteen hours in the water clinging to wreckage before managing to get ashore across a reef, and alert the lighthouse keeper at Ras Gharib.  The survivors suffered from cuts, bruises and the effects of the sun.  One man, John Bowie, had a lucky escape.  He had signed up for the voyage but did not sail. 

Robertson tells the awful tale of his shipmate, Hugh Gray who was spotted in the water near the shore clinging to a hatch.  One of the lighthouse keepers swam out to get to him but was thrown back by the strength of the sea - he had been within five yards of the man. Unfortunate Gray had no strength left and was drowned.  There were also reports that he had been attacked by a shark.  His body was washed up the next day.  He left a widow and young son in Greenock. 

The captain, Charles Murchie (formerly of Lochranza) was an employee of Fenwick & Co and lived in Dawes Point, Sydney he left a widow and son.  The mate Robert Booche of Lochwinnoch died.  A Gourock man, John M Gallaugher (55) died.   He seems to have been well known in the area. 

All the other men came from Greenock   The Chief Engineer, James L Blue was one of those who died.  His wife told the local paper that he had intended to remain in Sydney and try to find work there and would have sent for her and their children once he was settled.  Hugh Russell left a widow and two young children.  Donald Douglas was 28 years of age and worked for the Clyde Shipping Company.  He lived with his widowed mother and brother.

Perhaps the saddest death is that of Martin Oliver (45).  He had served in the Navy and on the Clyde guard ships Aurora, Superb and Benbow.  Months before the fateful voyage he had been in hospital for some time, having broken his leg.  He left a widow and eight children, the youngest of whom were twin boys.  He would never know his little daughter who was born months after his death and only lived for a year. 

The Board of Trade inquiry into the sinking recorded a verdict that the tug had been overloaded when she left Port Said and that the Plimsoll marks had been submerged. 
The overloading had affected the stability of the vessel.  

Such a sad tale from 105 years ago, but unfortunately not uncommon in those days in ports like Greenock.  The people of Greenock responded generously to the fund that was set up to assist the widows and children of the men who had lost their lives. 

The Greenockian

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Crinoline Capers

I ended my last post wondering about the stories Customhouse Quay could tell.  Perhaps this is one escapade from  August 1859 it would be better to forget!

Yes - the unfortunate woman's crinoline became detached - how embarrassing!  But how funny that some little scamps captured it, and attached it to a steamboat to be towed away goodness knows where!

The fashion for crinolines reached its height (or should I say width) by the mid 1860s.  While they were fashionable, they attracted a lot of criticism - mainly from male commentators.  One imaginative writer in 1858 wrote an amusing, and decidedly tongue in cheek, article entitled "Crinoline for Criminals" in which he condemns crinolines for encouraging their wearers to theft, explaining that items could be easily concealed under the skirts!  

One paragraph in particular caught my attention:-
"Concealed beneath the skirts of a fashionable dressed female were, the other day, discovered by a vigilant detective the following choice proofs of her propensity to plunder;"
A vigilant detective, eh??!! 

Death by crinoline was not uncommon, the unruly items could be caught in machinery and drag their unfortunate wearers with them - fashion victims indeed!  Boating accidents and high winds were also detrimental to crinoline wearers, as can be imagined.

I suppose the only people to gain from this particular fashion, aside from the satirists, were the fabric manufacturers - yards and yards of the stuff must have been used for each dress to cover such wide hoops!

The Greenockian

Sunday 2 February 2014

The Beacon Clock Tower and So Much More

On Friday I described the top part of the Beacon  clock tower at Customhouse Quay in Greenock, designed by William Clark, marine artist.  There was a weather vane, a fog bell, a fog light and clock.  Today it is the turn of the lower section which is just as interesting and contains an amazing amount of detail.

This was a drinking fountain with a beautiful lion's head and crest with the words "God Speed" - very apt considering many there would be going on a journey, as well as being part of Greenock's own motto.

There was also a letter box.  I wonder how many tear-stained last words were sent from here before folk went off to different lives in far flung corners of the globe.

The Beacon itself was made at Rankin & Blackmore's Eagle Foundry in Greenock (Baker Street). 

This is a view of the Beacon with the magnificent Custom House behind it.  It must have been a very welcome sight for people returning to Greenock to meet with old friends and family. 

The stories this could tell!

The Greenockian