Friday 28 March 2014

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Chimney Sweeps

The rooftops of the older houses in the west end of Greenock abound with chimney pots of all shapes and sizes. 

In previous times, only the rich could afford to have fireplaces in every room.  You can tell from the number of chimney pots on this building, that it was of high status and the owners could afford to have servants to light fires in all the rooms and the coal to fuel them.

However, with coal fires came pollution.  This photograph is of Leeds, but shows how the smoke from a mix of domestic and industrial chimneys in towns, caused smog which hung around in the air.  Coal fires in the home also caused other dangers - fires without guards were a danger for children and for ladies with their large dresses!

If you had coal fires, there was the annual necessity to have the chimney swept of the accumulation of soot.  Some of the chimneys were very narrow.  Here's an extract from Charles Kingsley's story "The Water Babies".  The character Tom is a young boy employed by a chimney sweep - small boys could get up the narrow chimneys easier.  Boys as young as four were employed in this work, and it was an extremely dangerous job.  This extract sums up what these youngsters had to put up with -
 "Once upon a time there was a little chimney sweep and his name was Tom.  He could not read nor write, and did not care to do either; and he never washed himself, for there was no water up the court where he lived.  He cried when he had to climb the dark flues, rubbing his poor knees and elbows raw; and when the soot got into his eyes, which it did every day in the week; and when his master beat him, which he did every day in the week; and when he had not enough to eat, which happened every day."

It was not uncommon for the youngsters' elbows and knees to be rubbed with a brine solution in order to toughen the skin.  This was done even when they had open sores or blisters on their joints.  Boys could be burnt by cinders, stuck in chimneys or fall quite a distance.  This article from an English newspaper in 1864 describes a young lad getting stuck, and the chimney having to be dismantled to free him a day later.  There is also a report of another boy who died in similar circumstances - his master was fined!

Sweeps would sometimes pick up orphans or runaway boys to work for them.  There was a condition known as chimney sweeps cancer, identified as early as 1775, and caused by soot.  It wasn't until 1875 that chimney sweeps were licensed and prohibited from employing young boys. 

The Greenockian

Monday 24 March 2014

Ginger the Horse, Greenock

This beautiful sculpture Ginger the Horse who is situated in the piazza at the east end of Cathcart Street in Greenock.  The sculpture is by Andy Scott.

We are told that Ginger represents all the horses who pulled carts down at Greenock's docks, and one in particular who was being backed up to unload his cart onto the dockside.  Unfortunately the cart did not stop and plunged into the river - taking poor Ginger with it.  Ginger could not be saved and his owner was distraught.  This, apparently is a true story and took place on 23 October 1889.  

Talking of cart horses, did you know that it was Greenock's own James Watt

who coined the term "horsepower"?

The Greenockian

Thursday 13 March 2014

Greenock's Flatiron Building

New York and Toronto have their flatiron buildings - they are tourist attractions in their own right and must have been photographed millions of times.  Greenock has a building which is just as magnificent and is a wonderful (almost) triangular shape.  Here it is -

Not quite something tourists would really want to photograph!  The building was once a sugar refinery (or sugarhouse, as we call it) here in Greenock.  It is one of my favourite buildings in the town, despite its derelict appearance.  It is a fabulous shape and the brickwork is wonderful.

Built in the 19th century, it was the Glebe Sugarhouse in the days when sugar refining was an important industry in Greenock.  I've already written about Abram Lyle and the connection with Tate and Lyle sugar.  You can read it here.

The building has been unused for some time now.  It has been left ruinous.  Pigeons fly in and out of the broken windows.  It lies among waste ground abandoned and forlorn.  The windows facing the street have now been boarded up.  An Aldi supermarket has now been built right in front of it.

It is situated right across the street from the container terminal which is where the large cruise liners dock when they visit the west coast - bringing thousands of tourists to the area.  What a great first impression  …………………. not!

But how wonderful it could be and what a great asset for Greenock if only someone with money and vision would take it over.  Personally, I would turn this building into a heritage centre for Greenock.  I would have a first class cafĂ©, with some pretty little shops on the ground floor.  Arts, heritage centre and gallery on the upper floors.  A bar and restaurant on the top floors which would have amazing river views! It could be magnificent!

In the meantime, I pass by and dream. 

I even think that it may be haunted ………….....!

The Greenockian

Monday 3 March 2014

Endeavour, Port Glasgow

I love this piece of sculpture.

It is called Endeavour and is situated in front of Port Glasgow Town Hall just off the main road into the town.

Its by Malcolm Robertson and celebrates the town's proud shipbuilding heritage.

The colours are those of the Cunard shipping line - the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and the QE2 (amongst hundreds of other ships) were built on Clydeside and had connections with Port Glasgow.  The dry-dock at Port Glasgow was large enough to take these ships for refitting and other work.

I think that this sculpture is just so evocative of the bow of a proud ship as she slips through the waves.  It looks amazing lit up at night.

Port Glasgow is so lucky to have this reminder of her wonderful history.

The Greenockian

Saturday 1 March 2014

On the River Clyde Today - Cape Elise

The huge bulk carrier Cape Elise was on the river this morning.

Three tugs were helping her to turn.

Apart from cruise ships, I think she is one of the biggest ships I have ever seen at Greenock.  She measures 289m length by 41.5 breadth.  Gross tonnage 88853.


The Greenockian