Tuesday 29 April 2014

Rev Dr John Adam of the Mid Parish, Greenock

Rev Dr John Adam was only the second minister of the Mid Parish Kirk in Greenock, arriving here when the church had only been open for nine years.  Until this church was built, Greenock had only one other church - the West Kirk.  As trade and industry grew in Greenock, so did the population and it was decided that another church was required.  Lord Cathcart gave the land in the centre of the commercial part of the growing town, Cathcart Square, and this beautiful church was completed, the first service taking place on 12 May 1761.

The model for the church was St Martin's in the Field in London.  The building was constructed by Greenock mason James Ewing from stone quarried locally (just behind what is now Newton Street).  The interior of the church was set out to a plan by James Watt, father of Greenock's famous engineer, James Watt.

When Rev Dr James Adam took over the charge on 12 July 1770 the church had no steeple.  This was added in 1787 and is 146 feet high, originally it had a golden cutter ship at its top as befits a port, but unfortunately this was damaged in storms and had to be replaced.  A bell and clock were also added.

Rev John Adam brought his wife, Elizabeth Parker and young family to Greenock from West Kilbride.  They would have lived in the manse nearby.  Elizabeth died in 1779 and in 1783 John married a local woman, Agnes Anderson.  When John died in 1792, Agnes remained in Greenock.  His obituary reads -

His character was also noted -

"Unaffected devotion, universal benevolence, warmth and affection with respect to his friends, attention to the distressed, and charity to the poor, were the leading features in Dr Adam's character."

I have already written about Rev John Adam's eldest son, Robert who moved to North Carolina and became a successful merchant there.  However a younger son, John William Adam (born 1768) remained in Greenock and had many business interests in the town.

It was not unusual at that time for members of the same family to represent business interests in different parts of the world, in fact it made life much easier - cutting out the middle man!  Crops of tobacco and cotton grown in America were despatched across the Atlantic to a port like Greenock in ships owned by consortiums of family members and then sold and processed this side of the Atlantic by other family members.  Fathers ensured that their sons and daughters married well - especially into families who shared their trading interests.  It is a story that repeats itself many times in Greenock's commercial history.

This beautiful church, now known as Wellpark Mid Kirk, has a wonderful history and is still a great landmark in our town.

The Greenockian

Wednesday 23 April 2014

John Galt - Founder of the City of Guelph

On 23 April (St George's day) 1827 John Galt, William Dunlop and Charles Prior took part in a ceremony which marked the founding of the beautiful Canadian city of Guelph in Ontario.  John Galt wrote in his autobiography -

"... a large maple tree was chosen; on which, taking an axe from one of the woodmen, I struck the first stroke.  To me at least the moment was impressive, - and the silence of the woods, that echoed to the sound, was as the sigh of the solemn genius of the wilderness departing for ever."

The town was named Guelph in honour of the British King George IV and was laid out to a precise plan drawn up by John Galt.  Although he is probably best known in Scotland as a novelist, Galt is esteemed in Guelph as the city's founder. 

Galt's plan reserved land for churches and schools.  As this extract from his autobiography shows, Galt considered education to be extremely important -

perhaps his own school days in Greenock had something to do with this.

He was part of the Canada Company, set up to develop land and encourage settlers to what was then known as Upper Canada.  

In his novel Bogle Corbet (1831), John Galt describes life as a settler - leaving homeland and family, starting in a new, unknown place, clearing forests, building homes, the extreme weather conditions - it is not an autobiography, but Galt was writing from his own experiences and that of many of the people he met during his time in Canada.

Galt and the Canada Company had many differences, and he returned to Britain and died here in Greenock in 1839.  However Guelph is not his only legacy in Canada.  His sons settled there and became very much part of society in their adopted land.

The Greenockian

Tuesday 22 April 2014

The First Flashing Buoy!

One of Greenock Esplanade's landmarks, the buoy, has had a new coat of paint and looks really smart.  It has a bit of a history. 

The plaque on it reads -

Clyde Lighthouses Trust
This buoy was laid down by the Trustees at Rosneath Patch in 1880.
It was the first flashing Buoy to be established to aid navigation.
D & T Stevenson
Engineers to the Trust

 The Trust engineers were David and Thomas Stevenson, from the famous engineering family.  Their father, Robert was the builder of the Bell Rock lighthouse and many more.    His son, Alan, famous as the builder of the Skerryvore lighthouse among others, wrote of his father -

"There is scarcely a harbour or  navigation  in Scotland about which at some time he did not give valuable advice." Biographical Sketch of the Late Robert Stevenson (1861).

David and Thomas designed and built lighthouses as well as inventing aids to navigation like the flashing buoy pictured, which used compressed gas to light the lamp.  They were an inventive and hard working family.  The next generation also produced engineers.

 The writer, Robert Louis Stevenson was the son of Thomas and you can read his account of the history of this remarkable family here.

The Greenockian

Friday 18 April 2014

On the Clyde - Yachts

It has been the most beautiful day here in Greenock.  The sky was blue and you could see across the river very clearly.  There were lots of small yachts out sailing.

In this photo you can see Dumbarton rock to the left of the yacht and the Erskine Bridge on the right.

The River Clyde at its best!

The Greenockian

Monday 14 April 2014

Blockade Runners from the Clyde

Anyone who has found the recent BBC Scotland series "Clydebuilt: the ships that made the Commonwealth" interesting would do well to look out for the book of called "Clydebuilt"  written by Eric J Graham (ISBN 9781841585804).  First published by Birlinn Limited in 2006 it is a fabulous account of the Clyde built ships which became blockade runners during the American Civil War.

Being a Greenockian, I was particularly interested in the part played by Greenock ship builders and owners in this trade.  Many of the blockade runners started off as mail boats taking mail and passengers around the west coast of Britain.  Shipbuilders were always competing to make their boats faster, so that their owners could win the lucrative mail contracts.  They also had to be strong enough to sail across to Ireland.  The Giraffe was one of these ships built in Glasgow.  Her first trip was from Greenock carrying a group of Glasgow businessmen.  Having proved her worth, she was sent to a Glasgow yard to be converted to a blockade runner.  All this was reported back to the United States by spies who staked out the Clyde shipbuilding yards and kept track of likely vessels.

Giraffe sailed to Nassau, Bahamas at the end of 1862 with a cargo of munitions and machinery as well as some Scottish lithographers.  There her Scottish crew were paid off and a new crew taken on under the leadership of John Wilkinson, a well known blockade runner.  She got through the blockade and arrived at Wilmington.  There she was renamed the Robert E Lee and had a very successful time as a runner.  At the end of 1863 she was captured by USS James Adger, acquired by the US Navy and renamed Fort Donelson.  You can read the fascinating account of Wilkinson's time as a blockade runner here (Narrative of a Blockade Runner) and particularly the exciting trip aboard the Giraffe.

This is just one of the amazing stories told in this book.  Tales of spies, clandestine sailings, and the money that could be made by taking chances on running the blockade make "Clydebuilt" a very interesting read, especially as the many shipbuilders and owners names are very familiar in the west of Scotland.  Eric  J Graham had done a tremendous amount of research and it is refreshing to read about such a fascinating subject purely from a Scottish perspective.

The Greenockian

Monday 7 April 2014

On the River Clyde - Aasvik

Greenock got a couple hours of beautiful sunshine (well, almost) yesterday and I went walking along the Esplanade.

Got some photographs of the bulk carried Aasvik passing the Pilot Station at the Campbell Street end of the Esplanade.

The Greenockian

Sunday 6 April 2014

Inverclyde Tartan

It is Tartan Day today.

This is the tartan for Greenock - it is the Inverclyde Tartan.  Tartans come in all colours and mixes.  There are tartans for clan names, countries, organisations - all sorts of tartans!

If you would like to find out if there is a tartan for your name or area then go to the Scottish Register of Tartans where you can search a fabulous database to find out your tartan.  You will be amazed at the selection on offer.

The Greenockian

Friday 4 April 2014

Robert Adam, Merchant - Greenock and Fayetteville, North Carolina

A brief obituary in the Watt Library's archive index of family notices recently caught my attention.  It read -
Robert Adam born Greenock c 1759.emigrated to
America, merchant in Fayetteville, N.C. died 1801
A bit of research later and I came up with the fascinating story of Robert Adam and his life in Fayetteville.  I am indebted to Craig Harmon of the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry Company of North Carolina for much of the information which appears in this post.

Robert Adam was the son of Rev Dr John Adam, second minister of the Mid (or New) Parish in Greenock, now Wellpark Mid Kirk.  While his brother John stayed in Greenock, Robert went to North Carolina and became a prosperous merchant there, trading across the Atlantic.  He married a widow, Jennet Burgess and they had three children - John Robert Adam, Eliza Ann Adam and Margaret Jane Adam.

It is perhaps as the first Commanding Officer of the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry (FILI) that Robert Adam is best remembered in his adopted land.  On 23 August 1793 the Company was founded with Robert as its leader and offered their services to the then President, George Washington.  They adopted the motto -

"he that hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart".

The Company drilled regularly, undertook guard duties and took part in public events.

Unfortunately Captain Adam died on 11 June 1801 at the Sound near Wilmington.  He was buried at the Old Cross Creek Cemetery, opposite the old FILI parade ground.  The stone that covers Captain Adam's tomb reads as follows -

Beneath this stone are deposited the mortal remains of Robert Adam,
a native of Greenock, Scotland,
for many years a merchant of Fayetteville and Wilmington,
who departed this life 11th June 1801 aged 42.
He was universally beloved and regretted.
In his conduct and department through life
was combined all that should adorn the Christian character
and constitute the honorable man,
the kind husband and affectionate parent.

Such a wonderful testament to a fine Greenock man.  The Company held a Memorial Service in 1989 in honour of their first Commander and a footstone was unveiled at his tomb.  He will never be forgotten by the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry.

The wonderful history of the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry can be read on their fabulous website here and blog here.  Once again I would like to express my thanks to the members of the Company who helped by sending me information about Robert Adam and especially Craig Harmon for photographs of the grave.