Friday 23 September 2016

Gourock heron

It was a beautiful day in Inverclyde yesterday.  I went out to get some photographs and came across a heron sitting on some rocks down at Gourock.

Friday 16 September 2016

Good for Greenock!

It has just been announced this week that Greenock has been voted 3rd in the Cruise Critic's destination awards - British Isles and Western Europe section!

This year Greenock has been visited by over fifty cruise ships - and while many of the passengers travel to Glasgow for the day, many choose to stay in the local area to enjoy what we have to offer here in Inverclyde.  Of course it's not just the gorgeous scenery, wonderful architecture, interesting history and heritage that make this area so attractive, but credit must be given to the wonderful local people who make our visitors feel so welcome.

Friday 9 September 2016

What to see this weekend in Greenock

Still wondering where to visit on Doors Open weekend?

Watch my short slide-show for a few suggestions.

A full list can be found here.

Tuesday 6 September 2016

Jean Street School Port Glasgow

School Court in Port Glasgow is a great example of what can be achieved when old buildings are renovated.

The former Jean Street Primary School designed by H & D Barclay and opened in 1884, was a popular school in Port Glasgow and could house 460 pupils.  It closed in the late 1970s.

The local author and teacher Janetta Bowie (1907-1996) taught here for a short while after graduating.  Her book Penny Buff - described life in local schools in the 1930s.

You can see an old picture of the school at the McLean Museum website.  Thank goodness the old building hasn't been destroyed like so many others in Inverclyde and has now been turned into flats.

Sunday 4 September 2016

Cowan's Corner

This photograph is of the north west side of Cathcart Square in Greenock and is locally known as Cowan's Corner and there is an interesting story surrounding this empty space!

When Greenock's Municipal Buildings were being designed in the 1880s, the owner of this piece of land refused to sell to the Corporation.  There were shops and office on the site - you can see a photograph of how it looked on the McLean Museum website.  So, the new Municipal Buildings had to be build around the standing buildings.  Ironically it remained that way until Greenock was bombed during the Second World War in May of 1941 when the corner was destroyed, but the Municipal Buildings received much less damage! 

Robert Cowan was a draper and silk merchant in the town, the son of Archibald Cowan, a tailor and Elizabeth Turner.  In 1832 Robert married Jane McIver, daughter of Captain David McIver.  As this extract from Fowler's Commercial Directory 1836-1837 shows, Robert Cowan already had premises at the corner of Cathcart Square and Hamilton Street (may have once been his father's).  His home was at 25 Anne Street.

He seems to have been a very successful and well thought-of business man.  He two daughters - the younger daughter, Mary Elizabeth died in 1865.  By this time the family were living in Union Street.  His other daughter, Jane Boyd, married in 1862 a Glasgow merchant, Lawrence Bennett Robertson, the son of Andrew Robertson (woollen merchant) and Margaret Bennett.

Robert Cowan died from heart disease in 1867 leaving a substantial estate both in property and business to his daughter Jane Boyd Robertson.  She and her husband took over the running of the business, and it was with Lawrence Bennett Robertson that negotiations into the disposal of "Cowan's Corner" began.  The Corporation refused to pay the compensation Robertson demanded for giving over the land and therefore the Municipal Buildings had to be built around the area - the original design having to be amended to fit in with these circumstances.  Later a fine set of tenements with shops underneath were built which fitted in rather well with the surrounding area - look here.

There were many complaints at the time as the above newspaper cutting shows.

The Cowan and Robertson family are buried in Greenock Cemetery.  The headstone reads -

In memory of our beloved daughter Mary Elizabeth who departed this life November 15, 1865.
Robert Cowan fell asleep in Jesus on the 18 April 1867 aged 65 years
Jane McIver died 10 October 1881
Jane Boyd wife of L B robertson died May 1881
Lawrence B Robertson died 31 August 1889

It is interesting to note that Robert Cowan's grandson - Robert Cowan Robertson (1836 - 1910)  became a well known marine and landscape artist.  He was fond of sailing around the Western Isles and built a studio on Barra.  He was a friend of the artist Samuel John Peploe (1871-1935).  You can view some of his work on the McLean Museum collection at ArtUK.  My particular favourite is "Tug Standing By a Schooner in a Gale" 1899.

Thursday 25 August 2016

Highland Mary's Grave Refurbished

What a difference the recent refurbishment has made to Highland Mary's grave in Greenock Cemetery.  It had fallen into a great deal of disrepair, and the sculptures were starting to crumble.  Now it is looking much better and brighter.  (James Watt's Cairn is in the background.)

How the monument looked before restoration.
Highland Mary was Mary Campbell, one of Scottish poet Robert Burns's great loves.  He wrote a number of poems dedicated to here.  You can read all about her here in a great leaflet available to download by Inverclyde Council.

While most of the monument is now looking in great shape, I had a wee chuckle when I saw this -

The words of that wonderful Burns poem came to me, slightly altered ... "My love is like a red, red nose".  (Sorry Burns fans!)

Good to see that Greenock's heritage is being cared for.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Inverclyde Doors Open Days 2016

The list of local places taking part in Inverclyde's Doors Open Days 2016 is now available.  This year the event takes place on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September.

It's a great excuse to get a look inside places that aren't usually open to the public.  As well as venues in Greenock, Port Glasgow and Gourock, there are also places to visit in Kilmacolm, Quarrier's Village, Wemyss Bay and Inverkip.

It's not just historic buildings that you can visit.  This year you can visit Inverclyde Council's Materials Recycling Facility, the huge new Ferguson Marine Shipyard and find out about the history of the Yard or perhaps you'd rather see a demonstration by the Greenock and District War Games Club!  Such a great variety of local things to do.

You can find a full list and more details on the Doors Open Days website here.

Thursday 18 August 2016

Harry McNish, Port Glasgow Hero

There's a small island, off the coast of South Georgia in the Antarctic that's named after a Port Glasgow man.  It's McNish Island honouring Harry McNish (formerly written as McNeish) who was a carpenter on Shackleton's Imperial Trans Antarctic  Expedition of 1914-1916.

There is also a plaque in Port Glasgow Library in memory of this brave man who endured many hardships on that fateful expedition.

Harry McNish was born in Lyons Lane in Port Glasgow in 1874.  He joined Ernest  Shackleton's expedition as ship's carpenter (hence his nickname "Chippy") on board the Endurance - he was forty years old at the time.  The expedition aimed to be the first to cross the Antarctic.

The story of the Endurance is well known, but when the ship became trapped in pack ice, it was McNish who constructed huts for the crew.  Eventually after the loss of the ship Shackleton decided that the men would have to haul the three lifeboats across the ice.  McNish did not approve of this plan and made his disagreement clear.  However, after some time, with supplies running out, it was decided to wait for the ice to take them to open water.  When it did, ship's carpenter McNish prepared the three lifeboats for the next part of the hazardous journey to Elephant Island.  

McNish was in the small boat James Caird.  Eventually they reached South Georgia, unfortunately on the wrong side of the island.  Weak and ill, McNish and some others were left to camp in the upturned James Caird while Shackleton went on, overland to get help at the whaling station at Husvik.  Eventually McNish and the others were rescued.  You can read a much fuller account of the whole expedition here.  Without doubt McNish's skills as a carpenter were instrumental in the fact that so many of the men survived both on open sea and on land.

After his recovery McNish returned to the sea, eventually settling in New Zealand.  He died on 24 September 1930, destitute and relying on charity.  Although buried with full military honours, it was not until many years later that his grave in Karori Cemetery, Wellington was fully recognised by the New Zealand Antarctic Society.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Scotts shipbuilders of Greenock

Perhaps one of the most famous Scottish shipbuilding firms is Scott Lithgow which built many ships here in Greenock, employing a vast number of local workers.  This leaflet dates from the 70s.

John Scott first starting building ships in Greenock in 1711.  This fabulous sketch if of sloop-of-war Prince of Wales built in 1803 for the Royal Navy.

Scotts merged with Lithgows in 1970.  Many ships and submarines were built for the Royal Navy at their Cartsburn yard in Greenock.

The company ceased trading in 1993.

You can see some amazing photographs of the shipyard at Greenock's McLean Museum site here.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Royalist on the Clyde

The training ship TS Royalist was in the James Watt Dock Marina, Greenock at the weekend.

She was built in Spain in 2014 to replace a previous ship with the same name.  TS Royalist provides sailing experience for Sea Cadets - visit their site here.  There's lots of information about the ship.

These photos were taken as the ship sailed down the River Clyde.

Sunday 14 August 2016

James Watt's Makeover

At long last Greenock's statue of James Watt has had a makeover!

The statue, situated on the corner of Dalrymple Street and William Street, was unveiled by Andrew Carnegie on 1st June 1908.

You can see that it was looking a bit stained and faded.  It is now a deep shade of brown.  I'm still getting used to the difference!

These sculptures are around the base of the statue's pedestal.

The strange looking device he is holding in his right hand is the Watt Indicator.

Here you can see the name of the sculptor - Henry Charles Fehr (1867-1940).  He produced another statue of Watt which is in Leeds.

Born in Greenock in 1736, James Watt was responsible for improvements to the steam engine and was a brilliant inventor and engineer.

Friday 12 August 2016

Mineral Greenockite

In 1840 when the Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock railway line was being constructed a new mineral was discovered while a tunnel was being dug near Bishopton.  It was named Greenockite.

It is seemingly quite a rare mineral - a naturally occurring cadmium sulphide.  You can read more about its structure and analysis here.

Greenockite was named after Earl Charles Murray Cathcart, the then Lord Greenock (1783-1859) who became the second Earl Cathcart on the death of his father.  He had a passion for geology and minerology and was a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  Cathcart had a distinguished military career and was Governor General of British North America.

Charles Murray Cathcart
Arthur Connell (1794-1863), Scottish chemist and mineralogist was responsible for describing and naming the mineral.

Thursday 11 August 2016

Things to do in Inverclyde

Here in Inverclyde we are getting a lot of cruise ship visitors arrive at Greenock's Ocean Terminal.  It made me think what I would do if I only had one day to spend in the area.  Here's what I would advise visitors -

In no particular order -
Newark Castle in Port Glasgow is a must!  Cared for by Historic Scotland is a wonderful place to visit - there's so much to see.

McLean Museum & Art Gallery - fabulous exhibits showing a little of the area's fantastic history.

Gourock - a smashing wee town with some lovely shops selling a variety of great hand-crafted and unusual gifts.

Greenock Esplanade - take a gentle stroll along the Esplanade and enjoy the views across to the hills of Argyll.

These are just some of the great things to do in Inverclyde.

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Port Glasgow's coat of arms

Here's a great picture of Port Glasgow's coat of arms from the present Town Hall building.

The Latin inscription reads - 
Ter et Quarter anno Revisens Aequor Atlanticum Impune
which means - 
  Three and four times a year revisiting the Atlantic with impunity.

This is a reference to Port Glasgow's trans-Atlantic timber trade with North America. A lot of timber was needed for the shipyards in the town. The town lamp post can be seen outside the Library and it also shows the town's coat of arms.

Port Glasgow's coat of arms can also be seen in the decorated pediment above the Library.

Crossing the Atlantic with impunity - a proud boast for a very proud town.