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.

Friday 19 August 2016

Margaret Sharp Peace - Greenock Poet

Margaret Sharp Ferguson was born in Greenock on 8 January 1822.  In 1845 she married Robert Peace, a tinsmith also from Greenock.  Margaret and Robert would go on to have 10 children and travel widely, eventually settling in Auckland, New Zealand in 1865 after a time in Newfoundland.

Margaret published a book of poems "The Convict Ship and Other Poems" in 1850 (Robert A Baird, Publisher, Greenock).  The preface reads -

"The wishes of many friends induced the following sheets to be committed to the press.  The copies of this little work will chiefly, it is believed, circulate among the friends of the Authoress; it was therefore thought better by those who collated its pages to retain in every case her own thoughts in the very words she had chosen to clothe them with, than to attempt to give a stronger artistic effect by the use of language less homely than she had herself employed."

Among the many religious poems are several which seem very personal to her.  Many portray her thoughts on family life and loss - "My Wee Son" - "Dear laughing imp o'joy, thy een, Blue, blue as heaven's azure sheen."  Others depict sights she has seen and her life experiences. 

One of my favourites is "To Newark Castle, Port Glasgow".  Many of the verses are full-blown in their descriptive tone, but one or two capture the beauty of the place -
"All, all are mute; thou alone art remaining,
Sad wreck of the past, of the days that are gone,
Still towering sublime; lovely even in ruin,
None gaze on thee coldly, thou desolate one."

Margaret and her husband travelled on the brig Ann Johnson to St John's in Newfoundland where Robert set up business on Water Street as a tinsmith making stoves.  Margaret would have eight children there (not all survived).  She wrote poems of her life in Newfoundland.

However, by 1864 the family were once again on the move.  The Peace family along with the Foote family bought a 132 ton 3 masted ship, Clara, the set sail for New Zealand.  Can you even begin to imagine a journey like that - from Newfoundland to New Zealand with six children!  There's a wonderful description of the voyage written by a great-granddaughter of the Foote family.  You can read it here on the site for the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.  Margaret's sister Isabella Ferguson was with them and you can read some of Margaret's diary entries of the voyage here.

It wasn't all plain sailing.  The skipper, Captain Roper does not seem to have been popular with the passengers who complained during a stop over at Melbourne of the poor quality of the provisions on board.

On 30 June 1865 they arrived safely at New Zealand.  Robert once again set up in business as a stove maker on Shortland Street, Auckland.  

Margaret died at Auckland in 1897 aged 75 and Robert died in 1908.  They are buried at the Purewa Cemetery in Auckland.
I wonder if the young poet, Margaret Sharp Ferguson Peace from Greenock ever imagined that her life with Robert Peace would involve emigrating not just once, but twice with a large family in tow, to make a brand new life on the other side of the world.  What a remarkable woman!

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.