Monday 27 November 2017

Westburn Underpass Mural

This great mural brightens up the Westburn underpass in Greenock.

The underpass is between Westburn Street and the Oak Mall in Greenock.

Made of painted tiles, the mural shows some of the buildings that existed before the Oak Mall was built.

6274 Public Art were responsible for the mural, replacing a previous one which had been damaged.

Joining with Monday Murals.

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Greenock Town Hall Saloon

The Saloon of Greenock Town Hall is used for a variety of purposes.  It is beautifully decorated.

There are beautiful glass inserts in the ceiling.  The colours and details are amazing.

There's a fantastic blue and white plaster frieze around the top of the walls.

Some of the windows are painted with wonderful allegorical figures - just look at the details.

The plasterwork ceiling is lovely.

There is so much to see in just that one room.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Son of Greenock - Henri Temianka

This wonderful sculpture was on show at the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock at the weekend.  It depicts violinist Henri Temianka (1906 - 1992) by sculptor Miriam Baker.

It was unveiled in Greenock last year on the 110th anniversary of his birth here in Rue End Street, Greenock to Polish immigrants.  They were part of the small Jewish community in the town.  Shortly afterwards the family moved to Rotterdam.

Temianka eventually moved to America where he achieved fame with the Paganini Quartet and many other notable orchestras.  Viki McDonnel of Greenock has done much research into the Jewish community in this area and she is responsible for the wonderful little booklet which you can see in the photograph.  She had been in touch with Henri's son Daniel in California in respect of her research into Greenock's Jewish community

The plaque reads:
Henri Temianka (1906 - 1992)
Violinist, Conductor, Educator, Writer
Son of Greenock
Founded and led the Paganini Quartet (1946 - 1966)
and California Chamber Symphony (1960 - 1990)
"You have a very simple choice: to create or not to create."
Bust by Miriam Baker

A very interesting and unusual piece of Greenock's history and heritage.

Sunday 17 September 2017

Uncle Sam - the Greenock connection

Uncle Sam - the personification and symbol of the United States and the descendant of a Greenockian!

Samuel Wilson, is generally considered to be the original Uncle Sam.  Samuel and his brother Ebenezer were employers of over 100 men in their slaughterhouse and meat-packing business in Troy, New York.  Samuel Wilson, according to the "History of the City of Troy" by A J Weise -
     "Being one of the first settlers, and besides having a kind and benevolent disposition, he won the         esteem and affection of everybody in the village, and was more generally designated as Uncle             Sam than by his proper name."

During the 1812 - 1815 war they were contracted by Elbert Anderson to provide beef for soldiers stationed at Greenbush, New York.  All provisions had to be stamped, and the initials E.A.-U.S. appeared on the barrels of meat from the Wilsons.  Seemingly a soldier asked what those initials meant and the reply, from a local, was Elbert Anderson and Uncle Sam.  The name caught on and any other wagons or barrels carrying the initials U.S. was deemed to be from Uncle Sam.

According to Albert Matthews in his book "Uncle Sam", the term appeared in Bartlett Dictionary of Americanisms in 1848 and has been in use ever since.  This recruitment poster from World War I by the artist James Montgomery Flagg (1877 - 1960) is probably the image most of us have in mind when we think of Uncle Sam.

So what's the Greenock connection?

Most sources name Samuel's grandfather as Robert Wilson from Greenock who settled in Massachusetts.  His son, Edward Wilson was Samuel's father.  Samuel was born in West Cambridge (now Arlington) on 13 September 1766 and moved in his early twenties with his brother to Troy in New York, on the Hudson River.  He started out as a brick maker before owning slaughterhouses.  He married Betsey Mann of Mason, New Hampshire, and had four children.  He died on 31 July 1854 at Troy and was buried originally at Mt Ida Cemetery in Troy.  In 1858 he was re-interred in a family plot at Oakwood Cemetery, Troy.

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Highlanders Clearance

Greenock Highlanders' Academy has been demolished.

I wrote about the School not that long ago.  You can read about the riot at its opening here.

Highlanders' Academy, Greenock

Even the tree in the playground has been destroyed.

Shame really, but I presume it is all for the sake of (so called) progress!

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Blacksmith to Archaeologist

It is a very rewarding experience when travelling abroad to come across references to fellow Greenockians who have left their mark, in a positive way, in a far off country.  On a recent visit to Canada, I visited the lovely little town of Elora in Wellington County, Ontario.  There I discovered the following  historical plaque erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, Ministry of Culture and Recreation. 

It reads:-
David Boyle 1842 - 1911
Born in Scotland, Boyle came to Canada in 1856 and settled in this area.  As a local school teacher, he began an extensive collection of native artifacts and became an archaeological authority.  Boyle moved to Toronto in 1883 and three years later was appointed the first Curator of the Provincial Archaeological Museum, then housed in the Canadian Institute Building.  Dedicated to the study and retention of artifacts within Ontario, he initiated an active programme of excavation and acquisition.  Between 1887 and 1907 Boyle edited a noted series, the Annual Archaeological Reports, published under the auspices of the Ontario Department of Education.  Through his work on Ontario prehistory, Boyle gained international recognition as a leading Canadian archaeologist and anthropologist.

David Boyle was born in 1842 in Greenock, the son of John Borland Boyle and Anne Anderson.  The 1851 Census shows David (9) living with his parents John (32) listed as an Engine Smith, his mother Ann (33) and siblings John (5) and Mary Ann (3 months) at 9 East Quay lane in Greenock.

David's grandfather, also David Boyle was blacksmith at Greenfoot, Sorn, Ayrshire and was married to Jean Borland.  They had several children, at least one of whom, Andrew also emigrated to Canada and was blacksmith at Eden Mills, Ontario.  David worked with him for a while.  David began his career as a blacksmith working for Hugh Hamilton in Elora, but also attended school and had a thirst for knowledge.  He began teaching in 1865 and moved to Elora Public School in 1871. In 1867 he married Martha S Frankland and they had two daughters.  Geology and natural history were just two of his many interests and he began collecting specimens which he donated to the Canadian Institute in Toronto.  In 1909 he received his Doctor of Laws from the University of Toronto.  You can read more about Boyle in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography here.

It would appear that Boyle also sent natural history samples back to his home town of Greenock as there are a couple of reports from the1870s and 1880s in the Greenock Telegraph detailing these.  Hopefully the McLean Museum may still have some - I'll try and find out when it reopens in a year's time.

From a plaque in Elora showing the town in days gone by.
It really makes me proud to realise the esteem which is afforded to people like David Boyle and his family who left their native land and achieved so much in their adopted country.

Saturday 29 April 2017

Trade in 1791 - essentials and home comforts

Greenock's shipbuilding and sugar refining industries relied heavily on imported goods.  Shipbuilding required timber, much of which was imported from Canada.  Sugar was imported from the West Indies and refined here.  However the Greenock ships which brought back these valuable cargoes did not make their outward journey empty.  They supplied invaluable commodities which the settlers and traders in these far away lands could not easily obtain.

This advertisement (I've reproduced part of it here) from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1791 shows what goods were being exported from Britain by ships belonging to Greenock merchants.  Among the items being offered for sale were:-
Food - refined sugar, Cheshire cheese, salad oil
Clothing - shoes, stockings, hats
Fabric - Irish linen, printed cotton in fashionable patterns, corduroys, woollens, embroidered serge
Metal goods - nails, ships anchors, German steel,
Household essentials - earthenware, frying pans, kettles, window glass, candles
Toiletries - soap, hair power
Other items included - tobacco, paint and oil, fishing nets, sail cloth guns, powder and shot.

It is so interesting to see the sorts of things that were traded then.  Obviously it was not just the working essentials that were important to settlers, they also required some home comforts and luxury goods.  Many local merchants had branches of their business on both sides of the Atlantic in order to make the most of the trading opportunities available.  William Forsyth, who is named in the advertisement, was an important merchant in Nova Scotia with trading partners in Greenock.  There will be more about William Forsyth and his family in future posts.

Monday 24 April 2017

Broomhill War Memorial, Greenock

This is the Broomhill War Memorial commemorating those from the area who died in World War I.

It is situated at the corner of Drumfrochar Road, Cornhaddock Street and Broomhill Street.

It was unveiled by Greenock's Provost Thomas Mitchell on 16 April 1920.

There are many names on the Memorial from many different regiments.  A full list of names can be found at Inverclyde's Great War.  At that site you can click on the individual names and find out more about the person.

The site has information about all the War Memorials in the area and if you are researching family from Greenock and surrounding places, this site is well worth a visit.  It is run by the McLean Museum and Inverclyde Council and also provides an invaluable collection of resources about World War I and the local people who gave their lives.

Sunday 23 April 2017

Great views across the Clyde

It was such a great day here in Greenock yesterday that I set out in search of some photographs of the River Clyde.  The Clydeport Cranes are always a good signpost for getting your bearings.

One of the best places for good views is up high on the Kilmacolm Road.  The views across the river from here are just amazing - you can see right up to the Gareloch.

Looking down just past the James Watt Dock Marina into what was the Great Harbour there were a few boats berthed.

I never tire of this view.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Greenock Jougs

Once upon a time, at the bottom of Broad Close in Shaw Street in Greenock there was a thatched house that served as the town gaol.  Daniel Weir in his "History of the Town of Greenock" (1829) describes it as "an ill-looking thatched house of one story, and consequently one apartment".  From the walls of the building hung the jougs (or jugs) - an iron collar attached to the wall by a stout iron chain.  This representation of the jougs can be seen on a wall off Cathcart Street (east end) in Greenock where the Broad Close once ran down to Shaw Street which (neither still exist).

In Scotland, the jougs were used both for detention of wrongdoers and also as a punishment.  Offenders would be secured in the collar and left to the mercies of the local population who hurled abuse, and heaven only knows what else, at the miscreants.  Jougs were often attached to churches and town tollbooths. They acted as deterrent as well as a punishment.  Another set of jougs could be found at the West Quay head in Greenock - handy for errant sailors!

In the Ayrshire town of Kilmaurs, the jougs can still be seen attached to the Tollbooth in the centre of the town.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Apples and ships

At either end of Robert Street in Port Glasgow are bronze sculptures by the Danish artist Nina Saunders.  Called 'Future in Hand' they were designed in 2006 as part of a community project involving high school pupils from Port Glasgow.

There is also a memorial garden, The Apple Garden, designed by Rebecca Wells, attached to the project, but it was not at its best when I took these photographs.

The sculpture at the west end of Robert Street shows a hand holding a representation of the steamship Comet built in Port Glasgow in 1812, representing the shipbuilding industry of Port Glasgow, and an apple.  The apple is a representation of this area of Port Glasgow which, before all the housing was built, was once a very productive fruit-growing area.

The sculpture at the east end of Robert Street shows just a large apple.  Love the beautiful patina on the sculpture and how it ties in with the red sandstone tenement buildings nearby.

Robert Street in Port Glasgow also contains the former Clune Park School, derelict Clune Park Church, and the Toll Boys Memorial.  Such a shame the area has become so run down.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Tall ship on the Clyde

On the River Clyde at Greenock yesterday, the beautiful tall ship Stavros S Niarchos.

Part of the Tall Ships Youth Trust.

What a beautiful sight!