Monday 27 February 2017

The poem that left John Galt speechess

Even in the latter days of his life which he spent in his sister's house in Westburn Street, Greenock, John Galt still showed a remarkable capacity for a good put down!  
The Renfrew poet, Andrew Park (1807 - 1863) had the audacity to write a poem about Galt "Answers to the Stanzas of the Celebrated John Galt on the Calamitous State of his Health" which commenced;

Thou may'st be helpless, sad, and lame,
On one lone seat compell'd to stay,
And muse on youth and dreams of fame,
And hopes and wishes all away.

The verses go on to let Galt know what he'll miss
"Thou may not see the lark arise …",
and assure him that after he dies, his name will be remembered,
"But, Galt, thy name is not forgot!
Posterity shall hand it down …"
and finishes
Then cheer thee, Galt - thy worth, thy name,
And merits, shall live after thee;
And echo, with the trump of fame,
Shall sound thy requiem o'er the sea.

Galt's stinging reply -
I have seen this morning your obliging, and, I presume to add, sympathetic verses, which are not the less acceptable in coming from an author personally unknown to me.
It has been very flattering to me to have received so much kindness, of late, from the public press; for a man who has suffered from nine attacks of a strange species of paralysis, who has thrice lost his speech and once his sight, and now moves in continual dread, is really an object of compassion, especially one who has been very active.
I am much better, as this testifies; for I could not sign my name at one time; and the improvement came on me as quickly as the disease.  Ten minutes before I wrote this I was almost speechless.
I am, Sir, yours, very truly,
John Galt"
John Galt
That made me smile - so often John Galt is thought of as a dour man, but I love the humour that flows through a lot of his work especially in characterisation.  But who was Andrew Park?  Paisley Museum and Art Gallery have a portrait of the poet.

Born in Renfrew in 1807, Andrew Park worked in a commission warehouse in Paisley before moving to Glasgow where he was employed s a  hat salesman.  Business failing, he moved to London, but returned to Glasgow in 1841 where he became a successful bookseller.  He spent some time travelling in Egypt.  You can read another example of his verse at the National Library of Scotland website.

Andrew Park's grave, Paisley Cemetery
He died in 1863 and was buried in Paisley Cemetery, over two hundred people followed his coffin to the grave.  It would appear that he was a very popular and convivial man.  

His obituary in the Glasgow Herald reads:-
"Death of Mr Andrew Park - Many amongst us will note, with much regret, the announcement of the death of Mr Andrew Park, who had attained local celebrity as an extensive poetical writer.  It is too much to expect that Mr Park will be remembered as a poet; but it is due to him to say that he produced some pieces in which pretty sentiments were worked out in pleasant lines.  He was a man of simple and inoffensive character, and his attractive social qualities and his fine musical voice rendered him a welcome guest at the social board."

John Galt was long dead by this time, but I think he may have approved of the wording!

(Poem and letter reproduced in Fraser's Magazine, June 1835)

Thursday 23 February 2017

Surgeon in the dungeon

A very interesting obituary from November 1821 caught my eye recently.  It read - 
"At Greenock, after a lingering illness, 
John Lawmont, Esq. surgeon, R.N.  
He was surgeon of the Vincejo at the period of her capture,
 and the confidant of the lamented Captain Wright 
in The Tower of the Temple in Paris, 
and the last friend who had access to his dungeon."

So, who was John Lawmont (sometimes written as Lamont)?  What was the Vincejo and why was she captured?  Who was Captain Wright?  What was the Tower of the Temple in Paris?  Why was he in a dungeon?  Lots of questions which led to a fascinating story of espionage and intrigue during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Vincejo was a Spanish navy ship (Vencejo) captured in the Mediterranean by the British in 1799.  Refitted at Chatham, Captain John Wesley Wright took command in 1803.  The ship sailed to the west coast of France.  It was reported that the ship had carried some French Royalists to France in the hope of overthrowing Napoleon.  The Vincejo continued to keep an eye on French coastal shipping in the west.  The ship's surgeon, John Lawmont (or Lamont) wrote to Patrick Colquhoun about the incident which took place on 8 May 180 - this extract is from the Naval Chronicle of 1815.  It is a fascinating snippet describing a short battle between the British and French navies.

Captain John Wesley Wright
Verdun, France, August 14th 1804
My Dear Sir

"We have at length arrived at our place of rest, after a fatiguing march of 800 miles.  Illness, which I was seized with soon after we came here, prevented me from writing before this:  I am now quite recovered.  Captain Wright was separated from us at Vannes, and the officers were separated from the men at Verneuil, and conveyed to Paris, where we were first taken to the Abbey prison, and when night set in, we were taken to the Temple, and remained there seven weeks, three of which in solitary confinement.
As perhaps you have not heard the particulars of our being taken, I will give you a short account.  During our long cruise in Quiberon Bay, we were continually engaged with the numerous gun-boats that passed from one port to another with convoy; but having no pilot, and they keeping close in shore, we were unable to do any thing decisive; we, however took two unarmed vessels, one a schooner, laden with flour, the other a national lugger, with 2000 oars for the gun-boats; this last, from our want of men, we were obliged to destroy; the other arrived safe in England.  The day before we were taken, we drove a sloop and a lugger ashore near St. Geldas.  On the morning, at daylight, we discovered a number of vessels coming out of the Morbihan, and a corvette of 18 long 18 pounders lay at anchor close in shore.  The Vincejo was at this time becalmed in a strong tide-way, which drifted us close to a rock, which we avoided by dropping our anchor.  When the tide slackened, having taken a poor man from a fishing-boat as a pilot we attempted to take the Teigneuse passage, but from his fears or ignorance he was of no use, and went down below.  We now trusted to chance:  we were in a narrow and intricate passage, without an air of wind; numerous gun-boats coming rapidly up with us.  Our men, who had been up all night, and who had laboured three hours at the oars in a sultry morning, were quite exhausted, and finding escape impossible, the captain ordered the ship's broadside to be swept-to, and an engagement was kept up against such fearful odds for more than two hours, when our firing almost wholly ceased, three of the guns being dismounted, and the rest incumbered with lumber from the falling of the booms, their supporters having been shot away; the men failing fast, the foremost nearly shot away, and the vessel nearly sinking, Captain Wright was forced to hail that he had struck, just in time to save the lives of the few that could keep the deck, as the gun-boats were rowing up alongside with numerous troops to board.  He himself was wounded in the thigh early in the action, by a grape-shot, but never left the deck.  We lament his separation from us as we would the absence of our dearest friend:  his manners are those of a perfect gentleman, his abilities of the first class, and his bravery only equalled by his generosity and humanity.  In his department to his inferiors, he appears in the most amiable point of view, it being that of a kind and most benevolent father.  Indeed, I have not words to express my admiration of his character.
I have only time to add, without the particulars of the vessels, that the enemy's force was 17 vessels, 36 heavy guns, and from 1140 to 1490 men.
The Vincejo, from having been ashore before this was so leaky as to require pumping almost continually."
John Lawmont

The Tower of the Temple, Paris
Some of the prisoners from the Vincejo were taken to the Temple prison in Paris.  Notorious,  it was the place of imprisonment of the French Royal Family before execution and had a grim reputation.  Originally it was built as a monastery and fortress by the Knights Templar in the twelfth century.  The buildings were demolished in 1811.  However this was not Captain Wright's first visit to the Tower of the Temple.  In April 1796 he and Sir Sidney Smith for whom he acted as clerk were captured by the French and imprisoned there on charges of spying.  The pair made a daring escape in May 1798.  He was involved in many of Smith's adventures.  Full details of the life and adventures and death of Captain John Wesley Wright can be found in the Naval Chronicle for 1815.

Sir Sidney Smith
Captain Wright demanded to be treated as a prisoner of war, but the French authorities were determined to charge him with being involved in the landing of royalist agents in France.  Wright refused, despite constant interrogation, to admit any connection with the affair.  Eventually it was reported that he had been found dead in his prison cell.  He had been found lying in bed with his throat cut - almost to the bone.  It was reported that there was no blood on the sheet that covered him up to his neck and that a razor had been found in his hand.  There were also several reports of bloody footprints on his cell floor.  The French tried to say that he had taken his own life.  The British authorities blamed Napoleon for ordering the death of such a valiant officer.  Sir Sidney Smith later went to Paris and erected a memorial to the brave Captain.

Most of the other prisoners taken with Wright were sent to other prisons around France.  A few escaped and managed to return to Britain. Among the prisoners were two thirteen year old boys, Wright's nephew midshipman John Wright (who had started his naval career aged just 7) and William Lort Mansel, the eldest son of the Bishop of Bristol.  Mansel escaped in the winter of 1808 but his health suffered as a result of the conditions he endured finding his way home, and he died not long afterwards.  Lieutenant James Wallis managed to escape from his French prison Verdun in 1813 and was promoted to the rank of Commander.

What about Dr Lawmont (or Lamont) of Greenock? 
As Captain Wright was injured, he attended to him in prison.  Later the doctor was moved to another prison elsewhere in France.
In the book "English Prisoners in France:  containing observations on their manners and habits" by the Rev R B Wolfe (Hatchard & Son, London 1830) is written - "Dr Lawmont, the surgeon of the ship commanded by the unfortunate Captain Wright, and who afterwards practised as physician at Glasgow, obtained permission, about two years after my removal to Givet, to go and reside at that depot, in the exercise of his profession.  He was making the journey on foot, when a party of gendarmes, who were conducting some felons, overtook him; and, in spite of his passport, which he produced, he was strung to them by the hand and marched to the next brigade."  It would appear that Lawmont did eventually get to Givet as Wolfe later writes that the surgeon, Mr Lawmont "ordered wine for some of the patients in his charge at the hospital in the prison".

In "Narrative of a Captivity and Adventures in France and Flanders between the years 1803 and 1809" by Captain Edward Boys, RN (Richard Long, London 1812) mention his friend Lawmont, a surgeon in the navy at Givet."

Finally, the Greenock link - there is an entry for him as a surgeon in Greenock in Hutcheson's Directory for Greenock of 1820.
Who would have thought that a short obituary could contain such an amazing story.

Sunday 19 February 2017

In Memory of the Toll Boys

It would be easy to overlook this memorial plaque on the wall of a tenement building in Robert Street, Port Glasgow.  It commemorates local men who died in World War I - Port Glasgow's Toll Boys, so called because there used to be a toll house in the area.

The following are the names on the memorial:-

Royal Garrison Artillery
W Burnside
Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
N Collins, P Couper, S Gilmour, R Graham, S Kane, J Love, J McGhie, J McKay, D Mooney, A Orr,
S Ptolmey
1st Royal Dragoons
Couper A
Naval Division
J Duffy, S Gourley, S Mitchell
Cameron Highlanders
A Logan, J Kincaid, A McKay, G Potter
Highland Light Infantry
J Logan
Royal Scots
F McCorkindale
Iniskillen Fusiliers
A McLean
Seaforth Highlanders
J Rorrison
Royal Field Artillery
J Sheilds, W Tanner
Royal Navy
G Simpson, D Wilson
Durham Light Infantry
T Walker

1914 PRO PATRIA 1918
Erected in
Grateful Memory
of the
Toll Boys
who fell in the Great War
"Their name liveth for evermore"

Where to look for more information
If you have a relative from this area who may have died in the Great War, then Inverclyde Council on the Family History section of their website have a section in Intimations called Soldiers and Sailors of Inverclyde 1914 - 1918 which lists all the death notices of servicemen which appeared in the local newspaper.  It gives lots of details of date of death, regiment, family etc.  The McLean Museum also have a site called Inverclyde's Great War - again this has lots of information both about local people and the war itself - a fabulous resource.  There's another list of local men named on War Memorials here.
We have some really fabulous resources here in Inverclyde.

Friday 17 February 2017

The Fascinating Adventures of Bennet Burleigh!

Bennet Burley (or Burleigh) was the eldest son of Robert Burley and Christina Seath and he was quite a character!  
Born in 1840, he was educated in Glasgow and began work in his father's joinery business.  On 22 March 1861 aged 20 he married Marion Thomson (just 18), the daughter of John Thomson (house factor) and Marion Scott at 21 Drygate Lane, Glasgow.  The couple had a daughter Marion Scott Burley who had been born at Drygate Lane on 22 February 1861.  However, domestic life was not for Bennet Burley and he was soon off to North America.

According to the book Famous  War Correspondents by F Lauriston Bullard (Boston, Little, Brown & Company, 1914), in the chapter about Bennet Burley -
"In the early part of the war between the States, there appeared one day at Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, a young Scotchman in whose pockets were the plans for a submarine battery and the sketches for a torpedo boat."  
So it would appear that Bennet made use of his father's inventions.  He joined the Confederates and engaged in privateering with John Yates Beall.  He caught malaria and while he was recuperating began to write for The Southern Illustrated News.  On his recovery he took part in a raid behind enemy lines where he was wounded, captured and charged with being a spy.  He was held in Fort Delaware where he managed to escape via a sewer.  He fled to Canada where he and Beall planned a daring mission to free Confederate prisoners at Johnson's Island Prison on Lake Erie.  The mission failed and the two men went on the run, this time charged with piracy!  Beall was eventually captured and executed at Governor's Island in New York Bay.  A bounty was placed on Bennet's head.  He was extradited from Canada and imprisoned at Detroit then later at Clinton, Ohio.  At this point his father, Robert Burley was in correspondence with the British government trying to get his son freed, but to no avail.  

Bennet seems to have been a bit of a local celebrity and his imprisonment does not seem to have been too harsh and, once again he managed to escape to Canada and fortunately the war ended.  At this time he changed the spelling of his name to Burleigh.

He continued to pursue a career in journalism and wrote for the Houston Telegraph in Texas then moved to New York.  He returned to Britain in 1878 unsuccessfully standing for Parliament for Govan, Glasgow.  A street in Govan is named after him - Burleigh Street.

He then began his career as a war correspondent, travelling all over the world.  He was signed up by the Daily Telegraph in 1882 and worked for them until he retired in 1913.  He reported from Egypt and the Sudan, always with the front line troops in the thick of the action.  He was involved in the Boer War and in 1912 was reporting from the Balkans.  He retired in 1913 and died just a few months later on 17 June 1914 at Bexhill in Sussex and was buried at Brookwood Cemetery.

Marion Thomson Burley, his first wife died in 1884 in the City Poorhouse in Glasgow.  Their daughter Marion Scott Burley had married a brassfounder a few years earlier in Glasgow and had a family.

However he also seems to have married while in New York a young Yorkshire woman named Marion Sherer with whom he had at least one child, a son Sherer Burleigh born in 1876 who managed a wood mill in Dermott, Arkansas, for Robert Burley of Glasgow.  (At some point, Bennet had introduced American hickory wood to his father who set up mills at Rock Creek, Ohio and Dermott, Arkansas.)

Bennet Burleigh was also married to Bertha Preuss and had several children.  Their daughter Bertha Burleigh was a war correspondent during the First World War and seems to have inherited her father's sense of adventure and daring-do.  She was also a photographer and illustrator.  Three of Bennet's sons, Robert Burleigh, Bennet Burleigh Jnr and James Emil, died on active service in the War.

Bennet Burleigh was certainly a remarkable man and ranks with his cousins Sir Richard Muir and Robert Livingston Muir as fascinating and well-travelled men of their time.

Thursday 16 February 2017

Burley's Blocks and Boneshakers

Another simple gravestone in Greenock Cemetery marks the graves of remarkable people.  Robert Burley was the brother of Ann Burley (or Burleigh), who married Richard Muir.

Robert Burley was born in Bo'ness in 1806 but the family moved to Greenock - his father was a seafarer.  Robert was educated in Greenock and then served an apprenticeship to block-makers in a Greenock shipyard.  He married Christian Seath, daughter of James Seath a shipmaster on 28 October 1839 in Greenock. 

The couple moved to Glasgow where Burley set up a successful business as a joiner and block-maker.   Robert Burley was also a bit of an inventor.  He devised a "submarine gun" - according to the Glasgow Herald of 11 December 1939,
"by means of which warships might be able to discharge under-water projectiles against the enemy".. 
The author Jules Verne wrote about Burley's gun in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Chapter 15 -
"There are certain Fulton-style guns perfected by the Englishmen Philippe-Coles and Burley, the Frenchman Furcy, and the Italian Landi; they're equipped with a special system of airtight fastenings and can fire in underwater conditions. But I repeat: having no gunpowder, I've replaced it with air at high pressure, which is abundantly supplied me by the Nautilus's pumps."

Robert Burley also devised and produced a steel-cored handle and, perhaps not so successful his company manufactured "boneshakers", bicycles with wooden frames and wheels!

However it was as handle-makers that the company became successful.  From Dale Street they moved to Great Wellington Street and finally to larger premises in  Fairley Street, Govan.

Former Burley works Fairley Street, Govan

Robert and Christian Burley had five children, two daughters and three sons.  In the 1860s they lived at Walmer Crescent in Glasgow, then later at Bellahouston Terrace.  Christina Seath  died in 1868.  Robert lived to the grand old age of 96, dying in 1902.  His sons James and Robert continued the family business and Robert Burley & Sons celebrated its centenary in 1939.  However, it is the eldest son who is probably best remembered.  Read about him in the Greenockian's next post!

The grave stone reads:-
Erected by Robert Burley in memory of his wife Christian Seath who died 21st April 1868 aged 55 years.
Elizabeth, their daughter died 30th June 1855 aged 9 years
Robert Burley died 21st February 1902 aged 95 years
James Seath their son died 18th Nov 1916 aged 62 years and
James his son died 7th Aug 1911 aged 15 months
P/O Robert James R.A.F. his son killed 7th June 1941 aged 28 years interred Boulogne East Cem

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Guess what this is

What do you think this structure is?  A fairground ride or a piece of modern sculpture?

Well, it is actually the Ceona Amazon, an offshore pipelaying and construction vessel.  (Follow the link in the name if you want all the techy details.)

The huge wheels have been dominating the skyline between Greenock and Port Glasgow for the last couple of months.  It has been up for sale, so I imagine that someone has found a need for this amazing vessel.

It left Greenock at the weekend.  Unfortunately I was away so didn't get the opportunity to see it out on the River Clyde.

Fantastic piece of engineering and not too bad to look at!

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Stewart of Stewartfield Memorial Greenock

This magnificent memorial tablet can be found in the Wellpark Mid Kirk Church, Cathcart Square, Greenock.  It was erected in memory of George Stewart of this town.  It reads:-

Upon the 9th of Dec 1813, and in the 27th year of his age,
George Stewart of Stewartfield
Captain in the 42nd Reg of Foot
Fell, in front of Bayonne, in the Kingdom of France,
Gloriously fighting for the independence of Europe.
Endeared to all those with whom he had ever associated, and distinguished in a corps, in which the ordinary virtues of a Soldier command no pre-eminence,
His remains were consigned to an honourable grave in a foreign land.
And the companions of His early life, have raised this Memorial
to His name in His native town.

George Stewart was the son of Roger Stewart of Stewartfield and Ronachan in Kintyre.  Roger Stewart was a Greenock shipowner and merchant.

George Stewart died during the Battle of the Nive.  The river Nive runs through Bayonne which is in the south west of France at the Spanish border.  Fighting took place there towards the end of the Peninsular war.

The detailed carvings at the top of the plaque have some amazing detail of military motifs.  The Stewarts were a very interesting family.

Thursday 9 February 2017

James Watt Cairn in Greenock Cemetery

In Greenock Cemetery there is a memorial cairn to the great engineer James Watt born in Greenock in 1736.  In Scotland, a cairn is a pile of stones, usually to commemorate a special place or person.

The plaque on the cairn reads:-
The Watt Cairn
Projected and commenced by the Watt Club 1854.
Arranged and completed on the 200th anniversary of Watt's birth 1936.
These stones, gifted from all parts of the world, speak of the universal homage
accorded the great engineer, inventor and scientist.
The monument also marks the burying place of James Watt's ancestors
removed from the Old West Kirk, 26th April 1927.

Another plaque lists the names of those who sent stones to Greenock from all over the world.
The Stones and their Donors
Malta, St Paul's Bay, Major General Sir William Reid, governor of Malta
Sebastopol Granite, Henry Innes, Secretary to the Port Admiral
Marble from Tunis, Sir Edward Baines HM Consul General
Marble from Carthage, Admiral Sir Houston Stewart
Slab from Palestine, John Currie
Stone from Peru, Alex Prentice, Lima
Stone from Ghaut of India, Bombay Mechanics Institution
Red Sandstone from Seneca Quarry, Potomac River, Gilbert Cameron
Granite Slab, Heriot Currie

Pentagonal Column from the Giant's Causeway
Stone, Mechanics Institute, St Helens
Stone from Canada, Rollo Campbell, Montreal
Foundation stones, Dougald Dove, Nitshill and Arden Quarries and
Sir Michael R Shaw Stewart Bt, A member of the Watt Club.

It is a very unusual monument.  It is right beside the memorial to Highland Mary in Greenock Cemetery.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

The Galt Marbles?

It is curious to think that but for a last minute payment, those fabulous ancient Greek artefacts called the Elgin Marbles could have been owned by the author John Galt - The Galt Marbles - doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?

Galt was in Athens at the time the marbles were being shipped back to Britain.  In his Autobiography (Part I, p158) Galt relates the circumstances behind him almost acquiring the marbles -
         "Here was a chance of the most exquisite relics of art in the world becoming mine, and a speculation by the sale of them in London that would realize a fortune.  The temptation was too great.  My correspondents at Malta were Messrs. Struthers, Kennedy, and Co., to whom I wrote to pay the bills upon receiving the stones, etc etc and I shipped myself on board the vessel that I might see her safely to Hydra, where she was to put herself under the protection of a man of war.  Accordingly that evening we sailed with our precious cargo, and next morning arrived at Hydra, from which the vessel was conveyed to Malta.  But on her arrival there, the agent for the earl paid the bills, and my patriotic cupidity was frustrated."

Galt does actually make fun of himself stating later - 
"... I also imbeciliated a mock heroic poem on the Rape of the Temples, in which I was myself so guilty of being accessary in art or part."  
The poem was Athenaid and he appends it in the Autobiography after telling about his part in the scheme "in the language of Goody-Two-shoes"!  I love the fact that Galt can mock himself.
Verse from Galt's Athenaid
There was (and of course still is) a lot of disapproval of Thomas Bruce, Lord Elgin (1766 - 1841) and his actions with regard to the Parthenon marbles.  Lord Byron criticised him in his epic The Curse of Minerva, which, says Galt, Byron wrote after reading his Athenaid.  
Elgin's original intention was to make drawings and casts of the sculptures. He employed Giovanni Battista Lusieri (1755 - 1821) a landscape artist and architect formerly in the employ of the King of Naples to undertake this work.  Lusieri was the agent who dealt with the matter for Elgin.  

Lord Elgin
The French Consul M. Fauvelle tried to stop Elgin from removing the marbles to Britain - he wanted them for France and Napoleon (so says Galt).  Elgin's defence was that if he did not take them they would be destroyed by the Turks or stolen by the French.  He had a firman (permit or authority) to remove them, Galt says that he saw the firman, but being unable to read Turkish was told that the Earl had permission to remove one stone.  (Autobiography, Part 1, p160).  Of course later Elgin sold the marbles to the British Government and they are on display in the British Museum in London.

So, could there be controversy today about "The Galt Marbles"?  Or did Galt make the whole thing up?!

In his Letters from the Levant (p113), Galt writes:-
     "The distant appearance of the Acropolis somewhat resembles that of Stirling Castle, but it is inferior in altitude and general effect."
Wonderful Scottish put-down!  Wha's like us?

Monday 6 February 2017

Muir of Newfoundland

Adjacent to the grave marker of the family of Richard and Ann (Burley or Burleigh) Muir in Greenock Cemetery, is that of Richard's brother Robert Muir and his family.  The gravestone sadly notes that it is "In memory of Robert Muir and Mary Livingston his spouse, who died within 14 days of each other."

Robert Muir (1784 - 1854) and his wife Mary Livingston (1786 - 1854) lived at Muir's Land in Lynedoch Street, Greenock.  A look at the map dated 1842 from the National Library of Scotland site shows Muirs's house to be on the south-west side of Lynedoch Street.  Like his brother, Robert ran a successful shoe and bootmaking business, this was continued by his son William.  

However it is the younger son, Robert Livingston Muir who travelled to Newfoundland.  Born in 1826, Robert seems to have forsaken the shoemaking business and became an apprentice to Cowan & Lawrie, drapers in Greenock.  He was lured overseas like many of his fellow Greenockians to St John's, Newfoundland.  Here he joined Edwin Duder (son of Thomas Duder and Ann Congdon) to form the company of Muir & Duder, merchants and ship owners in St John's.  He married Emily Duder in Greenock on 14 July 1847 and had several children born in Newfoundland.  Unfortunately Emily died aged just 29 in 1856 and is buried at St Marychurch, Torquay, Devon (Kingskerswell would appear to be where the Duder family originated).

The firm was successful and Muir made annual business visits to Greenock and Glasgow and obviously kept in touch with the large Muir family here in Greenock.  In June 1865, Robert Livingston Muir died, aged just 41, as the result of injuries received in a dreadful accident in Newfoundland.  According to his obituary in the Greenock Telegraph -

     "It appears that Mr Muir had been returning from business to his house in the country in a carriage  and while going down a steep hill the horse took fright and became unmanageable.  On nearing      an embankment he thought the animal was making to go over it, when he leapt from the machine.   In doing so he unfortunately broke his leg above the ankle.  He was carried into a house close by, and a friend of his - Mr Grieve, son of Provost Grieve of Greenock - driving up shortly after, got him laid in his machine on the top of a mattress and conveyed home, where medical assistance was called in; but owing to the serious nature of the injuries, he died after lingering for a few days."

A posthumus daughter, Roberta Livingston Muir (1866 - 1944) was born to Muir's second wife, Sarah Peele, daughter of George Peele of London.  They had married on 16 April 1860 at Southwark, London.  Sarah Muir (1834 - 1919) lived to the ripe old age of 85 and is buried at Monkton Combe, Bath.

The gravestones of Greenock Cemetery tell the stories of some remarkable and well travelled Greenockians.  Robert Livingston Muir's cousin was the noted  barrister Sir Richard Muir.  The Greenock born poet, Margaret Peace also lived in Newfoundland for a while.

The grave markers read -
In memory of Robert Muir and Mary Livingston his spouse who died within 1 day of each other the latter 19 March 1854 aged 70 years and the former 1st April 1854 aged 68 years.
Also their daughter Janet McLeod who died 15th June 1869 aged 59 years and Johnina daughter of the above Janet McLeod who died 26 December 1865 aged 17 years.
Robert Mackenzie son in law of the above Robert Muir who died 5th Nov 1879 and Elizabeth Muir or Mackenzie his wife born 16 Oct 1816 died 1st April 1895.

To the memory of Emma Duder the beloved wife of Robert L Muir of St John's Newfoundland who died 19 July 1856 at St Mary-Church near Torquay, Devon in the 29th year of her age.
Also their daughter Emma who died at St John's Newfoundland January 1856 aged 11 months.

Also the above Robert Livingston Muir who died at St John's Newfoundland 6th June 1865 aged 41 years also their son Edwin Duder died 7 July 1870 aged 22 years.

Sunday 5 February 2017

The Greenockian who prosecuted Crippen

The Greenockian's name was Richard David Muir and he commenced his cross-examination of Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen with the question -
"On the morning of February 1 you were left alone in your house with your wife?"

Dr Crippen
"Yes" replied Crippen in response.
"She was alive?"
"She was."
"Do you know of any person in the world who has seen her alive since?"

One can just imagine these intense moments as the murderer and prosecutor faced each other across the Central Criminal Court in October 1910.  It is reported that when Crippen heard that Richard Muir would be prosecuting he said, 
     "It is most unfortunate that he is against me.  I wish it had been anybody else but him.  I fear the worst."  

Crippen was accused of the murder of his wife, Cora (stage name Belle Elmore) and fled aboard SS Montrose with his mistress Ethel Le Neve dressed as a boy.  The couple were apprehended when the ship arrived in Canada and brought back to Britain.  Crippen, aged 48, was found guilty of the murder of his wife and was executed at Pentonville Prison on 23 November 1910.  Crippen's crime and the ensuing trial have gone down in history - there can't be many who do have not heard of Dr Crippen.  (You can read all the fascinating details of the case at the Old Bailey Online.) 
Perhaps not so much is known of his prosecutor, Richard Muir.

Sir Richard Muir (knighted in 1918) took part in many of the most sensational trials of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  He was in great demand for his cool, methodical approach to his work.  Possessed of a good memory, he was a logical thinker and thorough in his attention to facts and details, a trait he expected in others, especially police officers working on his cases.  As this excerpt from his notes in the Crippen case shows, he set everything out in a clear precise manner.  He kept his notes on small cards and used coloured pencils for different aspects of his cases.

A lot of information about Muir's legal cases can be found in the book - Sir Richard Muir - A Memoir of a Public Prosecutor written by Sidney Theodore Felstead and edited by Lady Muir.  (London, John Lane the Bodley Head Limited, 1927).  It is a fascinating read and readily available to purchase online.

Muir was born in Greenock on 8 March 1859 to Richard Muir, a master shoemaker in the town and his wife Ann Burley (or Burleigh) who had married in Greenock in July 1839.  His father ran a successful business and by 1851 was employing sixteen men.  At that time the family lived in Kelly Street.  Richard was the third son, and eighth child - more children were to follow.  Richard Muir senior's business flourished and he began to invest in shipping.  By 1861 the family had moved to Clyde Street or Low Gourock Road (Eldon Street before the Esplanade was constructed).  By the time of the 1881 census they were living at Oakbank on Union Street.

At this time Richard Muir was working as a commission clerk locally and was active in the Greenock Royal Rifle Volunteers, but he soon decided to join his elder brother Robert Burleigh Muir (a solicitor) in London.  Through extreme hard work he qualified as a lawyer and began his apprenticeship in the chambers of Sir Forest Fulton in Fountain Court.  He also began to learn shorthand at Pitman's school in Chancery Lane.  He soon earned a reputation as a first class verbatim reporter, specialising in parliamentary speeches.  He joined the reporting staff of The Times newspaper under William Leycester (1826 - 1893).  He ably juggled the two jobs and hardly surprisingly, seems to have had few outside interests.

He began to concentrate on legal work, taking over the Fountain Court chambers and began to make a name for himself as a thorough and dependable man.  He married Mary Beatrice Leycester (photo from National Portrait Gallery) in 1889 and they had two children, a son and a daughter.  His son, Burleigh Leycester Muir, also a barrister, was a Captain in the Army Service Corps during World War I and died on 4 November 1918 of influenza.  He left a widow, Vera Brodie MacQueen whom he had married in 1915 and a young son.  Muir's daughter, Mary Leycester Muir married Lieutenant Robert William Godfrey Kiesow of the Lancashire Fusiliers.

Sir Richard Muir died in 1924 and is buried at Norwood Cemetery in London.  However his name is included on the family headstone in Greenock Cemetery along with many of the other members of this large family.

The fraudster Whitaker Wright, the murderes Ronald True and Frederick Henry Seddon, German spies, the Hatton Garden Pearl Robbery and many, many other sensational trials made up the casebook of Sir Richard Muir - a truly remarkable man … from Greenock.