Wednesday 29 March 2017

The Wreck of the Amazon

On 1 September 1908 the four-masted barque Amazon of Greenock was wrecked on Margam Sands near Port Talbot.  Owned by Robert Hill of Greenock, the Amazon was carrying a cargo of 3,000 tons of coal bound for Iquique in northern Chile.  Commanded by Captain A Garrick and manned by a crew of 28 men, she left Port Talbot on 31 August.

Due to increasingly bad weather Amazon put back into Swansea Bay.  Next  morning high winds snapped on of the ship's cables and she started to drift.  The Captain decided to try to make it back to Port Talbot, but the wind was increasingly strong (later described as hurricane force).  The crew tried to ready the ship's lifeboats but the wind was so strong that they were blown off and some of the crew injured and some were washed overboard.

The Amazon eventually beached on Margam Sands, and began to break up.  Some of the crew could be seen attached to the main mast and rigging, but no one could get near enough to help because of the atrocious weather.  A newspaper reported -

     "It was felt that as long as the mast remained there would be a chance of rescuing the crew, but suddenly a wild shriek of agony was heard as the mast was seen to topple over and, as far as could be judged, some twenty-five men were thrown into the surging surf."

The shore authorities had alerted the Coastguard and a tug sent out to try and help.  Rockets were fired to try and get a rope across, but those attempts failed.  The lifeboat could not get near enough but could see that all was lost, however, they managed to save two crewmen.  Six of the crew managed to swim ashore.  Local people bravely did their best to help the stricken men and give aid to those who survived.  Twenty men, including the Captain were lost.

Of the twenty who died, four were Greenockians -
     Alexander Crawford, sailmaker of 28 Tobago Street, Greenock
     Edward Hendry, seaman, 1 Bogle Street, Greenock
     William Lamont, carpenter, 37 Roxburgh Street, Greenock
     John McLean, steward, 68 Wellington Street, Greenock

The names of the others who died were - Captain Arthur Garrick of Penarth (just west of Cardiff), J Logan, Second Mate, Joseph Marien, Ship's cook, Sydney G. Evans, Ordinary seaman,
Charles E. Kie, Arthur M. Pillans, John Flynn, G. Wright, James Hendry, G. Baker , G. Kent, James Deacon and Patrick Morgan.  The Amazon carried five apprentices, all lost - James Robertson (Leith), Robert L Hendry (Edinburgh), Reginald B. Mayes, Alan F. Orr and Neil C. McLeod.  Those saved were - Halley, Adams, Evans, Nolan, Christensen, Wickenberg, Sullivan and Lockwood.  At the end of October 1908 a Board of Trade enquiry was held at the Town Hall, Swansea into the loss of the Amazon.

Some of the wreckage can still be seen on Margam Sands as you can see in this photograph by Gareth James.

© Copyright Gareth James and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Alexander Crawford, the ship's carpenter who died that day was my Great Grandfather.  He left a wife and six young children in Greenock.  My Granny was just two years old when her father died.  His loss is just one story from one shipwreck.  That fateful day in 1908 many other families lost their loved ones, which in a time of no automatic state help, meant untold financial hardship as well as the aching loss of beloved father, son, husband, brother.  While we are fascinated by stories of ships and wrecks, the human cost should never be forgotten.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Cathcart Street in the 1930s

A while ago I wrote a post about Cathcart Street in Greenock - at one time the main commercial street in the town.  Apart from some remaining buildings and the cobbled road, it is difficult to conjure up exactly what a wonderful street this was.  There are of course many old photographs, but I was absolutely delighted to come across some old film of the busy street from the 1930s.  You can view it here at the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive site - it really is a remarkable piece of local history.

Cathcart Street 2016
The film was taken looking along Cathcart Street.  You can just see the dock cranes on the right of the picture.  The footage also shows along the west part of the street towards Cathcart Square.  Much of the east end of Cathcart Street was destroyed in the Blitz of 1941.

Cathcart Street 2017
Filmed by Thomas Stuart Black, it also shows the interior of Thomas Black's sail loft in the town.  The original Thomas Black started business as a ship chandler and sail maker in Greenock round about 1861.  He had business premises at Dock Breast and  Brymner Street, not far from Cathcart Street.  The firm Blacks of Greenock is still going strong today.

Black's rented out tents and marquees for various local and national events back in the early 1900s. They received many government and war office contracts for various pieces of army equipment and tents.

Take a look at the film - even if it is just to see what Greenock looked like back in the 1930s.

Monday 27 March 2017

Scotts' Shipbuilders Memorial

This plain brick plinth is a simple reminder of Scotts' Shipbuilders in Greenock.

Just at the Cartsburn roundabout, next to the former dry dock is this small memorial plaque.  The roundel shows the Green Oak Tree of Scotts' flag and the wording around it reads -
Scotts' Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Limited

On top is an old map showing the extent of Scotts' shipbuilding yards in Greenock and the words -

Scotts' of Greenock
Established 1711
Site of Scotts' Shipbuilding & Engineering
Company Limited - Cartsburn Yard
HMS Challenger was the last ship
launched here - in 1984
Dry dock was built c1820

For those of us who remember the bustling, busy days of the Greenock shipyards, it is a poignant reminder of all that's gone.

Sunday 26 March 2017

Church for sale

This is the former Methodist Church in Ardgowan Street, Greenock, just off Nelson Street.  It is no longer used for worship, the small remaining congregation now meet in St John's Episcopal Church in Union Street, Greenock.  The building was for sale and is now under offer.

It is a solid little church with some lovely architectural details.  The building could accommodate a congregation of 500, it also had a large hall and meeting rooms.  The foundation stone for this church was laid in 1882 and the building work completed in 1883.  There had been a previous church building at this location but,
"Some time ago it was found necessary to take down the old Church, dry rot having got into every part of it, rendering it incapable of repair."

In February 1884 an appeal was made in the Greenock Telegraph by the Wesleyan Methodists of Greenock -
"… to aid them in clearing off the DEBT of their NEW CHURCH in ARDGOWAN STREET."
 To that end, a grand bazaar was held to raise funds. 

The estimated cost of this building was £2,200 and most of the money was raised, however the final cost exceeded the estimate and a further £750 had to be found by the congregation which,

"… is chiefly composed of the working classes, and they have contributed to the utmost of their ability to the cost of the erection.  In the circumstances they appeal for aid in the extinction of the remaining debt, and relying on the kind co-operation of friends of all denominations, they confidently anticipate a most successful result."

When I see churches up for sale, I often think about the hard-working members of congregations who put their hearts and souls into making sure that their churches were kept clean and warm.  Those who raised funds for repair work and overseas missions, and those who gave up their spare time to clean the church, provide flowers, make endless cups of tea for special meetings and occasions, complete running repairs, keep the boiler in working order.  All that without even mentioning the special occasions that have taken place there like baptisms and weddings.  I know that "church" is not about bricks and mortar, but it must break a few hearts to see a For Sale sign on a much loved and cared for building.

Like church buildings - then have a look for more at InSPIREd Sunday.

Saturday 25 March 2017

Greenock Poet's Plaque

As a Greenockian I am ashamed to admit that until today I had never heard of the Greenock born poet William Sydney Graham.  It wasn't until I had downloaded my photograph of this plaque that I did a bit of research to find out who he was.  The plaque is attached to the wall of 1 Hope Street in Greenock where Graham was born in November 1918.

According to most of the writings about him, he is was of the most underrated poets of the 20th century.  After studying engineering in Glasgow he had several jobs around the country.  In 1947 Graham travelled in the United States and later lived for a while in London.  However Madron, Cornwall was his home where he mixed with the St Ives artistic community.

He married Agnes Kilpatrick (Nessie) Dunsmuir (1909 - 1999) in 1954, the couple had known each other since 1938 when they met at Newbattle Abbey College, Nessie also wrote poetry.  His best known book "The Nightfishing" was published in 1955.  William Sydney Graham died in 1986.  More information about the poet can be found at the Scottish Poetry Library website.  You will also find some of his work there,  However, of the ones I've read, this really stood out for me, it moved me to tears.  It is called "To Alexander Graham" -

"Lying asleep walking
Last night I met my father
Who seemed pleased to see me.
He wanted to speak.  I saw
His mouth saying something
But the dream had no sound.

We were surrounded by
Laid-up paddle steamers
In The Old Quay in Greenock.
I smelt the tar and the ropes...."

You can read the remainder of the poem here.  Another of his poems "Loch Thom", in which he remembers outings from his childhood, is also worth a read.

Monday 20 March 2017

Port Glasgow station murals

I'm joining Monday Murals to show these fantastic murals of Port Glasgow's history which are brightening up Port Glasgow railway station.

There are fourteen panels, each celebrating an aspect of the history and people of the town.

Information boards give more details of what the murals represent.

They are bright, colourful and really cheer up Port Glasgow's station.

A information board states that -

     "Local children from St John's Primary School, members of the Port Glasgow Community       Council and members from the Old Men's Club worked with artists Karen Patton Orr and Jim Strachan from RIG Arts, an Inverclyde based, socially engaged arts, film and media charity, to research and develop its content, to capture the spirit of the town, past and present."

They've certainly done a fantastic job in capturing some of the highlights of Port Glasgow's history.

Sunday 19 March 2017

Struthers Memorial Church, Greenock

This lovely red sandstone church is the Struthers Memorial Church in West Stewart Street, Greenock.

It is named after Rev J P  Struthers who was minister here many years ago.

The modern building next to the Church is the New Dawn Bookshop and coffee shop - a great place for a coffee or light lunch.  Well worth a visit if you are in town.

In the background of this photograph is the spire of another Greenock church building - the former St George's North Church at George Square.

Joining with Inspired Sunday.

Saturday 18 March 2017

Ship Glenlee Reflections

Love the way the majestic masts and ropes of the tall ship Glenlee are reflected in the glass of the Riverside Museum in Glasgow.  It was a bit of a dreich day, but the reflections showed up well.

The Glenlee, a steel-hulled three masted barque, was built by Anderson Rodger at the Bay Yard in Port Glasgow in 1896.  After a useful life she was basically a wreck when she was brought back from Spain to Glasgow and restored by the Clyde Maritime Trust and volunteers.  The Glenlee is now berthed at the quay beside the Riverside Museum in Glasgow and visitors can go on board to see what life was like on a great sailing ship.

The Riverside Museum's architecture is quite amazing with a whole wall of smokey glass.  The architects were Zaha Hadid Associates.

Riverside Museum houses exhibits from Glasgow's old Transport Museum - lots of old cars, trains, trams etc.  It even has a replica of an old street - it is a fascinating place to visit and kids love it!

Joining with Weekend Reflections.

Thursday 16 March 2017

Mince Collop Close

It is an odd name isn't it - Mince Collop Close?

In "Views & Reminiscences of Old Greenock", Mince Collop Close is described as:-

     "a lane or cul-de-sac now removed.  It was situated immediately to the east of William Street,
      and ran southwards from Shaw Street.  It was a disreputable locality …".  

Certainly a look through some editions of the local paper of the time reports many arrests for assault, theft and drunkenness in the lane - a bit like Longwell Close to the east of it.  These narrow lanes and closes ran off the main street and were overcrowded and dirty .  At one time it was thought that the house in which Highland Mary died was located in this close, but later that was proved to be untrue - 31 Upper Charles Street, Greenock is the accepted place of her death.

William Auld, in his book "Greenock and its Early Social Environment" writes that Mince Collop Close was undoubtedly "the vilest" of all the "numerous pen closes running from the low streets"  He locates Mince Collop Close as opening from Dalrymple Street between William Street and Longwell Close.  If you look at one of the old Greenock maps on the National Library of Scotland website and locate Cathcart Square, you will be able to see all the little lanes and closes in the area.

So, what on earth was a mince collop?  A collop seems to have been some sort of meat chop which is beaten to make it tender for cooking, so a mince collop might be some sort of patty of chopped or minced meat, perhaps the precursor of the burger. Yes, Mince Collop King has a bit of a ring to it! Please let me know if there is another meaning.

The Greenock-born author, George Blake (1893 - 1961) wrote a book "Mince Collop Close" (1923) set in Glasgow - no guesses where he got the idea from.