Wednesday 22 July 2020

John Wesley preached here!

John Wesley preached both in Port Glasgow and Greenock.
John Wesley (1703-1791) is well known for his evangelistic revival within the Church of England which was called Methodism.  What is perhaps less well known is that he preached several times in Greenock and Port Glasgow.  Wesley undertook several tours of Scotland preaching in most of the major towns.

His first visit to Port Glasgow was on Tuesday 21 April1772.  After preaching in Greenock in the morning he arrived in Port Glasgow which he described as "a large town, two miles east of Greenock.  Many gay people were there, careless enough, but the greater part seemed to hear with understanding."

Port Glasgow's former town hall and Lodge (before renovations started)
He returned to Greenock to preach in the evening and was again in Port Glasgow the next morning when he preached at the Masons' Lodge.  He wrote in his journal "The house was crowded greatly; and I suppose all the gentry of the town were a part of the congregation.  Resolving not to shoot over their heads, as I had done the day before, I spoke strongly of death and judgment, heaven and hell.  And there was no more laughing among them or talking with each other, but all were quietly and deeply attentive."

Showing the garden behind the buildings.
Wesley also visited the town in May 1774 when he preached (both in the morning and the afternoon) in the parish church .  Again his subject was death and judgement In the evening he preached at Greenock where the meeting attracted a large audience.

Former Town Hall and Lodge buildings being renovated.
The New Parish Church (formerly St Andrew's) building dates from 1823 but there was a previous building on the site - a cruciform shaped church.  
The Masons' Lodge is still standing ... just!  It is being renovated and is in a sorry state at the moment.  It was built in 1758 as Lodge Cumberland Kilwinning 217.  
The former Town Hall next door was built a few years later.  The Lodge continued until quite recently while the rest of the building latterly known as the George VI Club was used by the Old Peoples' Welfare Council.

Hopefully the buildings, the oldest in Port Glasgow after Newark Castle, will be properly restored.

Thursday 16 July 2020

Inverclyde History and Heritage

Good news!  According to their Facebook Page, the McLean Museum and Art Gallery are now open, although with limited opening hours.  Check out Inverclyde Council's website for more details.

Headstone, Port Glasgow Cemetery
If you are interested in Inverclyde's history and heritage, there are a couple of great websites that will give you more information.

Tontine Hotel, Union Street, Greenock
Cottage Identity Inverclyde has a great website full of interesting information about the local area.  There are lots of stories and photographs on the site - well worth a visit.

Inverclyde's Heritage is another great site with an amazing amount of information about local places and people.  They take their name from Barr's Cottage in Greenock.  They met at the Library there.

Sculpture, Municipal Buildings, Greenock
Let's not forget Inverclyde Council's website.  Here you can download lots of local history publications and find links to other sites.

There is some really interesting information about former hospitals in Inverclyde on the Historic Hospitals website.  There's information from other parts of Britain too.

Hope you find these links useful.

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Frederick Douglass in Greenock

In 1846 the former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass came to Greenock.  He gave a talk at the Blackhall Street Chapel (now Pyper’s Furniture Store, Gray Place, Greenock). 

Frederick (Bailey) Douglass was born into slavery on the Aaron Anthony Plantation, Maryland in 1818.  A later owner was a Captain Thomas Auld of Baltimore.  In 1834 he was sold to a farmer in Talbot County, Maryland known as a “slave-breaker”.  In 1838 Douglass escaped to New York City.  That same year he married Anna Murray and they lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  The couple had five children. 

Still classed as a “fugitive slave” Douglass toured Britain and Ireland in 1845-46 talking about his experiences of slavery and espousing abolition.  He was accompanied by James Needham Buffum (1807-1887), American abolitionist and George Thomson (1804-1878), British anti-slavery activist.  Douglass seems to have been a great orator and won many supporters in Britain.

Send Back the Money!
Another aspect of Douglass’ speeches in Scotland was to encourage the newly formed Free Kirk to return money it had received from churches in the American south.

In Scotland 1843 was the year of the “Disruption” in the Church of Scotland.  Many ministers and members of the Church were demanding that congregations be allowed to choose their own minister.  In many parishes it was the local landowner who had the power to choose the minister, often against the wishes of the local people (patronage).  Led by Dr Thomas Chalmers, many protestors walked out of that year’s General Assembly in Edinburgh.  They set up their own church – the Free Church of Scotland.  However, the new church needed money to support its activities and so a SustenationFund was set up to receive donations – mostly from its new congregations.
As a fundraising exercise, representatives from the new Free Church were sent to America to raise money.  Donations of about £3000 were raised from churches – some from congregations in the South which included slave owners.  Send back the money” became a popular campaign to encourage the Church to send this money back because of its associations with slavery.  The money was never returned.

In 1847 money was raised by his British supporters led by AnnaRichardson (Quaker and abolitionist) to buy Douglass’ freedom from slavery.  He returned to the United States.  He became editor of the “North Star” newspaper and gained a reputation as an abolitionist and supporter of emancipation.  He later edited his own "Frederick Douglass' Paper".
In 1858/59 John Brown tried to involve Douglass in his planned raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.  Douglass declined to take part but was implicated nonetheless.  He set sail for Britain on a speaking tour.

Douglass returned to Scotland and spoke again in Greenock in January 1860 (just before the American Civil War).  He had been invited to Greenock by the Young Men’s Christian Union.
 A report in the Greenock Telegraph stated –
         “Last night, Mr Frederick Douglass, the celebrated champion of the rights of his enslaved        brethren, delivered a most eloquent lecture, in the New Town Hall, on the various aspects of American slavery, showing its intensely criminal nature, and its blighting and degrading influence, not over the slave alone, but over the political and religious systems of the Americans themselves.  The hall was well filled, and ex-Baillie Grey occupied the chair.

Douglass again returned to America where he had meetings with Abraham Lincoln.  
His wife, Anna died in 1882.  In 1884 he married Helen Pitts, an American suffragist (1838-1903).  Frederick Douglass died in 1895.

Monday 6 July 2020

Virtual Inverclyde

Come and visit some of Inverclyde's great places - virtually!  It doesn't matter whether you live nearby or on the other side of the world, you can still get a glimpse of what Inverclyde has to offer both tourists and locals alike.  They might be closed at the moment, but put them on your list for future visits.

Let's start with the fabulous Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Museum situated in part of Greenock's Municipal Buildings on Dalrymple Street.  A 4 Star Visit Scotland attraction is a great place to visit and talk to the wonderful volunteers who are always pleased to answer any questions.  Online, there's a short introductory talk by Graeme Kirkwood as well as a gallery showing photographs of many of the Museum's exhibits.  There are vintage fire appliances, lots of old photographs and a wonderful display of Fire Marks to view.  Please check their website to find out when they will reopen.

Didn't have a chance to visit the newly refurbished Watt Institution on Union Street and Kelly Street in Greenock before lockdown?  Don't worry!  There's a fabulous article in Architects' Journal (June 2020) - which shows lots of photographs of the building which is now an amazingly bright and up to date space.  Most of the original features of the buildings (formerly the Watt Library and McLean Museum and Art Gallery) have been incorporated into this truly amazing space.  Follow the Watt Institution on Facebook where you can also see photographs from the article as well as lots of interesting articles, photographs and links which will be of interest not just to locals, but to anyone interested in the history and culture of the west of Scotland.
Please check the Inverclyde Council website to find out when the Watt Institution will reopen. 

See Inverclyde as you've probably never seen it before in the fabulous Tour of Inverclyde, Scotland by Drone on YouTube.  Posted by Jim Phanco, Greenock Drone Guy, it shows aerial footage of Inverclyde in all its beauty.  There are some fantastic views of all part of Inverclyde in this lovely film.

Source - Inverclyde Heritage Hub
If you remember Greenock in the 1960s and 70s then you will enjoy Inverclyde TV's great film called A Walk Through Time which blends together Eugene Mehat's photographs of Greenock in the 1960s with present day images.  It was made by Chris Bradley of West College Scotland.  There are other local heritage stories which can be viewed on the same page.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed some of these virtual jaunts around Inverclyde and I sincerely hope that it won't be too long until we can all go and visit our favourite places whenever we choose.

If you have any questions about Inverclyde then please get in touch - thegreenockian(at)