Wednesday 26 May 2021

New Greenock Historic Quarter signs

Greenock's Historic Quarter has been singled out with some new signs.  

Custom House Quay and the surrounding area are now clearly marked withe the new, clear signs emblazoned with the place name and a small portrait of local hero James Watt.

They have also been erected in the area surrounding Cathcart Street.

A very nice and clear addition to mark some of Greenock's most historic streets and buildings.

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Lyle Fountain Removed

Cathcart Square in Greenock looks very different at the moment because of all the restoration work that is going on.  Perhaps most noticable is that the Lyle Fountain has been removed.

An iconic feature of Greenock's historic centre, it is undergoing specialist restoration by Lost Art.  Click on link here to check out their website for a fabulous portfolio of restored public fountains, bandstands, and other historic and architecturally interesting features.

You can read an article by Inverclyde Council about the fountain's removal here.

Here are a couple of photographs of what the fountain looked like before its removal.  I look forward to seeing it in all its glory once restoration has taken place.

Saturday 22 May 2021

The unfortunate death of Captain Pust

In July 1851 the Prussian ship "Die Parnitz" from Stettin (Parnitz is a river in (Stettin) Szczecin, now Poland) was sailing to Greenock with a cargo of timber from the Baltic.  The timber was required for the shipyards that lined the Clyde at Greenock and Port Glasgow.  Her young captain was Charles Ludwig Pust, just 28 years of age.  As the ship neared Greenock Captain Pust decided he would like to shoot some birds so went down to his cabin to fetch his gun.  The newspapers of the day described the awful details of what happened next -

"He was dragging the cocked and loaded piece up the companion ladder, when one of the steps touched the trigger and the gun exploded, lodged its contants in his left arm, and shattered it in a dreadful manner."

There was no medical aid on board but as soon as the ship reached port, two local doctors - Dr Auld and Dr Mackie rushed on board to offer assistance.  Unfortunately the poor captain died from his injuries.  He was brought ashore and buried in the Inverkip Street Cemetery here in Greenock.  

Newspapers reported that his coffin was followed by his officers and crew as well as a number of local gentlemen.  Ships in the harbour flew their flags at half mast. 

Captain Pust's gravestone, with the details written in German, still stands in Inverkip Street Cemetery.  It has a short inscription in English on the reverse side.  Captain Pust left a wife and young family to mourn his death so far from home.

Tuesday 18 May 2021

Archibald Stewart, Planter, Tobago

On 16 January 1779 an American privateer, the Governor Trumbull entered Man-o-War Bay, Tobago in the West Indies, and set up guns on the shore to protect their ship while they raided the island.  A local planter and some of his men attacked them on the beach and killed three of the privateers.  The locals were outnumbered so they went to get help from other plantation owners and the local militia.  They managed to repel the Americans, but in the gunfight, one of the planters, Archibald Stewart received a head wound from which he later died.  The Americans fled back to their ship which was captured and taken as a prize by the British Navy shortly afterwards. 

The islanders were so relieved that their property had been saved from the privateers that they raised a subscription for a memorial to Archibald Stewart.  It was designed by Scottish architect Robert Adam - “a pedestal with an inscription panel, surmounted by a death scene relief and military trophies”.  It was never actually built or set up in Tobago as the island was taken over by the French in 1781.

Archibald Stewart (1741-1779) was the youngest son of Sir Michael Stewart of Ardgowan (3rd Baronet) and his wife Helen Houston.  Described as “volatile” he had been sent off to Rotterdam to become part of the British mercantile community there.  It was there that he was visited by fellow Scot James Boswell (1740-1795) who was in Holland as part of his legal education.  They seem to have become friends.  Boswell wrote – “I went to Rotterdam, where I met with Mr Archibald Stewart … who is settled a merchant there.  I was not much acquainted with him.  But he insisted that I should stay in his house, where I met with every civility.  Novelties entertained me for a day or two, and then I went to Leyden and passed some days".

In 1770 Archibald Stewart bought land in Tobago (possibly with financial help from his father), including a plantation, Roxborough (Roxburgh).  It was there he met fellow Scot, John Paul Jones (1747-1792) who was born in Kirkcudbright.  Jones traded with Tobago and formed a partnership with Stewart.  Jones’ ship the Betsy arrived in Tobago in 1773 and it was there that Jones got into an argument with his crew (not for the first time) over wages.  During the argument one crewman was killed, Jones was sure he would be accused of murder.  He immediately fled from the island, taking a ship to Virginia where his brother had lived.  There he joined the Continental Navy.  Later he would find himself fighting against Britian during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783).

The main exports from Tobago were cotton, indigo, rum and sugar, all produced on plantations worked by slaves.  During the war with America, British trade with the West Indies was disrupted and American privateers harried British shipping.  Merchants and planters on the islands formed local militia groups to protect their property.  Archibald Stewart was an Honorary Captain in the Militia of Tobago at the time of his death.

The French took over the Island in 1781 and trade declined.  But in 1814 the British were once again in control of Tobago and sugar became important to its economy.  (As it also was to the industrial economy of Greenock.)  Archibald Stewart’s property on Tobago was left to his family in Britain.  Roxburgh Street and Tobago Street in Greenock are named after the Stewarts’ (later the Shaw Stewarts) involvement in the West Indies.

Sunday 16 May 2021

West Blackhall Street Chapel, Greenock

Now almost 200 years old, this B Listed building has been known by many names and is currently a furniture warehouse (H G Pyper).  It was called the West Blackhall Street Chapel when it was built as a chapel of ease for the North Parish of Greenock in 1823.  Designed by architect James Dempster, it was described by Daniel Weir in "History of the Town of Greenock" as standing "upon a fine open space near the shore and has a very substantial, imposing appearance."

It is a beautiful building with rounded ground floor windows and Ionic columns framing the first floor centre window and  supporting a central pediment.

Much of the area around the Church on West Blackhall Street and Gray Place in Greenock has been built upon, but it still has its own little piece of ground in front - now used as a car park.  It was built due to a lack of church accomodation elsewhere in the town at the time.  

The first minister was Reverend Nathaniel Morren (1798-1847) and was nicknamed "Morren's Kirk".  He seems to have been a popular minister locally, regularly visiting his parishoners.  He was also a keen theologian, writing several books on church history and faith.  He remained within the established Church of Scotland after the Disruption and was moved to Brechin.  Numbers attending the West Blackhall Street Chapel thereafter dropped and eventually the building ceased to be a place of worship and used for lectures, concerts and meetings including this rather risque talk on Bloomerism in 1851.

In 1855 the building was once again put up for sale.

It was acquired, for about £1,500 by the Free Church (those Church of Scotland members who had left after the Disruption).  It was refurbished and opened as St Thomas' Free Church in November 1857.  The first minister was Rev Dr William Laughton (1812-1897).  (The first St Thomas' Church had been situated at the north end of Harvey Lane at Dalrymple Street.  This building later became the Free North Church).

It's elegant gate piers are described as of "Greek Thomson pattern". (Scottish architect Alexander Thomson.)

In 1907 St Thomas' merged with the Middle United Free Church (George Square).  Many members of St Thomas' were against this union, but their building was required for the Gaelic United Free congregation who's previous premises were Jamaica Street.  Later, after further church amalgamations, the building became St Columba's Gaelic Church.

In 1857 when the Free Church took over the building, a schoolhouse was built at the north corner of the property.  This is now a lovely little cafe - Cafe Mor.  Well worth a visit if you are in the area.  The main church building is now a furniture warehouse - H G Pyper.

Linking up with InSPIREd Sunday.  Click the link and see some other churches from around the world.

Thursday 6 May 2021

Greenock Cemetery Gates

These gates mark the South Street entrance to Greenock Cemetery.  They are B Listed and were designed by architect Charles Wilson of Glasgow and made by McCulloch & Co, Ironfounders, Glasgow. 

The Cemetery was opened in 1846 and was laid out to a plan by Stewart Murray who was the curator of Glasgow's Botanic Gardens.

You can read more about Greenock Cemetery and some of those buried there by downloading this booklet from the Inverclyde Council website here.

Inverclyde Heritage Network - new website

Anyone interested in the history and heritage of Inverclyde should check out Inverclyde Heritage Network's new website (click on link).

Detail from Port Glasgow mural

It contains lots of information about Greenock, Port Glasgow, Gourock and surrounding villages.  There are some great photographs of the area then and now.

This is a great site and a wonderful resource for anyone interested in Inverclyde's heritage.

Sunday 2 May 2021

The Greenock duel

In February of 1751 a duel took place in Greenock.  It created quite a stir locally and beyond as it resulted in the death of one of the protagonists.

According to newspaper accounts, the duel took place between Lieutenant Legge of Colonel Rich's Regiment and John Russell, Overseer of Works of the Office of Ordnance of North Britain.  In another report of the affair, Russell is described as Engineer in the Train of Artillery.  Russell was
killed and Legge handed himself in the the local magistrates, only to abscond thereafter.

I was intrigued by these events and surprised to discover a letter published in the local paper dated March 1881 from Henry Erskine, a local merchant giving more details of the affair.  Erskine claimed that Russell had been a relative of his father and he had heard a little more of the story.

From Erskine's account it appears that John Russell was a Captain in the Royal Artillery and was on sick leave at his parents' home in Port Glasgow.  All naval and military officers locally were invited to a grand Assembly (a dance) to be held in the Star Hall in Broad Close.  

Of course, seeking distraction, he attended and asked a young lady to dance.  At this point he was "accosted in a rude and boisterous manner" by a naval officer who told him that the lady was engaged to dance with him.  Russell said that they should leave it to the young lady to decide who she wanted to dance with - she choose Russell.  At the end of the dance, Russell received a note from Legge challenging him to a duel.  However in his account, Erskine states that it was a Captain Burke who was the challenger and that Lieutenant Legge was his second.

The duel took place in the "Rue End wood" -  slightly west of  Virginia Street (north of  Rue End Street).  (Find it on a map here leading off from the East Harbour .)  According to newspaper reports Lieutenant Legge handed himself in to the local authorities, but later made his escape.  Obviously being in a port with ships leaving for all parts of the world that would have been quite an easy thing to do.  Nothing more was heard of him.  Captain Russell's body was transported to the home of his parents in Port Glasgow.  

I just wonder about the young woman at the centre of this unfortunate affair.  She could never have known that her choice of dance partner would lead to his untimely death.