Tuesday 29 June 2021

Greenock's first rock concert

Greenock's first rock concert took place in the Assembly Rooms (on the south side of Cathcart Street) in July 1849.  Perhaps Messrs Richardson & Sons is not the best name for a rock band, but their instruments were made from solid rock - as this article from the Greenock Advertiser explains,

 "manufactured by them after thirteen years incessant labour and application, from rocks hewn out of the mighty Skiddaw in Cumbria."

The local advertisement stated that -

"The pieces performed were those selected by command of Her Majesty for her soiree musicale at Buckingham Palace, and repeatedly called forth the applause of most respectable and enthusiastic audiences."

The band leader was Joseph Richardson (c1790-1855) who was actually a stonemason from Keswick in Cumbria.  Stonemasons often tap stones to test their qualities.  You can read about the musical stones here.  Richardson's three sons accompanied him in the Band.


Richardson's Rock Band were tremendously popular and travelled in Europe as well as Britian.  The instrument was known as a rock harmonica and was twelve feet in length - like a sort of rock xylophone.  They played pieces by Handel, Mozart and Haydn, Scottish and Irish Airs and popular dance music.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

The Dunlops of Greenock

In Inverkip Street Cemetery in Greenock is the gravestone of some members of the Dunlop family who were associated with Greenock.  The gravestone has a lengthy list of those buried there.  It also mentions some revered family elders, thus establishing the Dunlops reputation as one of Greenock’s “first families”.  


The legend on the stone reads -

The burial place of John Dunlop Esq late Tide Surveyor Greenock

At this spot lie the remains of his brother Major Hutchison Dunlop 53 Reg Foot Obit May 1790 Age 45

Mrs Janet Graham wife of his son Alexander Dunlop merchant in Greenock now of Keppoch.  Obit 7th June 1795 age 26

John Dunlop Tide Surveyor Greenock obit 1 Jan 1805 – age 75

Sarah Dunlop his sister - daughter of Alexander Dunlop Professor of Greek in Glasgow University

Son of Principal Dunlop and nephew of Principal Carstairs obit April 1805 age 87

Henry Liston Dunlop son of Alexander Dunlop first mentioned obit 10 May 1808 – age 7

Robina Liston Dunlop daughter of the same obit August 1815 – age 3

Mrs Jean Dunlop or Fisher spouse of John Dunlop above mentioned and daughter of Mr Fisher minister of Maybole obit March 1817 - age 79

An infant son of John Dunlop writer in Greenock son of Alexander Dunlop first mentioned obit 1819

Thomas Dunlop son of John Dunlop last mentioned obit June 1826 – age 1

An infant daughter of John Dunlop last mentioned obit 1829

Margaret Jean Dunlop daughter of John Dunlop last mentioned obit 6 September 1835 – age 16

Mary Janet Dunlop daughter of John Dunlop last mentioned ob 23 Feb 1834 – age 7

(The mural can be found on the north wall adjoining John Galt House of Inverkip Street Cemetery.)

Principal William Dunlop

So, who were these Dunlops and what was their connection with Greenock?  Originally from Ayrshire, the family’s connection with Greenock goes way back to the days of the Covenanters – a  presbyterian religious group persecuted in Scotland in the 17th century because they did not agree with the religious practices being forced on the people of Scotland at the time.  (This is my very simplistic view of “The Killing Times” as it was called.)  For more information the BBC has some interesting information.  The Dunlops were involved in the Covenanting movement – William Dunlop left in a ship called the Carolina Merchant which left from here in 1684 taking 35 prisoners accused of being Covenanters to America as indentured servants to work in the British colony in South Carolina.  You can read my blog post about the event here

WilliamDunlop returned to Scotland and eventually became Principal of Glasgow University.  He was married to Susan Carstairs (died 1733), the sister of William Carstairs.  William Carstairs was also a Covenanter who had been imprisoned and tortured for his beliefs.  Carstairs moved to Holland where he became Court Chaplain to William Prince of Orange and on their return to Scotland he became Principal of Edinburgh University.  That is why they are named on the stone as "Principal Dunlop" and "Principal Carstairs".

Alexander Dunlop (died 1747), Professor of Greek at Glasgow University was the son of  Principal William Dunlop.  He married (second wife) Abigail Mure (died 1762) and their son - John Dunlop (1730-1805) is the first name on the grave marker.  He was Tide Surveyor in Greenock.  Tide Surveyor was an important customs position, especially in a busy port like Greenock.  The Tide Surveyor kept an eye on ships arriving and what was being landed – making sure that customs duties were being paid.  He worked from the West Quay in Greenock.

He lived in Greenock and married Jean Fisher in 1763 in Ayrshire.  Jean Fisher (died 1817) was  the daughter of the Reverend Robert Fisher, minister of Maboyle Church in Ayrshire.  Jean is also buried here in Greenock.  The Tide Surveyor and his family seem to have lived somewhere in the Dellingburn area of Greenock (situated on the main road from Greenock to Crawford’s Dyke).  John was said to have been a very convivial, good humoured man.

Alexander Dunlop of Keppoch (1766-1840), mentioned on the stone is the son of John Dunlop and Jean Fisher.  He was a merchant and banker in Greenock and was involved in the Renfrewshire Bank, set up in Greenock in 1802 by Dunlop and several other merchants.  (You can read my blog post about this by clicking on the link.)  He was also a Senior Magistrate in the town and Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce.  A member of the local Volunteers, Alexander Dunlop was in charge of the Greenock men who were sent to help quell the Riot of 1820.

Alexander's first wife was Janet Graham (also buried here).  She was the daughter of Robert Graham and Mary Hill (of Gairbraid, Glasgow).  On her death in Greenock in 1795 she was buried here at the Inverkip Street Cemetery.  In 1796  Alexander married Margaret Colquhoun (died 1818) (Edinbarnet, Dumbartonshire).  Alexander Dunlop bought the estate of Keppoch (near Cardross in Dumbartonshire where he built Keppoch House).  He died in 1840.  His estate of Keppoch was sold off to pay some of the debts of the Renfrewshire Bank which failed 1842.

Bank House - premises of the Renfrewshire Bank, Greenock

Major Hutchison Dunlop (mentioned on the stone) was the brother of John Dunlop (Tide Surveyor).  He joined the Army at an early age, going on to become Major and fought in America during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) at Ticonderoga.  He was unmarried and retired to Greenock to live with his brother John.  He died in Greenock in 1790.

Some of the other names on the stone are members of the family who died young and were buried here.  The next generation of Dunlops would also be greatly involved in the fascinating history of Greenock.

Check out my YouTube Channel - Greenockian - to see a short presentation on the Dunlop Family of Greenock.

Sunday 13 June 2021

Former Martyrs Free Church, Greenock

This lovely little building is the former Martyrs Free Church in West Shaw Street in Greenock.  It is no longer used as a church and for a few years was a storehouse.  It has recently had some renovation work done to it, but I don't know yet what is to become of the building.  Originally the building belonged to the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland.

There had been a Reformed Presbyterian congregation in Greenock since the 1820s worshipping in their church at West Stewart Street .  Their minister was Reverend Andrew Gilmour (1795-1859).    Andrew Gilmour died in June 1859 after faithfully serving his congregation for 26 years.  But then there would appear to have been some problems within the church.

In 1860 a group of about 200 members of the congregation broke away from the West Stewart Street church with the intention of forming a separate congregation.  The Rev McLachlan of the Port Glasgow Reformed Presbyterian church formed a Session to run the new congregation.  They began to look for a site for a new church and in the meantime met for worship in the Mission House of the Sir Michael Street United Presbyterian Church.  The breakaway congregation were given permission to call a minister.

Land at the corner of West Shaw Street and Nicholson Street was acquired and in 1861 a start was made on building their new church to plans drawn up by local builder Alexander Jamieson.  Mr Jamieson also happened to be a member of the church Session and proposed that the Rev David Taylor of Ayr be called as minister.  This was agreed and David Taylor was duly appointed as minister.

The new building was opened in December of 1861 with accommodation for 526 worshippers.  The stone for the building came from quarries at Inverkip.  In 1869 David Taylor moved to West Campbell Street Reformed Presbyterian Church in Glasgow.  The Reverend Andrew Symington (1837-1920) became the new minister at West Shaw Street Reformed Presbyterian Church. 

In 1876 the Reformed Presbyterian and Free churches united to become the United Free Church.  The congregation agreed that their church should be renamed Martyrs Free Church.  Andrew Symington remained the minister there until he retired in 1909.  Throughout this time the church had a very active Musical Association.

In 1900 the Free Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church united.  The West Shaw Street Church was renamed Martyrs United Free.  In 1924 the congregation of Martyrs United Free Church and North Free Church (Westburn Square) in Greenock united and became Martyrs and North Church, using the building in Westburn Square.

This is the memorial plaque from Martyrs Church naming those associated with the congregation who gave their lives during World War I.  It is now to be found in Westburn Parish Church, Nelson Street, Greenock.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland was also known as the Cameronians in honour of Richard Cameron a Covenanter who died for the cause in 1680.  That is perhaps the reason why many of their churches bore the name Martyrs.

Joining with InSPIREd Sunday.  Click the link to read about churches from all over the world.

Friday 11 June 2021

Colquhoun, Lawmont and Leitch

These three grave markers stand together in the Duncan Street Cemetery in Greenock.  Two of them relate people I have already written about in this blog (more below).   The middle mural marks the burial place of John Colquhoun (1774-1817), surgeon in Greenock and his wife Susan Campbell (1776-1836).

The wording on the stone reads -

Here are deposited the remains of John Colquhoun late Physician in Greenock who died the 11 of March 1817 in his 43rd year.  Also the remains of Susan Campbell his Spouse who died 2nd November 1836 aged 60.

Dr John Colquhoun (1774-1817) was the son of another Greenock physician, David Colquhoun (died 1807) and his wife Cathcart Anderson (1741-1795).  There is some interesting correspondence from Dr Colquhoun senior to Dr Cullen regarding a patient of his - a Mr Campbell.  From the symptoms he describes, I hope that he was not referring to his son's father in law!  

John Colquhoun and Susan Campbell were married in Greenock in 1803.  Susan was the daughter of Alexander Campbell of Ballochyle (near Dunoon) and his wife Mary.  The couple did not have any children.  John Colquhoun is elsewhere referred to as "of Torr" which could refer to an area around Rhu in Dumbartonshire an area associated with the name Colquhoun.

John's sister, Ann Colquhoun who died in 1816 is commemorated on the mural to the left of her brothers.  Susan's sister Mary Campbell who died in 1840 is also remembered here.  However it is the middle name on the mural which I find most interesting - that of John Lawmont, surgeon who died in 1821.  Lawmont practiced in Greenock for a few years after leaving the Royal Navy and being imprisoned in France.  His is a fascinating story and you can read about it in my previous blog post - Surgeon in the Dungeon.

The wording on the stone reads -

Interred here James Leitch Esq Merchant, Died 7th December 1845 aged 66 years.  Also interred here Helen Colquhoun relict of the said James Leitch Esq who died 21st March 1855 Aged 71 years.

The third mural refers to John Colquhoun's sister Helen and her husband James Leitch a wine merchant in Greenock.  James and Helen lived in a "substantial and commodious" house which lay between Fox Street and Margaret Street (see 1842 map NLS) and between Union Street and Brougham Street.  The house was put up for sale shortly after her death.  In her death notice in the local paper, Helen is described as Mrs James Leitch of Torr.

James Leitch was the brother and business partner of Quintin Leitch.  I have previously written about him -  Quintin Leitch Merchant of Greenock.  The Leitch family (there were two other brothers) were well known merchants and town officials in Greenock.