Thursday 1 July 2021

The Greenock Galts

John Galt is perhaps the most well-known of the inhabitants of Inverkip Street Cemetery.  He is buried alongside his family here.  The grave (now very overgrown and difficult to read) consists of three large flat stones.

The first stone marks the burial place of  John Galt (1750-1817) and his wife Jean Thomson (1746-1820).  John Galt (1779-1839), writer, explorer and founder of the city of Guelph in Canada is added on at the end - almost as an afterthought -

Here are deposited the remains of John Galt, formerly shipmaster, and afterwards merchant in Greenock.  He died 6th August 1817 in the 67th year of his age having uniformly enjoyed the esteem of all who knew him.  Also Jean Thomson his spouse who died 18th July 1826 in the 80th year of her age.  Also John Galt their son who died on the 11th April 1839 in his 60th year, author of The Annals of the Parish etc etc.

John Galt and Jean Thomson were married in Irvine in Ayrshire in 1776.  Their son John was born in 1779 at Irvine.  

The family moved to Greenock when John was 10 years old.  As a shipmaster, his father found it more convenient and probably more financially rewarding to sail from Greenock.  He was connected with trade to the West Indies .  John Galt (senior) built a house with a garden at the north west corner of Westburn Street and West Blackhall Street in Greenock.  There's a plaque on the wall where the house once stood.  At that time the area would have been much quieter, and not as built up as it was later to become.

John and Agnes Galt had three children - John, Agnes and Thomas.  John Galt described his parents - 

"My father was one of the best, as he was one of the handsomest men, but he was of an easy nature.  My mother was however a very singular person possessing a masculine strength of character with great natural humour ..."

I suppose his mother would have to have been a strong woman with her easy-going husband being away at sea for much of the time.  She had educated John at home when he was younger and they lived in Irvine.  He had many memories of those days which he wrote about in his autobiography.

John Galt was educated in Greenock and then went to work as a clerk in the Custom House.  He later moved to London where he had a variety of jobs and also had several of his novels published.  He married Elizabeth Tilloch (1781-1851) in 1813.  Elizabeth Tilloch was the daughter of Alexander Tilloch (1759-1825) a Scots born printer and writer whom Galt met in London.

Annals of the Parish, which is perhaps his best known work was published in 1821.  Well worth reading if you are interested in Scottish social history, it is mentioned on his grave stone.

He later became involved with the Canada Company set up to encourage the settlement of Crown Land there.  He travelled over much of Upper Canada and was the founder of the city of Guelph in 1827 along with a fellow Greenockian, Dr William (Tiger) Dunlop who was the son of Alexander Dunlop of Keppoch, whose family are also buried in Greenock's Inverkip Street Cemetery. 

After some time in Canada Galt returned to Greenock in ill health.  He lived with his wife and sister Agnes in the family home in Westburn Street.  He died there in 1839 and was buried with his parents in the Inverkip Street Cemetery.  His wife returned to Canada where their three sons lived.

The third gravestone marks the burying place of John Galt's sister Agnes Galt  (1781-1855).  

This stone is erected in affectionate remembrance by Agnes Galt, widow of Robert Andrew Macfie, late merchant in Greenock who died 28th October 1811 esteemed by those who knew him best.  Surviving all parents, brothers, husband and children, during a long pilgrimage throughout which upheld by Christian hope she bore with patience, much bodily suffering and sealously sought the kingdom of God on earth.  This old disciple finished her course in peace 30th April 1855 and was buried here.  Phil III, 20.21.

Agnes married Robert Andrew Macfie in Greenock in 1806.  Robert was a grocer and merchant in Greenock, son of Robert Macfie sugar refiner in Greenock and his wife Mary Andrew (he was one of 11 children) .  He died in 1811 and is buried here.  Agnes Galt Macfie died at 7 Brougham Street in Greenock in 1855.  She is buried here with her husband.  She had outlived all her family as the gravestone poignantly mentions.

The middle stone marks the burying place of the three children of Agnes and Robert Macfie.  Their son, Robert Andrew and daughters Mary and Jane Thomson died relatively young. 

Robert Andrew McFie, fell asleep in Jesus 28 October 1824 in the 17th year of his age and Mary, his sister 13th May 1826 having just copleted her 15th year.  Both died in faith with joyful hopes of a blessed immortality.  Also their sister Jane Thomson Macfie who departed this life with longing desire to be with Christ.  She died 5th September 1831 age 22 years.  The Saints in early life removed in sweeter accents sing and blessed the swiftness of the flight that bore them to their King.

That ends the story of the Galts of Greenock.  However John Galt's three sons  - John Galt (1814-1866), Thomas Galt (1815-1901) and Alexander Tilloch Galt (1817-1893) all played their part in the formation of Canada.  You can read an excellent article about them by the Guelph Historical Society here.  I'm sure their father would have been very proud of them.
I've uploaded a short presentation to YouTube about the Galt family graves in Inverkip Street Cemetery.  Check out my channel Greenockian for more short presentations.

1 comment:

  1. You did some nice research to find out about the Galt family, not sure I would have the patience


Your comments are very welcome.