Monday 30 May 2022

The first minister to preach in Greenock's West Kirk

The church now known as Westburn Parish Church in Nelson Street, Greenock was opened for public worship in 1841.  The first man to preach there was Patrick Macfarlan (1781-1849).  

Dr Patrick Macfarlan

He was the son of John Warden (family name later changed to Macfarlan due to a marriage) and Helen McDowal .  His father was minister of the Cannongate Kirk in Edinburgh and one of the founders of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1783).  Patrick studied at the University of Edinburgh and was licenced by the Presbytery of Edinburgh in 1803.  His first charge was at Kippen and he later served at Polmont, St John’s Parish Glasgow and St Enoch’s Parish in Glasgow.  He was presented to what is now the Old West Kirk by Sir Michael Shaw Stewart in 1832.  In 1834 he was Moderator of the General Assembly.

At that time the Old West Kirk church building, at the north end of Nicolson Street down by the river, was in a very bad state of repair, and was not large enough to accommodate those who wished to worship there.  It was condemned by the Presbytery in 1837 and, at the urging of Patrick Macfarlan, it was agreed to build a new church in Nelson Street to be known as the West Kirk (now Westburn Parish Church).

On its completion in 1841 Patrick Macfarlan and his congregation locked the door of their old church and moved to the new premises in Nelson Street.

At this time, there was discontent within the Church of Scotland about the subject of patronage.  Many thought that congregations should be permitted to chose their own minister rather than have the local landowner decide who that would be (in many cases their own relatives).  Dr Patrick Macfarlan was one of those who agreed that congregations should be free to chose.  He wrote many pamphlets on this subject and other church matters.  He also wrote the article on Greenock in the New Statistical Account of Scotland.

Like the church, the old manse near the church down by the river, had not fared well over the years.  When Patrick Macfarlan came to Greenock he and his family first lived at Ardgowan Square at what is now the Tontine Hotel.  Later they moved to the beautiful Greenbank House in Kelly Street.  Forsyth Street was his next home then finally he moved to a house on the south west corner of West Stewart Street and Jamaica Street.

Greenbank House, @The Watt Institution

Dr Patrick Macfarlan, joined the Free Church in 1843 and “walked out” at the Disruption, taking many of his elders and congregation with him to start the Free West Church.  At the time, the West Kirk in Greenock was described as “the richest living in the Church of Scotland” and many admired him for leaving a beautiful, wealthy church to face the uncertainty of what life in the “Free Church” might offer.  But, like many ministers of his day, his faith and scruples overcame thoughts of an easy life.  It was not an simple decision either for elders and members of the congregation. 

Former Methodist Church, Ardgowan Street, Greenock

Having moved from the West Kirk, his new Free Church congregation needed a place of worship.  Land was bought and the foundation stone of their new church which was to be built in Ardgowan Street (where the former Methodist Church now stands) was laid later that year in August 1843.  The church was opened for worship in 1844.  In 1845 Dr Patrick Macfarlan was chosen as Moderator of the Free Church General Assembly.

In the following years his health declined and he himself paid for an assistant and missionary for the area.  In 1849 he caught a bad cold as a result of attending the funeral of an old gentleman, a member of his church before the Disruption.  He died shortly afterwards.

Patrick Macfarlan was the first to sign the Deed of Demission

Family  In 1808 Patrick Macfarlan married Catherine Clason (1784-1815), the daughter of Robert Clason, minister of Logie, Dunblane.  Children – Ann (1810-1831), Helen (1811-?)  Catherine (1813-1866) married Alexander Melville, minister of Falkirk in 1836.  He had previously been her father’s assistant in Greenock.  Their son, Andrew was born in 1839.  Alexander Melville died in 1839.  Catherine died in Paris (Rue de Balzac) in 1866.  John (1815-1891) – became minister of Middle Free Church, Greenock.  

Dr Macfarlane was described thus – “His head and face would have attracted observation in any assembly – suggesting the idea of culture and refinement, of mental acuteness and moral elevation.  His voice was clear and ringing rather than strong.  His speaking, both from the pulpit and in debate, was characterised above everything by clearness and precision.”

He became known as a "father of the Free Church".  His enthusiasm and dedication to his faith earned him a following not just in Greenock, but all over Scotland.  If you would like to know more about the history of Westburn Parish Church, then click here.

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Prospect and Trust at Greenock Waterfront

This beautiful sculpture can be found at the Waterfront in Greenock, just beside the West College Scotland campus.

The two rusting metal sheets make the bow of a ship.  The rest of the ship is set out with these worn wooden beams.

It is a very striking sculpture.

There are other new art installations at the Waterfront area between the Beacon Arts Centre and the Waterfront Leisure Complex.  Click on link to find out more.

Mechanical Animals

Ebb & Flow


Tuesday 24 May 2022

Mysteries at the McLean Museum - What is it?

Here's another Mystery from the McLean Museum in Greenock.  (Part of the Watt Institution, Kelly Street).  Dumped in a case beside Houdin's Clock is this object.  Looks wooden and very decorative, but what on earth is it?  The Museum have not provided a card to say exactly what it is (or anything else in the display).  If you don't know what you are looking at, searching the online Museum catalogue becomes very difficult!

However, as I was looking for information online about another object in the display case, I accidentally came across the information I was looking for.  Does the strange object look a bit familiar now?

It is actually a ceremonial carved wooden mallet presented to Provost Dougald Campbell when he laid the foundation stone of the Municipal Buildings On 6 August 1881.  That took a lot of searching!

This other strange item - had no idea what it was till I got home and was able to enlarge my photographs to read the inscription on it.  (Psychic powers seriously lacking on last week's visit to the McLean!)  It is a ceremonial level and plummet also presented to Provost Dougald Campbell on the 6 August 1881 at the laying of the foundation stone of the Municipal Buildings!  Who knew?  (Well we would have if the exhibit had been labelled.)

In a totally different display case are two other presentation items associated with that auspicious day in Greenock's history.  (Nothing in this display case is labelled and there is no indication as to what anything is.)

These are the ceremonial trowels presented to Provost Campbell on the same day.  One commemorates the laying of the foundation stone at the Municipal Buildings, the other was presented to the Provost at the laying of the foundation stone of the James Watt Dock on the same day.

Wouldn't they tell a wonderful story if they were placed together in the one case with photographs of the Municipal Buildings and the James Watt Dock.  I am sure the Museum has photographs of the ceremonials at the laying of the foundation stones in both places.  6 August 1881 was a big day in Greenock's history and there were lots of processions and celebrations throughout the town. 

The Museum obviously think that these items are worth exhibiting - so why not have them in the same case?  Giving explanations of their origin would perhaps give overseas visitors to the Museum a sense of the pride that Greenockians had (and still have) in their town.  I believe it would also highlight the beautiful Municipal Buildings and Victoria Tower which are such a part of Greenock's skyline.  The James Watt Dock, a marvel of engineering in its day, can also be visited and is now a Marina.  Why not tell their stories?

There are lots of other "Mysteries at the McLean Museum" on this blog.  Just put the word McLean in the search box on the right and you should find them!

Monday 23 May 2022

Broomhill Stained Glass Panel

This beautiful stained glass panel is just amazing to look at.  I have a picture of it as my screensaver and every time I look at it I see something different.

It can be found in the garden of the Broomhill Hub in Greenock.

Each of the little pieces of glass represents some aspect of local history.

Some of the glass comes from old buildings that once stood in the area.  It is a beautiful work of art.

Broomhill Hub host a variety of community and learning events.  Read about the stained glass project here.  They also have plant sales and a great cafe - well worth a visit.

Sunday 22 May 2022

All About Inverclyde - information for visitors

Situated on the south bank of the River Clyde on the west coast of Scotland, Inverclyde is a lovely place to visit.  Inverclyde’s three towns - Greenock, Port Glasgow and Gourock offer many different types of attractions.

Ginger the Horse, Cathcart Street, Greenock


We have a beautiful castle – Newark Castle – in Port Glasgow – just 10 minute bus journey or a short taxi ride from Greenock.  It is well worth a visit.  Check with Historic Environment Scotland beforehand to find out about opening times and booking arrangements.  If you would like to know a bit more about Port Glasgow and its history then download the Port Glasgow Heritage Walk available here.

Watt Institution, Union Street, Greenock

Here in Greenock, just a short walk from the town centre, we have a wonderful museum and art gallery - the Watt Institution.  On Union Street and Kelly Street, It is open Wednesday through to Saturday from 10 till 4.  It is named after Greenock’s most famous son – James Watt (1736-1819) an inventor and engineer, you will find lots of local references to this famous man.  You can download a booklet about him from the Inverclyde Council website here.  The Council website also has lots of other booklets which will give you more information about the local area.  You can download a map here too.

Fire & Rescue Service Museum, Dalrymple Street, Greenock

Another great museum you should visit is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Museum & Heritage Centre.  It opens especially on cruise ship days and is run by volunteers who will make your visit very enjoyable.  Check out their website for opening times.  It is based in Greenock’s 19th century Fire Station in Dalrymple Street, Greenock.  Well worth a visit – you will not be disappointed!

Yardmen Art Installation, Waterfront, Greenock

Walking – There’s a lovely walk along Greenock’s waterfront near where cruise ship passengers disembark.  Walking along the riverside, there’s lots to see.  Look out for the art installations along the way.  Customhouse Quay is a fabulous place to stop and take photographs.  Greenock’s former Custom House, built in 1818 is a beautiful classical building.  It houses a museum dedicated to Scottish poet Robert Burns and run by volunteers.  Check in advance for opening hours here at the Greenock Burns Club website.  Another interesting object at Customhouse Quay is the Beacon Clock Tower – a metal column full of unusual features (read about them here).  Then why not stop at the Beacon Arts Centre – a beautiful modern building housing Greenock’s theatre.  There’s also a café where you can enjoy a coffee or perhaps lunch while gazing at the beautiful views across the Clyde.  From here, it is just a short walk to Greenock town centre or back to where cruise ships are berthed.

Coat of Arms above Custom House, Custom House Quay, Greenock

There are lots of other great walks – download a brochure “A Walk Along Greenock Esplanade” from the Inverclyde Council website.  It is a guided walk along the riverside, this time heading west.  The Esplanade is a beautiful promenade constructed in the 1860s.  Along the way there are some very interesting houses – the brochure gives you some of the history of this area.  It is a flat, gentle walk with lots of benches along the route.  There’s also a downloadable guided walk of Greenock’s West End, highlighting some of the older buildings along the route.  You can find it here.

Shopping – If you love small, independent shop then take the short bus or taxi ride to Gourock.  Here you will find lots of lovely shops, cafes and bars.  It is a small seaside town and the views across the River are wonderful.  You can get a ferry across the River to Dunoon from here.  Port Glasgow has the Gallagher Retail Park which contains some big name shops – Next and M&S among others.  Greenock has the Oak Mall, sadly not as full of shops as it used to be, but there are some lovely shops along West Blackhall Street which are worth a visit.  If you like charity shops (thrift stores) then this is the place for you!

It would be impossible to list all the local attractions here, the best way of finding out is to visit the Inverclyde Council website and check out the list on the right hand side of their page.  It lists maps and leaflets you can download in advance to help plan your visit.

Some cruise ship passengers are surprised to find themselves here in Greenock as many cruise line companies list the destination as "Glasgow (Greenock)".  So it is best to know that Glasgow is about 25 miles east of Greenock.  When you arrive at Greenock you will then have to make your own way to Glasgow either by bus or by train – both have frequent services.  The journey takes about 40 minutes.

If you need any more information or would like to ask any questions, then please get in touch – there’s a “Send Message” box on the top right column of this blog.

Monday 16 May 2022

Greenock Westburn Parish Church - Memorial Plaques

Westburn Parish Church is on Nelson Street in Greenock.  It was designed by architect David Cousin and opened in 1841 and known then as the West Kirk.  The steeple and clock were added a few years later, but in 2018 the clock faces had to be removed due to damage.  It is still strange to look up and not be able to see what time it is as you walk along Nelson Street.  (Find out more about Westburn's history here.)

The church's long history and the addition of other congregations over the years has led to a large number of memorial plaques inside the building.  Most date from World War I (1914-1918), there are a couple which date from World War II and there are a few memorials to individuals who were important to the church.  

I have made up a document which tells of Westburn's interesting history and lists all the plaques in the building.  There is also a plan in order that you can see exactly where in the Church the plaque is situated.  I have also made a list of every name mentioned on the memorials so that if you think someone from your family history is listed there you can easily find out.  Find it here.

If you are looking for a family member from Greenock who may have fought during the First World War then a great site to visit is Inverclyde's Great War.  This site lists many of the men who fought for their country and gives more details about there lives.  Well worth checking out.

Inside Westburn are memorials from St George's North Church, St Mark's Greenbank Church, Gaelic Parish Church, and many others.  Westburn has also been known throughout its history as - the West Kirk, the Old Kirk and St Luke's.  The Church also has some beautiful stained glass windows designed by Scottish artist Douglas Strachan.  If you would like more information - download here.

Sunday 8 May 2022

Greenock Lyle Fountain - the 18 names

Around the top of Greenock's Lyle Fountain in Cathcart Square are names in gold of some of the men who were important to the town at the time the fountain was gifted to the people of Greenock by former Provost and sugar refiner Abram Lyle.  Also beneath the names are shields displaying heraldic devices and a scroll with a motto (most in Latin).  While these may be interesting in themselves, I am more interested in the names.  Who were these people and why were they important to Greenock ?

If you would like to find out more about these men and what earned them a place on the fountain then you can have a look at some more detailed information here.  The 18 names are mostly of men who served the people of Greenock in one capacity or another.

Members of Parliament - Wallace of Kelly, Baine, Dunlop, Grieve and Stewart.

Provosts - Macfie, Fairrie, Duff, Morton, Lyle and Campbell.

Councillors - Caird, Kerr, Leitch and Steele.

Others - Sir M S Stewart, Crawfurd of Cartsburn and Scott.

Finding out about these people and their families really encapsulates part of the story of Greenock up until 1880 when the fountain was opened.  You can read all about them here.

Only 18 could be chosen.  I wonder if anyone was really annoyed at being left out?