Sunday 28 August 2022

Greenock's Egeria

Oak Tree Nymph - Egeria.  This beautiful sculpture by Andy Scott can be seen at the west end of West Blackhall Street in Greenock.

There are also two inscriptions on the ground beside the sculpture.  One reads:-

"May Greenock like the Green Oak Tree still flourish 'neath the sun.  Her trade and commerce still increase for a thousand years to come."  This a quote from the song Green Oak Tree by Harry Linn (1844-1890).  You can read more of the lyrics here.

The other reads:-

"She has a body and cloak made from metal.  She wears a crown of oak leaves on her head.  She stands tall and brave.  She brings joy to Greenock.  When people pass by they smile at her.  She is happy that she brings joy."

Greenock has always been associated with the oak tree.  This stems from an old legend that the town's name derives from a green oak tree that used to stand near the shore.

This sculpture and Ginger the Horse (also by Andy Scott) at the east end of the town were both put in place at the same time - 2010.  Joining with Monday Mural.

An invitation to Cartsburn House

In March 1788, Thomas Crawfurd (1746-1791) wrote to the poet Robert Burns inviting him to come and stay with him for a few days at Cartsburn House in Greenock.  It is a wonderful, evocative invitation -

Cartsburn, 16th March 1788

My dear Sir – For congeniality of mind entitles me to the freedom of this appellation, and never did I use it with more cordial sincerity – through the medium of our mutual friend Brown I hazard inviting you to the participation of an agreeable rural retirement at a convenient distance from a town where there are many of your admirers (but, indeed, it is not distinguished from that by any town in Great Britain); a library I hope not ill chosen; a cellar not ill stored; a hearty cock of a landlord, whom his perhaps too partial friends regard as destitute neither of taste nor letters.  He has reached his eighth lustre untrammelled by the matrimonial chain; and having neither wife nor child to disturb his tranquillity or divide his affections, he can offer you a whole heart.  Halt!  This is going too far; he is not so forlorn a wretch as to be without a friend; but this does not hinder his having a very warm place in that same heart (for though the fellow’s person be little his heart is large) most cordially at your services!  How do you like the bill of fare?  Not amiss, provided it be not a vapouring sign to a wretched ale-house.  Good wine needs no “bush”.  Well-come (I must pun) and welcome; and I hope you will find it deficient neither in spirit nor flavour; but this sage reflection of yours prevents my proceeding to raise your expectations too high.  This much I will, however, in justice to myself, add, namely, that if you should be disappointed, I shall be much more so.  Shall I then be blessed with your society?  Answer me, my dear boy!

But I forget myself; you are no classic – no Latin one, I mean, though certainly to be classed (allow me a jingle) among the first Caledonian classics.  Tell me where you are.  God knows I would gladly come for you in person; but as this is not in my power, will you allow me to send a servant and a horse for you!  Do, my dear Burns, and bless me with your assent. – Your hearty friend,  T. Crawfurd.

Unfortunately Robert Burns did not visit Cartsburn House, Greenock - there were too many other things requiring his attention at the time.  Burns wrote to his friend Richard Brown (alluded to by Crawfurd in the invitation) in March 1788 commenting "I have to thank you for the ingenious, friendly and elegant epistle from your friend Mr Crawfurd.  I shall certainly write to him, but not now." 

Thomas Crawfurd of Cartsburn
Source - National Galleries of Scotland

Thomas Crawfurd was the fourth Baron Cartsburn having succeeded his father in 1783.  Cartsburn at that time was not joined with Greenock, but was classed as a separate area.  The family home was Cartsburn House in (what is now) the east end of Greenock (just west of the present St Lawrence Street) Street).  At the time of this letter it was surrounded by fields and gardens.  Thomas Crawfurd was a well educated and well travelled man.  As his letter states, he was unmarried and had no children.  He even offered to send a servant and a horse to convey the poet to Cartsburn.

Certainly I think most people would have found this invitation difficult to turn down.  Cartsburn House sounds like a very convivial place to visit.