Saturday 18 February 2023

Hugh Ritchie - from Greenock to Formosa

Hugh Ritchie was born in Millport in 1841 (parents Robert Ritchie and Sarah Crawford) but was brought up by his aunt later moving to Greenock where he found work as a shop assistant.   However, deeply involved in St Thomas' Free Church, he became a teacher in the church's Mission School in the old church building in Dalrymple Street (later the Free North Church).  The 1861 Census shows him living at West Stewart Street with his sister, Sarah Ritchie. 

He was drawn to missionary work and through the Foreign Mission Committee of the English Presbyterian Church studied for the ministry at Glasgow and London.  He was licensed and ordained in 1867 and immediately set sail for his first post in Takao Formosa, now Taiwan.  Before leaving, Ritchie had married Eliza Caroline Cooke (1828), daughter of Lancelot Cooke, shipping merchant, Cape of Good Hope.

In Formosa Ritchie travelled and explored the area, writing of his experiences to friends back in Greenock.  Some of these reports were published in the local newspaper and various other publications.  Providing medical aid to the local people was also part of the mission overseas and he writes:-

"Day by day we were surrounded by scores of these poor people who wanted medicine - many of them wanted it badly ... I was well furnished with lotions for washing eyes and ulcers ... but when difficult or serious cases were presented, they were recommended to attend our hospital, as a passing visitor could do such cases no good." (From The Chinese Recorder & Missionary Journal 1875.)

Hugh Ritchie died in Formosa in 1879.  His young son Robert had died six years previously.  Both were buried in the Takow (Kaohsiung) Foreign Cemetery.

His widow Eliza Caroline Ritchie remained in the country greatly involved in the education of women, establishing a Girls School Her health was poor but she continued her work, eventually retiring in 1884.  She settled in Glasgow with her son, William Laughton Ritchie.  Eliza died in 1902 at the age of 73.

Lancelot Cooke, Eliza's father - an interesting article can be found here.

Monday 13 February 2023

Tiger Dunlop and the Twelve Apostles

Dr William "Tiger" Dunlop (1792-1848) was born in Greenock.  His father was Alexander Dunlop of Keppoch (1766-1840) and his first wife Janet Graham.  William Dunlop led a fascinating life before finally setting up home near Goderich, Ontario, Canada.  He called his house Gairbraid after a family home in Glasgow.

The "twelve apostles" were twelve one gallon glass jars which belonged to Dunlop.  One can be seen at the Goderich Museum.  It is said that eleven of the jars were filled with whisky and the twelfth, which he called "Judas", filled with water!

When I visited, the wonderful museum at Goderich had a whole section dedicated to Tiger Dunlop showing his portrait and many exhibits from his home.

William Dunlop was with John Galt at the founding of the city of Guelph in Ontario.  

Sunday 12 February 2023

MV Pentalina at Customhouse Quay

Customhouse Quay, Greenock had an interesting visitor earlier in the week - MV Pentalina.

Operated by Pentland Ferries, catamaran Pentalina used to sail between Gills Bay, Caithness (just west of John o' Groats) and Orkney.

Saturday 11 February 2023

Mysteries at the McLean Museum - Model Aircraft

Another visit to the McLean Museum in Greenock (Watt Institution, Kelly Street) and another mystery object.  Obviously a model aircraft shoved in a display case with a variety of objects, none of which have any written sign or information as to what they might be or what their link to the local area is.

Of course I asked at the desk what the object was and its relevance to Greenock.  No one knew anything about it except that it had been put in the display case because it looked interesting!  What kind of aircraft is it?  Who made it?  Why was it donated to the museum?  No answers!

I've written before about the lack of information regarding objects on display at the McLean Museum.  Nothing has changed - many of the objects I have previously written about are still in cases without any written details.

No information in display case about these objects, but you can read about them here.

Whenever I go anywhere now I always visit local museums.  I thought perhaps that this lack of information was modern museum practice - but that does not seem to be the case in other places ... just Greenock.

It is very frustrating to be in such a wonderful building, surrounded by so many fascinating and interesting objects and not have a clue as to their significance to Inverclyde's wonderful history and heritage.

Friday 3 February 2023

The Pitcairn Girls of Greenock

The Pitcairn family came to Greenock when Andrew Pitcairn (1784-1873) was appointed to the Greenock Customs.  The family originated from Kintillo in Perthshire.  In 1811 Andrew Pitcairn married Anne Tait (1796-1877) at Ayr.  The couple had a large family including four daughters who all married into shipping families.  The family lived at Ann Street in Greenock.

Custom House, Greenock

Margaret Pitcairn (1819-1866) married Captain Thomas Henderson (1820-1895), a year later her sister, Jane Pitcairn (1817-1908) married  David Henderson (1817-1893), brother of Thomas.  Both marriages took place at Greenock.  Jane and David Henderson's son, David (1862-1921) had a distinguished army career and is recognised as instrumental in establishing the Royal Air Force (RAF).

Lieutenant General Sir David Henderson

The Henderson family originated in Pittenweem later moving to Glasgow.  Thomas and David were the sons of John Henderson, shipmaster and his wife Janet Shanks.  (There were two other brothers - John Henderson (1823-1892) and William Henderson (1826-1895).)  All the brothers became shipmasters like their father later becoming shipbuilders and ship owners.

and William Henderson founded D & W Henderson & Co, Shipbuilders at Meadowside Yard, Partick in Glasgow in the 1870s.  Thomas and John Henderson founded the Anchor Line of ships in Glasgow in 1855.  

Another sister Anne Pitcairn (1821-1896) married Greenock ship owner Robert Little (1815-1909).  The family lived at Finnart Cottage in Greenock and later moved to Thorndean, Helensburgh.  The Greenock firm of James Little & Co (ship owners and steam shipping agents) was started by Robert's father in 1812.  They managed steamers travelling between Greenock and Liverpool as well as steamers connecting with various railway routes.  Robert Little was responsible for the Barrow Steam Navigation Company running a passenger service between Barrow and Belfast.  He was also involved in shipbuilding worked with his brothers in law, David and Thomas Henderson.

Photo - Greenock Burns Club

Anne and Robert's son, Robert W Little (1854-1944) became an artist.  Another son, James William Little was a former mayor of Barrow in Furness.  A daughter Jessie Cecilia Brownlie Little married William Hamilton Kidston (1852-1929) of Helensburgh in 1878. 

Isabel Pitcairn (1831-1908) the youngest sister married (in 1857) Harrington Robley (1824-1895) a ship stores merchant of Helensburgh and Glasgow.  Their daughter Annie Pitcairn Robley married in 1891 Andrew Bonar Law, Prime Minister from 1922-1923.  Bonar Law was connnected to the Kidston family of Helensburgh.

The Pitcairn girls of Greenock certainly married well and all had families of their own.  It is interesting to think of all the connections these families had throughout Scotland and worldwide.

Thursday 2 February 2023

Crawfurd of Cartsburn - the beginning

 The lands of Cartsburn are situated at the eastern end of Greenock on the south bank of the River Clyde in Scotland.

The area known as Cartsburn was erected into a barony by King Charles II by a charter in favour of Thomas Crawfurd in 1669.  This gave the Crawfurd family the right to hold markets and fairs as well as giving the Crawfurds judicial powers in the area.  The Crawfurds built a home there - Cartsburn House.

Cartsburn House was the home or Mansion House of the Crawfurd family for many generations.  It was once surrounded by gardens and parkland and would have had beautiful views over the River Clyde.

The Barony of Cartsburn was bound on the east by a line from what is now Border Street north to the River Clyde at the James Watt Dock Marina (formerly Garvel Estate).  On the west, the line of the Carts Burn marked the limit of the Crawfurd lands, separating them from the land belonging to the Shaw family.  The Shaw family had also acquired the lands of Easter Greenock from an earlier member of the Crawfurd family so that in effect Cartsburn was a separate area surrounded by Greenock. 

The area was also known as Crawfursdyke and was at one time important because it contained a sheltered bay and “dyke” or quay where boats could tie up.  Fishing, especially herring, played an important part in the area’s economy in the 18th century.

The area was described by George Crawfurd in “A general description of the shire of Renfrew” -

A quarter of a mile west from the Castle of Easter Greenock, at the east end of a large bay, stands the town of Crawfurdsdike, built of one street, with a convenient harbour, capable to contain ships of a considerable burden.  It was erected into a Burgh of Barony, with the privilege of a weekly market and several fairs, in favours of Thomas Crawfurd of Cartsburn, by a Charter from King Charles II, dated the 16th of July 1669.  The town is chiefly inhabited by seamen and mechanicks.”

Cartsburn later became part of Greenock and the land was bought up for industrial purposes, especially those connected with shipbuilding and engineering.  Those industries having gone, the land is being put to other uses.

See also - An Invitation to Cartsburn House    The Cartsburn Thumbscrews    Kennedy's Mill




Wednesday 1 February 2023

Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow

This striking sculpture Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow is to be found in Coronation Park in Port Glasgow.  It was designed and built by sculptor John McKenna who is based in Ayrshire.

Thirty-three feet high, it dominates the skyline and is a tribute to the local people who worked in the area's shipyards.

Made of stainless steel it is lit up at night by colourful lighting.  The area around the sculpture has a pathway and has now been landscaped.  

There doesn't seem to be a plaque giving details of the work to anyone visiting the area, but you can read more about it on the Inverclyde Council website here.

Ironically the troubled ferry MV Glen Sannox can be seen behind the sculpture.