Saturday 25 November 2023

Greenock Churches - history and information

I've noticed that there seems to be a bit of interest in posts about the history of Greenock's churches - both those still being used as places of worship, those that are now being used for other purposes and those that are Greenock's lost churches.  I thought I would make things easier by listing some of my church posts here.  Click on the highlighted text to be taken to the information.

On West Shaw Street is the former Martyrs Free Church.  It is a lovely building.

The former Greenbank Church on Kelly Street has an interesting history.

On West Stewart Street and now a furniture warehouse is the former St Andrew's Free Church.

The West Blackhall Street Chapel is a well known landmark at Gray Place in Greenock.

The former Methodist Church on Ardgowan Street is still standing.

Westburn Parish Church on Nelson Street is another beautiful building dating back to 1841.

Unfortunately Nelson Street EU Church has now been demolished.

Struthers Memorial Church is another lovely church.

On Union Street is the wonderful Lyle Kirk.

St Patrick's Church at Orangefield has some wonderful sculpture.

For a complete view of Westburn Church and some of its history download the history booklet here.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to add more information about Greenock's churches and their history so don't forget to check back regularly.

Friday 24 November 2023

Greenock Burghers

Greenock has a very complicated church history.  Tracing the origins of congregations can be difficult because of all the splits, fall-outs and changes of buildings and names that have taken place over the years.  One of the big splits within the church in Scotland took place in 1733.

Ebenezer Erskine - founder of the Secession Church

In 1733 the first Seceders, those who were dissatisfied with the Church of Scotland and against ministers being presented to congregations by a patron, formed an Associate Presbytery.  Members tended to be known by their “strictness in manners and doctrine”.  Many were descendants of Covenanters.  Locally, it all started in Kilmacolm in 1737.  William Clark who owned the land of Killochries held meetings in his barn for those who were dissatisfied with the local minister, John Fleming, who had been appointed to the parish by most of the local landowners despite some opposition from parishioners.  This small group were later joined by others from Port Glasgow and Greenock.  Many of these had left their own churches because their ministers had read “The Porteous Act” from the pulpit.  In July 1738 they were formally constituted as part of the Associate Presbytery as the “sixteenth congregation”.

They were too small a gathering to be able to afford a minister of their own, but occasionally a seceding minister would attend, including Ebenezer Erskine (1680-1754), the founder of the Secession Church.  A year later, their number increased as folks from Kilbarchan who were also dissatisfied with their minister joined them.  Unfortunately, this was not a happy union.  However eventually when they could afford it, a meeting house was built at Burntsheilds (nearer Kilbarchan) in 1745.  In 1747 the Seceders split into Burghers and Anti-Burghers over an oath known as the burgess oath which had to be taken by all clergy in Scotland.  This particular congregation were Burghers.

Eventually those members from Greenock grew in number and formed their own congregation and built a church at Cartsdyke (Stanners Street) although at first they were still connected to the Burntsheilds church.  The first minister of the joint congregations was John McAra. 

In 1752 the Cartsdyke congregation separated from Burntshields church and appointed their own minister, Daniel Cock.  In 1769 he was sent to Nova Scotia at the request of congregations there for ministers.  In 1771 he became minister at Truro, Nova Scotia, becoming one of the founders of the presbyterian church in Canada.  He seems to have been a popular preacher and settled in the locality with his wife, Alison Jamison and family.   He died there in 1805 aged 88. 

Photo source - William Fischer Jr Historical Marker Database

A plaque in his memory can be found at Truro which reads: -  

This plaque commemorates the centennial of the formation of the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1875; The ministry of the Rev. Daniel Cock (1771-1805) of Greenock, Scotland, and the Rev. David Smith (1771-1795) of St. Andrew's, Scotland. 
The erection of the first two Presbyterian churches in Canada, at Glenholm in 1771, and in Truro in 1772. The formation in Truro of the first Presbytery in Canada in 1786, and the first Bible Society in British North America.
This plaque is placed here through the cooperation of the Province of Nova Scotia, the Town of Truro, the Synod of the Atlantic Provinces of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and the Kirk Session of St. James Presbyterian Church, Truro.

Back at Cartsdyke, their next minister was William Richardson who was ordained there in 1773 and died in 1780.  In 1782 a gravestone was found turned upside down in a path leading to the church.  It read:-  "In memory of the Rev William Richardson who was ordained minister of this church in March 1773.  Died March 1780 and was interred here at his own request."

In 1780 William Willis from Linlithgow succeeded Richardson as minister at Cartsdyke.  In 1799 the congregation separated from the Associate Synod and along with other churches formed the Original Associate Synod (Auld Lichts) who were more Calvinistic in thought than the more liberal New Lichts.  In 1802 Willis moved to Stirling and died in 1827.  William Willis was described as a “champion of the New Lichts” and was the author of many pamphlets in support of the split.  He was married to Janet Jamieson.  Their daughter Janet Jamieson Willis married Rev Robert McIndoe.  Rev Willis' son, Dr Michael Willis became Principal of Knox College in Toronto, Canada.  William Willis died in 1845 aged 83 at Galston.

The next minister was George Moscrip who was born in Jedburgh in 1763.  He was ordained to Greenock in 1802 and died in 1838 aged 75.  He was buried in Inverkip Street Cemetery.  During his time at Cartsdyke, the original church was rebuilt in 1828 with an attached schoolroom.  George Moscrip married Janet Wilson in 1803 she died in 1840.  His son, Clement Moscrip (1804-1848) was ordained in Bathgate in 1829 (died 1848) and was minister at Pollockshaws.  Son Andrew Moscrip died in 1871 (63) at Herrickville, Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  

George Moscrip memorial stone Inverkip Street Cemetery

James Stark came to Greenock in 1834 to work alongside George Moscrip.   In 1834 James Stark married Eliza Aitken (daughter of Robert Aitken of Chapleton, New Kilpatrick) and had a large family.  He retired in 1872 and died at Barrwood, Ashton, Gourock in 1890.

Photo source - Greenock Burns Club

The Cartsdyke congregation joined the Established Church of Scotland in 1839 but in 1843 at a schism known as the Disruption, they became part of the Free Church which broke away from the Established Church of Scotland.  In 1854 the church building, schoolroom and manse at Cartsdyke were sold to the Caledonian Railway Company and the congregation moved to their new church, Wellpark Free Church, on Lynedoch Street facing the Wellpark.  In 1855 the Cartsdyke building reopened as St Laurence Roman Catholic Church.

Wellpark Free Church, Lynedoch Street, Greenock

After all those splits, name and venue changes, the congregation found themselves part of Greenock's Free Church community.  Their story continues!

Wednesday 22 November 2023

News from Greenock, September 1914

An interesting account of Greenock at the start of the first World War appeared in the Sydney Evening News in September 1914.  It was an extract of a letter written by someone in Greenock to a relative in Sydney, Australia.

It reads:-  “Now what about war news?  Isn’t it terrible the way the Kaiser has turned up the whole of the civilised world?  I am right in the thick of it here; 2500 soldiers made up of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Royal Scottish Fusiliers (Regulars), Royal Scottish Horse, and Royal Field Artillery, picketed all over the place – in schools, skating rinks, and tents.

There is a torpedo factory down near Cardwell Bay, and this is guarded strongly, sand block houses being built on the main road, barbed wire entanglements all round, and sentries placed everywhere.  No one is allowed up the Lyle Road, and at Dellingburn there is a guard place.  Last night they fired on and ran in a man on a bicycle, who wouldn’t stop when ordered to halt.  At the Sailors’ Home here, and along Newark Street, among the trees, are two airship guns placed ready for use, also one up the Lyle Road.

It is necessary to have a special pass to travel on the River Clyde and the boats are not allowed down river past a certain point, behind which there is a fleet of eight cruisers.  The trams are still running past the torpedo factory, and when passing everyone has to bet off the top and go inside and not look anywhere on pain of death.  It is terrible.  Motors are rushing here and there with officers in them, and the whole countryside is teeming with the atmosphere of war."

It gives a fascinating glimpse into what was going on in very well known areas of the town.  The Torpedo Factory was situated east of the Battery Park and the Sailors' Home (Mariners' Home) was on Newark Street.  (This is a later map, but shows some of the places mentioned in the article.)

For more information check out the website Inverclyde's Great War which has lots of information about this area in both wars as well as lists of those who fought and died for our country.

Friday 17 November 2023

Five Watts

In the grounds of Greenock's Watt Institution in Kelly Street is a sculpture depicting inventor and engineer James Watt.  Erected in 2019, on Watt's Bicentenary, it shows Watt's face from different angles.  

It is quite an unusual sculpture.  However, the first time I saw it I was immediately reminded of the old Fry's Five Boys chocolate advert!

Interesting seen from different angles.

Thursday 16 November 2023

Cartsdyke's problem piggeries

In 1857 doctors in Greenock were very concerned with public health and the unsanitary conditions arising from ordinary people keeping pigs in back courts of houses.  Stanners Street in Greenock's east end was one of the town's older streets and very overcrowded.  It ran from John Street north to Main Street where Hutcheson's Court stood (almost across from the shipyard entrance).  In 1856 the Nuisance Removal Act had been passed, and Greenock had its own Inspector of Nuisances - John Walsh.

Photo source Greenock Burns Club

The pig problem in this area was described:-

"It is a densely populated district, and within a court till recently wholly undrained, a yard of seventy feet by sixty, a congeries of piggeries, occupied by not fewer than forty swine, imbedded in stagnant ordure, emitting foul and offensive smells, which the tenants of the neighbouring houses declare to be so abominable that they dare not open their windows which look into the yard, and which the medical gentlemen employed to inspect the place pronounce to be prejudicial to the public health.  It appears from another witness, the proprietor of the premises, that the place had been, for a great number of years, occupied as a piggery; and we are therefore not surprised to find, on the unimpeachable testimony of DrWallace, that the street had, during epidemics, produced a greater number of fever patients, in proportion To its size, than any other street in the town.  Fifty-three cases of typhus fever were admitted into the Infirmary in 1847-1848 from the Stanners; and last year there were nine cases.  So recently as the month of January last, Dr Wallace was called to attend a case of typhus fever in Hutcheson’s Court, which looks into the piggery yard."

John Walsh reported:- "On the 11th December the pig-houses were in a very filthy condition, the pigs were very badly bedded; and in some of them, being lower than the general area of the court, the filth was allowed outside, along the front of another property into a cesspool in Main Street.  I took Dr Wallace down with me to inspect the premises and he gave me a certificate.  I saw the premises upon the 3rd February, when I served the complaint.  The houses were in the same state, but a small drain had been made on one side of the court, but it was not acting.  There was a foul and offensive small in the court at that time.  I was frequently at the place last summer, the smell was More offensive in warm weather.  I was there again on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  There appeared to be a quantity of clean sawdust put into the pig-houses.  I examined them in presence of Dr Marshall.  The houses had a quantity of ordure and filth under sawdust.  I served each of the defenders, on the 18th January with notice to remove the swine."  

The pigs were not removed and the case was taken to court.  On the first day of proceedings in February 1858, Daniel Macfarlane, one of the proprietors of land in the area announced that he would represent the 14 people accused of keeping piggeries in Cartsdyke.  they were  – Murdoch Robertson, Thomas Beith, Hannah McNeill, Hugh McConnell, Janet McFeat, Malcolm McKechnie, George Croiley, Helen Barr, Susan McGlaughlan, Elizabeth McBride, Mary Lyons, Michael McAnulty, John Gray and James Brown.  Many of the men were at work and were represented by their wives in court. He was informed by the sheriff that he needed to either speak just for himself or be represented by a lawyer.

Macfarlane explained that he was not receiving payment because most of the others were too poor to pay for legal representation.  The Sheriff replied that if the others could not afford to employ an agent he would appoint one for them.  Macfarlane was not permitted to address the court.  However, when the others were called to plead Macfarlane seemed to be advising them on what to say and occasionally made remarks to the court.  Many said that they were widows and had no other means of making a livelihood than keeping a pig and without that they would be unable to pay rent or taxes and would have to go on the poor roll.  Eventually the Sheriff who, as the local newspaper reported:-

 “had shown great forbearance during the “scene”, at length said, Now, Sir, listen to me; I have never known the dignity of this court assailed in such a manner as it has been by you.  There is a power vested in me to protect the court against contempt.  That power is imprisonment.  Take care; don’t force me to use it”.

Macfarlane replied “I am here to represent these poor people; I know my rights, I am neither a child nor an interloper”.  The Sheriff again warned Macfarlane to be silent and appointed lawyer Andrew Boag as agent for the others.  

In his statement to the court Macfarlane stated:-  "I reside in Glasgow.  I have known the pig yard behind Stanners for 40 years.  I am a proprietor in the neighbourhood.  My property is about 100 yards from the spot.  I never heard any complaints from parties in the neighbourhood but rather the reverse.  The opinion was that both the keeping and eating of pigs fortified against disease.  I inspected the piggeries in this locality several months ago.  I saw them again today.  The yard is in a very proper state.  I have rarely seen a place of the kind in so good a condition.  The pig houses are very clean indeed many people are lying in worse beds here and elsewhere.  The pigs are confined to proper beds and houses.  I felt no smell, beyond what is usual among cattle ... The value of the pigs in the neighbourhood is about £2000."

Photo source Greenock Burns Club

The Sheriff decided that the pigs should be removed from the area, but gave the defendants three weeks to find a better place in which to keep them.  James Brown who lived in Stanners Street and was the proprietor of the ground was to pay three quarters of the cost and the other defendants the rest.

Photo source Watt Institution

Stanners Street - in the book "Greenock Place Names" by Sandra Macdougall and Joy Monteith, the name of the street is said to be from the fact that the official inspection of weights and measures was made from a shed in this street - Standards Street became Stanners Street.

Wednesday 8 November 2023

Refurbished Steamers

I've previously written about these lovely panels of Clyde built steamers in an underpass leading to the Bullring Roundabout carpark in Greenock.  

PS Jupiter

PS Mercury

Last time I wrote, they were in a bit of a state.  They have been refurbished and now look great!

PS Columba

What a difference it makes, the whole underpass now looks so much cleaner and brighter and the surroundings really show off the beautiful artwork by Robert Stewart (1924-1995) .

They really are worth a look if you are in the area.

PS Jeany Deans

You can see what they looked like before in my previous post Steamers in a State from 2015.