Published by
Inverclyde Community Development Trust
with assistance from
Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland – Heritage Grants
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means
without the permission in writing from the publisher, except for the purposes of review.
Printing co-ordinated by New Vision Print, Jamaica Street, Greenock
First published April 2013
Design, colouring and typesetting – Francesco Ottaviano
Research and facilitation assistants - Craig McEwan and Craig Miller
Project Coordinator - Kay Clark
Photo credits can be found at the back of the book. Every eort has been made to contact
the relevant sources for permission for use of all artwork.
anks to all our project volunteers, the Identity team, 7 ½ John Wood Street, Val Boa at
the McLean Museum, St Stephen’s Enterprise Centre.
Proofread by Wordsmith Jones Editorial Services, Inverclyde
Inverclyde Community Development Trust is a Company Limited by guarantee
Registered in Scotland No. 116334. A Scottish Charity No. SC007212
VAT No. 809277703 Registered Oce:175 Dalrymple Street, Greenock PA15 1JZ
“History’s like a story in a way: it depends on who’s telling it.”
Dorothy Salisbury Davis
is book, Kith and Kin is one of the last parts of a story we’ve been listening to, sharing
and retelling for almost two years now. Our Identity project was funded by Heritage Lottery
Fund Scotland in 2011 to collect family histories and personal stories relating to over 200
years of migration to and from the area we now know as Inverclyde.
Over the last two years we’ve worked with almost every school in the area to create songs,
leaets, animations and a 64 page graphic novel which all celebrate our heritage. We’ve
had volunteers produce leaets and exhibitions on the history of our local boroughs, the
grim reality of capital punishment in the area and the stories of those transported from
our shores. We’ve even had a group of volunteers stage a drama at the historic Sugar Sheds
in Greenock, bringing individual stories of migration to life using theatre, music and
archive lm. All of these have provided more opportunities for local people to explore their
heritage, but they have also helped local young people gain qualications and employment.
Kith and Kin is perhaps the best example of what the Identity project is all about; people
exploring and sharing their own family histories, allowing us to reect on our own. e
voices of our volunteers come through very strongly in the book, and that’s how we hoped
it would be; this isn’t a history book in the traditional sense, more a treasured family
scrapbook which you are being invited to enjoy, perhaps nding in these stories, something
that chimes with your own family’s life and times.
We’ve contextualised each of the stories with a brief exploration of the major events and
developments within the area around the same time as each of our families arrived. Perhaps
your own family arrived around the same time into similar circumstances. If you don’t
know, now would be the very time to start nding out, rediscovering your own families
journey. We all got here somehow.
It’s our intention that Identity will continue in other forms after the end of funding,
certainly e Trust will be continuing to support and explore local heritage through other
programmes, most notably e Dutch Gable House, the historic building we have recently
purchased for development.
All the Identity project materials will remain live on our blog but the main way you will
be able to continue to stay involved will be through our new project website at www.
identityinverclyde.co.uk . e volunteers who helped pull this book together and who
initially shared their own stories, will be continuing to collect personal histories and
reminiscences from the area and making the recordings and images available online. You
can see some short lms of the stories from this book online now. It is our hope that the
site will remain a living archive, and we need your help to make that a reality.
Paul Bristow
Inverclyde Community Development Trust
Customs & Contraband
the History of the Greenock Custom House
What’s in a Name?
by Ann Williams
Pressing Times
the Impressment Ocers in Greenock
e Comings and Goings of the Mooneys
by Grace Binnie
John Scott
the Evolution of an Empire
by Jean Campbell
Mark Khull
and the Sugar Capital of Scotland
e Donnellys: An Irish Family in Greenock
by Frances M Dunlop
William Scoresby
and the Greenock Whale Fishing Company
e Last of the Salvesen Whalers
by Alex Hardie
John Galt
and e Canada Company
e Smith Family & How ey Came to Port Glasgow
by John Smith
Robert om
from Cotton to the Cut
Following in the Footsteps
by June Campbell
Father Condon
the Benevolent Broadcaster
e McQuarries: A History rough Photographs
by John McQuarrie
Fleming and Reid
the Making of a Mill
e Mill Women of Clark & Struthers
by Betty McLaughlin
Henry Birkmyre
Weaving for the World
e McGeer Brothers: e Accidental Immigrants
by Joseph McGeer
James Lithgow
from Port to Parliament
Clydesdales: From First to Last
by Walter Pollock
omas M. Hardie
and the Palace of the Kip Valley
My Family’s Immigration to What is Now Inverclyde
by Hugh McIntyre
Lasting Memories
of the Project
f you take a look at modern day
Greenock it is hard to envision a
time when it was one of the busiest
trading Ports in Britain. It was once
full of grand ships importing sugar from the
West Indies; tobacco and cotton from the
Americas; silk from India, tea from China
and the list goes on. Today, the harbour
lies empty and derelict, a mere shadow of
it’s former glory days. e Custom House
that stands today at Custom House Quay is
the second of Greenock’s Custom Houses.
e rst Custom House in Greenock was
located at Cathcart Street and was a small
and modest building in comparison to its
successor, a large imposing building that was
more suited to handling the high volume
of trade that passed through Greenock.
Built in 1818 by William Burn ,the nal
cost amounted to £30,000. Although the
building does not ful the purpose for
which it was originally built today, it is still a
notable landmark in the town. A particularly
striking feature is the Corinthian pillar that
is positioned in the middle of the harbour,
used in the past to guide steam and sailing
ships to the quay at night.
Shortly before the opening of the new
Custom House in 1818, the smaller building
fell victim the work of local criminals.
Gaining admission by sawing through a
panel on one of the doors, they proceeded
inside and found keys in a desk that allowed
them access to the safe. Upon pocketing
£1200 they ed and despite the level of
noise no doubt created, no alarm was raised
until the Custom House was opened in
the early hours of the morning for normal
business. On entry to the building it became
apparent what had happened and word
was sent to the relevant authorities in the
hope that the perpetrators would be caught.
After some time a suspect was put forward:
Murray Stewart, a tide waiter. His trial at
the High Court of Justiciary was set for
the 4th of August, 1817. However, a lack of
evidence swayed in the accused’s favour and
the Lord Justice Clark said in his judgement-
“Gentlemen after the open and candid
charge given you by the public prosecutor,
in which he admits that this is only a case of
extreme suspicion, the Learned Counsel for
the prisoner has, with too anxious a zeal for
his client, addressed you in an elaborate and
able speech. My opinion is, that in this case
there is not sucient evidence to convict
the prisoner; and if you are of the same
opinon, I need take up your time no further.
If however, you think otherwise, I am ready
to go over the evidence.”
After the Jury had discussed this
verdict they shared the opinon of the
Lord Justice Clerk and they declared the
accusation not proven.
e next story is not so much about
the Custom House but about the Custom
Ocers in its employment. Around 1777
there were conicts frequently occurring
between ocers of the revenue and parties
engaged in smuggling in contraband in the
attempt to evade these duties. e battles
between them were often bloody and at
times led to murder where the smugglers
would face the full force of the law at the
High Court of Justiciary. e powers of
the Customs Ocers allowed them the
the History of the Greenock Custom House
opportunity to board vessels
and carry out inspections to
ensure all cargo complied
with the law. With cases of
smuggling becoming more
persistent, naturally the number
of violent incidents was seen to
increase with it. On the 11th of
August, 1777, a case of violent
retaliation from smugglers
took place in Greenock. e trial
is documented in the Judicial
Records of Renfrewshire and
describes the incident in detail
along with crucial information
in regards to the trial. e
incident unfolded as follows:
“On the 11th August,
1777, the ship “Blackgrove”,
laden with cargo subject to
import duties, came in to the
Clyde and, when near Greenock
a boat was put o from the
shore, and into it some goods
were removed from the ship,
for the purpose of being
smuggled and evaded. is being
observed by Hugh Mclachlan, a
boatman belonging to a wherry
at Inverkip in the revenue
service, he, along with Archibald
Stewart, John M’Intyre, Hector
M’Phail, and Archibald Bell, four
other revenue boatmen “went
out in the said wherry, in the
discharge of their duty, in order
to make a seizure of the said
smuggled goods.”
e smugglers reacted
to the Custom Ocers with
violence and sticks and stones
were aimed in the ocers’
direction. ey were successful in
their goal and Hugh M’Lachlan
was killed with the four other
men escaping with their lives
but not without injury.
e men were most likely
respected in the town. At that
time smuggling was not regarded
with distaste by others, in fact
it’s not too far from the truth
to even describe it as a popular
practice. e characters who
engaged in such activities retained
an untarnished character despite
the risky and lawless activity they
participated in.
However, with one of the
men having been killed by their
reckless acts, a criminal trial was
initiated. ere are no records
of the result of the trial but
with some of the men eeing
it is likely that the trial was
dropped. e records express an
interesting point in regards to
the townspeople’s view on the
matter: “e smugglers would
still have commanded popular
sympathy, as the revenue laws,
which were strictly enforced,
were generally abhorred, and
the ocers executing them
were considered to be unjustly
interfering with the interests
and rights of the people.”
e last case of smuggling
to take place in the town was
in 1888 in Inverkip where it is
said that there is a cave aptly
nicknamed “smugglers cove”
where the smugglers would hide
the contraband items.
e town today now
lacks a customs presence and
it’s hard to imagine the extent
of trade and immigrants that
made their way to Greenock and
were processed by the Custom
House here. e building is still
one of the nest in the town
and it is tales such as those
described in this story that
keep the memory of this side of
Greenock’s history alive.
e smugglers reacted to the Custom Ocers with
violence and sticks and stones were aimed in the
ocers’ direction
Top: A painting of
Inverkip bay.
Bottom: “Robert Burns
on Horseback” by James
m Scrymgeour.

By Ann Williams
rowing up in Greenock in the
fties, I was quite fond of my
surname, Denham. I felt it was a
bit dierent from the run of the
mill names of my classmates: Lynch, Kelly,
Mooney etc. Being near the beginning of
the alphabet too, meant I was usually near
the front of the queue for things that were
arranged alphabetically, though that was not
always a blessing when they were doling out
the regular polio jags!
I wondered where my name had
originated and came to the conclusion that
it was from the town in Buckinghamshire
of the same name. In Scotland, the more
usual spelling of the name is Denholm, and
since there is a town of that name in the
Scottish Borders, I deduced that the Scottish
line derived from there, and that possibly,
if I went back far enough, I would nd that
they were branches of the same family tree.
When, as part of the Identity project on
immigration, I started to trace my roots, I
assumed that I would be able to establish
that my family was indeed an ‘immigrant’
clan in the area.
I started with my father’s
mother Annie McAlister as
I knew that she had moved
to the Greenock area from
Campbeltown. She was born in
Bolgram Street in Campbeltown
in 1883 to Archibald McAlister,
a carter, and his wife Helen
Meek. Her father was also
born in Campbeltown around
1847 to another Archibald
Below: In the back Joseph and
omas are in the top right,
Henry is 4th from right, 1st
from right in second row is Mary
and Georgina is 3rd from right.
McAlister, who was a hawker, and his wife
Ann McEwan. Her mother Helen was
born in Main, St Campbeltown in 1861 to
James Meek, a soldier, and his wife Helen
McFadyen. Archie McAlister jnr and Helen
Meek married in St Kieran’s Catholic Church
in Campbeltown in 1879. e 1891 census
shows them living in Bolgram Street with
their four daughters and two sons. Sadly,
my great grandfather Archie died in 1893
and his widow Helen moved with the family
to Greenock, living in Westburn Street. In
1897 she married Donald MacNaughton,
a bachelor from Campbeltown,who was a
neighbour in Westburn Street. In the 1901
census, my grandmother Annie
was living in Nicholson Street
with her mother and stepfather,
her brothers Archibald, Henry
and Joseph and her two new
half sisters, Mary and Jane. On
leaving school she had found
employment in one of the local
rope works and was working
there in 1903 when she married
my grandfather.
My grandfather omas
Denham, at rst glance appeared
to be an ‘immigrant’ as well,
but when he moved to the area
he was in fact returning to his
roots. He was born in Govan in
Glasgow in 1883, but his mother,
my great grandmother, Georgina
Fleming, was born in Greenock
in 1844 to John Fleming and
Catherine Nelson. Georgina
was their third daughter.
John Fleming was a Customs
Ocer, as the Hutcheson’s
Greenock Directory of 1845-
1846 illustrates.
My grandfather
omas Denham, at
rst glance, appeared
to be an “immigrant”
as well, but when he
moved to the area he
was just returning to
his roots
Grandparents, Annie
and omas Denham.
Middle: Ropeworks
in the early 1900s.
Bottom: Westburn
Catherine Nelson
Arch McAllister
B: 1850
John Fleming Georgina
B: 1844
Ann McEwan
Annie McAllister
B: 1883 Helen Meek
B: 1861 M: 1879
Arch McAllister
B: 1850 M: 1879
omas Denham
B: 1883 Georgina Fleming
B: 1844 M: 1867
Robert Denham
B: 1840 M: 1867
James McIntyre
B: 1873 Jane McTaggart
Duncan McIntyre
B: 1850 M: 1875
Ann Douglas
B: 1875 Ann Gibb
John Douglas
M: 1864
ere has been a Customs
presence in Greenock since the
early part of the 18th century,
as a response to the smuggling
activities rife on the lower
Clyde at the time. e early
oces are thought to have been
in Cathcart Street and West
Quay. e present Customs
House was built in 1818 by the Edinburgh
based company of William Burn at a total
cost of £30,000. At the time it was deemed
to be the nest Custom House in Britain
and its size reects the high volume of
trade conducted in Greenock. Although
the building is still there it sadly no longer
houses HM Customs sta. On the quay
in front of the Custom House stands a
handsome Corinthian pillar, on top of which
is a beautiful light which was erected to
facilitate the approach of steam and sailing
vessels to the Quay at night.
Unfortunately John Fleming died after
the birth of his son in 1847 and in the 1851
census his widow was living on an annuity
in Tobago St with her three daughters and
four year old son, John. By 1861, she had
moved to Dalrymple Street with Georgina
and John. e 16 year old Georgina was
described as a straw bonnet maker but by
the time of her marriage in 1867 she was
living in Kinning Park in Glasgow and had
progressed to dressmaker. e Church
of Scotland ceremony between Georgina
Top Left: Excerpt from
Hutcheson’s directory from 1845
showing John Fleming was a
Customs Ocer
Top Right: e Corinthian pillar
at Customhouse Quay
Bottom: e Custom House
At the time it was deemed to be the
nest Custom House in Britain and its
size reects the high volume of trade
conducted in Greenock
After their marriage
Robert and Georgina
settled in Greenock living
in St Lawrence Street
Fleming and Robert Denham
took place in her home in St
James’ Terrace in August 1867.
Robert Denham was born
in Ashtree Cottage on Port
Glasgow Road in Greenock
in 1840. He was the fourth
son of William Denham, a
blacksmith and his wife Jane
Campbell. He was still living
there and working as an
engine tter at the time of his
marriage to Georgina. After
their marriage Robert and
Georgina lived in St Lawrence
St in Cartsdyke. ey had two
sons, William born in 1868 and
John born in 1869. By the time
his sons were born, Robert was
a seagoing marine engineer and
in 1875 sailed to Shanghai in
China on board SV Foochow.
Top: Kinning Park.
Middle: Georgina
Fleming’s marriage
Bottom: Westburn
omas Denham
B: 1913
Annie McAllister
B: 1883 M: 1903
D: 1944
omas Denham
B: 1883 M: 1903
Mary McIntyre
B: 1916 Ann Douglas
B: 1875 M: 1899
James McIntyre
B: 1873 M: 1899
Ann Denham
Mary McIntyre
B: 1916 M: 1938
D: 1994
omas Denham
B: 1913 M: 1938
D: 1953
Shanghai’s history is
relatively short in comparison to
many other Chinese cities. e
British opened up a concession
there after the rst opium
war and ignited Shanghai’s
evolution. With a population of
23,000,000 it is now the most
populated city in the world. Its
location at the mouth of the
Yangtze River in the middle of
the Chinese coast created the
opportunity for a busy trading
port. Today it is a major nancial
centre and the busiest container
port in the world, but in Robert
Denham’s time it would have
e British opened up a
concession in Shanghai
after the rst opium
war and ignited
Shanghai’s evolution
been a bustling port on the main
trading routes between Europe
and the Far East and Australia.
Robert died on 8 July 1875 while
the ship was in Shanghai and was
buried there. e accompanying
entry in his marine records
shows the amount due to his
estate at the time of his death
but not the cause of death.
Details of his death are also
poignantly recorded on my
grandfather’s birth certicate
eight years later, but in modern
parlance, if you do the maths, he
was clearly not his father.
Although he had obviously
no right to the Denham name
(other than it was his mother’s
married name) it did not
prevent him starting his own
dynasty in Greenock. In 1903
omas Denham married Annie
McAlister in St Mary’s church
in the town. e couple had
eight children in total, four
sons: Archibald, omas (my
father), Joseph and Henry,
and four daughters: Georgina
(known as Ina), Helen (who
died in infancy), Mary and
Top: e Fuzhou teaclipper as painted by Robert Pike
Bottom Left: Robert Denham’s marine record
Bottom Right: Auntie Margaret
Margaret. e 1911 census
shows them living in West
Blackhall Street with the rst
four of their children (the other
four were born later) as well as
my grandmother’s stepfather
Donald McNaughton, her two
brothers Henry and Joseph
and half sister Mary. My
grandparents subsequently
moved to Hope Street where
they lived until their deaths in
1943 and 1944.
eir children settled in
Greenock, with the exception
of one daughter, Margaret, and
one son, Henry. Margaret and
her sister Mary had worked in
the Caledonian Foundry during
the Second World War. Women
were taken on ‘for the duration’
because of the shortage of men.
Of course, when the war ended
and the soldiers returned to
civvy street, the women were all
dismissed so that the men could
get their jobs back. ere was no
sexual equality in the workplace
in those days! Undaunted,
Margaret replied to an advert
in the Greenock Telegraph and
after an interview in the Tontine
Hotel was oered a job in an
hotel in the Derbyshire village
of Hathersage. Despite taunts
from her brothers that she’d be
home within a week, she settled
into life in her English village,
marrying a local man and raising
three children there. She was
in fact the longest surviving of
the siblings when she died in
Derbyshire in 2010 at the grand
old age of 85.
Perhaps encouraged by his
sister’s move, Henry also left
the area, though his was a bit
more adventurous. In 1950 with
his wife and two daughters he
emigrated to Northern Rhodesia
(now Zambia) where he worked
in the copper mines. Henry and
his family eventually moved to
South Africa, where they lived
till their deaths.
Bringing the saga to a close,
my father, omas, was killed in
a shipyard accident in 1953. My
younger sister, Jean, following
her grandfather’s precedent, was
born after her father’s death, but
by a mere 2 months, not the 8
years of her ancestor.
is short narrative covers
my father’s heritage. Next I
want to investigate my mother’s
family history to nd out if they
were natives or immigrants.

n the year 1760, when Great Britain
was involved in a war with France
for the protection of King George II‘s
interests in Hanover, forcible seizure
was resorted to, both in the army and navy,
and under one pretext or another, such as
being out of employment or their being
seamen or having been engaged in the
sheries, numbers of men were torn from
their families, the only privilege accorded
to the pressed men being their choice of
the army or sea service. No sooner was the
“Press Gang,” as then called, backed by the
military and the use of arms, than scenes of
riot and outrage prevailed in the sea ports.”
An extract from Brown – e early annals of
Greenock, 1905.
e Royal Navy struggled to recruit
enough personnel to man their ships,
mostly during times of war. As a solution
to this problem they initated an impress
service, more commonly known as a press
gang. Impressment is the term used to
describe the act of taking men into the Royal
Navy, using force, with or without notice.
e word press itself is a corruption of the
word ‘prest’ which is a French word meaning
loan or advance.
Many people believe that ordinary
civilians with no prior knowledge or work at
sea were captured and forced to life at sea.
However, this is a common misconception,
in reality it tended to be people with a
seagoing background who were likely to be
impressed. at’s not to say however that
no ordinary civilains were not inducted in
to the service without their permission in
times of great need. Some petty criminals
were given the chance to volunteer for the
service in exchange for serving the rest
of their sentence. In later years the press
gangs would target vagrants and idlers who
were sturdy and who they believed capable
of service.
e press gangs covered every port in
Britain, with large ports having Captains
and smaller ports having a Lieutenant
instead. e senior ocer was known as the
Regulating Ocer and the headquarters
were called the Rendezvous, with Greenock’s
located at Cross Shore Street and West
Quay Head. e Regulating ocer would
hire local men as ‘gangers’ to form the press
gangs, one of the only sure re ways to avoid
being captured. ere were age limits set for
those eligible to be impressed, set at 18-55,
however these guidelines were frequently
ignored. Upon being captured by the press
gangs you were issued an ultimatum: sign up
as a volunteer or remain a pressed man and
receive nothing.
Some governments issued ‘protections’
against impressment, including Britain.
ey were mainly issued to people of certain
occupations; however, this is not to say that
you were invincible from the press gangs as
even these protections could be rendered
invalid in times of great need.
e press gangs were met with
hostility at ports as you can imagine. It is
said that they were met by at least 27 mobs
in the rst year of their arrival in towns.
One mob found in Greenock attempted to
burn a boat of the Rendezvous kept in the
public square. is situation is said to be
the result of built up tension and animosity
that existed between the residents of the
town and the press gangs. Shortly before
this ill fated incident the town had decided
to take the matter into their own hands. At
a public meeting they had vowed to stick
together and protect one another from
the unscrupulous men. Alexander Weir,
the gang’s next target was successfully
impressed and a crowd of around 300-400
had gathered outside the Rendezvous to
demand his release. e Captain at the time
promised his release in an attempt to quell
the Impressment Ocers in Greenock

the anger but later broke his word, leading
to the event that is described by a passage
in “Press Gang: Naval Impressment and it’s
Opponents in Georgian Britain”:
“e lower class of people in Greenock
became very riotous and proceeded to burn
everything that came in their way, and about
12 o’clock they hauled one of the boats
belonging to the Rendezvous on the Square
and put her into the re, but by the timely
assistance of the ocers and
Gangs supported by the Magistrates & a
party of Fencibles, the boat was removed
tho’ much damaged.”
is form of retaliation against the
gangs was uncommon in Britain and set
the precedent on how people could protect
themselves from being impressed.
ere are numerous records held
containing correspondance between the
Admirality and the Lieutenant of the
Greenock press gangs. e letters below are
about charges brought on George Gentill’s
account for various expenses resulting
from the rioting of men in Greenock in the
13th November 1760 when he and 3 of his
crew were apprehended and committed to
gaol. ey are for bail, the attendance of a
surgeon, subsisting his men, prosecuting
the rioters and his own witness’ travelling
expenses. Charges of the such were not
usually permitted by the Board; however, he
requested an exception on his behalf on this
Letter 1- “George Gentill, having drawn
a bill on us from Greenock for the sum of
Forty pounds Sterling to carry on the Impress
service, we desire you will let us know the
measure of the R. Honourable the Lord
Comm. Of the Admiralty whether we shall
accept and pay the said Bill, and such oers
as he may draw on us while on this service”.
Letter 2- “In obedience to the
directions of the Right Honourable Lords
Commissioner of the Admirality, signied
by McStephens’s letter of 27 ins, we send
you herewith the several articles amounting
to £96.12.9 charged in Lieutenant
George Gentil’s account for extraordinary
disbursement of various kinds, occasioned
by a riot in pressing Men at Greenock, which
we desire you will lay before their Lordships
and admirality”.
Another example of a request for funds
to the admirality in relation to impressed
men in Greenock can be seen below:
“I beg leave to enclose you a voucher
for twenty beds and forty hammocks
purchased of Mr William Donald at 6s
for use of new raised men on board the
Pomona. e amount of which I have drawn
for,on your Hon the Board, this day. e
Hammocks are delivered into the Boatsmen
charges as for his accepted to me, annexed
to the voucher.”
A story of particular interest can be
found in the Judicial Records of Renfrewshire
ere is an interesting opening
paragraph that provides a fascinating
glimpse into the times when the press gangs
would roam the streets in search of their
next “volunteers”.
“...But no sooner was the press-gang
backed by the military, let loose, than
scenes of riot and outrage pervaded the
country. In the towns of Port Glasgow and
Greenock they were of alarming frequency,
in consequence of the visit of parties of
seamen, armed to the teeth with pistols and
cutlases, scouring the quays and streets,
entering public-houses and searching
merchant ships for seamen for the royal
navy and the peacable inhabitants were
exposed and too often made quitely to suer
the most brutal treatment at the hands of
these armed parties.”
In 1776 there was an investigation
into a particularly brutal incident resulting
from Liuetenant George Gentill and his
gang’s actions. More often than not the
authorities were unwilling to involve
themselves in the press gang’s aairs despite
some of the violent behaviour and injuries
they inicted upon their victims. In this case
they were forced to intervene into an act
that was unwarranted and of such ferocity.
On the 13th of November 1760,
Captain Auld was the target of the press
gang’s attention. It is this action that
triggered the attentions of the authorities
reuslting in a judicial trial. e story goes:
“...he was standing on the public street
along with Ninian Spence, coppersmith, and
seeing a naval ocer and a party of armed
men coming from the east end of the town,
he went into a close to avoid them, but
was followed by them down the close, and
there attacked and assaulted, and severely
wounded in one of his arms with a cutlass;
and that several other persons, and among
others Nininian Spence, Ronal M’Donald
and Archibald Anderson, were also attacked
and assaulted by Gentill and his men,
without provocation.”
A wide selection of characters were
examined in relation to the incident. One
witness, Mr James M’Donald saw Gentill
and his men approaching and questioned
them to as what was their purpose. George
Gentill revealed that three of his men had
deserted them and as a result they were
looking for three more to replace them.
Gentill and his gang proceeded up New Street
in pursuit of three men and were met with
an angry response from the townspeople
and eventually a mob advanced on them and
threw stones at Gentill and his men.
Gentill’s gang reataliated by “striking
with their cutlasses everybody that came
near them, particlularly Captain Auld,
Ronald M’Donald, and Archibald Anderson,
and saw blood owing from Captain Auld’s
arm. Ninian Spence, with whom Captain
Auld had been standing on the street, saw
the “gang” coming along the street, when
he and the captain went into the close
to get out of their way, when they were
followed to the foot of the close and struck
with cutlasses, and Captain Auld severely
wounded.” On examination by a doctor it
was said that George Gentill was at risk of
having his arm amputated.
Despite the wealth of respectable
witnesses to account for the scene that
Captain Auld described, no prosecution took
place. e Government still had a tendency
to side with gangs who recruited much
needed“volunteers” for the Navy. It was
not until 1814 that the brutal practice of
impressing men was ended.
e lower class of people in Greenock
became very riotous and proceeded to burn
everything that came in their way
hile looking
through family
photographs I
noticed some of
an old gravestone with a cross,
an anchor and what intrigued
me, words engraved at the base
that looked like some sort of a
poem. I spoke to the sta at the
Greenock Cemetery who when
I called them immediately said
“ere are twenty people in
that grave, there is no room for
anyone else!” I assured them I
was only interested in who
was in the grave so they gave
me a map to nd it and a list of
my family buried there, the
Mooney Family.
e grave was purchased
by my great, great grandfather
Daniel in 1873, for £1.10
shillings. I was right about the
poem, it reads:
Short was the warning that
came from the Lord above,
at took me from my wife and the
children that I love,
Forbear to weep tis vain to mourn
From dust I came and now to
dust return.
From the grave I then
decided I would try to trace the
people on the list. From the
parish records of St. Mary’s,
the Watt Library and the
Registrar’s Oce I collected a
lot of information.
By Grace Binnie
In the 1830s a Dennis
Mooney, his wife Mary and their
son Daniel arrived in Greenock
from Ireland, I am still searching
for the county, it seems that the
name Mooney is all over Ireland
on pubs, I guess that’s a ‘hands
on’ search for the future.
Dennis was a blacksmith
and they lived in William St
where their daughter Susan
was born 1839 and son Henry
in 1841. I have little information
about Susan, but Henry married
in Glasgow.
In 1850 Daniel, who had
joined the Merchant Navy met
and married Elizabeth Dick,
from Paisley, in St. Mary’s
Greenock. ey had four
children, but three of them died
before their third birthday and
I am still searching for the
county, it seems that the
name Mooney is all over
Ireland on pubs
Daniel Mooney
B: 1829
Mary O’Neil
Dennis Mooney Susan Mooney
B: 1839
Henry Mooney
B: 1841
Sarah Mooney
B: 1850
Elizabeth Dick
M: 1850
Daniel Mooney
B: 1829 M: 1850
Daniel Mooney
B: 1853
James Mooney
B: 1856
Henry Mooney
B: 1862
Top: Daniel
Mooney’s register
Bottom: An early
are buried in our grave. When
Daniel left the navy in 1854
he joined Elizabeth, who was a
fruiterer and poulterer, in her
shop. ey appear in the Post
Oce Directories of 1859 as
grocers at 8 Manse Lane,
then in 7 East Quay Lane and
then in 1879 their shop was at 5
William Street.
When Daniel died in
1884, Elizabeth decided to
leave Greenock, it was she who
put up the gravestone with its
inscription, and she bought a
shop in Innellan. e shop was
a success. My grandfather used
to tell of visiting her and helping
in the shop. Elizabeth died in
1897 and, the story goes, most
of her son Daniel’s inheritance
went to her lawyer. is possibly
happened because Daniel could
neither read nor write. Perhaps I
should look for his descendants!
In 1874 in St. Lawrence’s
Greenock, Daniel married Mary
Rogers from Belfast.
Elizabeth died in 1897 and, the story goes
most of her son Daniel’s inheritance went to
her lawyer
Top: East Quay Lane.
Middle: Manse Lane.
Bottom: A fruiterer
and poulterer.
ey were both twenty
one and they lived in Stanners
Lane where two of their children
Daniel and Mary were born.
Daniel joined the
merchant navy in 1884, I
recently found his Ticket of
Register, No. 356387, and
that the Port of Greenock was
No.97, from these I hope to
nd the names of his ships
and destinations. On Daniel’s
rst voyage to Australia he and
some others were forced, or
shanghaied from the ship, to
work on a sheep farm.
It was two years before
he could pay his passage home.
Amazingly, a few years later
the owner of the farm came
to Greenock to apologise and
recompensed Mary and the
children for all the grief and
hardship he had caused.
Daniel and Mary moved
to 16 William Street where on
the 25th of December 1881 my
grandfather, Peter was born.
ey had one more child Sarah.
She was a character and full
Tommy was called up and sent to
Burma. It was to be six years before he
saw Nancy and the boys again
of fun. Peter married Gracie
MacNeil from Barra in St. Mary’s
in July 1903. He was a foundry
labourer and Gracie was a ax
mill worker. ey lived in West
Stewart Street and had six
children Daniel, Peter, omas,
Helen, James and Mary. In
1912 Daniel, aged nine, died in
Gateside Hospital.
Peter was sent to the Watt
College in 1919 and trained
as a Radio Operator. His rst
voyage, like his grandfather’s,
was to Australia and was so bad
that he and a few others jumped
ship and stayed. He never came
home again. Peter married Edna
and they had a daughter Joan
and son Maxwell. It wasn’t until
1982 after her father had died,
that Joan traced, found
and came over to meet with
our family.
At the start of World War
2 Tommy (omas) was married
to Nancy McIver and they had a
daughter Grace who died at 18
months and two sons, Peter and
James. Tommy was called up in
WWII and sent to Burma.
It was to be six years
before he saw Nancy and the
boys again. But they saw him:
along with many others Nancy,
Peter and Jim went to a Glasgow
cinema where they watched a
Movie Tone News Reel as all the
men marched forward through
the mud (it was monsoon time
Top: Stanners Lane
Middle: An
Australian sheep
Bottom: William
Street as painted by
Patrick Downie
in Burma); each would stop at
the camera and speak to his
family. Peter and Jim were
about nine and seven, but they
still remember their Dad telling
them he loved them, missed
them and to be good for their
mother. ere was a party in the
welfare building when Tommy
nally came home.
e youngest Mary never
married but stayed with her
sister Helen and her husband
Hugh Maloney. ey had two
daughters Elizabeth and May.
May died in 1944 aged only 10
months. In October 1939 Jimmy
married Bridget MacDonald
in St. Lawrence’s. ey lived
in West Stewart St (where
Jimmy was born) and had three
daughters Joan, Helen and me.
Jimmy was a sapper in the
Royal Engineers, but his stories
about the war were how Bridget
would ask him on his next leave
to bring home nylons. He was in
North Africa and because he had
a rare blood type: if you rubbed
the khaki uniforms hard against
Daniel Mooney
Mary Rogers
M: 1874
Daniel Mooney
B: 1853 M: 1874
Mary Mooney
Peter Mooney
B: 1881
Sarah Mooney
Daniel Mooney
Gracie MacNeil
Peter Mooney
B: 1881 M: 1903
Peter Mooney
James Mooney
B: 1910
Mary Mooney
omas Mooney
Helen Mooney
Joan Mooney
B: 1940
James Mooney
B: 1910 M: 1939 Helen Mooney
B: 1942
Grace Mooney
B: 1947
He had a rare blood type: if you rubbed
the khaki uniforms hard against his
skin it would come up in great welts
his skin it would come up in great welts
and he and his friends put this to good use.
ey would create the welts and take him
for medical treatment to the US doctors.
He would be admitted and they would visit
him at meal times. It had to be the American
base because their food was so much better
than the British. ey had a party for Jimmy
in the “wash house” when he came home.
I have not yet found out the history of all
the people buried in our grave but I am
now beginning to put together the lives
and stories of our family since we arrived in
Greenock about 180 years ago.

Top: My parents in Rothesay.
Bottom Left: My Grandmother
Grace MacNeil Mooney with her
daughters Helen and Mary.
Bottom Right: St Lawrence’s
reenock and Port Glasgow have
long ties with shipbuilding
spanning over two centuries.
One of the rst recorded
shipyards in the area was founded by John
Scott in 1711. e business was set up
around Cartsburn and initially specialised
in building herring busses and small shing
crafts. By 1728 there existed around nine
hundred likewise shing boats, all locally
built. After John Scott’s death, the business
passed to his son and the business would
pass from father to son like this for the
duration of the company. However, the
business did not suer as a result of this and
the company passed through the control of
eight people and down six generations, all
direct descendents of the yard’s founder.
In doing so it still managed to maintain its
strong position as one of the world’s leading
shipbuilding companies.
When William Scott took over control
of the business he worked with his brother
to extend the business in regards to the
extent of vessels built. It was not until
1765 that the yard produced the rst
square-rigged ship, which was the rst built
on the Clyde for owners out of Scotland.
After the American War of Independence,
Scottish owners had no other choice but to
order from suppliers in their own country.
Scott’s were prepared in advance for this
and it allowed them their rst real chance
to build for the world. John(II) Scott who
was in control of the company at this point
managed to take the company into a bold
new age of expansion. He controlled the
company with the help of his brother,
William(II), until 1838. It is sometimes said
that John Scott(II) was one of the most
inuential gures in the rm’s history.
Described as ‘Clever, Shrewd and of a
Cheerful Temperament’, John had a great
deal of success with the company under
his control. His father had left him enough
capital to ensure continued expansion of
the company and John had used the money
to do exactly this. However, he also had
a rm place in the development of steam
power and was the rst to make contact
with the Admirality- this was in 1806 when
Scott’s built the Prince of Wales. Despite
the responsibility and demands placed upon
him by the running of the company he
still managed to be actively involved in the
community and was responsible for
the construction of Greenock’s Custom
House Quay. His other interests included
yachts and he was also a partner in the
Greenock Bank.
Charles C. Scott, the son and
successor of John(II), was a pioneer in the
construction of steam liners and warships.
Seven years after the launch of the Comet,
Scott’s began to build what was then the
biggest steamships in Britain.At this time
the company had worked on a number of
dierent clippers, one notable one being
“e Lord of the Isles”, which made a record
voyage from China in 1856.
Like his father before him, Charles was
a partner in the Greenock Bank, and was
unfortunate to be so at a time of a robbery,
that garnered much attention, on the 9th
of March 1928. e thieves had carefully
planned their assault on the bank, having
arrived in Greenock months before and
chosen the bank as their target, believing
the Evolution of an Empire
it had weak points they would be able to
exploit. is was at a time where the death
penalty was still legal in Britain, so theft was
not something to be considered frivolously.
After eeing they were pursued by Charles
Scott to London. He was unable to catch up
with them; however, he managed to make
contact with the thieves and agreed to meet
at London Bridge, where the stolen money
was handed back to him.
In the rst half of the nineteenth
century, the rm continued to produce a long
series of sailing ships, while contributing to
the development of the steamship. ere
was a close relationship between Scott’s
and the family of the inventor James Watt.
It only seems logical therefore that they
would be among the rst to enter in to
the construction of steamships. e rst
steamship on the Clyde was built in 1819 by
Scott’s and was intended for trade between
Clyde and Liverpool. e company purchased
an engine works in Greenock in 1825 and
began to build steamers for the long trade
routes to the Middle and Far East.
ey were kept aoat during the
Great Depression by warship orders and
when work was slow they seized the
opportunity to swap East Cartsdyke yard
with Mid Cartsdyke yard. e Cartsburn
yard was exclusively for the work of Naval
construction during World War 2. After
World War 2 the yard reverted back to its
original purpose of merchant shipbuilding.
In 1914 after a series of rigorous diving
tests Scotts was the rst shipyard in Scotland
to build a submarine.e company constantly
worked to improve their submarine designs
and equipment, keeping their name fresh
in the Admiralties mind. Two more subs of
the same design were built by the company,
named S2 and S3, in addition to the motor
driven subs E31 and E52 that had mine
laying capabilities. e last submarine to be
built was the Otama in 1975.
On the 21st December 1965, the
merger of Scott’s Cartsburn Dockyard and
the Cartsdyke shipyard was announced. is
merger took eect on the 1st of April 1966
and Scott’s had one continuous shipyard
which had a been a goal for them for quite
some time.
After competition from the Far East, it
was clear that a radical approach would have
to be taken in order for the yards to compete
internationally. e Geddes Committee of
Enquiry into the Shipbuilding Industry was
set up in 1966 and the ndings in 1968
led to the merger of Scott’s and Lithgow’s.
It was in 1970 that the merger took place
and Scott Lithgow Ltd. was fomed with
a 60/40 split with Scott’s controlling the
larger portion. During the 1970’s the rm
continued to make huge tankers and naval
ships. On the 1st of July 1977 the shipyards
were nationalised and Scott Lithgows were
absorbed into British Shipbuilders. Almost
immediately the yards began to run out of
orders.e last ship to be launched from
the Cartsdyke yard was on the 8th August
1979 and the last ship launched from the
Cartsburn yard was on the 19th of February
1980. e yard was privatised in 1984 and
sold to Trafalgar House Consortium. Trade
ceased immediately after this and the last
vessell built by Scott Lithgow was the Ocean
Alliance, now located o the coast of Brazil.
is was a self propelled semi-submersible
drilling rig.
e company believed that there was
a future in building these types of vessels,
however the venture in to this market did
not yield the results they hoped for. e
fact that the rig was overdue and they
had overbid for it, some say was the nal
straw in the collapse of the company. e
demise of the company was attributed to
a number of factors. It was said that there
was pressure on the yards to modernise,
yet there wasn’t adequate investment to
promote this. e Far East, in particular
countries like Japan and China, were
building their ships entirely from scratch
and therefore were able to implement the
most modern equipment into their design.
Moreover, a lack of subsidization from
the government for national industry was
said to have contributed greatly to the
matter. Scottish shipbuilders were unable to
compete with countries whose governments
were providing support for their shipyards.
e yard was dismantled between the
years of 1987 and 1995 to make room for a
redevelopment of the area, ending the 250
year reign of one of the most innovative and
renowned shipyards in the world.
It was clear that a radical approach would
have to be taken in order for the yards to
compete internationally
Top: e Ocean Alliance oil rig.
Middle: “e Lord of the Isles.”
Bottom: An early submarine built by Scotts.

his photo of my
grandmother Jane
Stewart with her
husband William and
her son Duncan and daughter
Catherine (my mother) was
taken in 1911.
e 1911 census reveals
that my grandmother was 29
and my grandfather was 28.
ey were recorded as living at
27 Scott’s Lane, Port Glasgow.
My grandfather, William Stewart
was born in 1885. In 1907 when
he was 22 years old he worked as
an apprentice iron plater in the
shipyards of Port Glasgow. When
he was fully qualied he probably
helped to build ships launched at
Fergusons and Lamonts.
By Jean Campbell
Martha McClusky
B: 1857 Ann Doris
James McCarthy
McCorkindale Jane Black
McQuire Catherine Burns
John McQuire
John Stewart
Ann McCarthur
Nelson Stewart
In 1917, King George
V embarked on a tour of the
merchant shipyards, marine
engine builders and steel mills
in the UK. He spent four days
in the west of Scotland. It’s
almost certain that William
Stewart would have witnessed
this having worked in one of the
shipyards the King visited.
When the ships were
launched they were then taken
to the tting out bay which
surrounded Rodger’s old
shipbuilding yard.
In the 1890’s these were
the harbours and yards of Port
Glasgow but during world war 2
Rodger’s old shipbuilding yard
and East Harbour on Long Quay
were taken over by the admiralty
and named HMS Monck. At the
time this was largely used for
the construction, assembly and
repair of troop landing crafts.
HMS Monck was the
combined training headquarters
commissioned at Largs in 1942.
By 1944 the establishment
covered operations carrier
training, the naval barracks
and the landing craft base at
Port Glasgow. e shore billets
and accommodation for the base
were located south east of the
town on the high ground, known
locally as High Carnegie. In the
early 1950’s the remainder of
these buildings became known
as the Holy Family area.
When the ships were
launched they were then
taken to the tting out bay
Top: An ariel view of
Greenock shipyards.
Bottom: King
George V visting the
On the 11th of September
1946 the Greenock Telegraph
printed the following article,
describing the council’s plan for
the disused Naval Camp. e
article reads as follows:
“Port will use Naval Camp for
Port Glasgow town council has
ocially taken over the naval
camp HMS Monck and will
turn it into emergency housing
accommodation. e move
forestalls intending squatters
who will if they move into the
camp without permission
forfeit any claim they have to a
new house.
is step follows several
months of unsuccessful
negotiations between the
Town Council and the
Department of Health for
Scotland for the necessary
grant to enable the camp to be
turned into temporary housing
accommodation suitable for a
period of up to ten years. It was
estimated that it would cost
£360 per house to carry out this
plan which was turned down by
the Department on the grounds
that skilled labour and materials
required to convert the Nissen
huts into temporary housing
would not be justied.
Warning to Squatters
Mr R. Moore Town Clerk informs the
telegraph today however, that the town
council has now accepted a proposal by the
Department that it should take over the
camp for emergency housing for a limited
period of say, two to three years. Only the
minimum adaptations will be permitted
and lavatory facilities will be communal. A
charge will be made to occupants to cover
local rates and lighting.
e town council is inviting
applications from persons who are prepared
to occupy the huts on this basis, and
applications should be lodged with the
Burgh Factor not later than 28 September.
It is not expected that the huts will be
available before the 31st of October.
It is pointed out that any person that
applies for and receives the tenancy of a
Nissen hut will not thereby prejudice his
application for a post-war house. But any
person entering the camp will automatically
forfeit any right to be considered for the
tenancy of a post-war house.
Intending squatters who
will if they move into the
camp without permission
forfeit any claim they have
to a new house
Top: Port Glasgow
Right: A Nissen hut
e Holy Family church
was opened in 1946 and the
rst mass was said in a Nissen
hut onsite of the disused naval
facility, the HMS Monck. I found
an interesting article from
the Greenock Telegraph that
describes the opening of the
new Holy Family Church. e
article from the 7th of May 1963
is as follows:
Bishop lays foundation stone
at ‘Port’ Church
Watched by several hundred
people who gathered in the
almost completed building,
Bishop Black of Paisley, on
Tuesday night laid foundation
stone of the new Holy Family
Church at Broadeld, Port
Glasgow. He also inserted in
the stone a casket containing
newspapers, current coins and
a document recounting the
history of the parish and of the
struggle of the people to build
the new church. In a speech
afterwards he said “Please God
that it may be many generations
hence that this document will be
seen again.”
In his remarks Bishop
Black said that the foundation
stone had been set in place as a
memorial of this great occasion
for the parishioners who were
raising on this site a monument
to the glory of God.
B: 1883 Martha McClusky
B: 1857 M: 1878
M: 1878
William Stewart
B: 1884 Catherine
D: 1903
John Stewart
D: 1844
B: 1910
B: 1883 M: 1907
D: 1966
William Stewart
B: 1884 M: 1907
D: 1940
Years of waiting

“After long years of waiting to see your
hopes so nearly realised you will not
have long to wait now until the work
is nished”, he said. Soon they would
gather for the opening ceremony and
then it would be truly a house of God
in this new part of the old town of Port
Glasgow. Bishop Black was assisted by Rev.
T O’Dwyer, Rev. P Burke and Rev. Patrick
Woods. Also present were a number of
canons and parish priests from churches in
the district.
Work on the new church began 18
months ago and the structure has now
been completed. Work on the interior is
well under way and the opening ceremony
is expected to take place in the mid
summer. For some years people of the
parish have been attending services in an
old war-time building a short distance
away from the new building.
It was Rev. Father Sweeney who
converted the Nissan hut to the church
and for 13 years mass was said here before
moving in 1959 to the new Holy Family
church at High Carnegie.
For some years people
of the parish have been
attending services in an
old war-time building
Left e Holy
Family Church.
e hall had many social
events – basket teas, record
hops, boxing classes etc. On a
Sunday afternoon there was a
lm show, perhaps we would
see it, perhaps not – only if the
projector was working!
I myself was schooled in
one of the Nissen huts located
in the naval camp and I have
many memories of the time I
spent there.
e site was to be the
church, school and social hall,
but remember, the Nissen huts
belonging to HMS Monck, were
accommodation for those who
worked at the HMS Monck down
at the harbour. ey were split
in the middle by a big wall and
two families lived in a single
hut. One family on one side and
one family in another. It was
usually a single room and had
What fun we had wading
through the puddles, which could
be found in all of the classrooms
a little stove in it but it didn’t
have water in it or anything like
that and there were no toilets
or anything. ey had to use a
block of huts to wash etc.
Some of the people from
Port Glasgow have very fond
memories of these. e school
was not always watertight but
what fun we had wading through
the puddles, which could be
found in all of the classrooms.
Also there was a tuck
shop, an old building beside
the school, where we bought
delicious penny treacle scones.
e teachers were quite strict
in those days. Some of them
did use the belt and throw
dusters at us if we stepped
out of line. e teachers I can
remember are Mr Mitchell,
the headmaster, Miss Ryan,
she taught me to knit a cotton
face cloth, Mr Watson, Mrs
Conway, Mr Morrow, the duster
thrower. When he was cleaning
the blackboard and someone
was talking he would turn
around and re the duster. Miss
Richardson and of course Miss
Byrne, she was my favourite.
e photo of my husband
and I was taken at one of the
many basket teas in the Holy
Family hall (one of the Nissan
huts of the HMS Monck). We
were not romantically attached
then, just friends. All my friends
and I attended these.
ese basket teas were
organized by the Ladies Guild
of the church. e ladies would
dust o their china sets, organize
tables with food and sell tickets,
the proceeds of which went
towards the church funds.
ese dances were the
highlight of our month when we
were fteen years old. Next door
to the hall was the snooker room
which held two full size billard
tables. is was where all the
boys frequented. When the hall
was not in use for basket teas
it was used for the boxing club
that was organized by Father
Patrick Burke.
We were extremely lucky
when we were young because all
our socialising was done within
the church and hall when we were
teenagers. All in all at that time
our whole life revolved around
what had been the HMS Monck.
Today the then used naval
base is now the “dead centre” of
the Port – e Cemetery!
Top: Me with my
future husband
Bottom: Port
Glasgow Cemetery
s the shipbuilding industry
began to change the landscape
of the town another industry
began to make its mark. e
Industrial Revolution was making changes
to agriculture, manufacturing, mining,
transportation and technology. It was
to have a profound eect on the social,
economic and cultural conditions of Britain.
e history of the sugar rening industry
in Greenock spans over two hundred years.
Trade between the Clyde and the West
Indies began about 1732. e rst sugar
renery was set up in 1765 by a group of
West Indian merchants and was located at
the bottom of Sugarhouse Lane, close to
where the Oak Mall now stands today.
e promoters of the venture
amounted to eight in total, their names
being as follows: Messrs Alex Wilson of
Glanderstone, omas Hopkirk, Claud
Alexander of Newton and Arthur Connel,
merchants in Glasgow, with Messrs omas
Dunlop, Archibald White and William
MacCunn, merchants in Greenock. ey
enlisted Mark Khull, a German immigrant
who also had one-eighth share in the
concern, as their practised partner (boiler).
e company was named e Greenock
Sugar House Company.
Germany was home to the rst
sugar renery, opened in 1537, and the
Germans were considered masters in the
trade. However, in Greenock it tended to be
wealthy local merchants who owned and ran
the factories and the hard labour was left
for the Irish and German immigrants. With
the sudden surge in industry in the town it
is no surprise that many immigrants arrived
in the area to seek employment as they were
often leaving behind places with very few
opportunities and widespread poverty.
In 1747 Andreas Margaraf, a German
chemist, managed to nd a way to extract
sugar from beet in a form that was suitable
for use in cooking. Europe’s temperature
provided the optimum conditions for the
crop to grow. e introduction of this crop
was to have a fatal impact on Greenock
whose main source of sugar derived from
sugar cane in Britain’s colonies in the
West Indies. Export of rened sugar from
Britain began to fall and there began to
be an increase in output from mainland
Europe, mainly from France, Belgium
and Austria. In 1874 the Prime Minister,
William Gladstone, made a decision to
remove the duty on sugar and make it more
aordable to the ordinary citizen of Britain.
An increase in consumption followed and
Greenock began to increase its output. By
1881 Greenock had reached its highest
meltings yet at 260,299 tons. Cane sugar
was still Greenock’s main source or raw
sugar, however beetroot was beginning
to become a competitor and out of the
260,229 tons melted that year, 100,000
had derived from beet sugar. Almost ten
years later, in 1890, the situation was
ipped on its head and the majority of
meltings that year were derived from that
beet sugar. Of the 222,000 tons, 213,000
were imported from Germany and only
7000 tons imported from Java.
Mark Khull
and the Sugar Capital of Scotland
With Greenock now
becoming a hub for international
trade it became clear that the
harbours were too small to
accommodate the demand
placed upon them. ere was
a scheme in place to build new
harbours to increase the capacity.
Many harbours were created
as a result of this, including
the Victoria Harbour, Albert
Harbour and the James Watt
Dock. Construction of the
James Watt Dock commenced
on the 1st of August 1878. It
was completed in 1886 and it
was built with the intention
of being able to accommodate
transatlantic vessels and
compete with the Queen’s
Dock in Glasgow. e original
budget was set at £242,885 5s
3d however, it proceeded to be
a much more costly investment
than initially thought and the
nal cost of the project totalled
£634,3438s 3d or (£850,000
if including the price of the
land). Despite its high cost the
development proved successful
and the growth in trade allowed
for expansion in the town. By
1864, a quarter of Britain’s sugar
reneries were located in Port
Glasgow or Greenock and it was
said there was no town outside of
London carrying out the trade so
extensively, leading to Greenock
to be dubbed as ‘Sugaropolis’, the
sugar capital of Scotland.
e Westburn renery was
the last sugar renery to operate
in Scotland. It was a large multi-
period complex incorporating
19th century fabric, but also
including buildings rebuilt
after damage in the Greenock
Blitz of 1941, and some post-
war structures. e Westburn
renery belonged latterly to
Tate & Lyle. e renery closed
in 1998 as a result of falling
demand for rened sugar.
One of the biggest names
to have arisen out of the sugar
rening industry in Greenock
is undoubtedly Abram Lyle.
Abram Lyle was born in
Greenock in 1820. In 1865,
with the help of four business
partners he purchased e
Glebe Sugar Renery.
With the help of his three
sons he bought two wharves
at Plaistow in East London in
1881 with the aim of using is as
a sugar renery. Abram Lyle and
sons merged with Henry Tate
and sons in 1921. Before the
merger the two men were said
to be bitter business rivals with
their factories in London located
within a very short distance of
one another, however they were
said to have never met each
other in person.
Lyle was aware of the fact
that the sugar rening process
created a by-product in the form
of a treacly syrup that most
often went to waste. However,
Lyle saw an opportunity here;
to rene this product into
something that could be used
as a preserve and sweetener
for cooking. At the beginning
it proved popular although it
was only distributed locally.
However, it was soon selling in
large quantities all around the
country. e factory still stands
today and over a million tins
of syrup leave the factory each
month. ey are still one of
the biggest suppliers of rened
sugar in Great Britain.
e sugar trade was
beginning to slow in Greenock
by the latter half of the 20th
century and in 1997 the last
of Greenock’s sugar reneries,
owned by Tate and Lyle, closed
and Greenock’s long connection
with sugar was severed.
e Sugar Sheds, located
on James Watt Dock, is where
both the raw and rened sugar
was stored. It is Scotland’s
largest surviving cast-iron and
brick industrial structure and
is categorized as an A-listed
building. e Sheds lie mostly
vacant today; however, the are
a legacy of the town’s past and
most importantly, a monument
to Industry.
A quarter of Britain’s sugar reneries were
located in Port Glasgow or Greenock and
it was said there was no town outside of
London carrying out the trade so extensively
Top: An Ariel view of the
sugar sheds
Bottom Left: Sugarhouse
Bottom Right: e Tate &
Lyle renery

An Irish
Family in Greenock
An Irish
Family in Greenock
hen I rst started
investigating my family tree
on my mother’s side I had
very little information. I
By Frances M Dunlop
knew that my grandfather died sometime
in the early 1940s, well before I was born.
Using the excellent ScotlandsPeople website,
I soon found the record of his death in 1941.
From there I was able to trace back, and nd
a wealth of information in a relatively short
time. It was the story of a fairly typical
Irish family, one of thousands who came
to Scotland looking for a better life. But
there were a few surprises along the way.
Below are the stories of some of the people
I encountered.
My great-great-grandfather John
Donnelly was the son and grandson of
farm workers in Ireland, possibly near
Dungannon in Co. Tyrone, at the time when
the country was devastated by the potato
famine. In the years 1845 - 1850 over a
million people died of starvation
and many more emigrated, seeking a better
life overseas.
In 1846 or 1847 John, with his
wife Isabella, sons Francis, aged about 9,
and baby James, left Ireland to settle in
Greenock. ey probably sailed from Derry
or Belfast. Given the age gap between
Francis and James, it is likely that other
children had been born and died.
Five more children were born in
Greenock: John, Bernard, Edward I, Mary
and Edward II.
Edward, born in 1851 and named after
his maternal grandfather, died in infancy.
e next son was also named Edward.
e Donnelly children were baptised in
old St Mary’s, East Shaw Street, and all went
to school. eir parents, John & Isabella,
were unable to write.
John & Isabella’s eldest son, Francis,
was 14 years old in 1851. He was at that
Left: Old St Mary’s
church and school,
East Shaw St.
time an apprentice blockmaker (probably
pulley blocks for shipbuilding). So far, there
is no further record of him after this.
John served in the police for a few
years, but later found work as a labourer
in one of Greenock’s sugar reneries. e
work was hard, dirty and dangerous, in
almost unbearable heat. Conditions were so
bad that it was dicult to recruit workers,
except among the immigrant Irish, many of
whom were destitute and desperate. Most of
the workforce of Greenock’s sugar industry
in the nineteenth century was Irish.
ere is something puzzling here. Why
did John leave the police for the dicult and
dangerous work of the sugarhouse? Or was he
dismissed from the service for some reason?
How unusual was it for an Irish Catholic to
be in the police force in the rst place?
John Donnelly appears as a policeman
in the 1851 census, living in Charles Street.
Presumably he is the same “John Donnelly,
police ocer”, listed in the Post Oce
Directories 1849-1852. (e addresses vary,
but it was normal for people to “it at the
term”.) e following year, 1853-1854, there
is no entry in the Directory, but in 1855-
1856 we have “Donnelly John, labourer, 67
Vennel”. By the 1861 census he is listed as a
“sugar baker”, having presumably served his
time in the intervening years.
So what happened?
Unfortunately the Greenock police
records don’t go back this far, so we are left
to conjecture.
I have a feeling about this.
e 1850s were troubled years in
Greenock, as in the rest of the country.
e question of Home Rule for Ireland
dominated British politics at this time, and
there were strong feelings on each side,
breaking out into ghts and civil disorder
from time to time.
On 27 December 1852 a riot broke
out in Sir Michael Street, where St Patrick’s
Band were holding a concert. A hostile
crowd gathered outside the hall, shouting
slogans, and clashed with police who were
stationed there in case of trouble. One
policeman, unnamed in the newspaper
report, was struck in the face by a stone
and seriously injured. Could this have been
John Donnelly? Could this be the reason
why he left the police and found work in the
sugar renery? Given the correspondence in
dates, my feeling is that his departure from
the force was somehow connected with the
disturbances of these years.
e “backlands” were ramshackle tenements
crammed into every available space,
overcrowded and insanitary
Mary McCosker
John Donnelly
Edward Toal
Isabella Toal
Mary Donnelly
Simon Donnelly
B: 1790 D: 1861
James Donnelly
B: 1844
Isabella Toal
D: 1873
John Donnelly
D: 1882
John Donnelly
B: 1849
Mary Donnelly
Top Left: Greenock
Burgh Police
Top Right: e
backlands of the
Below: One of
Greenock’s sugar
By 1861 two of his sons, John and
Bernard, were apprentices in the sugarhouse
with their father. Young John was aged 14;
Bernard was 12. It was hard, dirty work for
young boys.
e family had settled in the Vennel,
one of Greenock’s main thoroughfares. By
this time the notorious “backlands” had
grown up behind the original houses and
shops. e “backlands” were ramshackle
tenements crammed into every available
space, overcrowded and insanitary. Eight
Donnellys were crowded into a room and
kitchen: father, mother, ve children and
grandfather - John’s widowed father who
had come over from Ireland to live with
them. John’s father died aged 71 of
“natural decay”. He was blind at the time of
his death.
e Sad Story of James Donnelly,
e Blind Fiddler.
John and Isabella’s son James was attending
school at the age of six, but lost his sight.
Disease? Accident? We don’t know. He
learned to play the ddle, and earned his
living as a street musician. When he was 24
he met and married Ann Flynn, a hawker.
She was six years older than he was; maybe
she felt protective towards him. ey had a
baby boy, born on St Patrick’s Day 1869, and
named Francis Patrick.
e baby died of hydrocephalus
(perhaps caused by infection) aged 11
months. His mother, Ann, died a few
months later in Greenock Poorhouse
(Captain Street). Cause of death was given
as renal dropsy.
In 1871 James was back living with
his parents, sister Mary and 14 year old
brother Edward.
e following year James had another
chance of happiness. On 22 April 1872 he
married Sarah Muldoon in Belfast, and
brought her back to Greenock, where they
set up home in the Vennel, near James’s
parents, later moving to Tobago Street.
One year later baby Isabella was
born, named after her grandmother,
James’s mother.
But more heartbreak
followed for James with the
death of his mother from
bronchitis, just two months
after the birth of her wee
namesake. It was James who
registered the death, making his
mark with a cross.
His father, John, may have
been incapacitated by a stroke by
this time. He was looked after by
his daughter Mary, and moved
in with her after her marriage.
In October 1874 Sarah
gave birth to twin girls, Mary
and Elizabeth.
Baby Elizabeth died aged
two months, after suering
convulsions for twelve days.
As with baby Francis Patrick,
there was no medical attendant
– they probably couldn’t aord
a doctor. After this there is no
further record of James and his
family in Greenock. Perhaps
they went to Ireland to be near
Sarah’s family in Belfast. Let’s
hope that the rest of their life
was happier for them after
leaving the Greenock slums.
Top: Census records showing
that James was a blind street
Below: “e Blind Fiddler” by
Sir James Wilkie.
Bernard Donnelly and e Kangaroo
In the 1860s Jane Collins was living in
Charles St with her parents, two sisters and
two brothers. Her father John was a carter
at the docks. Aged 13, Jane worked as a
spinner in the Merino Mill. She had little or
no schooling and was unable to sign her name.
Later she was employed as a French
polisher, probably in one of the shipyards.
In February 1868 Jane married
Bernard Donnelly (brother of James the
blind ddler). She was 20, he was a few
Conditions were
dreadful and wages
were low, so it was
no wonder that at
some time after his
marriage Bernard
decided to go to sea
Jane Collins
Frances Sarah
Bernard Donnelly
M: 1868
Lizzie McCall
John Donnelly
B: 1868
John Donnelly
B: 1868
Robert Donnelly
B: 1874
Jane Donnelly
B: 1877
Francis omas
B: 1880
Frances Mary
Dunlop Frances Sarah
John Dunlop
months younger. Jane had been baptised in
the Church of Scotland, but was married in
St Mary’s. (New St Mary’s, Patrick Street,
opened just six years previously.) e young
couple lived in West Burn Street. eir rst
son, John, was born in June 1868. (Oops!)
From the age of twelve Bernard had
worked as a sugarhouse labourer, following
in his father’s footsteps. Conditions were
dreadful and wages were low, so it was no
wonder that at some time after his marriage
Bernard decided to go to sea.
His family was growing. In 1874
a second son was born, named Robert
Archibald Raven Donnelly. Raven? Well,
he was born “On board of the Liverpool
steamer ‘Raven’ lying at Steamboat Quay,
Greenock”. Archibald is not a family name.
Perhaps the baby was given the name of the
Master of the vessel.
ree years later a daughter arrived,
named Jane, after her mother, and known as
Jeannie. She was born, more conventionally,
at 11 Bearhope St. Her father Bernard was
away at sea at the time.
Some time later the family moved to
London and lived for a few years in West
Ham, where the youngest child, Francis
omas, was born in 1880.
In 1882 Bernard, aged 32, sailed as
a stoker /reman on board SS Kangaroo.
When the ship was somewhere in the
Mediterranean Bernard died of asphyxia,
most likely in an engine room mishap, or
overcome by fumes when cleaning out a
hold. He seems to have been buried at
sea, no doubt by John Seymour, Master of
the Kangaroo.
rough the miracle of the internet
I was able to make contact with Dougal
Watson in New Zealand, the great-great-
grandson of John Seymour. He commented:
“So my great great grandfather
‘buried’ your great grandfather. What an
Dougal has done extensive research
into the voyages of Captain Seymour. He
says: “It’s not clear, from what little I have,
what exactly happened. It does appear that
he died some time, short or long, before
they reached Malta.
Top Left: S.S Kangaroo
Top Right: Bernard and Jane
Bottom: Capt. John Seymour
e family came back to
Greenock from London and lived
in Cathcart Street. Bernard’s
widow, Jane, found work as
a housekeeper. e two older
boys worked in the shipyards, as
riveters. Young Jeannie, at 14,
was a message girl.
After some years, at the
age of 46, Jane remarried. Her
second husband was James
Meechan, a widower of the
same age, who was a sugarhouse
Two years later, in 1898,
her eldest son John (Jack)
married Lizzie McCall of e
Moy in Co. Tyrone. Jack had
relatives in Dungannon, and I
presume he met Lizzie while he
was visiting these cousins.
Returning to Scotland, they
settled in Clydebank, where Jack
at rst worked in John Brown’s
shipyard, but he built up his own
business dealing in second-hand
furniture, and later in antiques.
Jack and Lizzie had a
family of eight, one of whom was
my mother.
e family came back to
Greenock, where after a few
moves, they nally settled in the
at where I still live.
My mother grew up and
married Jackie Dunlop. But
that’s another story!
He built up his own
business dealing in
second-hand furniture
Top Left: Lizzie Donnelly with her daughter
Frances, my mother.
Top Right: My Grandfather Jack Donnelly.
Bottom Left: Jack Donnelly as a very
young man.
Bottom Right: Jack And Lizzie Donnelly at
the time of their marriage.
hen considering the history
of the whaling industry
in Greenock it is perhaps
helpful to start with the
origin of the word Cappielow. e name
Cappielow is synonymous with football fans
throughout Scotland. Home to the blue
and white hooped Greenock Morton, the
ancient concrete terracing has borne witness
to many a historic event over the years,
such as a celebratory lap by Olympic Gold
medallist Eric Liddle and unfortunately, the
rst football riot in Scotland. But very little
is actually known about how the stadium
actually got its name. Belief around the club
is that it is Scandinavian in origin. However
further details are few and far between.
While doing a bit of background
research on Greenock in general we
happened to stumble across a few lines in
the statistical accounts for Scotland that we
found particularly interesting:
“Half way between the towns of
Greenock and Port Glasgow, is Cappielow,
where (according to tradition, favoured
by the name of the place, and several
ruinous years, as they are termed,)
some Dutch shers, long ago resided.”
is one solitary sentence has added
further context on how the stadium got its
name, and has opened up a whole new area
for investigation, the whale shing industry
in Greenock.
It is believed that as far back as 1752 a
white-shing station was set up near Garvel
Point, not far from where Cappielow stands
today. With the area looking like something
of a ‘hub’ for shing it was only a matter
of time before others made use of it. e
Ordnance Gazette of Scotland is particularly
useful in helping us to identify a little bit
more about the region and informs us that
around the time the white-shing station
was established some Dutch whalers settled
in Cartsdyke and had some small success,
dispatching four ships to the Greenland seas
in one year.
e success of these Dutch whalers was
short lived as the venture was not deemed
to be protable enough to be sustained for
a great period of time. ere was something
of a brief resurgence in the industry around
thirty years later. According to Daniel Weir
it was:
“…revived again in 1786, at which
time there were three large ships employed
in the trade…”
In 1810 a gentleman and ship captain
by the name of William Scoresby was
partaking in a tour of Scotland with his son.
It was while visiting a merchant in Greenock
that Mr. Scoresby was presented with an
interesting business venture. It became
clear that Scoresby was a captain of some
considerable standing, and spoke often of
his ventures as part of the northern whale
and the Greenock Whale Fishing Company
sheries, and his premier ship,
the Ban. George Robertson,
William Forsyth and David Hyde
proposed to Scoresby that the
four of them establish a whale
shing company in the town
of Greenock. It seemed logical
for the captain to do so as he
was due to retire as captain
of the ship ‘Resolution’ and
the business prospect seemed
too good to turn down. It was
agreed and the four men became
equal partners in the newly
established “Greenock Whale
Fishing Company” each holding
one-quarter of the shares.
Due to his experience in
the northern whale sheries
Scoresby was appointed
managing partner, this
position allowed him the
opportunity to t out two
ships for the Greenland shery
of which he had select or
principal command.
One of the ships purchased
and tted out by Scoresby was
‘e John’, which his son refers
to as a ‘316 ton burden’ due
to its high cost to seam which
stood at 12,700 pounds. It was
built in India out of teak and
doubled in London with British
oak. We are also informed that
this ship was ‘rather too small’
for the job for which it had been
tasked, however it was still
used as a whaling ship and set
out on her maiden voyage in
1811 under the captaincy of the
highly reputable captain, and
obtained an impressive cargo of
sixteen stout whales, yielding
a total of two hundred tons of
precious oil.
e Characteristics of a Whaling Ship
ey were between 250-350 tons burthen.
Whalers typically used ‘cats’- strongly built
ship with a round bow and square stern,
capable of carrying up to 600 tons of coal or
general cargo. e ship would ideally have
three masts; measure approximately thirty
ve metres long, with a breadth of around
ten metres.
Due to its size, the ship was best
suited for a small crew, around 12 colliers
for transporting coal and other cargo; the
whaling crew was much larger however,
with the average ship containing an average
of 50 whalers.
However in order to use a cat for
whaling it rst needed to be refurbished;
the bow required intense reinforcement
to cope with the prospect of icy water,
and internally it had to be fortied with
twelve inch square section oak cross-beams.
Davits would be added so that small 6 man
whaleboats could be added, and nally
a crow’s-nest would be added so that a
member of the crew could be on lookout.
It was William Scoresby who essentially
reinvented the crow’s-nest, placing a barrel
type frame around it, stopping the lookout
from being exposed to the elements, and
possibly falling to his death. is entire
refurbishment cost approximately £7500
in 1770, an expensive process at the time,
however converting that to today’s currency,
it works out a bargain price of £80.
Scoresby tells us of something of
an interesting life while at e Greenock
Whale Fishing Company. Due to the high
level of migration, a large number of the
town’s population were Highlanders, and
subsequently spoke Gaelic. Some of their
phrases had struck him as being curious
and forcible, among these, one phrase in
particular had been xed in his memory-
Cum au greim a gheibhthu;” which, being
interpreted in Scottish idiom, he understood
to imply, “Haud,” or “Keep the grip you
have got.” As an English gentleman of a
high social standing, Scoresby was taken by
surprise with the phrases and language used
by many of the whalers on his ships. Life on
these ships was not easy, and every day
was laced with the prospect of injury, or
even death.
Over the four years since its inception,
the Greenock Whale shing Company would
go on to capture 103 whales, producing 837
tons of oil in total, averaging an impressive
haul of 209 tons being brought in to the
port each season. e companies third year
in existence was to prove highly protable.
e company took in 190 tons of oil and
ten tons of whalebone, which receipts show
accounted to a sum of 12,000 shillings.
e oil produced from a whale was
used as a source of fuel for lighting, and as
a lubricant in many of the machines that
were of such importance to the development
One of the ships purchased and tted
out by Scoresby was ‘ e John’, which
his son refers to as a ‘316 ton burden

Top: A map showing
the area where
Scoresby set up
his whale shing
Below: “William Lee
in the Arctic”, 1831
by John I Ward

of our industry. Even simple
things like upholstery,
umbrellas, brooms were created
out of the product of the whale
hunt, not one single piece of the
animal went to waste. Yes, today
it does seem almost barbaric to
do such a thing; however our
ancestors had no other option
than to use what resources they
had available.
An attachment to the
romance of whaling continued
in the area until the 1930’s,
at which point the industry
began to depart Inverclyde’s
shores in favour of the more
northerly ports of Scotland-
ports which allowed for easier
Unfortunately for the
Greenock Whale Fishing
Company their prots were
about to diminish very
drastically as a result of erce
competition from other
whaling companies, and the
falling number of whales in the
Greenland Fishery.
It is extremely
important when examining this
subject that we look at it from
the eyes of our ancestors, and
not through the eyes of twenty-
rst century society.
Unfortunately for the Greenock
Whale Fishing Company their
prots were about to diminish
very drastically
Today we look at the
whaling industry as a cruel and
questionable trade, with the
death of thousands of whales
every year. However when we
travel back to the late eighteenth
century and early nineteenth
century we can see that whaling
was of vital importance; not only
was it a source of income for
many men, but the products of
the whale itself were used every
day by average people.
Top Left: An Illustration
of Scoresby’s original crow’s
nest, by Dianne Sutherland
Bottom Left:“e
Viewforth, the Middleton &
Jane. Beset in Ice”, 1836, by
omas Binks
Right: Two newspaper
articles regarding whaling
in the area from the time
Images © e British
Library Board
All Rights Reserved

eaving school in December 1957,
at the age of fteen years old,
left many young men with a very
bleak outlook to the future. e
secondary education system at the time
more or less groomed you for employment
in the big industries; such as shipbuilding,
sugar manufacturing, rope works, builder’s
labourers or any of the unskilled manual
labour vacancies.
I, on the other hand, was determined
to buck the trend; my rst employment
was as a van boy with the Co-Operative
transport department lasting from 16th
January 1958 to 12th January 1959. Four
days short of the full year. e earnings in
this employment were slightly more than
could be gained in the shipyards at that age,
but unfortunately it only lasted a year.
Moving on from the Co-Op I gained
employment with Clyde Marine Services
(Monros of Princess Pier). is company’s
boats provided shore links for the many
ships anchored within the Clyde estuary.
ey also operated a liberty boat service
and provided a service for both the Customs
and Port Health Inspectors, who visited all
incoming vessels from outwith the United
Kingdom. ese ships were arriving day
and night, for as the saying goes tide and
time wait for no man, meaning we worked
shifts. is was the job that awakened my
imagination. Tales of seagoing adventures
and exotic places I found fascinating, this
is what I wanted; I tried to enlist in the
merchant navy without any success. Not
enough experience to be considered for a
berth, was the answer to my applications.
I then spoke to Captain Monro about my
problem; he advised that to gain some
experience and sea time I should seek
employment with either the weather
boats or possibly the river steamers; I was
accepted by the latter.
e river steamers were for the general
public, pleasure boats, and going down the
water for the Fair was great fun. But the
experience was very dierent for the crews.
By Alex Hardie
Firstly, living and working aboard the M.V
“Glen Sannox”, which sailed a triangular
route between Fairlie, Brodick, and
Adrossan, starting time, 06:30 nishing
time 21:30 six days a week. e day
consisted of receiving stores rst thing in
the morning before sailing, then setting up
for passenger breakfast, then washing up
and morning tea, then lunch and afternoon
tea, rounded o by dinners. Most of my
time was spent in the pantry washing dishes
from morning to night, and we still had to
wash and clean the passenger lounges and
toilets before we were nished.
e day o for me was Tuesday, leaving
the ship on a Monday night at Fairlie about
19:30; making my way to Largs to try and
get transport to Greenock, but I still had to
turn to at 06:30 on Wednesday morning, so
I was back on board Tuesday night, due to
my reliance on public transport. Fortunately
this only lasted two months before I was
transfered to the M.V Talisman. Operating
from Wemyss Bay with better hours and a
more relaxed environment, allowing more
time for other things like when tying up
for the night in Millport among the happy
holiday makers.
It was during this time I came into
contact with a former whaler when he came
aboard our ship as a relief cook, covering
for sick leave. Sitting on deck on the good
summer nights, Tony would ll my head
with stories of his whaling days and ports
they had visited, this and the fact that the
Salvesen shipping line was ‘non-pool’ meant
I would be eligible to apply; needless to say I
was hooked. Acquiring Christian Salvesen &
Co’s address from him I promptly wrote my
application and posted it in Millport before
sailing the next morning. My time aboard
the Talisman had come to an end after only
six or seven weeks or 6th October 1959.
My application being accepted required
me to be at Christian Salvesen & Co’s oces
29 Bernard Street, Leith, Edinburgh, 09:00
10th October 1959. is was quite a task for
a sixteen year old who had never been past
Glasgow in his life.
But the best was still to come. Leaving
home just before six that morning, I was
facing uncertainty. Starting with a bus to
the Greenock West Station, a steam train
to Glasgow Central, travel across Glasgow
to Queen Street station, steam train to
Edinburgh Waverley Street Station, and
Sitting on deck on the good summer nights
Tony would fill my head with stories of his
whaling days and ports they had visited
Top: e Glen
Sannox at Largs
Above: My British
Seaman’s Identity
a bus to the Leith oces at
Bernard Street, and all the time
not knowing what lay ahead.
On arrival at my destination
on time I was logged in. en
I was taken for my interview
which was surprisingly in depth
as I was only to be a galley boy.
After what seemed an age I was
taken for a medical (full medical)
plus eyes, ears, blood, urine, the
works, then a break for
lunch at 12:15.
After lunch we were
transported to a clinic in
Edinburgh for X rays, dental
checks and colour blind tests,
followed by vaccinations against
any tropical diseases we may
encounter on our travels, and
this was the moment I knew
I had been accepted, as only
those that passed their medical
and interview received the
vaccinations. I was then returned
to the main oce at 16:30 where
I was given a cash advance and
a railway warrant for the 22:10
train from Waverley street
station Edinburgh to Tilbury
docks London. e date and time
was 10:10p.m. on the 10th of
October 1959.
Having spent a long and
sleepless night on the train I
arrived in London at 7:15a.m.
and had to nd my way across
the city to another station for
the London to Tilbury train.
London rush hour was a big ask:
lugging a heavy suitcase and
a kitbag on the underground
is not for the fainthearted.
On hitting the city centre the
subway doors opened up and
I was propelled by the crowd,
holding tight to my belongings,
out of the subway into a lift and
out into the main street, LOST,
but with the help of a London
cabbie I got to my connection.
Another hour and twenty minutes
later I nally reached Tilbury,
though very tired and hungry
I was still elated, all I had to
do now was nd the docks.
e S.S Southern Garden. is would be my
home, workplace, and introduction to life at
sea for the next two years
Helen Gibb
Hugh Hardie
B: 1853
John Finnie
Helen Finnie
B: 1853
Mary Anderson
B: 1833 M: 1851
omas Hardie
B: 1833 M: 1851
D: 1899
Mary Cleavly
Owen Bannigan
James Bannigan
B: 1855
Ann Gallacher
Hugh Docherty
Mary Docherty
B: 1849
omas John
Hardie omas Hardie
B: 1833
Niel Anderson
Mary Anderson
B: 1833
Below: First sight
of South Georgia.
Bottom: e S.S
Southern Garden.
at was the easy bit, once in I
passed the dock gates I found
that there was miles of it, masts
and funnels everywhere, gates
to cross and docks to go round
before I nally found the S.S
Southern Garden. is would
be my home, workplace, and
introduction to life at sea for the
next two years.
We set sail with 45 gallon
drums of lubricating oil, some
of which was lost overboard in
the Bay Of Biscay. My rst taste
of stormy weather came on our
way to Venezuela’s Rio Orinoco.
Seventeen miles upriver to a
place called Carapieto, where
Shell Oil had a storage facility;
there we loaded fuel oil for the
whale catchers awaiting our
arrival at South Georgia ve
weeks away.
Our duty over this period
was feeding the transit crews.
Each mess boy had two tables, one British
and one Norwegian, ten men per table,
to be fed three times a day, seven days a
week, plus the clearing up, dishwashing and
cleaning, but the routine was easy, plenty of
time to get to know each other and nd out
more of what would be required of us once
we got to our allotted catcher, some of the
older hands could tell by our I.D number
which catcher we would be joining.
Once back at sea fully loaded with
cargo and oil we headed south, crossing the
Equator with the rst timers’ induction
ceremony, and on into the roaring forties so
called for their big storms and high seas. We
had them like mill ponds with long rolling
swells, but still able to stand at the bow
watching the ying sh.
irty plus whale catchers were tied up
waiting for their crews to bring them back
to life after their ve month layup. e
tingle of excitement started all over again
Above: Trimming
the tail ucks to
prepare for towing
Top Right: Two of
the Shetland lads
messing about
Right: Billy Swan
and myself in
our cabin
With the weather getting colder the
further south we travelled, the sun shorts
were put away, and the warmer clothing
started to appear, as did the cloudy skies and
the winds picked up more often. We were
approaching our destination, South Georgia.
Looking forward to a little respite from
the inclement weather, and this was spring
time in the southern hemisphere, we nally
entered the last part of this leg of
our journey.
South Georgia appeared on our
starboard side, giving us our rst sighting of
what looked like an inhospitable island, part
cloud, all mountains with loads of snow,
but still oering shelter from the persistent
gales and sleet.
Rounding the headland at the entrance
to Leith Harbour I was astonished by the
change in the weather. e harbour was
calm, clear and totally awesome with this
unbelievable sight of buildings nestling in
the shelter of these majestic snow capped
mountains. irty plus whale catchers were
tied up waiting for their crews to bring them
back to life after their ve month layup. e
tingle of excitement started all over again.
e next week consisted of getting
steam up, taking on stores and fuelling,
then each catcher in turn lining up ready to
be put to sea, alongside the factory ship the
Southern Harvester.
Once all eleven catchers were
assembled we set forth on my rst whaling
expedition. Due to the rules of the whaler’s
treaty shing started with non-baleen
whales, therefore we had to seek out the
deep water areas for sperm or toothed
whale, this I was assured was the older and
non-breeders of sperm, as the younger ones
remained in more temperate seas. True to
the word every one we harpooned was an
old, well scarred male, but very large.
Sperm whale oil diers from baleen
whale oil and is slightly less rewarding, but
sperm are more plentiful, and shing these
species has no restrictions.
Baleen whale shing was
very tightly controlled with the
season starting on the third
week of December to the end
of April, Blue whale, Fin whale,
Sei whale and Minke whale
were allowed over this period,
but humpback hunting was
only allowed for three or four
days a year depending on which
area of Antarctica you shed.
Other restrictions that applied
were on what size of the whale
species had to be and was it the
milk-lled mother with a calf,
and if you wounded any whale,
you had to stay with that one
to the end, and this could take
days. Breaking any of these rules
would be punished by a loss of
earnings and any bonus due.
e shing went well for us
aboard the S.S Southern Briar.
We were the top catcher for the
If you wounded any whale,
you had to stay with that
one to the end, and this
could take days
John Hardie
B: 1877
Isabella Finnie
B: 1853 M: 1874
Hugh Hardie
B: 1853 M: 1874
D: 1938
Alice Bannigan
B: 1877
Mary Docherty
B: 1849 M: 1876
D: 1924
James Bannigan
B: 1855 M: 1876
D: 1901
B: 1916 Alice Bannigan
B: 1877 M: 1898
D: 1954
John Hardie
B: 1877 M: 1898
D: 1940
Top: Makeshift swimming pool on the factory ship.
Above Left: Southern Briar in passage to the shing grounds.
Above Right: Group on the Southern Garden. Back Row(l-r); Cristie
Rattar, Angus McLean, Joe from Western Islands. Front Row(l-r);
Julian Robertson, myself, John Dalziel, Gibby Fraser.
season 1959/60, 1960/61 and 1961/62.
But the numbers were dwindling, our rst
season 326, our second season 289 and our
third and nal season 234.
Between the seasons 1959/60 and
1960/61 I remained at South Georgia for
the winter period assisting the maintenance
teams who carried out all repair work on the
catchers, from painting, boiler cleaning, dry
docking, and engine maintenance. I only
looked after their bellies in the warm mess
room, but this is another story.
any people from the local
area will know of John Galt
and his inuence on Scottish
literature. e author of
and e Canada Company
“e Annals of the Parish”, “e Ayrshire
Legatees” and “e Provost” amongst many
other notable titles cemented his place
in history as one of Scotland’s greatest
novelists. He is sometimes regarded as
the rst political novelist in the English
language as he was the rst person to deal
with the issues of the Industrial Revolution
in his novels. In Greenock, where he spent
a large chunk of his childhood and where
he eventually died there is a fountain and
plaque to commemerate his achievements.
John Galt was born in Irvine, Ayrshire
on the 2nd of May 1779. Born to John Galt
and Jean Tilloch Galt, he was the eldest of
four children. His father was the captain of
a merchant ship and traded with the West
Indies. When John Galt was aged 10, the
family moved to Greenock so his father
could expand his mercantile business.
It was here that John Galt received the
most substantial chunk of his education.
As a child he had been described as a
voracious reader. His interests were wide
and varied ranging from astrology, alchemy
to even witchcraft.
After nishing school he was sent to
the Custom House to work as a clerk. is is
where he learned handwriting and as a past
time he would spend his time composing
tragedies. When the Greenock Advertiser
started in 1802 Galt became a regular
contributor to its columns. Galt spent his
time at the Custom House from
1795-1804 before moving to London to
seek his fortune in business. However, he
was to fall short of success here and spent
the next two years travelling around the
Mediterranean, where he met Lord Byron.
In 1811, he returned to London once again
and in desperate need of money, tried his
hand at journalism.
Although Galt is widely regarded as a
novelist of considerable power, his work as a
pioneer in paving the way for immigrants to
colonize Canada is far less known. In 1824
he co-founded e Canada Company, a large
private chartered British land development
company, incorporated by an act of British
Parliament on July 27th 1825 to aid
the colonization of Upper Canada. e
company provided ships, low fares and land
sold at a low cost.
In 19th century Scotland, emigration
tended to be the result of both force and
persuasion. Many people were motivated by
the desire to improve their living conditions
and at that time emigration provided the
best opportunity to do so. However, many
were also put in a situation where there was
no choice left to them but to emigrate if they
wanted to stand a chance of survival.
e Highland Clearances played a
major part towards the high number of
people migrating to other shores. From the
1840’s, kelp production and black cattle
lost their value and landlords saw sheep as
a more protable alternative. e knock
on eect of this however, was the eviction
of tenants from their homes. At this time
many were reliant on the potato crop as a
source of nourishment. e failure of the
crop in the late 1830’s and again in the late
1840’s could only have a negative impact.
is left many people with only a few
options: move to the mainland, emigrate
or starve.
While many likely did starve, a huge
number of people left Scotland during this
time. Between 1846 and 1857 it is said that
1.7 million people left Scotland to start a
life elsewhere.
So where did all these people go? Well
most made their way across the Atlantic to
the U.S.A and Canada. John Galt was one of
the founders of a company that was set up
to help people who were put in this dicult
situation. As a pioneer he paved the way for
other migrants to follow in his footsteps and
make lives for themselves in the New World.
In 1827, Galt founded Guelph in Upper
Canada. e name Guelph comes from a
member of the Royal family at the time of
Guelph’s inception and explains why some
refer to the place as “e Royal City”.
Guelph was founded on St George’s
Day, April 23rd, 1827 with the ceremonial
felling of a large maple tree. John Galt
records his experience of this moment in
his autobiography:
“e tree fell with a crash of
accumulating thunder, as if ancient Nature
were alarmed at the entrance of social man
into her innocent solitudes with his sorrows,
his follies, and his crimes. I do not suppose
that the sublimity of the occasion was unfelt
by the others, for I noticed that after the
tree fell, there was a funereal pause, as when
the con is lowered into the grave; it was,
however, of short duration for the
doctor pulled a ask of whiskey from his
bosom, and we drank prosperity to the
City of Guelph” 
Galt invested a substantial amount
of his time planning how to transform the
desolate land into a place people would
be attracted to. He decided to model
it on a modern European City Centre.
Unfortunately, the best laid plans often
don’t go as thought and Guelph
did not transform into the city
Galt had envisioned until the
Grand Trunk Railroad reached
it from Toronto in 1856, at
which point Galt would no
longer be alive.
Galt’s contribution to the
founding of Guelph is however
recognised and there is a
memorial plaque of Galt that
recognises him as the founder of
the city.
However, he was not given
the credit he deserved by the
company. An extract from the
Greenock Advertiser sums up
the relationship shared between
Galt and the company towards
the end:
“Galt’s farewell to Canada
was inevitable. From the
viewpoint of the directors he
was a hopeless visonary and
much too extravagant, having
taken out too few settlers and
spending too much on them.
From his standpoint, the
directors were like a greedy
landlord seeking rent before a
property was built.”
e company sent over
omas Smith, an accountant,
to assist Galt. However, Galt
was less than trusting of him,
believing him to be a spy.
Eventually, Smith left Canada
to return to England and
lodged mismanagement charges
against Galt.
is meant that he was
forced to return to Britain to
face his charges. He landed in
Liverpool in May of 1829. His
creditors sought the repayment
for debt he had accumulated
in England. However, he was
unable to repay them as he had
spent the money to educate his
sons. As he was unable to repay
his debts he was arrested on the
15th of July 1829. He spent
four months in King’s Bench
debtors’ prison in London.
Galt invested a substantial amount of his
time planning how to transform the desolate
land into a place people would be attracted to
Left: Memorial plaque for John
Galt on Westburn Street.
Bottom Left: A painting of
King’s Bench debtors’ prison in
Bottom Right: A map showing
King’s Bench Prison.

A debtors’ prison was a
common way to deal with people
with unpaid debt prior to the
19th Century. e freedom
allowed to the prisoners varied
from prison to prison. Some
of the prisons allowed the
inmates to receive visitors and
conduct business. King’s Bench
even allowed those with a little
money to live a short distance
outside the prison which was
known as liberty of the rules.
It is said that in 1776 a third of
the inmates lived outside of the
prison under this rule.
While Galt was in prison
he produced many commercial
articles for magazines as well as
several books. It was in prison
that he penned “Lawrie Todd”, a story
depicting life in a settlement in U.S.A. e
publication of this novel put Galt in a more
secure nancial position and with the rise in
shares in e Canada Company, his venture
over there was looked upon favourably and
he was hired by a similar company to e
Canada Company: e British-American
Land Company.
However, he began to fall victim
to poor health and after suering three
strokes in a period of six years he returned
to Greenock for a nal time. His passion for
writing remained and he wrote a number
of novels about his experiences in Canada
such as “The Demon of Destiny” and
“Other Poems”
In 1833, he published his two volume
autobiography. Due to his worsening
condition he had no other option but to
write this by dictation. However, he was
determined to set the record straight on
his ventures with e Canada Company. He
eventually passed away in Greenock on the
11th of April 1839.
It is clear that he was a man of
considerable standing and was well
respected by the time of his death. To the
left is an obituary notice from the British
newspaper archive.
In his absence there is plenty in
place to ensure his legacy lives on. He is
commemorated in Makars’ Court outside
the Writer’s Museum Lawmarket, Edinburgh
and by the memorial fountain which can be
found on the Esplanade in Greenock. e
city of Guelph, in whose inception he played
a monumental part, holds a “John Galt Day”
on the rst Monday of August every year.
His family remained in Canada and
made successful lives for themselves there.
His son, Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, was
one of the “Father’s of Confederation” and
Canada’s rst Minister of Finance.
While Galt was in prison he
produced many commercial
articles for magazines as well as
several books
Top: John Galt’s
memorial fountain
on the Esplanade
Bottom: John Galt’s
Images © e British
Library Board
All Rights Reserved

& How



o give a proper
overview of the
background of the
present day Smith
family associated with Port
Glasgow. e rst chart below
shows the four strands of family
connections that leads to the
marriage of Alexander Smith
and Maisie Smith (portrayed
by their images taken in the
1930s by a Port Glasgow street
Alex’s family is from
Strathblane on his father’s
side and Northern Ireland on
his mother’s side. Maisie’s
Family are further aeld with
Arbroath on her father’s side
and the Isle of Islay on the
mother’s side.
Each strand has an
interesting history but for
this section I have decided to
concentrate on one family line
and the one I have chosen is
the Smith Family line of my
father on his father’s side which
originates with John Smith (our
most distant relative) living at
Craigton Fields near Strathblane
from about 1760.
In the census of 1841 there
is the record of a John Smith, a
widower, living at Craigton Field
cottages attached to Craigton
Field Bleachworks, with his
daughter, Bethia or Beth, aged
35. She would have been born in
about 1806. is John is 80 and
is a calico bleacher.
is is oldest bleachworks
in the area and is the
bleachworks that employed
John and his family in 1841.
Craigton Fields is a small
community which sat two miles
north of Milngavie or three
miles North North West from
New Kilpatrick (now Bearsden).
We know our Smiths lived and
worked in 1841 from the
census and perhaps for some
time before.
By John Smith
e Smiths
originated in
Strathblane near
Craigend castle
e Dunlops
originated in
Northern Ireland
near Londonderry
e Dick family
originated near
e McArthur
family originated
on the Island of
John Smith
B: 1761 M: 1797
Isabella (Meikle)
M: 1797
William Dalziel
B: 1803
John Smith
B: 1804
Bethia Smith
B: 1806
Margaret Smith
B: 1810
James Smith
B: 1813
In the photograph we have
a nineteenth century view of the
Craigton Fields Bleachworks.
Four stone built cottages called
‘the row’ were built for workers’
families close to the bleachworks
and were there in 1841. ose
cottages are seen to the mid left
of the picture and most certainly
one of them was occupied by
John and his family.
e original Mill buildings
stand to the present day though
the cottages where the family
would have lived have been
At times up to 60 people
worked at the bleachworks.
ey worked from 6am till 6pm
six days per week. Some girls
were walking from Milngavie
and others from Strathblane.
ere was a ‘Wuman Hoos’ for
those who needed to stay when
weather or distance got too
much. It was said that the men
couldn’t go into it ‘for all the
shouting and ghting’.
John had a family of ve
and his rst son William Dalziel
Smith is the great great grand
father of the present Smith
family. William was born in
Craigton Fields and was (from
the 1851 census) a calico
bleacher like his father, John.
Something occurred
after the 1841 census and
William moved away from the
Strathblane area . He moved
about the years 1844 to 1845
as one of his sons, his youngest
son, Alexander, our great
grandfather was born in Govan
in 1845.
He moved to be a calico
bleacher at a mill on the River
Kelvin at Woodside. is mill
was Glasgow’s rst and only
water powered cotton mill. e
image is from an oil painting
looking south over the ‘lade’
(mill stream) where the mill
wheel was. It’s a very substantial
four story building out in the
country at that time.
William Gillespie, a cotton
printer from Anderston, had
constructed Glasgow’s rst and
only water-driven cotton mill on
the site. Gillespie was one of the
greatest gures in the history of
Glasgow’s cotton industry. He
was a great friend of David Dale
of New Lanark Mills. Gillespie
established Woodside soon after
Top: Craigton Fields
Right: mill on the
River Kelvin at
Alexander Smith
Maisie Smith
New Lanark was established.
Gillespie seemed to follow Dale
in his eorts to oer decent
wages and good housing. Like
David Dale, Gillespie was noted
for his benevolence towards
those that worked for him. At
his village of Woodside, at that
time far from a kirk or a market
place, Gillespie established a
school and a mission church for
his tenants and cotton workers.
ese were known as the Kelvin
Row worker’s houses and school.
Between 1861 and 1865
William Dalziel Smith and some
of his family, two sons and a
grandson moved to a house just
round the corner from 6 Kelvin
Row, to 79 South Woodside, still
a workers’ house but next to the
Mill school.
e large house in the
picture is the schoolhouse built
for the workers and the house
next to it is the house that
William Smith lived in. Kelvin
Row itself is the row of small
cottages that is to the extreme
left. Note there appears to be
cotton laid out for bleaching in
the back yards.
William Dalziel Smith
next shows in the 1881 census
where he is staying at his son
William’s house at Grahamston
near Barrhead. He is 78 and
William is married and has a
family made up of his wife Janet
and four kids. William Dalziel
was fortunate to have had a long
life and eventually dies whilst
(Adams) Smith
B: 1806 M:1823
D: 1872
Janet Smith
B: 1824
William Smith
B: 1828
John Smith
B: 1830
Isabella Smith
B: 1833
Andrew Smith
B: 1835
William Dalziel
B: 1803 M: 1823
D: 1892
omas Smith
B: 1841
Alexander Smith
B: 1845
still living with his son William
and his family at Grahamston in
1892 aged 89 years.
Now to my great grandfather
Alexander Smith. In 1865
Alexander (aged 19) marries
Cathreen Brown on the 2nd
June 1865 at the church on 28
Arlington Street in Glasgow a
half mile down South Woodside
Road. ey are both given as
living at 79 South Woodside and
Alexander’s trade was a shoemaker.
In the 1871 census
Alexander and his three
children have moved out of
79 South Woodside to his own
house at 11 Kelvin Row leaving
his mother and father in 79
South Woodside.
e photograph is of the
Alexander Smith Family taken
about 1872 just after they had
moved houses but still living
in Glasgow. It shows Alexander
and his wife Cathreen with their
rst four children, William,
Annie, Alexander and Elizabeth
sitting in front. In 1872, also,
Catherine, Alexander’s mother,
dies at 79 South Woodside and
we know that Alexander was a
(Brown) Smith
B: 1844 M:1865
D: 1929
William Smith
B: 1866
Annie Smith
B: 1867
Alexander Smith
B: 1869
Elizabeth Smith
B: 1871
John Smith
B: 1873
Alexander Smith
B: 1845 M: 1865
D: 1923
omas Smith
B: 1874
David Smith
B: 1876
James Smith
B: 1878
Samuel Smith
B: 1879
Margaret Smith
B: 1883
Catherine Smith
B: 1885
Andrew Smith
B: 1886
Isabella Smith
B: 1889
Gillespie established
a school and a mission
church for his tenants and
cotton workers
Bottom: e Mill
School at Woodside
Village taken in
about 1860.
witness at his mother’s funeral
and he is noted as living at 11
Kelvin Row. e record is lled
in beyond this point by the
birthdates of the additional
children of Alexander. In 1873
John is born and in 1874 omas
was born, both at Kelvin Row.
Before 1876 was complete,
however, there is a major
change for the Smith family
as Alexander had moved to
Port Glasgow with his family.
He moved to 89 Ardgowan
Street where he worked as a
shoemaker (as you can see in
the photograph by how ne one
year old Elizabeth’s shoes shine).
Because we know that in 1876
his son David was born in Port
Glasgow in Ardgowan Street
and Sam, our Grandfather,
was born in Port Glasgow on
the 30th December 1879 at 1
Ardgowan Street.
Both Alexander and
Cathreen lived the rest of their
lives in Port Glasgow with
Alexander (who died in 1923)
and Cathreen (who died in 1929)
both being buried in the Port
Glasgow cemetery.
e above photograph
shows the full family of my
Grandfather Samuel Smith and
Bessie Smith. (Seated Front
Row Centre.) My own father,
the eldest in the family is seated
in the front, to the right of my
grandmother, Bessie.
In line with Identity
and where we come from and
where we are going to they, as
individuals in a family, made
large decisions. ese decisions
meant that the family broke
apart and away from Port
Glasgow over time. Firstly, we
ere is a major change for
the Smith family as Alexander
had moved to Port Glasgow
with his family
Top: Back row (l-r); William
Alexander Snr, Cathreen
Alexander & Annie
In front is Elizabeth
Bottom: Back row (l-r); Robert
Isabella, William, James
Samuel, Elizabeth & John
Front row (l-r); Alexander
Bessie, Samuel Snr & Nina
have second from the left and standing is
Isabelle who went to live in Luton. Next
to her was William who died in Wales. Next
to him was James who died in England.
Sixth from the right was Betty who died
in Durham and then there was John who
moved to Canada and died in Vancouver
and we have in the front Nina who went
to Ontario and then California. A wide
ranging set of destinations of a family
who travelled.
Alexander, Sam and Bessie’s eldest
son, and Maisie Dick , were married in 1932
and had ve sons – David, Robert, James,
Alexander and John (myself) . My father
died in 1969 aged 64. my mother died in the
year 2000 aged 89 . Both parents lived the
vast majority of their lives in Port Glasgow.
eir ve sons were not destined
to stay in Port Glasgow. is is a family
photograph of the ve brothers with my
mother ( Maisie ) sharing a joke with her ve
sons in Toronto Canada. As I said she lived
the majority of her life in Port Glasgow
whilst the majority of her sons travelled far
from the Port.
Bessie (Dunlop)
B: 1883 M:1903
D: 1961
Alexander Smith
B: 1904
John Smith
B: 1906
Nina Smith
B: 1908
Samuel Smith
B: 1879 M: 1903
D: 1953
Samuel Smith
B: 1910
Robert Smith
B: 1914
William Smith
B: 1916
James Smith
B: 1919
Isabella Smith
B: 1921
Elizabeth Smith
B: 1927
Of the ve brothers
David (extreme right) Bob,
next to him and Jim next to
him have all been born in Port
Glasgow but have lived at least
fty years in Canada where
their children all live. Sandy
(Alexander), born in Port
Glasgow, standing on the far
left of the group, was briey in
Canada but was the son who
remained for most of his life
in Port Glasgow and still does.
John, myself, the youngest
and also born in Port Glasgow,
has spent almost twenty years
living and working in the
USA, Switzerland, England,
Wales and South Africa before
returning to live in Scotland.
So the Smiths emigrated
from the Strathblane area into
Port Glasgow only to see a
further emigration outwards
from Port Glasgow within
eighty years of coming here.
My mother lived the majority of her life in
Port Glasgow whilst the majority of her sons
travelled far from the Port
obert om, born in 1774, was
a Civil Engineer who worked
mainly on hydraulic projects on
the Isle of Bute and Inverclyde.
e majority of people from this area will
know of Loch om and the surrounding
cut, which he designed to power the mills
and as a by-product provide clean ltered
water for the town.
In 1813 he purchased, with William
Kelly, Rothesay Cotton Mills, which he
eventually became sole owner of in 1826.
When om purchased the mills there
was insucient water to power them and
coal burning was too expensive in order
to be an option. He therefore decided to
build a series of cuts which would allow
enough water to reach the site. In addition
to engineering these cuts, he doubled the
capacity of the service reservoir by raising
its dam and installed self-regulating sluices
to regulate the water level. is decision
turned out to be a fruitful one and by 1821
the combined power of the mills had been
increased from 22kw to 52kw.
In 1831, Robert om bought Ascog
House and 420 acres including 90 acres of
Ascog Loch. In 1840 he built Meikle Ascog.
is property still stands today and is now
in the ownership of the Landmark Trust.
Prior to om’s scheme, water was
supplied to the town via two natural burns;
the Dailling Burn and the West Burn which
were located on the east and west side of the
town respectively. By 1792, the population
had risen to 3,800 due to the break up of
the Highland Clan System and the American
War of Independence. With the increase
in population came a surge in trade and
commerce with the industries such as rope
spinning, sugar rening and iron-forging
expanding at a substantial rate in the town.
James Watt had designed a rudimentary
system of piped water that supplied the
town. However, this was no longer capable
of sustaining the needs of the people and
during hot, dry days the reservoirs would
sometimes dry up.
e population continued to increase
and hit 19,000 in 1811. With the population
now so high, demand for water was such
that many factories sought to build their
own reservoir to power their machinery or
mills. is was a risky process and on the
15th of March 1815, the Beath Dam, which
powered the Cartsdyke Cotton Company,
had burst. ere were no casualties in this
instance; however, the same can not be said
when the dam burst a second time on the
21st of November, 1835. e instance is
often referred to as the Cartsdyke disaster
and the tragedy claimed the lives of forty
local people. An article from Robert om
was consulted after the catastrophe to nd
the cause behind the bursting of the dam. In
his report he stated:
“...owing to the puddle not being
carried up suciently high, the moles had,
during the summer, when the water was low,
burrowed right through from the outside
to the inside, and in the winter, when
the water rose, it percolated through the
holes, which becoming larger, it ultimately
obtained sucient force to produce the fatal
catastrophe. e breach made was not less
than 50 feet wide by 20 feet deep.”
from Cotton to e Cut
It is speculated that, this
not being one of his designs, he
did not feel any responsibility
for it and that is the reason he
had never inspected the dam
before. However, he believed
that his suggestions of making
the puddling impervious to
rats and other vermin had been
done so he didn’t believe an
inspection was necessary.
Ten years previous to this
the Shaw’s Water Joint Stock
Company was started when a
bill passed through parliament.
An excerpt from “Historical
Sketches of Greenock with an
account of e Struggles in 1828
and 1880” by Dugald Campbell
describes the formation of
Shaw’s water company:
“e undertaking, which
was devised for the purpose
of beneting the estate of Sir
Michael, as well as for supplying
the Town with water, was
estimated to cost £31,000, and
this amount was taken up in
shares. e engineering plans
and estimates were prepared by
Mr. Robert om, of Rothesay,
who had some previous
experience in the erection of a
reservoir in connection with his
own mill. e scheme included
the formation of the Shaw’s
Water, a large reservoir (Loch
om) and an aqueduct round
the face of the hill for providing
water and water-power for mills
and other public works, which
were encouraged to settle in
Greenock by the oer of sites on
the line of the falls at moderate
rates. Mr. om’s advice to Sir
Michael was, “to give o the
feus at low rates, so as to induce
manufacturers to set up works
in the town, and that the estate
of Greenock would, in the long
run, be more beneted by the
demand for dwelling-houses
and other accommodation
required for the increase of
trade, than if a large feu-duty
was charged for the site.”
“Yesterday, precisely at a quarter
to twelve the sluices were raised by ‘our
Chief Magistrate, William Leitch, Esp.’,
who immediately thereafter entered a boat
prepared for the purpose, gaily decorated
with ags, and was oated along the rst
tide of the stream in its new articial
channel. e Spectacle of a vessel skirting
the mountain brow, and tracking the
sinuosity of the Alpine chain at so great an
elevation, seemed a realisation of a dream
of the wildest fancy and the course of the
boat was followed by crowds of delighted
spectators. It arrived at Everton (Overton)
in the vicinity of the town, exactly at a
quarter to three, where it was received by
cheers and a salute of a cannon.”
Robert om’s scheme went a long
way in improving the supply of water to
the town. However, the population was
still on the rise and there wasn’t enough
clean drinking water available to the
town’s inhabitants. Combined with the
lack of sanitation, it wasn’t long before
this began to take its toll on Greenock.
ere were outbreaks of cholera, small
pox and typhus. In 1852, Fleming and
Reid, cloth manufacturers, had to release
thousands from their employment when
the reservoir dried up. In 1864, there was
a massive outbreak of typhus once again
and thousands were killed, which resulted
in Greenock being named “e unhealthiest
town in Scotland.” It was plain that action
had to be taken to resolve these issues and
in 1866, Shaw’s passed ownership of the
Water Company to e Trust for a price of
£170,000. In 1872, the Grye reservoirs
were completed and the general health of
the town began to improve as clean drinking
water was made more available.
Robert om died in his house in
Rothesay on the 4th of March 1847.
His system of water cuts led the way for
providing clean water for the town and for
powering many of the old industries that
sadly no longer exist. His name will not
easily be forgotten here though as the largest
reservoir is still named in his honour.
e Grye reservoirs were
completed and the general
health of the town began to
improve as clean drinking water
was made more available
Left: Newspaper article regarding the bursting of Beith’s Dam.
Images © e British Library Board.
All Rights Reserved.
Top Right: Ascog House.
Bottom Right: Loch om.
he Wilson motto
translated is, ‘He
conquers, who
conquers himself’.
Some of the rst settlers of this
family came from Berwickshire
in ancient times although as
far as I have gone back with my
family, the journey starts in
1821 in Lismore and the
Isle of Mull.
Lismore and Mull are
situated on the west coast
of Scotland and the main
industries were agriculture
and shing. ey were heavily
populated in the 1820s, a few
years prior to the clearances.
e population reached a
staggering number of over
10,612. However, by examining
today’s gures, there can be
seen a steep fall in the island’s
population, which shows that
less than 3000 people inhabit
the island of Mull. e question
By June Campbell
that begs to be asked here is,
“what is the reason for this fall
in population?” In the 1840’s
and 1850’s during the Highland
Clearances the tenant crofters
were evicted by the landowners
because sheep-farming was
considered to be more protable
than receiving rent from
tenants. e population of
Lismore and Mull fell drastically
as the people were forced to
move by the unscrupulous
landowners. e Industrial
Revolution was also changing
the face of towns and cities on
the mainland, and crofters made
their way from the Highlands
to seek opportunities in these
places. Also there was the
potato famine in Ireland which
brought people from Ireland
looking for work.
John McLachlan was born
in Lismore in 1821 and Ann
Campbell was born on the Isle of
Above: Map of the
Isle of Mull
Below: A drawing of
William Wilson
B: 1835 Elizabeth Spoull
B: 1811 M: 1832
D: 1880
James Wilson
B: 1808 M: 1832
James Wilson
B: 1857 Jane Jeanie Boyd
B: 1836
William Wilson
B: 1835 D: 1909
B: 1860 Ann Campbell
B: 1824
John McLachlan
B: 1821
William Wilson
B: 1881 Margaret
B: 1860 M: 1881
D: 1914
James Wilson
B: 1857 M: 1881
D: 1915
Mull in 1824. John was a quarry
labourer and married Ann in
1845. He became a quarrier
(stone mason). ey had nine
children. Four daughters, Mary,
Catherine, Agnes and Margaret,
and ve sons, Alexander, John,
Hugh, Peter and Lachlan.
Between 1851 and 1861 they
moved to Rothesay where they
brought up their family. Mary
and Catherine were cotton
millworkers in one of the cotton
mills. One of the boys became
a shoemaker and another two
were ropespinners.
e rst cotton mill in
Rothesay was set up in 1779
and by 1855 there were ve
mills. ey employed over 1000
men, women and children.
ere was a cotton mill in Rothesay built
by Robert om who was involved with the
reservoirs of Greenock. In Rothesay at that
time many of the families were involved in
the boatbuilding and shing industries and
worked around the quay and that is probably
where the ropespinners were employed.
ere were many and varied jobs to be had
in Rothesay. ere was also a prosperous
distillery in Rothesay.
John and Ann and their family lived in
a few addresses in Montague Street, High
Street and the Gallowgate in Rothesay. ey
were all near the front and the pier. Probably
near to their work.
In 1888 John’s wife Ann went missing
and after three days her body was found in
Rothesay Bay. It was reported in the local
paper at the time that this was a drowning
case when Ann McLachlan was found
drowned in Rothesay Bay.
Between 1851 and 1861 they moved to
Rothesay where they brought up their family
Top: Rothesay Pier near
Montague Street
Below: A mill in Rothesay
Rothesay played host to
a thriving cotton industry for
around a century, ranging from
around 1780 to 1880. e rst
mill was opened in Rothesay in
1779 by a Mr James Kenyon and
was the second cotton mill to
be built in Scotland. e town’s
proximity to Greenock, where
raw cotton was a widely available
commodity, and the innite
source of water available to the
island allowed for the industry
to ourish.
It was Robert om who
engineered two water cuts when
he took over the ownership
of the mill in 1826. e cuts
allowed for the machinery to
be powered by water and it was
then that the mills became such
a major source of employment
on the island, with 1215 men,
women and children employed
among the ve mills on the
island. at’s a considerable
amount of the population when
you consider the fact that the
island only plays host to a mere
four and a half thousand people.
However, the cotton
industry did not survive the test
of time on the island and by the
late 1800s all of the mills on the
island were closed. As of today,
two mills and the two water cuts
designed by Robert om still
survive and lay testament to the
industry that once ourished on
the small island.
e mill was opened in Rothesay
in 1779 by a Mr James Kenyon
and was the second cotton mill
to be built in Scotland
Top: A bust of
Robert om
Middle: A mill
Bottom: A water
driven mill
e following article was
taken from: e ROTHESAY
Saturday, 15th December 1888
Yesterday the body of Mrs
Ann Campbell or McLachlan
was found in the water, a little
on this side of the Stewart
Swimming Baths. e bay had
been dragged for several days
previous, as it was supposed
that the woman, who had gone
missing, had been drowned.
e deceased was seen last on
Monday night about 8pm on the
pier, and it is probable that in
the darkness she stumbled over
into the water, and her cries for
help were unheard. She was the
wife of John McLachlan, coal
hawker, was 64 years of age, and
was well known about the town.
rothesay bay
Top: Rothesay bay.
Below: Ann
Campbell’s death
Bottom: My father
omas with his ten
One of John and Ann’s
daughters, Margaret, married
James Wilson from Rothesay
who worked as a general
labourer. eir family consisted
of ve children, two boys,
William and James, and three
girls Ann, Jeanie and Margaret.
William was a coalman and one
of the girls worked as a domestic
servant which was not unusual
in those days. eir son William
came to Greenock and worked
as a dock labourer. When he was
24 he met and married Mary
Ann Clark who worked in the
Merino Mill. ey married in
1905. ey had seven children.
William, Molly, Margaret, Alice,
Nan, omas, Alex. William (or
Billy as he was known) was sea-
going for many years and then
he came home and emigrated to
Canada where one of his sons
and his daughter still stay. Nan
emigrated to Australia in 1952
and is still living there. Alex
died when he was a young man.
omas worked in the shipyards
all his life. e black and white
photograph below shows Mary
Ann, Molly and Nan.
When I started this project
I knew nothing about the
paternal side of my family and
found this to be very interesting
and exciting. I uncovered where
my ancestors came from and the
journey they made and possibly
why they came to Inverclyde.
I shall certainly do my best to
follow this up.
June Wilson
B: 1940
Sarah Aitken
B: 1920 M: 1940
D: 2006
omas Wilson
B: 1915 M: 1940
D: 1985
Morag Wilson
B: 1942
omas Wilson
B: 1943
Stuart Wilson
B: 1945
Alistair Wilson
B: 1947
Graham Wilson
B: 1948
Gwyneth Wilson
B: 1949
Elizabeth Wilson
B: 1950
Eileen Wilson
B: 1951
Norma Wilson
B: 1953
I uncovered where my
ancestors came from and
the journey they made
omas Wilson
B: 1915 Mary Ann Clark
B: 1885
William Wilson
B: 1857 M: 1881
D: 1915
Top:Mary Ann
Wilson (3rd from
right) with her
daughters to her left
and friends to her
Bottom: Me with
some of my family at
a reunion
ather Michael Condon was
born in Ireland and educated at
All Hallows College in Dublin.
He spent time in Glasgow as
an assistant at St Mary’s where he was
surrounded by people who inspired him,
in particular Bishop Murdoch. After
spending time in Glasgow,Campbeltown
and Hamilton he eventually made his way to
Greenock where he became the parish priest
for St Lawrence’s.
e origin of Greenock is not fully
understood but many believe that the village
grew up round the religious establishment
which gave its name to the bay. St Lawrence’s
was acquired by Rev. William Gordon,
who at the time was the parish priest of
St Mary’s in Greenock. At the time the
building was a disused Protestant (Old
Light Antiburgher) church. In 1859, Father
Condon was appointed to take charge of the
parish at St Lawrence’s and Rev. William
Gordon was given the task of assigning the
boundaries of the two missions. ere was
an uneasy relationship between the priests
at this point as when comparing the two
parishes it became clear that St Lawrence’s
would be the poorest of the two, leading
to resentment on Father Condon’s behalf.
Approaching the end of the century it
became apparent that a new building for
the church was needed and as a result an
area of land was purchased at the corner
of Carnock Street and Dellingburn Street
from the Harbour Trust. e building was
eventually nished in 1901, at the expense
of £10,000, and was opened by Bishop
Chisholm. e lifespan of the Church was
short, meeting its end in 1941, a victim of
the series of bombs that were unleashed
on the town by the Germans during World
War Two. e building was in ames until
the next morning when only the outer walls
remained standing. It wasn’t until 1951
that the construction of the replacment
church, (desinged by Gillespie, Kidd & Coia)
commenced and three years after that it was
opened to the public.
Father Condon was known for his
meticulous diary keeping, and extracts from
his insightful diaries provide us with great
information on how life in Greenock was
during the 1800’s. While he was the priest
at St Lawrence’s he commented on various
issues that were aecting Greenock at the
time and extracts from his diaries can be
seen below:
“...ere is a feeling widely spread
among the members of St. Marys congress
that the ministration of the parish has long
been unequal to the requirements of the
people who dwell in it – this impression
has increased, to every considerable degree,
within the last half year, as it is known that
a very great addition has been made to its
population. Hundreds of poor creatures
from Ireland & from other parts of the
country penniless & homeless arrive in
the town weekly in quest of work and an
epidemic of typhus fever & small pox, of
the Benevolent Broadcaster
a malignant type, rages in the
town, so much so, that the
managing committee of the
inrmary are now considering
the majority of erecting large
sheds for the accommodation of
serious cases – it is sad to reect
that any Catholics should die
without the rites of his church,
whether from insuciency
of means or otherwise, but
that such a misfortune may
happen at any hour in the
present circumstances, no one
can doubt, when the senior
clergyman is conned from
illness to the chapel house, &
the whole duties of so large
a parish devolve upon his
colleague, who heavens willing
he may be, will nd it dicult,
perhaps impossible, to overtake
even a portion of it – ...” – July
11th 1863, Greenock.
During Father Condon’s
time at the Parish he worked
alongside one of the ve
‘medical martyrs’, William
Joseph McCloskey to open a
Reading Room for Irish Catholics
in Greenock. is was to provide
free education and support for
the Irish immigrants within the
Community. e publication
“e Greenock Medical Martyrs
of 1864-65” by JE omson
“...e death of ve doctors
in Greenock, one third of the
members of the profession in
the town, during a period of
four months in the winter of
1864-65, was unusual. Even
before the last death on 15
March, the event was suciently
signicant to be noted in the
British Medical Journal under
the heading ‘Fever in Greenock’:
‘A serious and fatal epidemic has
been of late present in Greenock.
Its nature may be judged from
the fact that, since November,
no less than four medical men
have died of it there, and all of
them young and in the prime of
life.’” e ages of the casualties
made an impression, since of
the six local doctors who were
within 11 years of qualication,
ve died. e public’s description
of ‘medical martyrs’ sounds
melodramatic to the modern
ear but was a measure of
contemporary local sentiment
reecting the high price the ve
Greenock physicians paid for
treating the sick.
e rst doctor to die
from typhus was William
A serious and fatal epidemic has been of late
present in Greenock. Its nature may be judged
from the fact that, since November, no less than
four medical men have died of it
Right: An exerpt from Father
Condon’s diaries
Retrieved from the Catholic
Archives in Edinburgh
Left: St Lawrence’s Chuch
before and after the re which
destroyed its roof

Joseph Macloskey on the 26th
of November 1864 at the age
of 33 years. Macloskey was
well educated and his interests
were varied, he contributed on
subjects ranging from Geology to
French Literature. Macloskey’s
social conscience is evident from
his obituaries, which state that
‘the poor of Greenock have lost a
friend’ and that ‘during his short
professional life he took a special
interest in the Irish people of
the town and actively promoted
a reading room and other means
to elevate and improve the
character of those from among
whom he sprang’.
November 1864 was a bad
month for the Macloskeys: on
the 25th, while William lay ill
with typhus, his surgery was
damaged by re and on the next
day he died...
Father Condon was a rm
believer in the importance of
education and raised funds
in the hope of being able to
build schools for the Catholic
community. A school associated
with St Lawrence’s was built
at Stanners Street in 1857,
with a roll of 100 pupils, one
teacher and three pupil teachers.
e school moved its home to
Belville Street in 1881 after
a rise in pupils meant the
current building could no longer
accommodate demand. Twenty
years later and the school was
struck by the same problem once
again. In 1907, work began on
a three storey building which
opened less than a year later.
e new school could house up
to 900 pupils and was intended
for girls and infants. e school
remained in use until 1973
when, once again, a replacement
was needed.
On August 10, 1880, the
foundation stone of the new St
Lawrence School in Greenock
was laid. Children from the
school sang hymns during the
proceedings and the Archbishop
and various other members of
the clergy of the district took
part in the services. e stone
was laid amidst loud cheers.
Father Condon proceeded to
give a speech thanking the
Archbishop. He then went on
to discuss the Roman Catholic
emphasis on the importance of
education. He stated that “the
Roman Catholic body placed
great importance upon the
training up of the young, and
educating them in the ways of
the truth”. He then detailed at
length the objects sought to
be attained by this education,
which alluded at giving to all
“a cultivated mind and good
manners”. He nished by
thanking all in attendance and
afterwards a luncheon was held
in Wood Cottage.
In 1866, Father Condon
purchased a large plot of land
in the Greenock Cemetery for
Catholics to be buried. However,
he was not buried here himself
as he was eventually relocated
to the parish of St Patrick’s in
Glasgow where he died on June
the 18th, 1902. During his time
at St Lawrence’s he contributed
greatly to the health and
wellbeing of the area and strived
to provide education and better
conditions for the Catholics
in the community. His diaries
remind us of the hardships that
people at that time faced and
provide us with an invaluable
source of information about
Greenock’s past.
Father Condon was a rm believer in the importance
of education and raised funds in the hope of being
able to build schools for the Catholic community
Below: Father Condon’s obituary.
Images © e British Library Board.
All Rights Reserved.
Bottom: Pupils outside of St Lawrence’s
school shortly after it opened.

y family originally
came from
Islay. Angus
McQuarrie, my
great grandfather was born
in Kilhonan, Islay in 1834.
Angus McQuarrie married Ann
Campbell in Kilhonan, Islay on
the 13th of November 1852.
ey are next recorded as living
in Greenock in the 1881 census.
eir address is given as 24
Tobago Street. If you look at the
birth of their four children in
this census it is clear that they
had been in Greenock for quite
some time before this. eir
oldest child Malcolm is aged 19
at the time of the census and
his place of birth is given as
Greenock. erefore, it is almost
certain that they had arrived
here at least 19 years prior to
this census.
My grandfather Angus
McQuarrie had nine children,
my father being the youngest of
the seven boys and was named
John McQuarrie.
My father was an amateur
boxer until 1932, when he
entered the sport professionally.
In 1934 he married my mother
Jane Docherty in Greenock and
had three children with myself
being the eldest.
By John McQuarrie
Left: My
Grandfather Angus
McQuarrie at the
Annual horse show
at the Battery Park
Right: Horse
transport for
Drummonds. Angus
McQuarrie is the
Foreman Carter on
the far left
Top Left:
Presentation to
John Drummond,
chairman of John
Drummond &
Sons, managers
and foreman Angus
Top Right: e gift
presented to John
Middle Left: Mary
McQuarrie aged 18.
Middle Right:
Family photograph.
My grandmother
with her seven sons
and two daughters.
Photo taken 1955.
Bottom Left: Mary
McQuarrie with her
daughter Ann. Photo
taken around 1930’s.
Bottom Right:
Ann McQuarrie and
John McQuarrie
(My Father). Taken
around 1919.
Top Left: Myself with my son Stephen (far
left) and brother George (2nd left), sister
Jane and son John (far right). Taken at
Inverkip 1962
Bottom Left: Myself with my wife
Kathleen, sons John and Stephen. Taken at
Colintraive around 1962
Top Right: My mother and father John
McQuarrie and Jane McQuarrie
Middle Right: My father (John McQuarrie)
with myself aged 5 and my cousins. Taken
around 1939. My cousins Alex Drain (2nd
from right) and John Drain (far right)
Bottom Right: My father with his brother
in law Alex Drain around 1934
e Docherty Family
e earliest information I have on
this side of my family dates back
to 1902 with the marriage of my
maternal grandfather James
Docherty to my grandmother
Mary Jane Donnachie. My
mother Jane Docherty was born
on the 18th of February 1915,
she was the second youngest
of ve children with Helen, Joe
and Mary being older and Hugh
being the youngest.
e family were all born
at 6 Kilblain Street, Greenock.
e house had been rented
by the Donnachie/ Docherty
families for four generations.
My grandfather died
at the age of 36 leaving my
grandmother a widow. She
raised their ve chidren by
herself and chose not to
re-marry. In 1946 she died at
the age of 65.
Top Left: Mary Jane
Donnachie with her
ve children.
Top Centre: Mary
Jane Donnachie with
her grandchildren.
Top Right: James
Docherty with his
children before the
birth of Hugh.
Centre: My Aunt
Bottom Left: Joe
Docherty and his
Bottom Right:
Joe’s daughter Ellis.
Top Left: Mary Docherty
Top Centre: Jane Docherty
Top Right: Joe Docherty
Bottom Left: Helen Docherty
Middle Right: Mary Jane
Docherty with her grandchildren
Bottom Right: Myself and
my cousin Mary Drain
he Greenock Cut, designed by
Robert om and ocially opened
in 1827, elevated Greenock’s
standing as one of the key
industrial towns of the Empire. Numerous
industries were located on the Cut’s ‘Eastern
Line of Falls’, which is a branch of water let
from the compensation reservoir at Overton
with water wheels placed at strategic points
to allow for the building of factories that
could harness the power generated by the
fast owing water, of which the Shaws Water
Company could guarantee a steady ow
of 1,200 cubic feet per minute for twelve
hours per day. It is recorded that within ten
years of the line opening, only eight places
remained un-let from the original nineteen.
Sugar reneries, rice, corn and our mills, a
paper works, an iron foundry and a chemical
works are a handful of industries that were
located on the Eastern Line, however there
is one particular industry that experienced
a great deal of success: wool spinning,
especially the factory opened by Neil,
Fleming and Reid.
Around the mid-nineteenth
century Scotland experienced an inux
of immigrants from Ireland. eir reason
for leaving was mainly a response to the
famine that ravaged the country, however
this was not the only reason, the decline of
industry also resulted in many departing
their homeland in favour of work, or even
new business ventures. is is true for the
brothers-in-law John Fleming and James
Reid, who, accompanied by a third man
Robert Neil, were lured to Greenock by the
power that could be harnessed from the
various falls located on the Greenock Cut,
and who in 1840 constructed the original
Worsted Mill for the creation of weaving
yarn, leading to the formation of the Neil,
Fleming and Reid Company. is was later
changed in 1855 to Fleming, Reid and
Company, upon the death of Robert Neil.
Originally the work was carried out by
hand, resulting in countless rows of worker
combing the yarn with ne toothed combs
in order to create the nished product, this
was a lengthy and monotonous task. With
the decline of the woollen trade in decline
around 1850’s the company appeared to be
in a degree of economic trouble. However at
this time the carpet trade had experienced
something of a boom period with the
invention of the tapestry loom, and it was
Fleming, Reid and Company who were
chosen to spin the experimental yarns. is
was met with success for the company and
they added the spinning of carpet yarns to
their list of products.
With the rm beginning to become
more protable with the spinning of
the carpet yarn they began to expand
somewhat, bringing in A.M Fleming,
younger brother of John Fleming, and
the Making of a Mill
James Reid Junior, nephew of
James Reid Senior to assist with
the running of the business and
the sales side respectively. e
rm continued to grow from
strength to strength, becoming
increasingly more protable
leading to the formation of a
private company in 1872. is
would continue for seven years
under the partnership of John
Fleming, James Reid Senior,
A.M Fleming and James Reid
Junior, until 1879 when the
two original founders John
Fleming and James Reid Senior
decided to retire and enjoy the
fruits of their labour, leaving the
business in the capable hands of
their protégés, A.M Fleming and
James Reid Junior.
Unfortunately for the two
up and coming business men,
they did not get o to the best
of starts as on the night of
October 5th 1880, the original
Worsted Mill was burned to the
ground, fortunately for the rm
the warehouse was untouched
by the ames.
Production was therefore
relocated to mills in England
for two years, allowing the Firm
to carry on with business and
supply their customers with
virtually no obstructions. While
the company continued to trade
out of England, Fleming and
Reid, not disheartened by the
destruction of their factory,
sought the opportunity to
construct a larger and highly
superior mill on the site of
the old one in Greenock. As if
spurred on by the challenge
that was set out to them by the
re, the rm added three more
falls from the Eastern Line to
their mill, making six falls in
total and subsequently
doubling the amount of power
they could produce.
With the new factory
built, and the hundreds that
lost their job due to the re
rehired, Fleming, Reid and
Co. sought to expand their
business by venturing in to the
hand knitting wool trade. e
story to how the rm came to
produce hand knitting wool is
an interesting one and it all falls
down to a production error. An
order of single tweed yarn was
returned by the manufacturer
as it was deemed to be o-
colour, and therefore unusable
by the manufacturer. Fleming
and Reid, again showing their
keen eye for business, sought
to sell this ‘faulty’ yarn o at a
reduced rate to their workforce
and subsequently twisted it
in to four-ply and spun to in
to several smaller balls. e
success was immediate, and the
people of Greenock were quick
to purchase as much as possible
due to the high quality and hard-
wearing properties of the yarn.
e Firm continued to grow from
strength to strength, becoming
increasingly more protable leading to
the formation of a private Company
Demand continued to
grow at an exceptionally quick
pace, so the rm, in order to
satisfy demand, opened a retail
store situated in Westburn
Street, Greenock in 1881,
allowing hand knitting yarn to
be sold regularly to the locals
of the town. is again shows
a spark of business genius
by Fleming and Reid as they
were able to eectively cut out
wholesalers and middle men
who would not only eat in to any
prot the rm made, but would
raise the price of the product
by varying degrees. By opening
their own store the company
were able to maintain a steady
prot, while keeping their
product at an aordable price for
the local people.
From here onwards the
company continued to expand
the retail side of their business
and within eight years they
boasted an impressive 53
branches throughout Scotland.
It was also around this time that
the company sought to take
advantage of the improvements
made to the hand knitting
machine, and expanded their
business further through the
production of hosiery and
e following ten years
were extremely good to the rm,
the number of retail branches
throughout the country stood at
97, and continued to grow at an
above average pace in the years
that would follow: 1909 – 197,
1919 – 259, 1929 – 340, and
1939 – 412.
eir reason for success
was simple: they sold high
quality yarn at reasonable prices.
However, yarn sales fell slightly
as the rm opted to focus on
the production of hosiery and
underwear, with stockings
becoming one of the chief items
purchased by customers.
On 31st October 1900, the
board of the rm, now listed as
a limited company, decided that
in order to keep with the times
thy would be wise to invest in
two new at knitting machines,
costing the rm a total of £30.
is is another key example of
the wise business methods of
the men behind the rm as it
allowed attention to be focused
on the production of knitted
products and the expansion of
the retail stores. Expansion of
stores was not the only thing on
the mind of the board in 1902
construction was started on a
single storey factory expansion,
measuring 200ft. x 130ft.
In the early part of the
twentieth century the company
made the decision to cease
the production of carpet yarn,
believing that the market was
beginning to dry up and that
the money saved could be best
Top Right: An ariel
view of the Worsted
Bottom Right: A
view showing 2 large
spinning mills and
single story north-
light sheds
spent elsewhere, and by 1909
production from the mills and
factories was increasing to such
an extent that three stories had
to be added to the original one
storey Yarn Store, which carried
both yarn and hosiery stock.
As with most businesses,
Fleming, Reid and Company
played something of an
important part during World
War 1, with the factories
spinning 10,000 lbs of ‘Cardigan
Brown’ yarn on a weekly basis.
is continued until August
of 1917 when the government
demanded 75% of the rm’s
total production to aid with the
war eort.
Although the work was
often hard and laborious in
the factories, it is believed that
Fleming, Reid and Company
were an extremely good
company to work for:
“Fleming, Reid & Co.
seem to spare no expense for
the comfort and benet of
their workers. For those who
prefer their meals at the works
there is provided an ample
spacious dining-room. It is
also worth noting that there is
here a school for the half-time
children, who attend school and
work on alternate days, under
Government inspection. On
stormy days the children are
provided with a hot meal in
the middle of the day, so that
they need not go home. ere
are other details in connection
with these works which night
well be mentioned, but our
space forbids. Over their 700
employees Messrs. Fleming,
Reid & Company exercise
a judicious control, which,
while respecting the individual
liberties of the workers, makes
them feel that their employers
know and sympathise with
their diculties.” ‘Captains of
Industry’ by William S. Murphy.
After the war the rm
took steps to improve their
production. e spinning frames
and other pieces of machinery
throughout the rm were
upgraded to the most modern
advancements. However, it
appeared that despite the
improvements, production was
still not at a level that the board
deemed acceptable, therefore
in 1922 Fleming, Reid and
Company absorbed the spinning
rm of omas Biggart & Co.
Ltd, Bridgend Mills, Dalry,
and soon after purchased
the Glasgow warehousing
company of Peter Sutherland
& Co. Ltd.
e Second World War had
something of a drastic eect
on the rm. Bomb damage
and various other wartime
diculties resulted in the
company closing 76 branches,
records from 1919 – 1945 show
that twenty three branches were
completely destroyed, 203 retail
properties were damaged, and
523 incidents were reported,
meaning that by 1945 the
rm had only 335 branches
is was to be a precursor
of things to come for the rm,
as unfortunately they would
cease to continue trading under
the name Fleming, Reid and
Company. Despite further
improvements being made to
the mills, such as new turbines
being installed allowing the mill
to be completely electried, they
eventually were taken over in
1957 by the Coats Patons Group.
In the same year Bridgend Mills
ceased production and four years
later the warehousing operation
was closed down. e Scotch
Wool shops were disposed of in
1972, and the company’s entire
output thereafter was sold to
Paton & Baldwins.
Fleming, Reid & Co. seem to spare no expense
for the comfort and benet of their workers
Fleming, Reid and
Company could be considered
as one of the most prominent
mills in Inverclyde; however
they are not the only one to
be based here. Unfortunately
much like Fleming, Reid and
Company, these mills would
cease trading as the century
progressed, leading to the yarn
spinning trade dying out in the
community. But memories of
the mills live on.
Below: An advert
for Fleming & Reid
which featured in the
Greenock Telegraph.
Bottom: One of
Fleming & Reid’s
he cotton mills in Inverclyde owe
a lot to the enterprise of two
individuals from Ireland. It was
John Fleming and James Reid that
paved the way for the cotton industry in
Inverclyde. As linen encountered hard times
in Ireland, the two brothers-in-law were
attracted to Greenock by the potential of
the power that could be harnessed by the
waters of Loch om. ey therefore decided
to build a mill somewhere along the Cut in
the year 1840 and formed a business called
Neil, Fleming and Reid. Unfortunately, this
partnership lasted for only around ve years
when in 1855 Robert Neil met his untimely
death and this in turn led to the formation
of Fleming, Reid & Company.
One of the mills set up in Inverclyde
is that of Clark and Struthers. It was based
in the industrial estate at the top of Port
Glasgow. e work was renowned for
its quality and was exported to various
locations around the world.
is story recalls the memories of three
mill workers from Clark and Struthers, the
mill operated at the industrial estate in Port
Glasgow. I interviewed them, asking them
a few questions but mostly listening to
their stories and recording them so we were
able to share their memories with you and
hopefully provide you with an insight into
the day of a typical mill worker.
First of all, we asked them all to
introduce themselves and tell us
how long they had been working at
Clark and Struthers and what their
role was.
Betty McLaughlin: Hi my name is Betty
McLaughlin, I worked in Clark and Struthers
for ve years. My job was to collect the cloth
from the looms. I then took it up to the
warehouse to be measured up. e cards had
to be marked to see which cloth the weavers
had woven. I had to make up the cards to
see what yardage they had woven. e next
process was the darning.
Isobel Sandford: Hi my name is Isobel
Sandford and I worked at Clark and
Struthers for eight years and my role was
that of a warper. It was the rst stage.
It had a big, big wheel like the Waverley
paddle, although when they were doing
a tartan that could use every piece of
By Betty McLaughlin
equipment there to get all these
threads through and they would
end up going through about four
inches so it looked like a cone
and again my job would be to
thread them. I would just keep
repeating that process the whole
day. I would do so many runs
and then do another and move it
until it met up so it looked like it
was all in the same complete roll.
And then that would be taken
o that and on to a smaller roll
for the looms.
It was then put on to a
beam ready to go on to the
weavers, but I had to know
all the tartans and so did the
weaver, you couldn’t make one
mistake and if you were working
with silk you can imagine how
ne it was, very, very ne. It was
How many tartans was it you
I: You name it we made it, if
it was invented then. I know
there are a lot of new tartans
that we didn’t touch then but
we done an awful lot of the
Black Watch, I think for the
army and the Gordon and the
Stewarts. e Dress Stewart was
a very popular tartan, Hunting
Stewart, Campbell, Dress
Campbell, I liked doing that one
because that was mine, that was
my tartan. We done Lindsay,
Hunting McKinnon, MacIntosh,
everything really.
But against that we also
had done the khaki for the army,
which was for the ocers so we
had to be very careful how we
made it. We also made mohairs,
mohair stoles. e mohair stoles
and scarves we made were more
of a Christmas sort of thing and
the same with the silk ties.
We had a lot of black silk ties
and I didn’t like doing them, it
was boring.
Anne Docherty: My name is
Anne Docherty and I worked in
Clark and Struthers I think for
around four to ve years. I can’t
really remember the exact time
frame. I worked in the drawing
oce which was immediately
after Isobel’s operation. She
prepared it and it came in to the
drawing oce and we threaded
it onto what I think was called
frames, and it had heddles on
it and you worked to a pattern,
like a knitting pattern. You had
to follow that pattern and say
there are ve of them you would
maybe go in to the rst one or
the third one and so on. We
also did herring boning as well,
so you had to thread these all
through what I would say was
the like the eye of a needle, it’s
called a heddle and then it went
into what’s called a reed, which
put it into this long, a big long
comb and you had to thread it
through all these and tie it up and
then that was it, it was prepared
to go up to the weaving looms.
I had to know all the
tartans and so did the
weaver, you couldn’t
make one mistake
What was it you produced
and where was it you
produced the material for?
B: A lot of it, in fact the majority
of it, went abroad. One of
the makers of the shirts was
called Rael Brooke, another was
Hathaway and Rael Brook. A lot
of material went to Germany
and America, you know the ner
stu for dress shirts.
We only made the material,
we didn’t make the clothes but
the material was sent out to the
manufacturers. We were actually
Far Left: Khaki hats
being produced for
the army.
Left: Some examples
of tartans produced
at the mill.
Bottom: Mohair
material being made.
just making the cloth that made
all these garments. But a lot of
the tartan went to Germany and
France and I think the biggest
lot was to America and Canada.
You would never see a label on
it that said it was made in Port
Glasgow; I think that’s why
nobody knows about us.
We used to put in the
dispatch when it was all getting
packed up, sometimes we’d
write wee notes and it would
say things like if you get this,
this is our address, this is done
at Clark and Struthers in Port
Glasgow and we got replies back
again from the people in Canada.
e bosses didn’t know we done
this, we just done it, but they did
correspond for quite a wee while.
How were the working
conditions in the factory?
Were the good or were they
B: ey were all right. ey were
happy. Nowadays things would
be dierent, people wouldn’t
work in them because of the
conditions but we didn’t know
any better because it was a job,
we were all very happy there, we
are talking about fty years ago.
Everybody got on well with
each other.
Was there a social aspect?
B: Yes, we always used to go
to the dancing and the shows
together, Connie Francis in
Glasgow. It was good and
“ménages” were run and
Christmas clubs were run.
ere was no jealously between
departments oddly enough,
everybody was included and
everybody would be going to the
dancing. Nobody was ever left
out, if anybody wanted to come
they were more than welcome.
Yes it was very, very loud and
very, very noisy. I learned to lip
read in there.
A: In the drawing oce it
wasn’t so noisy because we
were in a separate oce. Also
in the department there was a
girl Marsella who done all the
samples of the tartan and done
all the checks on the tartan. It’s
ancient now but she had a hand
loom and had these big pedals
that would clunk back and
forward and she would put the
shuttle which carries the thread
on the weft and she would have
to hand do all of this as she was
making a sample of a new tartan
and she had this handle thing
at the side that would knock
the shuttle back and forward,
there was no electricity in this
department. ere was also
somebody in that wee area where
Marsella worked and she had a
spinning wheel. She was quite
an old women and she done the
spinning. Jimmy McGraw was in
charge of the winding.
ere was always a tenter,
which would be named a
mechanic these days, and he
would look after the looms.
Isobel was about the rst process
and then it was Anne and then
they left us and then it went
on to the winding and all that
had to be done and then put in
boxes and then taken up to the
looms, and the pirns were all
taken up to the looms. In the
drawing oce there was a wall
about seven feet tall and there
was another department over
there and they done the darning,
you know if there was thread
that broke and you had to darn
it together and things like that.
at was a tedious job and they
were really great workers, head
down the whole time.
e managers and the boss
were all really good and they
were nice you know.
Anyway Isobel started and
then it went on to Anne and
then it went up to the looms and
Betty took it and measured it. I
wrote how much yardage it was,
wrote what type of cloth it was
and it was all set and they put
big pallets up and the girls from
the darning came in and they
would take them o the pallets
and nish them and then they
would take them and put them
in a dierent place so they were
ready to go out.
It was a reasonably
sized factory but it wasn’t
big, especially compared to
nowadays. ere were easily
more than twenty weavers and
ten winders. ose were the only
ones that had a big department.
Darning would be the next one
which was made up of about ve
or six people.
People nowadays, I don’t
think, would do it. ey wouldn’t
stand for it and yet it was a very
happy atmosphere, it was a great
place. ere wasn’t any pressure
on you. ere was no such thing
as having this or that done by
a certain time. I think as long
Nobody was ever left out, if
anybody wanted to come they
were more than welcome
Left: An advert for Clark and
Right: Mill worker operating an
automatic loom
as you got on with your work
that was it, you were left to get
on with it. e cloth was so ne
that when they were done with
it you wouldn’t know anything
had been done to it. e girls in
the darning were excellent. A lot
of people admired them. All in
all it was quite a happy place but
the money wasn’t great. at’s
the thing when you look back,
the money wasn’t great and I
think we were all on the same
boat, we were all more or less
getting the same money and
that was that.
Did they let you talk amongst
yourself when you were
working because I know
nowadays that you couldn’t?
B: You couldn’t hear very well on
the factory oor. It was so noisy,
the warehouse was quieter, in
the darning it was quiet. As
long as you didn’t stop and you
kept on working that was okay.
Obviously though you couldn’t
sit like that for nine hours a
day and not talk. You used to
be able to put on the music and
listen to it and things like that,
except when I was using my own
machine and it had a big blade
that went along and measured
it a yard each way and when the
blade took it over that was a
yard and then it would stop and
the yard would come over and it
was all folded and so then you
could two, four, six, eight, ten,
twelve yards, you could count
it that way. It didn’t come up
on the machine, you counted it
So do you have any memories
or interesting stories that
you would like to share about
your time working there?
I: Well I always remember the
power cut, it was pitch black
and it was about half past four
and we only had about another
half hour to go. e factory
was absolutely pitch black, you
couldn’t see a thing and there
was no safety lights then. So we
had to follow the reels to nd
our way out and we came to the
clock machine and I was banging
in to people and I said “what’s
going on?” and they said “we are
looking for our clock in cards”
and I said “Forgot about that
because we could be clocking out
e managers and
the boss were all
really good and they
were nice you know
anybody” and they said “Oh I
never thought about that”.
I imagine it could be quite a
dangerous job working with
all that machinery. Were
there a lot of injuries at the
I: I have a scar along my hand
from a tea chest. It wouldn’t
happen nowadays. No female
these days would go forward
and lift them. It was to get my
big bobbins of wool or whatever.
ey were sort of cone shaped
and they were of all dierent
colours and were all marked and
stored in old wooden tea chests.
Everybody used to always use
them for itting. And I went
up and it started falling and it
tightened and it ripped down my
hand. e rst aider, who was
the women in the kitchen, said
“oh you’re bleeding” and I said
“oh yes, yes your very good”. It’s
so funny that a big bobbin of
wool would be so big when it was
the silk it would be a quarter of
that size and yet there was the
same amount of yarn on it. ey
still use them nowadays.
e looms might crash and
break all the ends and a bit of
the thread might snap on the
weft or the warp and there were
hundreds of threads that had to
be taken through the heddles
and all tied o. But everybody
would all rally round and there
wasn’t attitude of, you know,
Above: Two mill
workers hand
stitching some
tartan material.
Below: Working on
tartan material.
tough luck. If you could possibly
help you would. Anybody’s loom
that was going all right would
come over, other weavers or
anybody else and start pulling
them through and sometimes it
could be nearly hundreds. It was
great companionship from that
point of view. Everybody helped
everybody if there was a rush
on, you wouldn’t have seen
anybody stuck.
You used to get a thing
with a pattern, I think that’s why
they called it the drawing oce,
it wasn’t really drawing you did,
you just got a pattern and you
had to work to that.
Working with the tartan
was interesting, having to guide
it so it was spot on.
A: e person I sometimes
worked with used to fall asleep
and I would just rattle the table
and she would be awake again
but she was an older women, in
fact just the same age as me now.
Some of the looms even
then weren’t all automatic. ere
was a wee woman from Paisley
and she used to have this kind of
card thing that got attached to
each side with all the dierent
colours and she used to have to
stand and do it manually.
It was all women who
worked in the factory except for
the bosses and what you would
call the maintenance men. e
manual workers were us.
So when did you all leave?
I: I left in about 1965. Do
you remember I got my books
because that young boy started
and to cut a long story short he
couldn’t cope with the job so
they asked me to go back. I went
back because I was waiting to
go in to the prison service but I
never told them that.
A: I must have left before then.
B: I had left before then also.
Why did you decide to leave?
Did you have another job to
go on to?
B: Yes. It wasn’t long after we
had all left that it went into
administration. I think they
were getting the material done
cheaper elsewhere.
How long was it a typical day
A: It started at eight o’clock in
the morning to about half past
ve with a half hour lunch and
a fteen minute break in the
morning and afternoon, so it
was quite a long day.
B: I did work hard in it and I
enjoyed it. ere was a lot of
heavy lifting but the men were
very good at helping. Half of it
wasn’t their job but when you
struggled they would help you
out if they could. It was one of
those places where if somebody
was in a pickle somebody went
and helped get them out of it.

A: In the drawing oce we were
kind of isolated we weren’t out
in the shop oor much.
All in all it is evident
that the three mill workers
enjoyed their time there.
ey have very fond memories
of the place and no shortage
of stories to tell. It was clear
that many friendships could
be formed in a place like this,
such as that of the three
women who had just shared
their stories with you.
Bottom: An
advert for Clark &
Struthers which
featured in the New
Yorker in 1956
It was one of those places
where if somebody was in a
pickle somebody went and
helped get them out of it
enry Birkmyre was born to
Henry Birkmyre and his wife
Janet Craig in Kilbarchan on
January 12th 1762. He worked
as a weaver in a factory in Kilbarchan before
moving to Greenock where he joined the
Gourock Ropework Company in 1792.
He was originally made the position of
foreman, however, he became a partner in
the rm in 1814.
ere is a great deal of confusion often
generated by the fact that the Gourock
Ropework Co. headquarters was located in
Port Glasgow. People are bemused that a
rm based in Port Glasgow is named after
a town located six miles away. It all makes
sense if you venture back to the rm’s
humble beginnings, before its rise to an
international power in the rope and heavy
canvas industry.
In 1736, a group of Glasgow
merchants, mostly from Greenock set up
the Gourock Ropework Co. on the shore of
the town’s sheltered bay. Along with making
rope it produced canvas and sailcloth. e
quality of the material was unrivalled and
by 1900 these were waterproofed and
carried the famous trademark ‘Gourock A1
Birkmyre Proofed’. e greatest qualities
of the waterproof cloth was taken for the
manufacture of vehicle sheets and tents,
ranging from “bivouac” tents to circus tents.
e Port Glasgow Rope and Duck
Company was set up by a group of Glasgow
traders and their mills were situated where
the Port Glasgow railway station stands
today. e Gourock Ropework Company
acquired ownership of e Port Glasgow
Rope and Duck Company in 1797 and as
a result they were put into a fortunate
position. It was not until the rm purchased
Richardson’s Sugar Renery in Newark that
the headquarters permanently relocated
to Port Glasgow. It is most probable that
the cartage was very expensive and that
the buildings could no longer provide the
space needed for the demand placed upon
them as their business continued to grow.
e company most likely kept the original
name despite moving to a new town as they
had been trading under that name for quite
some time beforehand.
e minute book reveals that they
paid around £1,720 for the assets of the
company. e procurement of the company
was a clever move for the Gourock Ropework
Co. who beneted almost instantaneously
from the decision. On the year of the merger
the wealth of the company was reported
as approx. £29,000. ings were only to
improve and next year’s gure increased by
£10,000 from the previous year. Seven years
later it became clear that the merger had a
positive impact on the companies fortunes.
Weaving for the World
e wealth of Birkmyre’s ropewalk empire
was now estimated to stand at £71,000.
e Gourock Ropework Company were
major employers in the town providing
employment for 200 men at 12s a week,
81 boys at 3s 6d a week, 71 women at
4s6d a week and 67 girls at 3s 6d a week.
Although the Birkmyres were the head of a
global business they never forgot the town
where their business had started. ey
had bequeathed the town of Port Glasgow
a hospital, built accommodation for their
employees, provided their employees with
air raid shelters during World War 2 and
were involved in the politics of the town with
one of the brothers, William Birkmyre (II),
even being a provost in the area at the time.
e company was always striving
to stay ahead of their competitors. ey
had laboratories set up where they could
manipulate the temperature and humidity
of the rooms in order to keep conditions
consistent when they were conducting
experiments. ey had a department set
up where they had a reference library,
photographic room, microscopic room and
a physical test room. It was said that these
were the best equipped laboratories in the
rope or heavy canvas industry. Birkmyre’s
proong was known all over the world and
this is where the process was created and
it is here that they constantly worked on
ways to improve it. e treatment rendered
the cloth waterproof and rot proof and
therefore made it suitable for tropical and
arctic conditions. e laboratory was not
only used for the purpose of creating new
products and new technology. One of its
roles was to ensure that the standard of
materials was maintained and that existing
lines were developed. ey even donated to
the University of Glasgow a post-graduate
research studentship for fundamental work
on sisal and manila bers, the only stipulation
being that the company would have access to
the work. e Gourock Ropeworks Co. Ltd.
became part of Bridon Ropes in 1970 when
it was taken over by Bridon Fibres & Plastics
Ltd. e works at Port Glasgow closed in
1976, signalling the end of the rope and
heavy canvas industry in Inverclyde.
e treatment rendered the cloth waterproof
and rot proof and therefore made it suitable
for tropical and arctic conditions
Top Left: Newspaper article regarding
Lithgow’s contribution to the local area
Images © e British Library Board
All Rights Reserved
Top Right: An Ariel view of Lithgow’s
Below: A map showing Birkmyre’s
associated companies and agencies
throughout the world
n April 1930 my grandfather Joseph
McGeer went to an orphanage,
probably in Grant St, Philadelphia,
where my father Joseph, aged 4, and
his brother Lennie, aged 2, were living,
and put them on a ship in New York bound
for Glasgow. ey travelled for 12 days
unaccompanied on the SS California. A
letter was sent to their aunt, Mrs Margaret
Heernan, from the shipping line informing
her of the necessary paperwork which
would be required for my father and uncle
to be allowed to emigrate from the USA to
Scotland. is letter stated that Margaret
would have to demonstrate that she had
the means and ability to take care of
these ‘American born’ children. e letter
suggested that her ability be certied by
her local minister and her means by
another ‘gentleman’.
is unusual turn of events resulted
from a car accident in Philadelphia in
1929. e circumstances are not clear but
it resulted in the death of my grandmother,
Catherine McGurk, who had emigrated
to the USA in 1923 at the age of 18,
along with an older sister Hannah, aged
By Joseph McGeer
22. Hannah was also involved in the
accident and subsequently returned to
Port Glasgow. Catherine and Joseph had
lived in Philadelphia before the accident
and they had boarders, as had my great
grandfather and great grandmother who
also lived in Philadelphia with all 13 of their
boarders. On my father’s death certicate
my grandfather’s occupation was given as
‘general labourer’ however this is likely to be
a dated description. According to the 1920
census both my great grandparents were still
alive but by the 1930 census my grandfather
was living as a boarder with another family
and my great grandparents could not be
traced. is may partly explain why my
father and uncle were in an orphanage and
the need to send the boys to Scotland.
My grandfather was born in
Philadelphia in 1905. He was the son of
John and Susan McGeer whose maiden
name was McBride. John was born in 1871
and Susan in 1873 in Pennsylvania. e
1900 census showed Joseph to have an
elder sister, eresa, born in 1895. Also
living with John and Susan were three other
people, James McBride, Patrick McBride
and Miles McBride. is may
indicate that Susan had been
previously married and had
three children by her rst
husband, but her age makes it
more likely that these boys may
have been Susan’s brothers or
nephews. Of John and Susan’s
own parents three were born
in Ireland and one in England.
eir ages make it likely that
they arrived in the USA around
the time of the potato famine
of the 1840s.
According to family stories
the depression of the 30s had
hit the family hard, hence the
decision to send the boys to
live with my grandmother’s
sister, Margaret, who lived
in Port Glasgow and had no
children of her own. Judging
by the clothes in a photograph
around that time the new family
appears relatively comfortable
in a town suering badly
during the depression. Again
family stories told of a small
football pools win which did
not transform their lives but
appears to have insulated them
from the worst eects of mass
unemployment. However, this
may have taken place at a later
date, but personal experience
supports the idea of an
enhanced income compared to
neighbours. Margaret had been
married to Peter Heernan,
who had fought in the Great
War and died of his wounds
(probably gas inhalation) in the
1920s. Margaret married John
McGhee in the late 1930s. ey
lived at 3 Victoria St in Port
Glasgow with the two boys.
When my father got married
to my mother, Letitia Devlin,
in 1950, they moved into a
house in George St, across the
backyard from Margaret and
John and my sister and I were
born there. It is interesting to
note that around the backyard
e depression of the 30’s
had hit the family hard
hence the decision to send
the boys to live with my
grandmother’s sister
Top: e two boys with their
grandmother Mary McGurk
around 1934
Bottom Left: e passport
photograph of Joseph and
Lennie when they boarded the SS
California in New York in 1930
Bottom Right: Joseph aged 6
months with his mother and father
taken in 1925 in Philadelphia
that enclosed Victoria St,
Bay St and George St lived my
maternal grandmother and two
uncles. e house was very small
indeed, consisting of a small
kitchen and bedroom, as well as
a cramped living room. It had
no electricity and the communal
toilet, shared with another
family, was about 60 yards away
across an open balcony. It was
a long dark cold run for a small
boy on an icy winter’s night.
My father and uncle were
not adopted by their aunt and
uncle and indeed my grandfather
made several attempts to have
his boys return to the USA. In
1934 he even sent two tickets to
Margaret asking that the boys be
placed on a named ship but both
boys, particularly Lennie, were
It was a long dark cold run
for a small boy on an icy
winter’s night
Below: Aeriel photograph of
Port Glasgow taken in 1932. It
shows Victoria St and George St.
e house where I was born
and raised.
e aforementioned lavatory.
e house that my father and
uncle moved to.
so upset they were not sent. Apparently
the plan had been that the boys would then
return when they left school, but the advent
of Second World War made this impossible.
In 1931 my grandfather married Catherine
McGlinchey who was then aged 32, six years
older than my grandfather. Catherine was
born in Ireland and had emigrated to the
USA leaving from Liverpool and passing
through Ellis Island, in New York, in 1921.
It is likely that her family had moved to
Liverpool before her emigration to the USA.
It’s likely since in 1959, when Catherine and
my grandfather visited Scotland, they spent
ve days in Liverpool visiting her relatives.
ey set up home at 4135 Levick St in
Philadelphia and had two daughters. I do
not know their names but have their college
graduation photographs. ese photographs
were taken in the 1950s and would indicate
that the family had prospered. My father
and uncle never visited the USA but Joseph
and Catherine did come to Scotland in 1959.
It was the only time my grandfather saw his
sons after 1930. Correspondence between
father and sons does not seem to have
been regular with Lennie and Catherine
most often in touch as can be seen in the
letter from Catherine sent to ‘Len’ in 1970
informing him of the death of his father. I
met them in 1959 but do not have any clear
memories apart from the fact that it was
the only time I ever saw my father cry. I do
recall being given money at the airport in
Renfrew by Catherine as they left. An eight
year old boy remembers the day he was
given a year’s pocket money in one day.
My father and Lennie both retained
their US citizenship till they died, which
had a few unintended consequences. In
I met them in 1959 but do not have any clear
memories apart from the fact that it was the
only time I ever saw my father cry
Top Left: Lennie with
Margaret and John
Top Right: My parents
wedding photograph
My father is on the left
with Lennie as
best man
Right: Lennie’s
adult passport used
for a cycling tour of
Hungary in the 1950’s
Mary Rodgers
B: 1870 D: 1947
Joseph McGeer
B: 1905
John McGurk
B: 1864 Catherine
B: 1905
Susan McBride
B: 1873 M: 1893
John McGeer
B: 1871 M: 1893
Joseph McGeer
B: 1925
B: 1905 M: 1924
D: 1929
Joseph McGeer
B: 1905 M: 1924
D: 1970
Leonard McGeer
B: 1927
1946 my father was called up for national
service in Britain and ended up in the
Black Watch, based in Perth. He recalled
his basic training and subsequent entry
into the Army Catering Corps, which he
disliked almost as much as the bagpiper
who woke them at 5 am every day. One
week into his catering career he received
a letter discharging him because he was
an alien. He was required to renew his US
citizenship every three years and did so at
the US consulate in Edinburgh. On these
occasions he also conrmed me and my
young sister as US citizens – until 1968. (My
young brother was not born until 1969.)
is time he was informed that if he did so
again I would be liable for national service in
the USA. My father did not fancy me being
sent to Vietnam so my sister and I became
British in 1968.
My father worked as a welder in
the marine engine maker Kincaid’s, in
Greenock, virtually all his life and died
in 1982 from a heart condition. Lennie
worked in the Gourock Ropeworks in Port
Glasgow and never married. He died in
1997 from cancer, aged 70. He had latterly
been one of my sister’s patients since she
was then a district nurse. Both my father
and uncle had been keen cyclists with
Lennie involved in cycling tours of Europe
in the 1950’s and he was still cycling months
before he died. However, there was one
nal twist to this relatively sad story. (I say
sad but the boys lived happily
with Margaret and John and
regarded them as parents.)
Lennie was in Inverclyde Royal
in Greenock in the weeks before
he died. I visited regularly and
remember asking if he wished
any books or newspapers. I
must have pushed the oer a
bit too much since he nally
said to me that he could not
read or write! He had been born
with a speech impediment and
largely sidelined at school and
as a result never learned. He
kept this secret so well that few
people, even in the family, ever
knew. As I was a teacher it was
particularly poignant.
e family connection
to the USA has, however,
continued. My wife Eileen and
I have three sons, Ewan, Paul
and Alan, who are all scientists.
Paul is a geologist and married
to Alicia who is from the USA,
whom he met while they were
both studying in New Zealand.
ey have a son, Darien, who
currently holds both a British
and US passport and all three
now live in Houston, Texas.
He kept this secret so well
that few people, even in
the family, ever knew
As I was a teacher it was
particularly poignant
Top Left: One of Catherine and
Joseph’s two daughters.
Top Right: e letter from
Catherine to Lennie informing
him of his father’s death.
Above: My grandfather with his
second wife Catherine.
illiam Todd Lithgow may
be known by many of the
residents of Inverlcyde as
the man who started the
Lithgow’s shipyard in Port Glasgow. Born
on the 24th of September 1854, to James
Lithgow and Margaret McNicol, the family
moved to Greenock from Glasgow in 1856.
He started o his career as an apprentice
ship’s draughtsman in John Reid and Co.
in Port Glasgow. is was around the same
time that the town was emerging as a strong
player in iron and steam shipbuilding in
After the death of both of his parents
at the age of seventeen he used the £1000
pounds he had inherited from his father
to invest in shipbuilding ( a decision that
would later prove fruitful). In 1874, he
went into partnership with Joesph Russell
and Anderson Rodger and started the
shipbuilding company Russell & Co. e rm
predominately built large iron sailing ships
that could be used for long-haul, slow cargo
transport. eir best kown ship today is the
Falls of Clyde, built in 1878, part of a series
named after Scottish waterfalls for the Falls
line. William Todd Lithgow married Agnes
Birkmyre (the daughter of Henry Birkmyre,
who owned the Gourock Ropework
Company) in 1879. Four years after this
the family moved from Port Glasgow to
Langbank where both their sons, James and
Henry, were born.
Despite the company’s growing success
and the wealth of the three partners,
William remained generous and undertook
a plan to rebuild an area of Port Glasgow,
capable of housing more than 2000 people.
However, by the time of the late
1880’s the partnership dissolved due to
the tensions between Russell and Rodger.
Lithgow retained the orignal name, the
Kingston Yard and became sole owner of the
business. William Lithgow suered a serious
health crisis in 1907 and died the following
year. However, he had two sons that were
at the right ages to now take control of the
company and made them both partners,
meaning they would assume joint ownership
of the company in the event of his death.
William had ensured the family were in a
strong position by investing in stocks and
transferring money to his sons.
James Lithgow was born in 1883 to
William Todd Lithgow and Agnes Birkmyre.
He was educated along with his brother
Henry at home before attending Glasgow
Academy and eventually studying in Paris.
In 1901, James was apprenticed in the
shipbuilding company, with his brother
Henry following four years later. James
became joint owner of the company, along
with his brother Henry, in 1908 after
the death of his father. e two brothers
managed the company well, expanding
the company and acquiring assets in other
interests, such as the Caledonian Railway
Company, the Monarch Steamship Company
and the Pacic Cold Storage Company.
However, James Lithgow had no other
option but to take a leave of absence from
the shipbuilding industry as he was to serve
in the First World War from 1914 through to
1918. His brother Henry remained behind
to take control of the shipyard and its vital
war work. James spent the rst part of the
war on garrison duty on the River Clyde
Scotland and then in France from 1916–
May 1917. James was recalled from France
by Sir Eric Campbell Geddes who appointed
James as the Director of Merchant Shiping,
responsible for ensuring merchant yards met
demands placed upon them.
from Port to Parliament
In 1918, the Russell and
Co. shipyard was renamed to
Lithgows Ltd. and a year later
James Lithgow made his long
awaited return back to the town.
He was given the title of the 1st
Baronet of Ormsary and was
included in the 1945 New Year
Honours and was appointed
a Knight Grand Cross of the
Order of the British Empire,
allowing him to use the title of
Sir to precede his rst name.
On James’s return to both the
town and the running of the
company, he embarked on a
rapid process of expansion and
acquisition, investing in things
such as coal mining and steel
making. Winston Churchill
summoned James Lithgow to
London where he appointed
him to control Merchant
Shipbuilding and Repairs. James
Lithgow was to be an important
gure in the rationalisation
scheme, National Shipbuilders
Security Ltd. Under his guidance
the industry succeeded in
eliminating about one third of
the capacity of the shipyards
between 1930-1939. He was
always vocal in his criticism of
organised labour and believed
that there was an over capacity
in the shipbuilding industry
that would consequently lead
to job losses and yard closures.
In his opinion rationalisation
of the shipbuilding industry
would provide jobs and the
opportunity for growth. James’s
brother Henry Lithgow died
in 1948, which is said to have
devastated James who shared
a very strong bond with him.
Shortly after Henry’s death
James suered from poor
health and four years later, in
1952, James died leaving an
estimated fortune of around
£436,961 which would translate
approximately to around eight
million in today’s market. At his
death, James Lithgow was the
owner of the largest privately
owned shipyard in the world.
William Lithgow was born
on the 10th of May 1934 to
Sir James Lithgow and Lady
Gwendolyn Lithgow, he grew
up as an heir to an incredibly
successful Scottish Shipbuilding
Company and eventually
inherited it in 1952 when his
father passed away. is made
him the owner of the largest
private shipbuilding company
in the world. Educated at
Winchester college, he went
on to study engineering and
became a Chartered engineer
and fellow of the Royal Academy
of Engineering. At the time of
his management of the
company, econonomic and
political landscapes were
beginning to change and
as a result Henry had to
take the company in a new
direction in order to survive,
encompassing but not limited
to engineering, salmon shing
and agriculture. As the British
shipbuilding industry began
facing challenges from foreign
markets, particularly the Far
East, a government enquiry was
set up to investigate the current
state of aairs. eir ndings
led to a merger between Scott’s
and Lithgow’s in 1970, and the
company thereafter became
known as Scott Lithgow Ltd.
However, when the shipyards
were nationalised in 1977
control was assumed to the
British Shipbuilding Industry.
Glen shipbuilding yard
e Glen shipbuilding yard was
created by the amalgamation of
Scott’s and Lithgow’s in 1970.
e yard’s purpose was to build
‘Very large crude carriers’ that
were then in demand. is was
also home to the ‘Goliath’, a
225 ton heavy-lift crane rising
287 ft upwards and 350ft
is was a landmark that
towered above the town making
it impossible to miss. With
the closure of the yards and
the demise of the shipbuilding
industry in Port Glasgow, the
Goliath was a reminder of
the industry that dominated
the riverside for over three
hundred years. However, its
huge presence was inhibiting
possible developments to be
made in that now vacant area.
In 1997, it was nally brought
down, albeit unsuccessfully on
the rst occasion with only one
side collapsing to the ground.
Many remarked that it looked
like a giant being brought to its
knees, symbolic of the decline
of the once great industry in
the town. Months later another
more succesful attempt was
made and the Goliath was no
more, leaving behind only the
feet of the crane to give any hint
to a very successful shipyard
that achieved many great things
during its time.
On James’s return to both the town and the running
of the company, he embarked on a rapid process of
expansion and acquisition
Top Left: Newspaper
article regarding
Lithgow’s contribution
to the local area.
Images © e British
Library Board.
All Rights Reserved.
Top Right: An Ariel
view of Lithgow’s
Left: e Goliath
crane as it was being
n the mid 1860s, a carter named
Walter Pollock was employed by a Port
Glasgow contractor. His wife wasn’t
happy with her husband’s boss, so she
went to a Mr Park, a respected breeder and
dealer at Hatton Farm, near Bishopton. A
bargain was struck, and Mrs Pollock walked
a horse home to Port Glasgow, thus starting
a business which lasted 130 years. Needless
to say, the horse was a Clydesdale.
Business expanded with Walter’s son
James taking over the reins. He made himself
known to the Port Glasgow shipbuilding
family of Lithgow and the rm thereafter
gained a reputation for doing very dicult
jobs with apparent ease. James’ two sons,
Walter and Robert, were by now in the rm,
which in the early twentieth century and
the Great War had over 100 horses, 90% of
which were Clydesdales. Motor lorries were
by now making inroads, the rst, like so
many others, being a Model T Ford
which could be tted with bench seats at
the weekend.
In May 1925, Walter Pollock and his
cousin, Walter Pollock Lucas (later to become
Provost of Port Glasgow), started the rst
timetabled motor bus service between Port
Glasgow and Greenock. e rst bus was a
1925 Commer, but Albion 24 seaters with
Northern Counties of Wigan bodywork
became the favoured models. In 1929
Greenock & Port Glasgow Tramways made
the cousins an oer they couldn’t refuse, so
they sold out. e last tram ran in July 1929,
and the G & PG Tramways became Greenock
Motor Services, then Western SMT, but that
is another story.
e fortunes of James Pollock & Sons
uctuated greatly during the Depression.
At one point only one horse was working
in the shipyards, the majority having been
sold and their harness put into store. e
motor vehicles were varied, as customers
were thin on the ground. ese were Fords,
Reos, and a Dodge, but always Albions.
Walter’s elder son James, my father, having
served an apprenticeship with John Mitchell
of Greenock, who were Albion, Atkinson
and Austin agents, went to the repair shop
at Albion Motors about 1932, and then for
two years in the summer was employed by
By Walter Pollock
Gordon’s coaches, Lamlash,
Arran, as mechanic and relief
driver/conductor/inspector, etc.
Great days!
Around 1932 J.P. & S
took delivery of a 4 ton Albion
LK51 (new!!) from Mitchell,
becoming Fleet No. 10. is is
the vehicle in the 1947 photo
taken at Scarlow corner in Port-
Glasgow, when it was hauling a
mast to a Lithgow’s ship which
was tting out in Glasgow. e
“monkey”, or dolly, at the rear
was home made from the rear
axle of a much older Albion, and
lasted into the sixties, when
artics started taking over. e
mast was almost 50 feet long,
16 feet wide at the crosstrees
and weighed 15 or 16 tons,
but the aggregate was 21 tons
over the three axles. Brakes on
the “monkey” were an optional
extra! e Albion was replaced
in 1949 by a new Atkinson
L.644 (No. 24, DHS 851), again
supplied by Mitchell. No. 24 was
either a Monday morning or a
Friday afternoon job, as it was
back at the factory three times in
as many months, which left my
grandfather tearing his hair out
and saying, “Scrap it,” or Eddie
the driver saying, “Ah want ma
Albion back!” Of course (vast)
overloading had nothing to do
with it!
During the war the rm
was, like everyone else, very
busy, going all over the country
e horses were becoming less
and less, and a new word was
appearing, “artics!”
with shipbuilding and ship repair
work. e majority of the work
was carried out with Walter
and Robert at the helm and
my father James as mechanic/
driver. After the war James’
younger brother Bryce returned
from the army and an old name
was revived, the Port Glasgow
Motor Co. Ltd. motor agents and
repairers. e garage came about
by my father taking in repairs
during the war, and he thought
it feasible to start a separate
company for his brother, as there
were enough former employees
returning from the forces to
rebuild the haulage side.
e horses were becoming
less and less, and a new word
was appearing, “artics!” e
majority of the steel for the
yards came by rail, and the
railway and the Gourock
Ropework Co. used Scammell
couplings, so J.P. & S did the
same. e rst unit was an
ex-WD Bedford tipper cut down
and tted with sammell gear.
e steel trailers were varied but
they only had to cross the road
from the goods station to the
shipyard. Gourock Ropework
ran material in from Glasgow
and Grangemouth Docks,
and nished products out to
anywhere at all. Trailers were
nearly all new 26 ft Yorks, and
the tractor units and tippers
in the fties and early sixties
were almost all Austins, as Port
Top: 1962 Comet
procession with
Clydesdale Blythe led
by David Neilson.
Middle: A mast being
taken to Govan.
Bottom: Our rst
timed bus at Princes
Pier in 1925.
Opposite Page: My
Grandfather, my
Father and me with
our Austins.
Glasgow Motors were Austin
agents. e tippers, 8 or 10
daily, worked with the Limmer
& Trinidad Lake Asphalt Co. on
tar. e exception was a new
Albion Chieftain (No. 27, EHS
591) with 26 ft Dyson trailer,
replaced in 1964 by a 1961
Albion LAD Chieftain (No. 43,
YVD 479), ex-Tayforth, plus a
26 ft York trailer.
With plating coming in
1967 Jim and Bryce knew that
there would have to be expensive
John Martin
Agnes Stevenson
Helen Sharpe
Bryce Martin
James Stevenson
M: 1852
M: 1852
Walter Pollock
James Pollock
M: 1848
Elizabeth Calder
M: 1848
Fanny Martin
Bryce Martin
M: 1873
Agnes Stevenson
M: 1873
Walter Pollock
James Pollock
M: 1877
M: 1877
changes. ere was never any
doubt what would replace the
Austins, in fact I don’t think
there was even a discussion-
Albions were the answer! e
tippers were a priority, as the
7-tonners had been running
with 10 tons plus since they
came. (Helper springs – honest,
it’s legal!)
Joe Sewell, a friend of my
father’s from his Albion days,
was Sales Manager of Central
Garage (Bathgate), a subsidiary
of Russell of Bathgate, and every
new tipper came from them,
with bodywork by Fleming &
Taylor of Airdrie and tipping
gear by Edbro’s Johnstone
works. e rst new vehicle,
with re-used eet No.27, MHS
859F, went on the road on the
1st of August 1967, an RE29BT
Super Reiver, with spare wheel,
painted, sign written and road
taxed for £3,300 all in! e
e tippers were a priority
as the 7-tonners had been
running with 10 tons plus
since they came
Top: Me with a
manilla load for the
Bottom: A drum
being loaded at
Johnstone Mill

Robert Pollock
Mary Pollock
biggest problem was convincing
the drivers they could only put
13 tons on it! Another Reiver,
No. 26 (RHS 941G) came a year
later, followed at yearly intervals
by three Clydesdales. One of the
reasons for the yearly intervals
was Jim Pollock’s belief that
“you don’t buy it unless you can
pay for it in cash.” Changed days!
No. 26, when about six months
old, developed a serious oil leak
at a main bearing. A phone call
to Central Garage, a return call
from Albion Motors Repair
Shop at Yoker (the old Halley
works), “Bring it in before 3.00
p.m. Friday, pick it up 2.00 p.m.
Sunday,” a factory reconditioned
engine tted with no charge.
Where would you get service like
that nowadays?
e Clydesdales were
rather unique in that although
they were tippers, they used the
shortest freight chasis, giving
a 14 ft 6 in. body with a single
cape 10ft long in the centre. As
the bulk of the work was tar, this
allowed a JCB to remove small
amounts at a time, thus avoiding
spilling, and, more importantly,
damage to the body. Clydesdale
No.28, BHS 44J of 1970, was
painted in the green, black and
yellow of Limmer & Trinindad
at their request, and vey smart
it looked. It also had, at no extra
cost, a de luxe interior, with
roof and door lining, padded
dashboard, padded engine cover,
lockable cubby-holes and a radio
(in a LAD cab!).
I came home in April 1969
after serving an apprenticeship
in Glasgow with Carlaw Cars
in Finnieston Street (cars) and
Cook Street (trucks). A poignant
date was in February 1970,
when the last horse walked out
of Lithgow’s Kingston Yard, a
story with a happy ending, for
the horse went to a farm near
Kilsyth on the understanding
he would never have to work,
and so could enjoy his well-
earned retirement.
In September 1972
another Clydesdale was
delivered, No.34, LHS 517L,
which must have been among
the last to be built. About this
time Scania introduced the
two-axle 16 tonner to the UK
and a salesman came with
a tipper demonstrator. My
father took a test drive, came
back, said it was the most
comfortable lorry he had ever
driven, but it was “nae use.”
“Why?” asked the salesman.
“Because you can’t put 10 tons
on it legally. I get 10½ tons with
my Albions.” John Stewart, a
haulage contractor and grain
merchant from Larbert, with
whom we had dealt for a number
of years, mainly for horse feed,
contacted my father to say he
was nishing up and had two
Albions with sand bodies (ideal
for tar) for sale and gave us rst
refusal. ey came within three
months of each other, and were
immaculate. e rst, a xed
cape Clydesdale, became No. 33,
DMS 802L, and as usual gave a
10½ tons payload, with a margin
for error. e second was an
RE29 Super Reiver, but with
10-stud back wheels, giving 22½
tons gross and a comfortable
15½ tons payload, and became
No. 32, DWG 233L. is brought
the main tipper eet to seven
top range Albions, although
there were a few of the 5 and
7 ton Austins doing local work
such as repairing pavements and
potholes – do you remember
they used to do that?
In 1975 the Gourock
Ropework, which had been a
major customer, closed, and
then in 1976 Tarmac bought
over Limmer, whereupon no. 28
changed to J.P. & S colours. In
March 1977 the hardest blow
A poignant date was in
February 1970, when the last
horse walked out of Lithgow’s
Kingston Yard
Top: Leyland Comet, 1980.
Below: Albion Riever, 1968,
ready for tar delivery.
came when after a short illness
of only a few weeks James
Pollock died aged 64.
Like most young men I had
my own ideas, most of which
were bashed out of me. One
thing I did convince my father
and uncle to do was to go on
to fth wheel artics, as at this
time more and more steel was
coming by road. Second-hand
Bedford TK units (KUS 681
and 682E) were bought from
Duncan Barbour of Glasgow,
but my father, who had a deep
mistrust of all things Bedford,
only agreed because they had
Leyland 0.4000. is became
the standard engine for the eet
from 7.5 to 24 tons, with the
exception of an AEC Mercury
tractor No. 40 CSF444C, ex
Pollock of Musselburgh, bought
with the idea it would do for
containers from Greenock to
Renfrew, but then a 15 ton
twice a week load both ways
to Dundee came up: end of
shunting duties!
In the eighties the Albions
were still holding their own, but
fuel costs were going up and
rates, especially quarry rates,
were static. But there was one
more Clydesdale to come. e
fourth No. 24, HTS 537G, ex-
Harry Lawson, a Leyland Super
James Pollock
Walter Pollock
M: 1908
Fanny Martin
M: 1908
Walter Pollock
Jean McKindrick
James Pollock
B: 1912 D: 1977
Comet 25 ft, at, was retired
after nine years’ very hard work,
to be replaced by No.54, WSU
588S, a Leyland Clydesdale
ex-Strathclyde, Motherwell.
We took the “Leyland” letters
o the front; put “Pollock” in
their place, a Rising Sun badge
from a tipper grille on the front
and a Saltire & isle badge
from a Clydesdale radiator
on the front bumper. By this
time the shipyards and their
ancillaries had all but nished,
only Fergusons surviving. Also,
our kind of tipper work was
being slaughtered by another
Renfrewshire rm.
In the eighties the Albions were
still holding their own, but fuel
costs were going up and rates,
especially quarry rates, were static
My uncle continued to run the garage
side, and did so until 2008 when he retired,
aged 88. I kept going with the Clydesdale
and a 7 ½ ton Ford until 1991, but I had
suered broken bones in my neck, amongst
other things, in a bad smash in the eighties,
and these were still making life dicult, so I
decided enough was enough.
Of all our long term drivers, only one
was never given a new vehicle, and you’ve
already guessed who – no favouritism in
J.P. & S! I did get DMS 802L, and I still
maintain that Albion Clydesdale LAD was
the best medium weight two-axle vehicle
ever built, bar none. So I can honestly say
that James Pollock & Sons started with a
Clydesdale and nished with one, all from
the same oce in Chapelton, Port Glasgow.
Elizabeth Pollock
Agnes (Stevenson)
Bryce (Martin)
Far Left: My dad in
his Austin.
Left: Clydesdales
dressed for the
Kilmacolm show.
Below: Me at
Chapelton yards.
poorhouse was a facility run by
the government used to house
those who could not aord or
were unt to support themselves.
ey were seen as a cheaper alternative (to
the taxpayers) than what we call welfare
but what in those days was referred to as
‘outdoor relief’. ey were an important
place for many in the mid-19th to mid-
20th century, helping to support the
vulnerable who had little or no money and
were incapable of providing for themselves.
However, they were undoubtedly a last
resort for many as the conditions were less
than desirable. Between 1845 and 1930,
over 70 poorhouses were constructed in
Scotland. ey were built following the Poor
Law (Scotland) Act of 1845. e regime,
diet and conditions of a poorhouse were
deliberately kept strict to discourage those
who could be supported by their family
from applying.
In Greenock there have only ever been
two poorhouses: one on Captain Street
and the other at Inverkip Road, to the west
of Greenock. is poorhouse operated
adequately for years. However, as with all
buildings, it began to run into disrepair
until a time where it was deemed no longer
suitable for its intended purpose.
e only plausible solution at this
point was to construct a new building
to replace the former. is gave way to
the second poorhouse of Greenock: the
Smithston Poorhouse. ere is no shortage of
information in regards to this poorhouse.
e poorhouse was said to have
aggravated a lot of the local taxpayers at the
time, with it costing £100,000 to construct.
It was dubbed by locals as the “Palace of the
Kip Valley”.
One governor even came all the way
up from England with his family to run the
poorhouse. His name was omas Martin
Hardie and he was governor of both the
Captain Street and Smithston Poorhouse for
some time. e 1881 census shows omas
with his wife and children, two of whom
were born in the poorhouse.
At one time there were reports that
there were problems between Mr Hardie
(Governor) and Mrs Buchan (Matron). ere
was a committe investigating the claims
and there was even an article talking about
the investigation in a local newspaper at
the time. e Governor and Matron had
responsibilities to cooperate with each other
and it was in the parochial board’s best
interests to ensure that this was this case.
However, the committee concluded that the
claims had no basis in truth despite both the
Governor and Matron admitting that they
“do not work together in harmony as they
ought to do.”
An interesting tale can be seen by
investigating the minutes of the Greenock
Parochial Board. At one time the inmates
were made to plough the land. is was
obviously a breach of their rights, even at
a time when Health & Safety legislation
was loosely adhered to, and the committee
investigated the matter throroughly.
and the Palace of the Kip Valley
Medical Ocer; Robert Murray,
Head Attendant; Geo. Brown,
Gardener Attendant; Jno. Innes,
Attendant in charge of No.2
Division; Wm. McCoy and Alex
Whitlet, Ordinary Attendants.
At a subsequent meeting Mr
McWilliam protested against
the committee investigating the
statements he made regarding
the patients ploughing at
Smithston, and Mr Hardie having
occasionally held the plough, for
the following reasons:
In response to this objection the
committee ruled that it had the
power to enter upon the present
investigation and stated that this
meeting had been called for the
purpose of giving Mr McWillam
an opportunity of bringing
forward any witnesses he might
wish to produce, in order to prove
the statements he had made. Mr
McWilliam declined this request
for the reasons aforementioned.
e end result of the matter was
that no further action would
be taken and a report would be
submitted to the Committee
of Management for their
When war broke out
in 1939 the hospital was
requisitioned by the Admiralty
and in 1941, after patients were
evacuated to other hospitals, the
Canadian Navy took over the
hospital and it was renamed the
HMCS Niobe. e buildings were
not returned to their original use
until 1947 and in the following
year with the start of the National
Health Service it was renamed
Ravenscraig Hospital. e
building still remains today,
with only part of it still in use.
e building’s red sandstone
appearance cemented it as one
of the most striking buildings
of its time, in this area.
However, now the prestigious
red building has slipped into a
state of disrepair, and faces an
uncertain future.
ere were rules and
regulations that had to be
followed for the management of
the poorhouse and there were
procedures regarding visitation:
“e Poorhouse shall be visited
once at least in every week, by
a committee of two or more
members of the Parochial Board.
e Visiting-Committee shall
carefully examine the Poorhouse
- shall satisfy themselves as
to the quantity and quality
of the provisions issued to
the inmates - shall ascertain
whether the house is kept clean,
well ventilated, and suciently
warm, and whether the inmates
are properly attended to and
accommodated - and shall
write such answers as the facts
may warrant to the following
queries, which are to be printed
on each page of a book, to
be provided by the House-
Committee and kept for that
purpose in the Poorhouse, and
which is to be submitted by the
House-Governor to the House-
Committee at every ordinary
On one particular visit,
on the 1st of March 1883,
the committee saw a squad
consisting of twenty patients
with two attendants, although
it was observed that they were
not attached or strapped to the
plough and had free movement
if they so required. By the
haggard appearance of the men,
the committee believed that
they were not capable of lifting a
spade to dig or any independent
labour for that matter. e
asylum books were passed to
the committee to investigate
and it was discovered that this
practice had begun on the 5th
January, 1883 at this particular
institution. ey decided to
take evidence on the subject
and examined eight witnesses:
Mr Hardie, Superintendent;
Dr Wallace, Resident Medical
Ocer; Dr. Clark, Visiting
Because this Committee has
no power or authority to
make such an investigation,
and any resolution they may
come to will be of no eect.
Because the statements
were made by me at a
general meeting, and that
meeting should make the
investigation or have a remit
to make it made.

e Poorhouse shall be visited once at least
in every week, by a committee of two or more
members of the Parochial Board
Top: A plough being pulled
by workers
Bottom Left: Newspaper
article regarding the Smithston
Images © e British Library
All Rights Reserved
Bottom Right: A census record
of the Smithston poorhouse




By Hugh McIntyre
here cannot be a single
person domiciled in
Inverclyde who is not
an immigrant to the
place, or who isn’t descended
from immigrants to it. ough
the following draws on my
family history, it is not my
family history. Some of my lines
start away back - this account
will start with the people, the
immigrants, who came here, and
it will tell, within limits of space,
what became of them and some
of their descendants.
John McIntyre & Jane
John McIntyre and Jane
Cameron came to Port Glasgow
from somewhere in Ireland
between 1851 and 1861. Why
did they leave Ireland, and why
did they come here? Where in
Ireland did they come from? If
these questions were ever openly
discussed in the family, I was
absent at the discussion. I did
once overhear vague mention of
a farmer called McIntyre who’d
come over before them, and
that John McIntyre had been a
coachman to James Hamilton,
the duke of Abercorn. is last,
if true, would place them in
County Tyrone - a faint voice in
my head says Newtown Stewart.
ey were here by 1861, living
at omson’s Land on King
Street between Scarlow Street
and Church Street on the east
side. omson’s Land wasn’t
a palace - too low in value to
be assessed for rates, it was
most likely a slum. Living with
them were a son George (my
great grandfather), aged 16,
and a granddaughter, Jemima
Moncrie, aged 7. Everyone
in the household was born in
Ireland. John McIntyre was
a labourer in a boatyard, and
George was an apprentice
boatbuilder, which might
suggest that in 1861 they had
been here for a couple of years.
An older son, James, came
over a little later - he married
Mary McNutt here in 1870
and died of TB in 1871 - there
were no children. He worked
as a shipyard plater, so he must
have come here with a trade. A
daughter, Mary Jane, may have
arrived along with James - she
married George Armour, the
son of a Princes Street butcher,
in 1866. Martha, the mother
of the granddaughter Jemima
Moncrie, seems not to have
left Ireland - she was married to
a soldier. Jemima grew up and
married John Cochrane in
Port Glasgow.
John McIntyre died in
1872, possibly only mourned
by his wife Jane, their son
George, and granddaughter
Jemima, for daughter Mary Jane
and husband and family had
moved on from Port Glasgow
by then - to where has not been
established. Jemima and her
family didn’t stay much longer -
they were gone by 1874. In her
old age, Jane Cameron entered
Smithston Poorhouse. She had
an annuity, so she was there as a
paying inmate. She died in the
Inrmary there in 1892, and
was buried in a common grave
in Greenock Cemetery, a grave
belonging to the Poorhouse. e
reason for this is not clear - she
had family in the area, and while
they weren’t rich, they certainly
weren’t poor.
Great grandfather George
William Martin Cameron
McIntyre, to give him his full
name, became head foreman
riveter in Scotts East Yard.
He married Hannah omson
Stewart in 1871 in Port
Glasgow. Hannah, like George,
was an incomer. Of their eleven
children, ve didn’t survive
beyond infancy. eir eldest
son, Hugh Vallance Stewart
McIntyre, was my grandfather.
He became a riveter like his
father, foreman under him
at one time. He and his two
brothers, John and George, were
in the same riveting squad. e
brothers would sneak into the
yard on a Sunday to get the
job set up for a quick start on
the Monday. ey were on
piece work.
Hugh’s sister, Mary Jane,
married Bryce Smyth in 1890.
She died of peritonitis seven
years later, and Bryce married
her sister, Nellie. Georgina
married James Henry in 1902.
She died of TB in 1914. John
married Elizabeth Docherty in
1900 and moved to Johnstone.
He died in Paisley in 1955.
George married Margaret Boyle
(in Helensburgh) in 1910. He
died in Port Glasgow in 1959.
Hannah Stewart died in
May, 1898, and George married
a widow, Christina McDonald,
nee Stewart (no relation to
Hannah), in July of the same
year in Glasgow. ey had at
least six children. He drowned
in Port Glasgow Mid Harbour
in 1916, having gone “up the
town to see Mary”. is was
just after the New Year, so I
daresay drink had been taken. I
can’t say which Mary he went to
see - his youngest, my great aunt
Mary, was born in 1911, but
I assume she would have been
living with him on Chalmers
Street, Greenock, at that time.
Had George not married, the
family name could have died
out here within one generation.
His families by Hannah and
Christina were the sole legacies
of the McIntyre move from
Ireland. Was it all worth the
move? We have to assume so,
but we lack information on their
life in Ireland for comparison.
John Stewart & Janet Vallance
Hannah omson Stewart who
married George McIntyre was
born in Glasgow about 1854,
the second oldest daughter
of John Stewart and Janet
Vallance. John’s family came
from Lesmahagow, and Janet’s
from Paisley, originally from
the Cumnock area. John and
Janet were married in Glasgow
in 1850, and around 1864 they
came to Port Glasgow and lived
initially at 5 Clune Brae. e
tenement they lived in (photo)
was not long built. John was an
engineer, and after his arrival
in Port Glasgow he went to sea
as one. ey had eight children,
of whom seven survived to
adulthood. When John died on
the 11th of January, 1890, at 31
Belhaven Street - his wife (the
story goes) “turned her face to
the wall” - she died on the 23rd.
ere is a story about why
they left Elderslie, but nothing
about why they came to Port
Glasgow. John is supposed to
have been a “special constable”,
and a man was killed in a riot in
Paisley, necessitating a move.
I’ve never been able to pin
down a report of such an event,
though there were sectarian
riots around that time in Paisley.
Of their children:
Alexander married Isabella
McFaun in Port Glasgow, and he
and James (then unmarried - he
married in Canada) emigrated
to Canada in the late 1880s.
Elizabeth married omas
Duncanson in Glasgow and
followed them from there.
Alexander and James were
moulders - Alexander made
a name for himself in British
When John died on the 11th of
January, 1890, at 31 Belhaven
Street his wife turned her face
to the wall
Top: John Stewart
& Janet Vallance’s
home on Clune Brae
Rignt: George
William Martin
Cameron McIntyre
Bottom: Hugh
Vallance Stewart
Columbia as an innovative
moulder - the trade was new in
BC at that time. John died, aged
8, in Port Glasgow, and Malcolm
Rankin, the youngest son,
fell o a staging in Duncan’s
shipyard in 1887 and was killed.
His body was conveyed home,
the report said. Nice. Mary
didn’t marry - she spent a lot
of time travelling, looking after
her brothers’ children here and
abroad. e youngest, Nellie
Swan Stewart, married James
McDonald and stayed on in the
town. e McIntyres and the
McDonalds are the only Stewart
descendants still here.
e third eldest, Hugh
Vallance Stewart (photo), was
a hard man to nd once he
left Port Glasgow. He was an
apprentice saddler in the town,
was a witness at his sister’s
wedding, then he vanished
from the local record. But many
and varied were the family
tales about him, involving a
refrigeration business in Chile
and the 1906 earthquake there,
not to mention a marriage to
an Ayrshire lady whose father
was “in real estate” (there is no
such marriage in the records).
Eventually I found he became a
marine engineer like his father.
He sailed with the Pacic Steam
Navigation Company, whose
routes included the west coast of
South America, and they carried
refrigerated cargoes of meat
from there to the UK. In the
absence of anything else, this
could explain the tale about the
refrigeration business. e jury
is still out on the role played
by the earthquake. In Chile he
married a Chilean lady of Danish
descent, Elena Bartholin Cuevas.
ey had three children, and
their descendants live around
Santiago to this day.
William Henderson
William Henderson was born
in Stirling around 1850, the
son of James Henderson, a
cabinetmaker, and Margaret
Moat. In 1871 he was 21,
working as a van driver (aerated
water) in Greenock, boarding
in a house at 13 Watt Street.
By then his parents had moved
from Stirling to Bonhill,
and his father had opened
a workshop in Dumbarton,
but William didn’t follow his
he made of the grandfather
clock case. Of their children:
William drowned in Sandon
Dock, Liverpool, unmarried;
James married and emigrated
to Australia - he and his wife,
Beatrice Dawe, had no children;
Adam died in infancy; and
Maggie didn’t marry. Martha
Ann married Willie Du and
had two daughters, whence one
granddaughter. Lizzie married
Hugh McIntyre, my grandfather,
in 1897. Of their 9 children, only
6 reached adulthood - my father,
William Henderson McIntyre,
was their 3rd son. Hugh
collapsed in 1934 while watching
a football match at the Garvel
Park and died of pertonitis in
Greenock Inrmary not long
after. e Henderson surname
died out in our family.
James Adam & Elizabeth Robb
Agnes Adam’s parents were
James Adam, a handloom
weaver, and Elizabeth Robb,
both born in Paisley and married
there in 1838. e family moved
to Elderslie, where James wove
plain shawls at home for the
Ronald Brothers Printworks,
who block-printed them as
imitation Paisley shawls. In
1854-55, times were hard for
weavers in Paisley and district,
and all was not well with the
father’s trade. He seems to
have spent a lot of time with his
uncle Robert Moat, who was
a road and railway contractor.
Robert unsuccessfully bid
£134,107.4s.4d in 1866 for the
contract to make the Callander
to Oban railway - William
“walked the line” with him
on the survey. Robert Moat
spent some time in Port
Glasgow on business, and he met
his second wife, Annie Porteous,
there when she was teaching at
a school. Possibly William came
to this area with Robert and got
to know it.
William Henderson
and Agnes Adam married in
Greenock in 1872. Agnes, like
William, was an incomer (she
came from Elderslie). She had
been in domestic service at 15
Union Street - the house no
longer stands - and perhaps
William delivered lemonade
there. ey took a house at 65
Nicolson Street in Greenock,
but moved to the Glen, Port
Glasgow, by 1875, the year
my grandmother Lizzie was
born to them. William went
into business for himself,
manufacturing and selling
aerated waters and ginger beer
at a place on Water Street in Port
Glasgow. is was still in the
family, at least on paper, until
recent redevelopment cleared
it all away. Agnes’ brother,
Alexander Adam, went into
partnership with William. In the
late 1880s, William and Agnes
took their family to Rothesay,
where William set up business.
He had disposed of his share in
the Port Glasgow business to his
brother-in-law. e Rothesay
venture didn’t last - yet another
tale said the horse dropped dead
on the brae - and they came
back to Port Glasgow. Around
1889 William took himself o to
Australia and disappeared. e
family stone in Port Glasgow
cemetery says he died there in
1891, but I’ve never found any
evidence for that. Agnes said she
was a widow in the 1901 census.
Agnes died at 19 Ardgowan
Street, Port Glasgow, in 1928.
No 19 was the house behind her
shop at No 17. Her daughter,
Maggie Moat Henderson, took
over the shop and ran it till she
retired in the 1950s. Maggie
knew everybody. During WW2,
one or other of my brothers and
I slept in the house at the back
of the shop, and I can still hear
the ticking of the grandfather
clock- once a second. Agnes
Adam’s father-in-law, James
Henderson, came to Port
Glasgow from Bonhill in his
widowhood, at some time after
1889. He died in the house in
1903. We still have a model
During WW2, one or other of my brothers and I
slept in the house at the back of the shop, and I can
still hear the ticking of the grandfather clock
Left: William
Henderson and
Agnes Adam.
Ronald Brothers Printworks.
In 1854 the works had a full
stock of shawls - they cut back
production and only printed
shawls from stock for orders
received. James was one of
over 100 handloom weavers
in Elderslie who had depended
on the Printworks, and he and
Elizabeth had 10 children,
newborn to 12 years old. James
wove blankets and sold them
round the doors, but that didn’t
last. By 1855 the family had
moved to the Overton Paper
Mill above Greenock, escaping a
worse situation, for the Western
Bank failed in 1857, taking the
Ronald Brothers Printworks
with it. At Overton they got a
cottage at the mill - there were
11 cottages at that time - and
those of employable age got
jobs there. A rather sad event
enables the estimate of when
they came to Overton. Mary,
their youngest surviving
child (two had already died in
infancy), died at Overton in
1855 - she was born in Elderslie
in 1854.
at was why they moved,
but why to Overton? According
to family lore, the move had
to do with Elizabeth having
an uncle who “owned” the
Paper Mill. Certainly, one of
the proprietors in 1854-55
was William Adam Brown,
married to Joanna Gray, the
sister of his co-partner, James
Gray. A Paisley merchant called
William Brown appeared in
family documents, wills, etc, as
a witness, but so far it has not
been possible to tie him in 100%
with the Paper Mill. Another
source of inuence could have
been Elizabeth’s uncle, William
Robb, who had a shawl business
in Paisley at that time.
e family prospered.
William became a farmer in
Steppes; Alexander who took
over William Henderson’s
aerated water business - he
married Janet Barclay. Martha
married David Allan - he
had come to Overton to do
gardening - they moved to
Kames. Agnes was my great
grandmother, married to
William Henderson. Janet
was killed, aged 20, in 1865
when the top oor of the mill
collapsed under 24 tons of
esparto grass, taking the middle
oor and Janet down with
it. Elizabeth married Willie
McHarg, a shipyard plater -
when he died she took her young
family to Glasgow, opened a
millinery shop on the Crow
Road, and sent her children to
university where they became
mathematicians. James Jnr
went to sea as a marine engineer
before retiring to Dalry as a
farmer; and Andrew married
Ann Benson from Gourock
and went to sea as marine
engineer - he sailed with Cunard
and settled in the Wirral,
near Liverpool - his grandson,
Robert Leslie Adam, was senior
partner in Hill Dickinson,
Cunard’s lawyers. e only
Adam descendants were from
Alexander, and the last of them
died quite recently, unmarried.
Elizabeth died at Overton
in 1879. James moved away to
Cardowan, where their eldest
son, William, had a farm. He
took a job as a watchman and
died there in 1889.
My mother’s family,
unlike my father’s, weren’t great
ones for telling family tales, at
least, not to me. Mostly they
lived ordinary lives in the area
and elsewhere.
William Steele & Martha
William Steele and Martha
Steele - both were Steeles, were
married in Ballymoney, County
Antrim, in 1878. eir rst
child was born in Balnamore in
about 1879, and their second in
Greenock in 1883, which gives
a good indication of when they
came to Greenock. e second
child was my grandfather, John
Steele. Like my great great
grandfather, John McIntyre,
and many others who came
into the area from Ireland and
the Highlands, William Steele
brought no trade or skill useful
in a shipbuilding community, so
he worked as a labourer.
ey lived in Greenock
with their 8 children till about
the turn of the century, when
they moved to Argyle Street at
the west end of Port Glasgow.
My mother used to talk of her
Port granda and her Greenock
granda - William Steele was the
former. William died in 1927,
and Martha in 1936.
In 1904 their son, my
grandfather John Steele,
a shipyard plater, married
Margaret Munro Cumming in
Greenock. Margaret was the
daughter of John Cumming
(Mum’s Greenock granda) and
Janet Munro.
I recall meeting my
grandfather only once, and his
Left: James Adam
and Elizabeth Robb.
Janet was killed, aged 20, in
1865 when the top oor of
the mill collapsed under 24 tons
of esparto grass
wife, Margaret Cumming, not
at all, since she died in 1936
when I wasn’t yet three. I have
memories of undercurrents in
the family, matters that were
discussed over our heads when
we were children, but we weren’t
daft, and we knew it concerned
our grandfather. From a fellow
researcher in Ireland I got
this remark, “John Steele was
a ne man and well spoken.
Unfortunately, he was ostracised
by his mum and dad because
of his drinking problem.” His
parents were what we called
“good living”. Be that as it may,
there came a time when he was
living in the Model Lodging
House on Boundary Street.
My mother, Martha Steele,
was his daughter - she sent me
to him with a jug of soup. I
found an old man sitting in a
cubicle. e walls only went up
so high - there were no ceilings
to the cubicles. I watched as
he ate the soup, sitting on the
narrow bed. I don’t recall the
conversation, but I do remember
a strand of leek that attached
itself to his long grey moustache.
Not long afterwards he died of
pneumonia. at was in 1943,
and I was 10 years old. In 1943
my father was in Madagascar or
India, so I took a cord in place
of my mother. I got my rst
pair of long trousers in honour
of the occasion, and thereafter
I didn’t have to do certain
chores - my younger brother Ian
inherited them. I was (and still
am) the oldest of 6. Women
didn’t attend at the graveside
in those days. ey organised
the protocol beforehand, and
prepared the funeral tea.
Of William and Martha’s
other children, all but William
and Lizzie married. William died
of appendicitis aged 15, and
Lizzie stayed single - she died
aged 90. I was at her funeral in
Port Glasgow Cemetery in 1985.
It was a cold wet day, and it was
a very long service indeed.
Martha, the eldest,
married William James McLean,
a shipwright, in Port Glasgow in
1902 - they moved to England.
William was born in Ballymena.
Mary May married James
Chalmers Wilson, a plater,
in Port Glasgow in 1914. I
was told she had been cook
and housekeeper to William
Hamilton the shipbuilder before
her marriage.
Sarah married Robert
Becket Currie, a tter’s helper, in
Port Glasgow in 1921.
Maggie married Sammy
Porter, a plater, in Greenock
in 1921. Apart from Lizzie,
they were the only ones of
that generation of the family I
knew - they lived on Glenburn
Street near where we lived on
Ardgowan Street at the Glen.
We ran errands for them - there
were never problems running
errands for great aunt Maggie
Porter, for she always gave us
threepence. ey didn’t have
children of their own.
Jane Cumming
Jane Cumming was born in the
village of orn near Johnstone,
to Robert Cumming and Janet
Stewart. In 1869, a few months
after the birth of an illegitimate
son, John, she married Robert
Baillie, a carpenter, in Paisley.
Robert was one of those
drowned when the collier
Daphne capsized on launch
from Stephens’ Linthouse
shipyard, Govan, in 1883. He
wasn’t John’s father - Jane was
in service in Dumbarton when
he was born. She died in Paisley
in 1913. She had a number of
Baillie children, but there was
no contact with them.
Margaret Munro was
born in Largs, the daughter
of Roderick Munro, a cabinet
maker who had come to Largs
from Rosshire before 1827, and
Janet Lochhead. She married
William Greenlees there, but he
died 4 years later in 1855, and
they had no children. In 1862
an illegitimate daughter, Janet,
was born to her in Largs.
e illegitimate pair, John
Cumming and Janet Munro,
married in Greenock in 1884.
Margaret Munro eventually
married David Baxter in
Kilmacolm, but her daughter
Janet never assumed the Baxter
name. Some in the family
thought she had, which confused
the record somewhat. Margaret
died in 1901.
Great grandfather John
Cumming worked as a riveter
and lived until 1951. He was
the only one of his generation
I ever met, though it was
Far left: John
Cumming and Janet
Munro with their
three children.
Left: William Steele
and Martha Steele.
hardly a meeting. I visited his
granddaughter, my aunt, in
Greenock, and he was in bed,
a very old man. We didn’t
converse. His wife, Janet Munro,
died in Greenock in 1931.
e photo shows John
Cumming and Janet Munro
with their three children,
Jane, John and Margaret.
Jane married James Cameron,
and Margaret married my
grandfather, John Steele. John
didn’t marry - he joined the
Argylls in WW1 and was posted
missing, presumed dead, in
August, 1917.
Romantic Epilogue
In the early 1930’s, probably
about 1931. Miss Martha Steele
was going to or coming from a
dance at the Ladyburn Rowing
Club. Her way was impeded by
two young men ghting on the
ground. She separated them.
One was William Henderson
McIntyre. History did not record
the name of the other one - she
knew neither of them. She and
William were married on the 9th
of September 1932, at Ladyburn
Manse, and I was their rstborn.
We ran errands for them - there
were never problems running
errands for great aunt Maggie
Porter, for she always gave us
Ann Williams
e Identity project has been very enjoyable. Apart from taking the
opportunity to explore my own family tree, listening to the stories
of the other group members research has been so interesting. What
a variety of characters, both in the group and historically, I have met
over the last few months.
Grace Binnie

Coming to Identity has been so enjoyable, this is maybe not what it
was meant to be but the characters resulting from research and the
characters in the group made it so!
Jean Campbell
Coming to the group every week has been very enjoyable. Some of
the information about our history was very interesting. All the sta
were very friendly and cooperative.
Frances M Dunlop

Being part of the Identity project has been a great experience,
meeting lovely people, hearing interesting stories, learning more
about the history of our local area. I have had help in getting started
on researching my own family tree, and that has been a fascinating
journey of discovery. It’s a never-ending story: I think I may be
hooked for life now!
Alex Hardie

Joining the Identity group at 71/2 John Wood Street, Port Glasgow
was for me a chance to express my interest in Inverclyde’s waterways
and reservoirs. I hope that with the aid of Identity Inverclyde we can
produce a video documentary, that will highlight our intentions and
inform the general public of our aims.
John Smith
e purpose of the group is to further research an interest in each
member’s family background and their original connections to
Inverclyde. is we have been successful at but I think we have
achieved much more. Such a diverse group has been able to come
together, share, support and stimulate each other and the results –
the website, a book of histories and the ongoing friendships that,
I think, have been forged will be lasting testament to the group’s
intelligence, curiosity, sharing nature and sense of humour.
Hugh McIntyre
Apart from coee and chocolate biscuits; the chance to meet people
with stories to tell about the area and beyond; to cooperate in other
people’s research, often to my own benet as it turned out; and
when not doing these things – having some decent conversation.
Walter Pollock
Several months ago I was involuntarily volunteered to join Identity
by my wife and June (2 Formidable Ladies). I have never regretted
a second of it. I have met some really wonderful people, we all
agree (eventually) but we can agree to dier. We met as friends and
part as friends. I cannot speak highly enough of the young people,
especially Stacey, Craig and Shug, who keep us re-cycled teenagers
on the straight and narrow, it must be hard going for them at times.
Every ship must have a captain and I can only say if Kay had been
the skipper of “Titanic” she would never have sank. ank you once
again for many enjoyable Wednesdays and ursdays and long may
it continue.
Joseph McGeer
ere are many benets in working with others in this project, one
being the incredible knowledge of the members. For example, if you
don’t know the name of a long gone street in Port Glasgow from
100 years ago you got the answer in seconds.
Betty McLaughlin
I really enjoyed my time at Identity. I discovered a lot of information
about the district and enjoyed meeting the other members of the
John McQuarrie
It has been a very enjoyable experience attending Identity. I feel
that I have learned a lot and added to my education and knowledge.
e sta are helpful and never fail to give answers.
June Campbell
What a great project! e Identity project was very interesting. e
group was very friendly and helped one another. e researching
of our ancestors really brought out lots of unknown information.
It was great listening to other people’s stories. e sta were most
helpful and not forgetting the tea, coee and biscuits that kept us
going. Roll on the next project.
Foreword: Paul Bristow
Customs & Contraband: the History of the Greenock Custom House - Craig McEwan
What’s in a Name? - Ann Williams
Pressing Times: the Impressment Ocers in Greenock - Craig McEwan
e Comings and Goings of the Mooneys - Grace Binnie
John Scott: the Evolution of an Empire - Craig McEwan
Memories - Jean Campbell
Mark Khull and the Sugar Capital of Scotland - Craig McEwan
e Donnellys: An Irish Family in Greenock - Frances M Dunlop
William Scoresby and the Greenock Whale Fishing Company - Craig Miller
e Last of the Salveson Whalers - Alex Hardie
John Galt and the Canada Company - Craig McEwan
e Smith Family & How ey Came to Port Glasgow - John Smith
Robert om: From Cotton to the Cut - Craig McEwan
Following in the Footsteps - June Campbell
Father Condon: the Benevolent Broadcaster - Craig McEwan
e McQuarries: A History through Photographs - John McQuarrie
Fleming and Reid: the Making of a Mill - Craig Miller
e Mill Women of Clark & Struthers - Betty McLaughlin
Henry Birkmyre: Weaving for the World - Joseph McGeer
James Lithgow: from Port to Parliament - Craig McEwan
Clydesdales: From First to Last - Walter Pollock
omas M. Hardie and the Palace of the Kip Valley - Craig McEwan
My Family’s Immigration to what is now Inverclyde - Hugh Mcintyre
Photographs and Images
e photographs and Images used in the book have been reproduced with the permission of various organisations and with
permission from the volunteer group.
Images Reproduced with Kind Permission of British Newspaper Archive - www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
Photographic images used under license from SCRAN - www.scran.ac.uk
McLean Museum
English Heritage - www.english-heritage.org.uk
Glasgow Life
Britain From Above
Holy Family Church Port Glasgow
Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland - www.rcahms.gov.uk
Tate Gallery London
Hull Maritime Museum
National Archives of Scotland - www.nas.gov.uk
Condenast - New Yorker
Caird Library - www.rmg.co.uk/researchers/library
Kew - National Archives - www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
Mary Evans Picture Library
Mitchell Library - www.mitchelilibrarv.org
e Gourock - George Blake
e Gourock 1954
Museum Victoria
Patrick Downie
Reginald Beer
Scotland’s People
Two Centuries of Shipbuilding by Scott’s
Greenock Telegraph
Burns Club