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Archibald Brown – The Early Annals of Greenock – Published 1905

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The Early Annals of Greenock.

Archibald Brown
author of “Memorials of Argyllshire”

Greenock Telegraph printing works, Sugarhouse Lane.


Greenock: Its Name and Place.


The Early Heirs of Greenock.

Section 1.—The Galbraiths of Greenock.

2.—The Crawfurds of Loudoun and their titles to Easter Greenock.
3.—Charter to Crawfurds of Easter Greenock.
4-—Ratification of Easter Greenock to Crawfurd of Kilbirney.
5.—Sale of Easter Greenock by Lady Crawfurd to Crawfurd of Carsburn and Sir John Shaw of
Wester Greenock.


The Old Landmarks of Easter Greenock.

Section 1.—The Old Castle.

2.—Crawfurdsdyke and Harbour.


The Celebrities of Easter Greenock.

Section 1.—John Spreull.

2.—The Watts.
3.—Jean Adam.
4-—Neil Dougal.


The Genealogy of the Shaws of Wester Greenock and Sauchie.


The rule of the Shaws during the Barony and Charters.


The Causes of the Rise and Progress of the Town of Greenock.

Section 1.—The Herring Trade.

2.—Greenock's Trade Connection with Glasgow.


The Celts or Gaelic-speaking People in General, and the Highlanders of Greenock in Particular.

Section 1.—Enquiry as to their Origin.

2.—Gaelic Speech in West of Scotland.
3.—Feudalism Introduced.
4.—Origin and Effects of the Highland Clan system.
5.—Highland Migration to Greenock.
6.—Natives of Greenock in 1792.



Arms of Greenock. Cross of Greenock. Town Council. Police Court and Jail. Drums, Bells, and Clocks. First Supply
of Water. Early Church Accommodation. Post Office. The Fairs. Shipbuilding. West Harbour. Old Dry Dock. Tar
Pots. Beacon Lights. Sand Bank. Whale Trade. Press Gang. Early Feus. Clauses in Old Feus. Feudal Obligations
and Imposts. Ornaments and Dates on Old Buildings. Thatched and Slated Houses. Brewing and Vending Houses.
Sugar and its Preparation for the Consumer.


The following notes upon the antiquities of the town and its people had to be gathered from various sources not
easily attainable, some of which had been referred to by previous writers. One of the objects of this work was to
glean incidents overlooked by others in the early annals of the town. In undertaking this self-imposed labour of
love, it was foreign to my intention to attempt writing the history of my adopted town up to the present date—I leave
that task to abler hands. The materials for its modern history are always at hand, and may be culled from the
Superior's title deeds, Town Council reports, Acts of Parliament, and other local documents, which are full of detail.
A. B.

To the memory of
John Scott, Esq., C.B.,

THE author is aware that in dedicating his work to a gentleman who has passed away from amongst us, he is
doing a rather unusual thing, but he is sure the following explanation will justify his action in the eyes of his readers.
During his lifetime Mr. Scott took a deep interest in the progress of this book, and not only read the proofs, but, out
of his wide knowledge of the past history of Greenock, made many valuable suggestions and additions, which are
incorporated in the text. Not only so, but he accepted the dedication of the work, and it is a matter of profound
regret to the author that lie did not manage to get it printed during Mr. Scott's lifetime. He feels, therefore, that he is
justified in sending out this little book, which tells something of the history of old Greenock, inscribed with the name
of one who did so much for his native town, and to whom the author is deeply obliged.
A. B.
The Bay of Greenock, from which the town derives its name Grianaig — Sunny Bay — extends from Garvel Point
on the east to Whitefarland or Fort Matilda on the west. The origin of the name has of late been a fertile theme for
imaginative people. In the year 1769 a flowery writer, whose assumed name was “Clitander,” says:— “I came to a
flourishing seaport town (Greenock), which takes its name from the monarch of the woods, joined to the colour of
nature's carpet” (Semple); others, in other words, derive the name from a famous green oak tree that once
nourished on the beach in the middle bay; whilst others go further afield and find it in some sunny knoll, “Grian-
chnoc,” in the neighbourhood. All these derivations are fanciful, and will not stand scrutiny. The oak is not an ever
green, for the half of the year it is leafless; and where is this special sunny knoll, for the bay is surrounded with
knolls ?

The name Grianaig, doubtless, was originally a descriptive term given to the bay by the early Gaelic inhabitants of
the locality. Highlanders always pronounce both syllables, Grian and aig distinctly—the suffix aig being the noun,
the prefix Grian the adjective qualifying same. Bays, with qualifying terms, are frequently found about the river
Clyde and its tributaries—such as Grianaig, sunny bay; Maolaig, bald bay; Gouraig, goat bay; Gearraig, short bay;
Stialaig, stripe of a bay; Askaig, shelter bay; Drisaig, briar bay; Cloanaig, squint bay; Camaig, crooked bay; and
many others.

Among the Celtic names of the sun Grian is the chief where the Gaelic language is spoken; but this title for the sun
was not confined to the Celts, the Greeks called it Granaois, and the Eomans Grannus.

Aig (bay) is referred to in ancient poetry. In an old Gaelic couplet, describing the comeliness and purity of Saint
Modan, he is compared to a pure tuft of foam, driven from the stream of ships to an eddying bay—
“Maodhan maiseach fo'n caoin cruth, Mar cheaa aig o shruth nan long.”

The name Grianaig is specially appropriate to this bay, as the sun strikes on it from early dawn till the shades of the
Many of the prominent place names in the locality are pure Gaelic terms, such as Achmugtan, Achaneich,
Achaleum, Achandarich, Achmead, Binnein, Cnoc-nair, Corlich, Craigs, Darndaff, Drumban, Drumbae,
Drumfrochar, Finnart, Lurg, Strone, Spangach, etc.; and many place names were recently turned into English, for
instance, Eavenscraig, in the parish of Inverkip, has its correlative in Creagnamfiach in the Abbey parish of Paisley,
the latter having retained its original name.

Not only is the name of the bay pure Gaelic, but the two extreme ends and the middle are of Gaelic derivation.
Garvel Point derives its name—Gharbh-bheul, rough mouth— from the fringe of black rocks at the mouth of the
channel passing it in its original condition. Whitefarland, at the other extremity, is from the Gaelic word Foirichean,
or white cape. Near Pirn Mill in Arran is Whitefarland, which Dr. Cameron, in his topography of Arran, terms “the
white promontory or cape.” This place the natives of Arran speak of in the possessive case as “an fhoirchean,”
which they soften down to “an aoiriun.” In Timothy Font's map of 1600, published by Bleau in 1662, it is printed
“Row na heren”. In West Kintyre, opposite the island of Gigha, is Rudh-na-h-aoirinn. There are also aoirins or Erins,
east and west of Tarbert, Loch Fyne. In all cases—in Greenock, Arran, Kintyre and Tarbert — these are invariably
extreme white gravelly points or capes jutting out into the sea. Delling, in the east of Greenock, is another Gaelic
term. Delling is composed of two words—Dail a field, and Lunn a wave—in the genitive case, the field of the
waves. The old name of Kirn, near Dunoon, was Dailuing, which the natives called Dailluine. Many other names
might be mentioned indicating recent changes, and showing that when the Gaelic ceased to be a spoken language
it was extensively retained in place names.

We have seen that Greenock extends from Garvel Point to Whitefarland. Within this semi-circle were three smaller
bays—the first, on the west, was called the Bay of Quick or Uig. I have not seen any special cause for this
definition, and presume it should have been uig, lone, or lonely bay. The second was called in latter times Sir
John's Little Bay. It commenced at the mouth of the West or Finnart Burn and ended about the present
Customhouse. This bay afterwards embraced Scott's old building yard, now Caird & Co.'s, and the West Harbour.
The third, called Saint Laurence Bay, extended from the present new dry dock and ended at Garvel Point. Several
prominent rocks or land marks were situated along the shore. “The Meikle stone,” to which ships were fastened,
was situated in the present space between the Mid and the tar pots at the foot of Cross-shore Street. The was east
of the Customhouse, and the Murray's or Mairichean at the foot of Virginia Street.

From time immemorial Greenock was famous for its safe anchorages. In 1164, when Somerled, Thane of Argyle,
sailed from the west to do battle with King Malcolm IV., he moored his 160 galleys in the Bay of Greenock, landed
his troops there, and marched them overland to Renfrew, where he was basely assassinated by the connivance of
one of his friends. His followers retreated to Greenock, where they rejoined their ships and returned to Argyle.
(“Memorials of Argyleshire,” pp. 172-175.)

Referring to this incident the rambling Pennant says— “That Somerled, Thane of Argyle, raised a banditti in Ireland,
which was landed in the Bay of Saint Laurence to oppose Canmore, King of Scotland,” which would be about a
century before the event took place.

Section I.

The lands surrounding the bay, described as Easter and Wester Greenock, were possessed after the middle of the
fourteenth century by a Malcolm Galbraith, who is likely to have resided at the Castle of Easter Greenock.
Crawfurd, the historian, says:— “This was an ancient family in these parts.” In the “Ragman Rolls” we find that
Hugh de Grenok swore fealty to Edward I. at Lanark in 1296. The surname of this magnate is not given, but it is
probable he was the progenitor of this Malcolm Galbraith. This surname is on record in the locality at this time.
Douenal Galbraith de Kilbride, in the county of Dunbreton, swore fealty to Edward I. at Lanark in 1296. In 1440
David of Galbraith is a witness to an indenture between King James II. and Erskine, Earl of Mar; and four years
later the Earl of Mar gives a charter to Galbraith, his armour-bearer, of the lauds of Garscadden, Clydeside.

Malcolm Galbraith, heir of Greenock and the last of the race, died without male issue, but left two daughters. The
elder of them married a Malcolm Crawfurd, of the family of Loudoun, who acquired by her the lands of Easter
Greenock. the elder daughter would claim as her right the principale manerum, which meant the baronial right
attached to the estate as a whole, and the Crawfurds would thus get possession of the castle and its environments,
which they held till that part of Easter Greenock was sold by Lady Kilbirnie to Sir John Schaw, 27th September,
1667. The younger daughter married a Mr. Shaw, who got with her as her moiety the lands of Wester Greenock.

Easter and Wester Greenock were divided by the Strone Burn. Easter Greenock extended on the south to the
upper parts of Strathgryfe, on the north to the river Clyde, on the east to Devol Glen, and on the west to Strone
Burn. Wester Greenock commenced at the Strone Burn and extended on the west to the Hole or Finnart Burn,
otherwise called the West Burn, and from the Clyde on the north to Strathgryfe on the south.
The estate of Finnart was held by others at this date, but afterwards acquired by the Shaws and added to Wester

Section II.

Of this family Crawfurd, the historian, in writing “The Peerage,” published in 1716, says:—”Though the Crawfords
have not possessed Kilbirnie above 243 years (1473-1716), yet they were a very ancient family before. A branch of
the house of Loudoun came first to possess the barony of Easter Greenock in Renfrewshire about the time of
Robert III. (1390-1404), Malcolm Crawfurd then taking to wife the daughter and coheir of Malcolm Galbraith of
Easter Greenock, an ancient family in those parts, by whom he had Malcolm Crawfurd, his son and heir, who came
to Kilbirnie in right of Margaret Barclay his wife.

Robertson, in his genealogical account of the principal families of Ayrshire (Irvine, 1823), quoting from Douglas'
peerage, says that Malcolm Crawfurd, who married the daughter of Malcolm Galbraith, was the sixth in descent of
the Crawfurds of Loudoun; that Malcolm's father, the fifth heir, was taken prisoner at the battle of Durham in 1346;
that Malcolm Crawfurd of Greenock, the ninth heir, was great-grandson of Malcolm, who married the co-heiress of
Malcolm Galbraith, by which the heirs male and heirs of line of this family were united and got a charter from King
James IV. in 1499. “Malcolm Crawfurd de Greenock terrarum de Kilbirnie dimidietat baroniae de Crawfurd-John.”

The Crawfurd family, though possessing this estate from the end of the fourteenth century, do not appear to have
resided at Easter Greenock till about the middle of the sixteenth century, when there is mention of Laurence
Crawfurd, the twelfth heir, a man of good reputation. On 29th January, 1528, there is a contract between him and
Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, whereby Mr. Laurence excambed his part of Crawfurd-John with the Hamilton lands
of Drumry, in the county of Dumbarton. About the year 1546 Laurence Crawfurd founded a chaplaincy at Drumry
and endowed it with the five pound land of Jordanhill. This chapel stood near Garscadden. The object of founding
the chapel was for the better support of certain priests to celebrate divine service for the soul of his late sovereign
lord, King James V., and for the good estate of himself and of Helen Campbell, his wife, daughter of Sir Hugh
Campbell of Loudoun; and for all the faithful deceased. Laurence Crawfurd departed this life in the month of June,
1547, leaving issue by said Helen, Hugh his son and heir of Kilbirnie, John of Easter Greenock, and Captain
Thomas, ancestor of the Crawfords of Jordanhill and Cartsburn. Upon the demolition of the religious houses, this
Captain Thomas, with the consent of his brother Hugh, acquired Jordanhill in 1562 from Bartholomew
Montgomerie, chaplain to the chapel of Drumry. This was the Captain Thomas who took the castle of Dumbarton
on the 2nd April, 1571.

Section III.

This John Crawfurd seems to have been the first of that family who resided permanently at Easter Greenock.
According to Crawford's “History of Renfrewshire,” he got possession during the reign of Queen Mary. In the Scots
Act of Parliament of James VI., 1592, among other infeftments the following is ratified— “Ratificatione to the Erll of
Murray his infeftments.” It may be mentioned in passing that the Earl of Moray was appointed Regent of Scotland
during the minority of King James VI., 22nd August, 1567, and was assassinated at Linlithgow, 23rd January, 1570.
During these three and a half years this infeftment would take place. John Crawfurd of Easter Greenock would thus
receive a charter from Queen Mary, get it infefted by the Earl of Moray, and have it ratified by King James VI., in
1592, after having attained his majority. The name of the disponee is not recorded in the sasine, but that was not
singular, as many others in this long list of eight pages are also omitted; but the time, occasion, and subjects of this
charter, infeftments, and confirmation, are applicable only to John of Easter Greenock.

The infeftment reads as follows:—

“Totas et integras tras de grenok/ cum castris turribus portalicijs domibus edificijs molindenes/ siluis/ piscarija
partibus pendiculis annexis connexis tenentibus tenandrijs liberetenem-fuicijs oium singulax pre-fatarum terarum
exim cum pertinen.” (Act Scot. Parl. v. III., p. 630.)

Then follows the clause “Tenendas et Habendas,” that is the holding and possessing:—
“Totas et integras R dicto terras de grenek/ cum castris turribus fortalicijs domibus edificijs molindinus siluis
piscarijs ptibus pendiculis/ annexis connexis tenen tenan et libere tenen-fuitija oium singularu pfatarum trarum
exieu” (Vol, III., p. 632.)

And lastly comes the “ Reddendo,” or return to the Superior, which says:—
“Pro prefatis tris de grenek cum pertinen summam vigenti librarum moneta.” (Vol. III., p. 633.)

There is some uncertainty about the time the descendants of John Crawfurd, of Easter Greenock, finally passed
out of these lands. Crawford, in his history, says:— “These lands (of Easter Greenock) were anciently a part of the
barony of Kilbirnie, and became the patrimony of a younger brother of that family (John of Easter Greenock) in the
reign of Queen Mary, whose posterity ended in the person of David Crawfurd of Cartsburn, in the reign of King
Charles I.; so the lands came to Malcolm Crawfurd, the second son of the family of Kilbirnie, and acquired from his
heirs, anno 1657, by Sir John Crawfurd, of Kilbirnie.”

These last references are incorrect. The Crawfurds of Easter Greenock were never known by the title of Cartsburn.
This description was given to the place after Mr. Thomas Crawfurd bought a part of that estate from his kinswoman,
Lady Kilbirnie, in 1668, and instead of these lands passing into the hands of Malcolm Crawfurd, and acquired from
his heirs, anno 1657, the following charter will show that Sir John Crawfurd had a grant of these lands from Charles
I. in 1624.

Before quoting this charter I may add that, in a note at the end of Robertson's description of the Crawfurds of
Cartsburn, he says:— “Previous to this family there was another family of Crawfurds that had Cartsburn,
descended directly from the house of Kilbirney, and which continued from the reign of Queen Mary (inter 1547 et
1568) till 1657, namely, first, John, son of Hugh; second, David, son of John; third, Majister Peter, son of David;
fourth, David, grandson of David; fifth, Malcolm; sixth, John, son of Malcolm, which last sold Cartsburn to Sir John
Crawfurd of Kilbirney in 1657. But of this particular family, history of any of them I can find no trace.” (Pp. 244-5.)

Robertson is in error in saying that John of Greenock was a son of Hugh. He was brother to Hugh, and second son
of their father Laurence, as seen above.

According to the following charter, we see that the Crawfurds of Easter Greenock, although probably residing there,
had little hold of it after 1624, when Sir John Crawfurd of Kilbirnie got the following Royal Grant of these lands.

Section IV.

“All and haill the lands of Kilbirnie, ... as also of all and haill the lands of Eister Grenok by and w'in the barony of
Renfrew and sherrifdome thairof, with all and sindrie thair towres, fortalices, manor places, yairds, orchyeards,
mylnis, muhters, woods, fishings, dovecots, coills, coilheuches, annexis, connexis, outsetts, tennents, tenandries,
seruice of frie-tennants, advocation, donatioun, and richt of patronage of kirks, benefices, and chaplainaires, pairks,
pendicles, and pertenents thereof, x'som eror, etc.
To be hauldin of our soverane Lord as then Prince and Stewart of Scotland and his hienes successors Princes and
Stewarts of the said kingdome of Scotland waird in manner specified, quhilk infeftment is of the date at Edn- the
second day of March, the year of God Jm- VJ. twentie-four years and siclike, the infeftment maid and grantit be our
said soverane Lord as father, tutor, guyde, and lawful administrator to his hienes darrest sone Charles Prince and
Stewart of Scotland, with advice and consent of his hienes theasurcr principal and depute and remanent lords of
his hienes exchekker of the said kingdome of Scotland, to and in favour of Jon Crawfuird now of Kilbirnie, his aires
maill and as-signayes q'somever. To be hauldin lykwayes waird off our said soverane Lord's darrest sone and his
hienes successors Princes and Stewarts of Scotland in manner therein mentionat.

“And qlk charter is grantit under his Ma'ties great scill, of the date the day of The yeare of God Jm- VJ.c threttie
sevine yeirs. Togidder with preceptis and instrumentes of seising.” (Act. Parl. of Scot., vol. V., pp. 521-522.)

This John Crawfurd, seventeenth in descent, of Kilbirnie and Easter Greenock, distinguished himself by his loyalty
to King Charles I., and was created a baronet in 1642. He died at Edinburgh in 1661. He was twice married, first to
Margaret, daughter of Lord Burleigh; and secondly, to Magdalen, daughter of Lord Carnegy, by whom he had two
daughters (1) Anne, who married Sir Archibald Stewart of Blackball, near Paisley, and had issue; (2) Margaret, on
whom he settled his estates, and to the heirs of her body, obliging them to carry the surname of Crawfuird with the
arms of his family. She married in 1664 Patrick Lindsay, second son of John, fifteenth Earl of Crawfurd and first of
Lindsay, by whom he had issue three sons and three daughters.

Section V.
This lady is now styled—

Dame Margaret Crawfurd, Lady Kilbirnie.

When Lady Crawfurd of Kilbirnie came into possession of Easter Greenock she found the property was burdened
with debt, and, with the consent of her husband, she resolved to sell it. That part of the estate surrounding
Crawfurds-dyke she seems to have sold privately in 1668 to her kinsman, Mr. Thomas Crawfurd, merchant,
burgess and Town-Clerk of Glasgow. This Mr. Crawfurd was second son of Cornelius Crawfurd, of Jordanhill, and
was lineally descended from Captain Thomas Crawfurd, youngest son of Laurence Crawfurd, twelfth heir of
Kilbirnie. He was the first Crawfurd of Cartsburn, and died in 1695, and was succeeded by his son Thomas, who
married Rebecca Barns, daughter of Provost Barns of Glasgow, by whom he had two daughters. The part of Easter
Greenock acquired by Mr. Crawfurd of Cartsburn was the more valuable, as it contained the dyke, peere, or mole,
as it was variously called, and also the harbour where all the shipping hitherto in the bay of Greenock was

This property Mr. Crawfurd named Carsburn, which is still held by his successors. Carse is a Scotch term, which
signifies low and fertile lands, generally that which is adjacent to a river. This prefix, with its being bounded on the
west by the Strone burn, may have occasioned the name Carsburn, or it may simply be a contraction for

The disposition to Mr. Crawfurd was confirmed by Charter under the great seal, in favour of “Thomas Crawfurd,
Merchant, Burgess in Glasgow,” and his heirs, dated 16th July, 1669, the lands being described as “all and whole
the forty shilling land of old extent of Carsburne, with the manor place, houses, biggings, yards, &c.;” and also “all
and whole that part of the said lands called Crawfuirdsdyke, alias Cartsdyke, with houses, &c.,” and “with the right,
privilege, and liberty of the free Burgh of Barony of Crawfuirdsdyke, with all jurisdiction pertaining thereto.”

The remainder of the estate of Easter Greenock which surrounded Cartsburn was in the market for sale previous to
this. It is said Sir John Shaw of Wester Greenock and the Magistrates of Glasgow were competing for possession,
the latter with the view of making a harbour there, but they were out-bid by Sir John, who obtained the property.

I was desirous to get a sight of Sir John's title to the estate, in order to get at the exact boundaries, and made
several applications at the Mansionhouse here for that end, but failed to get a clue to it. I then applied to Dr.
Dickson, of the Register House, Edinburgh, who put my inquiry into the hands of Mr. Henry Paton, Searcher of
Records, and I received the following letter from him:—
“ 10th January, 1895.
Easter Greenock.
“Dr. Dickson, the curator, placed in my hands your letter wishing a copy of Sir John Shaw's title to the above lands
on their sale to him by Lady Kilbirnie. I am sorry to say that I have been unable, after a somewhat prolonged and
careful search, to find it. I have searched the particular Register of Sasine for Renfrewshire for 1664 (the date of
that lady's marriage) to beyond July, 1671 (the date of the erection of Wester and Easter Greenock into a Barony),
and also the General Register of Sasine for the same period, also the Sasine following on the Crown Charter of
Erection in 1670 (Sasine July, 1671), but not a trace of the other, although, strange to say, there is the Sasine of
Thomas Crawfurd to the lands of Carsburn. Thinking I might get some information as to its being recorded
somewhere, I hunted up the litigation over the sale in Morison's Dictionary of Decisions, obtained there the date of
the decision (3rd February, 1669), then searched the books of Council and Session in the Register Houses for the
decree, and found it in Duries Office, Vol. 24, where I found that the sale had not been completed by that time,
reference being made in the decree only to a minute of sale between Sir John Shaw and the aforementioned lady
and her husband, the date of which minute was 27th September, 1667. Thus limited, I tried again to find the
Sasine, but to no effect.”

Shortly after these sales of Easter Greenock had taken place, it was objected that they were frauds on the entail,
which provided that Lady Kilbirnie and the heirs of tailzie should not alter the lands, or contract debts, whereby they
might be appraised and carried off from the heirs of tailzie, otherwise the contraveners should lose their rights ipso
facto, and so the sale was void.

It was contended that the entail contained a clause entitling her to sell and burden the lands with sums of money
“for paying and satisfying the defunct's debts.” The Court sustained this plea. This is referred to in Morison's
Dictionary of Decisions, which says:—” The Lords sustained a minor's breaking her father's tailzie and paying his
debts as rational acts, notwithstanding the minority, and though he did not adhibit thereto the consent of his
curators.” (Vol. I., p. 578.)

Crawfurd, in his history, makes a distinction in the wording of Lady Kilbirnie's sale of Easter Greenock. In the part
sold to Sir John Shaw he says:— “Dame Margaret Crawfurd, Lady Kilbirnie, with consent of her husband, did in the
year 1669 alienate the Barony of Easter Greenock to Sir John Shaw.” In the other case he says:— “In the year
1669 she disposed Carsburn to Thomas Crawfurd, her cousin.” This would indicate that Carsburn was retained in
the family, and that the remainder passed away to strangers. As in the case of many other estates, being alienated,
the sellers invariably retained a portion more or less, in order to have power to redeem them at a future period. This
was the case with a portion in the middle of Sir John's purchase called


There were many families of Crawfurds in Easter Greenock from the time acquired till disposed of, but the most
suitable to perpetuate the name on this was that of the original recipient, that of Loudoun.

This little farm or croft called Loudoun Ward is thirteen acres in extent. The possessor has the privilege of ish and
entry through Sir John's property, also to cast peats and graze six cows beyond the bounds; he pays rent to Mr.
Crawfurd of Carsburn; the latter has the right of shooting over the hills of Easter Greenock.
After these alienations and dispositions we find no further connection between Kilbirnie and Greenock. Dame
Crawfurd, Lady Kilbirnie, died in October, 1080, and was succeeded by her son, John, who was created Viscount
of Garnock, Lord Kilbirnie, Kinghorn, and Drumry, in the year 1703.
section I.

The remains of the ancient Castle of Easter Greenock, as represented in this engraving, existed in the year 1804.
A contributor to the Scots Magazine, published in Edinburgh in 1809, gives an account of the ancient Baronies of
Greenock, with a view of the Castle of Easter Greenock, in which he says:— “The view annexed represents the
ruins of the Castle as they appeared about five years ago. The tower has since fallen, and in the course of a few
years the plough will probably pass over the remains.”

In the angle between the South-Western and Wemyss Bay Railways, where they issue at the east end of their
tunnels at Hillend, is situated the ruins of this old Castle. In the hollow in front of the ruin an embankment was
raised by the Wemyss Bay Railway to straighten its lines, which now obscures a view of the. site of this old Castle.
Before this was raised its prospects towards the River Clyde and Dumbarton shore were charming. Crawfurd
says:— “It was surrounded by pleasant parks and enclosures, having on all sides a great deal of regular and
beautiful planting, with spacious avenues and terraces.” During the time that john of Easter Greenock and his
successors held sway there, doubtless they would have occupied the Castle, but after his posterity ended, the
property again reverted to the Kilbirnie family, and the Castle ever since appears to have remained tenantless, and
ultimately became a complete ruin. About the middle of last century it seems to have become a quarry for building-
stones. Weir, in his History of Greenock, published in 1829, says:— “About sixty years ago the late tenant of
Hillend, where stood the Castle of Easter Greenock, on excavating the ground fell in with a sunk cellar, where was
found a number of casks containing liquid, the nature of which could not be ascertained.” It is probable that the
stones taken by Captain John Campbell (commonly called “Long John”) to build Bridgend House and a cluster of
smaller buildings behind, may have been taken from this ruin. All that now remains is a heap of stones, rough and
hewn, mixed confusedly together with earth, which heap the neighbours call the knowe.

Thus the ancient glory of Greenock is now crowned with a colony of piggeries. Alas! in viewing the altered scene, a
person is ready to exclaim with Shakespeare— “To what base uses may we return, Horatio ? Why may not
imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander till he find it stopping a bung-hole ?”

A recent local scribe, writing about Bridgend House and the Castle of Easter Greenock, humorously remarks:—
“The local industry at Bridgend is now represented by the piggery, the songs of the lark and thrush have given
place to the whistlings of the railway engines as they pass into one or other of the two tunnels through the hill to the
west, so that the amenities have now gone to pigs and whistles.”
Section II.

A dyke is a Scotch term for a wall, whether built of turf or stone. The early inhabitants of Greenock knew little about
the terms quai, mole, or peere, but they understood perfectly what a dyke meant. In the West Harbour extensions
under the ninth Baron Cathcart, harbour dykes are often named, which meant the quay walls. This dyke, which
john of Easter Greenock is likely to have built, has immortalized his name, Craufuirds-dyke, abbreviated to
Cartsdyke which is still the name of that part of Greenock.

The east part of the Bay of Greenock, which includes the dyke, is also called Saint Laurence Bay. The Saints of
old, though consecrating many places over the land, seldom laid claim to the sea. It is probable that this locality
derived its name from Laurence Craufurd of Kilburnie and Easter Greenock, who was the most opulent of that
family till his time, and who divided his possessions, giving Easter Greenock to his second son John. This
Laurence was of a devotional turn of mind (as we have seen), and on acquiring his new Estate of Drumray he
bequeathed a portion of his means for the support of certain monks there for praying for the salvation of the soul of
King James V. and others. If there were any monks on his Estate of Easter Greenock, he is not likely to have been
unmindful of them. For those good deeds he may have had the reputation of a local saint, many of whom were
never heard of or canonized at the Vatican. However, the people of Greenock were not forgetful of good Laurence,
for they have named this Bay in memory of him, also their yearly November Fair is called after him.

The erection and title to the dyke in all probability was left to his son john, who by his father's will received the
Estate of Easter Greenock in the year 1547, for which he got a Royal Charter from Queen Mary shortly thereafter.
The year the dyke was built is not known, but it was an established erection in Greenock before any part of this
estate passed into neutral hands.
The first definite account we have of this part of Easter Greenock was during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell,
when a Commissioner, named Thomas Tucker, was sent to Scotland to report on the Settlement of the excise and
customs, which report he presented to the Government at London in October, 1656. “Of Greenocke,” he says, “all
the inhabitants are Seamen or Fishermen, trading to Ireland or the Isles in open boats; at which place there is a
mole or peere where vessels in stresse of weather may ride or shelter themselves.” (Burgh Records). A French
traveller named Jeroven de Rockeford, who visited Greenock in 1661, and published his travels in Paris in 1672,
says: “The town of Krinock, where the Scotch post and packet-boat starts for Ireland. Its port is good, sheltered by
the mountains which surround it, and by a mole, by the side of which are the barks and other vessels loading and
unloading.” (Hume Brown).

The length of the dyke in its original extent was about 463 feet. It commenced at the sea wall or breastwork which
ran along the middle of Main or High Street (presently at No. 36 of that street); it went in a straight line for 255 feet
nearly due north to the lower end of Scott's mid yard new boundary wall, then it took a wide bend for 79 feet in a
north-west direction, afterwards it went in a straight line for 129 feet due east. In later years there were taken off the
east-end of the dyke about 46 feet to form the present timber pond.

The dyke was built of dry hewn stones without mortar. Its height would be about 9 or 10 feet, and its breadth across
the top about 10 feet; here and there along the top were iron rings to fasten vessels, and at the extreme end, in its
original form, there was a strong oak pawl to swing vessels round to or from the harbour. Inside, near the end of
the dyke, was a stair leading down to the water in the Harbour.

The first 255 feet of the dyke is now covered over with earth, but from the commencement of the bend to the east
end of the wall facing the sea, where a new breast work was built upon the remains of the old dyke, several
courses of the latter can yet be seen at low water. Inside of this dyke, which is now also filled in, there was a
commodious harbour in those primitive times to load and discharge vessels trading there. For much of this
information I am indebted to the late Mr. Thomas Orr, boatbuilder; Mr. George Hutchieson, feuar; and Mr. Foster,
carpenter, who had seen the Dyke and Harbour in their original condition. I am also under obligation to Mr. E.
Gilmour, Water Trust Engineer, for the annexed plan of Craufuirdsdyke and Harbour.
Section- I.

J.W. Burns, Esq., of Kilmahew, has kindly given me . permission to quote from his life of John Spreull, which favour
I gladly avail myself of.


John Spreull had extensive family connections in Paisley, Glasgow, Renfrew, Greenock, and elsewhere. He was
born in 1646, and was the second son of Baillie John Spreull, Merchant in Paisley, who was of the Spreulls of
Cowden, and his mother's name was Janet Alexander, daughter of Baillie James Alexander, Merchant, Paisley,
and Janet Alexander of Pollock. Baillie John Spreull was born in Paisley in 1607, and a family record says: “He is
known for having brought to that town its privileges from Dundonald.” Janet Alexander's family is represented by
Arthur Alexander of Maryville, Galway, Ireland, the claimant of the dormant Earldom of Stirling.

Bass John was twice married, first to Isabella Clark, and secondly to Margaret Wingate, and he died in November,
1722. He had three sons and four daughters, but they all died childless. The representation of the family was
continued in the descendants of his eldest brother, James Spreull, Surgeon, Paisley. This James married Ann
Spreull, only child of his cousin, John Spruell, principal town clerk of Glasgow, author of “Some Remarkable
Passages of the Lord's Providence.” James Spreull left an only daughter, born in 1676, who married James
Shortridge in 1700. To this lady Bass John left all his property. During the Rising or Persecution, there were no less
than three of this name—viz., John Spreull, Town Clerk of Glasgow; John Spreull, Provost and M.P., of Renfrew,
and Merchant in Paisley; and Bass John, and each tried to prove that it was not himself but one of the others that
the persecutors were in search of.


The greater part of his Library (many volumes of which still remain) consisted of Greek, Latin and French works,
also of the English Puritan Divines. During the negotiations for Union he wrote a book called “Accompt Current
betwixt Scotland and England,” showing that the balance was in favour of his own country.


John was made prisoner by General Dalziel in 1667 because he would not reveal where his father was: who, for
refusing the tender and declaration, had to abscond. Finding that they could prove nothing against him, he was set
at liberty. Being thus let go, he commenced business; first as an apothecary, but his skill was held in such high
repute that he was extensively employed as a chirurgeon by persons of all conditions for some time (Wylie).
Wodrow says nothing about his wanderings for the next ten years. In 1677 he was cited before a court in Glasgow.
Finding that severity was designed he absented himself, and was with several other worthy persons denounced
and excommuned, though nothing was laid to his charge but non-conformity. This obliged him to quit his house and
apothecary shop in Glasgow and go abroad, sometimes to Holland, France, and Ireland, as chapman or travelling
merchant. He was in Ireland with his uncle, James Alexander, 1679, and came to Scotland after the scuffle at
Drumclog in June and went to his house in Craufuirdsdyke.

Although his business brought him in touch with some of the Covenanting army, he did not feel himself at liberty to
join their ranks, as, although his devotion was as strong as ever, he did not approve of the extreme measures
which some had taken, and, regarded those who had assumed to be leaders as incompetent. Moreover, unhappy
divisions prevailing amongst the Presbyterians, he dreaded a disastrous issue (Wylie). After the defeat at Bothwell
in this year (1679), he absconded, leaving his wife and family, who were turned out of the house and shop in
Glasgow and all their effects confiscated. Within a short time he returned from Holland, with the intention to bring
his wife and family to Rotterdam. While lurking in Edinburgh, and lodging in the house of one Sarah Campbell in
the Cowgate, he was apprehended in his bed, 2nd November, 1680, by Major Johnston, who was searching for
Donald Cargill, and some goods he had brought from Holland were seized, though none of them were prohibited.
Johnston's soldiers made a prey of all the property he had with him. He was brought next day before the Council,
examined, and twice tortured in the Boots. He was indicted, and, after a long trial, the verdict was: “The Assise,
having considered the depositions of the haill witnesses led against John Spreull una voce, find nothing proven of
the crimes contained in the libel which may make him guilty.” Notwithstanding this clear decision, his Majesty's
Advocate produced an Act, 14th June, 1681, to detain him in prison until he could be examined on several other
points they had to lay to his charge, upon 14th July of same year. He, with others, was then brought before the
Privy Council for being present at Field Conventicles, and they were found guilty of hearing Presbyterian Ministers
preach. The matter was referred to their oath, which they refused to take, and were therefore found guilty.
Mr. Spreull was out of the Kingdom at the time libelled as to Conventicles, yet he was fined in five hundred pounds
sterling, and sent to the Bass. Spreull being known to possess means, he had no allowance from the Government,
as some others had, and had to provide himself in all he required in prison. His wife came to him in summer with
clothes, &c., but it was difficult to send him a regular supply of fresh food in winter, she therefore sent a few hens
for laying eggs, and, by this forethought on her part, he never wanted all the time he was on the Bass, which
amounted to six years and five mouths (Wylie). He sent a petition to the Privy Council detailing all the hardships he
had unnecessarily suffered, and craving liberty to follow his lawful calling in his native country. At this time James
VII. began his reign with a “General toleration” which he proclaimed in order to hold the door open for the Papists to
enter and take possession of the Government and the Army. Spreull's mind was not clear to leave the prison on the
footing of this “General toleration,” and, to the annoyance of the keepers, he continued to tenant the Bass about a
year after every one else had taken farewell of it.

On 13th May, 1687, the Council granted liberation on condition that he found caution to appear in June following,
under a penalty of one thousand pounds Scots money. When the order came to the Bass, Mr. Spreull was unwilling
to take his liberty upon any terms that to him appeared inconsistent with the truths he was suffering for. He
therefore continued some time in prison, till a letter came to the Governor to set open doors to him, and tell him he
was at liberty to go or stay as he pleased. Whereupon, after so long imprisonment, he chose to come out under a
protestation against what he took to be wrong in the “Orders of Proclamation.” Then he went to Edinburgh, waited
on the Councillors, and thanked them for allowing him liberty.

This ended his sufferings, which endured more or less for twenty-one years. In reference to his sufferings, he
assumed as crest a palm tree held down by two weights on either side, with the motto:—
Sub Pondere Cresco.


Seeing how Spreull had to wander about during the best part of his days, it is singular how diversified were his
undertakings. He is first brought to notice as an Apothecary and Chirurgeon in Glasgow. For many years he was
the largest dealer in pearls in Scotland. He exported horses, and imported cargoes of wine to the Clyde in his own
two vessels, the “John'' and the “Margaret.” It is likely that the first vessel named was that which Baron-Baillie Allan
Speir, depones to in 1700— “That there was ane Greenock ship called the 'John.'” Besides these two he appears
to have been interested in other vessels. In 1692 the Baron-Baillie of Crawfordsdyke poinded some timber floating
in the harbour there required for repairing the barque “James,” of which Spreull was part owner. This claim was for
feu duty, teinds, and anchorage dues, which were in arrears. This ended in a law suit, and Spreull at last paid the
claim under a strong protest. He invested his money in several other speculations. He gave £1,000 to the ill-fated
Darien Scheme. And besides all these undertakings he was the chief curer and exporter of red herrings in


In 1677 he arranged with Mr. Crawfurd, of Carsburn, for a piece of land on both sides of High Street (now Main
Street) in Crawfuirdsdyke. This was one of the earliest charters granted by Mr. Crawfurd, which is described “ a
charter of feu ferme,”

26th July, 1677, to James Spreull, in Arthurlie, “for ane certaine soume of money payed and delivered to me by
John Spreull, Merchant in Glasgow, in name and behalf of James Spreull, Arthurlie.” This charter then depones “To
James Spreull and his heirs and assignees all and haill that piece of ground belonging to me on the south syde of
High Street, in that town and villadge of Crawfuirdsdyke, consisting of fourtie-five foots of the rule in breidth upon
the front, whereupon the sd. John, in name and behalf 'forsd, is at pnt. building ane house, and so furth, in the sd.
breidth straught southward to my wood dyke of Crawfurdsburn, being in lenth from the foire syde of the sd. house
fourteen score foots of the rule or yerby, as the samine is laid off, meithed, and marched, togidder with as much of
that my ground on the north syde of the sd. High Street towards the sea as is just oposite to the foresyde of the sd.
house, so far northward from the High Street as can be gained of and defended from the sea. . . . qlk ar all proper
pairts and pertenents of my thrie merk lauds of Crawfurdsburn lying within the paroch of Grinok and Shcriffdome of
Renfrew.' (Williamson).

Owing to the troubles of the time when he arranged for the ground on both sides of the High Street, it appears he
took the precaution to have the feu taken in another name to prevent seizure. But after the Revolution in 1688,
when order was established, the property reverted to himself, and he got infeftment of same in 1701. It is clear the
property was John Spreull's from the beginning. Two years after he acquired these grounds, it is recorded “He was
in Ireland with his uncle, James Alexander, and came to Scotland in 1679, after the scuffle at Drumclog in June of
that year, and went to his house in Crawfuirdsdyke.”

This was the famous knock house on which was built the first steeple with clock and bell in Greenock. Spreull
occupied the basement of the building. In after years there was a cess laid on the inhabitants of Craufuirdsdyke to
keep this clock in repair and toll the bell. The exact site on which this house was built is the present counting house
of Messrs. James McLean & Co. On this piece of ground feued on the north side of the High Street he built his
famous red herring factory. Besides the Knock house and Herring Factory he feued a large yaird (garden)
extending over “fyve rudes of land,” which afterwards became the site of the Bottlework (now a saw mill). It is
evident his chief attraction to Greenock was the herring trade, with which he seems to have been so conversant. Of
fifty-six foreign countries he names in his book “Accompt Current” with whom (we) bartered, forty-six, he says,
could be chiefly balanced with white and red herrings. After his death in 1722, his red herring factory was sold to
Mr. James Watt, brewer, for a malt barn.

Section II.

There were two families of this name in Craufuirdsdyke who had no relationship, but are often confounded with one
another, owing to their bearing the same name, living in the same locality, and being both men of note in the place.
The one family were Brewers and the other Mathematicians and Engineers, &c.


Mr. James Watt, whose father came originally from Stranraer, was a cooper to trade. In his early days he was
employed in Paisley with Fairley the distiller and great smuggler. He was afterwards employed by a Mr. Ramsay, a
brewer in that town, whose daughter he married, and in course of time he acquired from the widow of Alexander
Knox the old established brewery in Craufuirdsdyke about the beginning of last century and made a large fortune,
which he invested in landed property, a part of which was Ranfurley in Renfrewshire, which has descended to his
grandson, Mr. James Bonar. Mr. Watt was Provost of Greenock from 1834 to 1837. He had a son, who died young,
and several daughters. One of them was married to the Rev. Dr. J. J. Bonar of this town. After the death of Mr.
Watt the history of this brewery was rather uneventful. He was succeeded by his nephew, Mr. William Watt, who
assumed as partner a Mr. Gourley from Glasgow, but in course of time they came to grief. The premises were then
occupied in turn as a sugar refinery, meal mill and bakery, and afterwards as a soap work, but none of these
enterprises succeeded. The property was in the market for sale for several years, and ultimately it was bought by
the late Mr. James McLean, who afterwards sold it to the Harbour Trust for a large sum of money.


Thomas Watt, the grandfather of the great Engineer, was born in Aberdeenshire, between the years 1638 and
1642. His father, whose name is not ascertained, was killed in the Wars of Montrose in 1644. It is not known when
Mr. Watt came to reside in Easter Greenock; from an early period the place, as we have seen, had a peere or mole
and a convenient harbour for vessels, and in 1669 it was created a Burgh of Barony. Mr. Watt being a teacher of
Mathematics and Navigation it is probable he was induced to come westward expecting that his profession would
find scope in this sea-port.

In 1681, when he was upwards of forty years of age, an Act of Parliament was passed “about Pedagogues,” in
which we learn “that Thomas Watt, Carsdyke, neglected to take the test” and was “denounced as a disorderly
schoolmaster officiating contrary to law,” although Mr. Watt was never a parish teacher.

According to the inscription on his tombstone, he appears to have been married at least three years before the
above date. It is said his first dwelling, which was near his future feu, was a one storey thatched house 24 feet long
and broad in proportion, with a butt and ben, in which he kept boarders. His feu for house and garden, which dates
to March, 1691, was situated at the foot of the Stanners, east side, at the junction of Main or High Street. Mr. Watt's
education and moral character entitled him to places of trust and honour. In 1695 he was elected elder of the Kirk.
Next year he was chosen Baillie of the Barony of Craufuirdsdyke, and his signature appears in the Acts of the Heid
Court of that Barony 30 times between 1697 and 1717. He had three sons and as many daughters. One son died
young, the other two married, and as we shall see were distinguished in several capacities,

There is a discrepancy of three years about his age. The Register of burial of the old West Parish of Greenock
says: “Thomas Watt, teacher of Navigation in Gr.; died 27 Feb., 1734, aged 95 years.” The record on his
tombstone is: “Thomas Watt died 28 Feb., 1734, aged 92 years.” His eldest son, John, was admitted clerk to the
Barony of Carsburn in 1712. He devoted much study to Mathematics and Hydrography, removed to Glasgow and
surveyed the river Clyde and its environs in 1734. He died in 1737, aged 50 years. His map was engraved in 1757
and published by John, his nephew, in 1760. The younger son, James, was born 3rd Feb., 1699. He set out at first
as a builder and contractor, afterwards as a general merchant, and was elected as one of the trustees of Greenock
in terms of the charter of 1751. He had two sons, John and James. Two years after publishing his uncle's map,
John perished at sea on a voyage to America in one of his father's ships at the age of 24. The other son, James,
the great Engineer, was born at Greenock, 19th January, 1736, and died at Heath-field, near Birmingham, 25th
August, 1819, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. It would be superfluous to make any remarks about James Watt,
the great Engineer, after the glowing description given by Williamson in his memorials, and by Smiles in his lives of
Boulton and Watt.

Section III.

Jean Adam, the reputed authoress of the song “There's nae luck aboot the hoose,” was born in Craufuirdsdyke. In
the West Parish Register of Greenock is the entry of her birth: “Jean, lawful daughter of John Adam, mariner,
Carsdyke, and Jean Eddie, was born 28th April and baptised 30th April in the year 1704, as witnessed by James
and John Hunter, jr., merchants in Greenock.”

The house in which Jean Adam resided is situated at No. 36 Main Street, or quay head. This property was long
owned by the forebears of the late Mr. Thomas Orr, boatbuilder, but after passing out of their hands into that of the
Caledonian Railway Coy. it was burned, and the ruins still remains boarded up. Mr. Orr, who was an authority on
the history of Cartsdyke, held that he dwelt in the same room in which Jean Adam formerly resided, which was on
the east end of that building one stair up.

According to the most reliable tradition, Jean was one of three children, and had but scanty education, consisting of
reading, writing, and sewing. She supported herself by keeping a day school in Cartsdyke and at times by assisting
at needlework in gentlemen's houses. While engaged in the latter capacity a volume of romances and rhymes
called “Pembroke's Arcadia” fell into her hands, which roused her latent powers of rhyme more or less into activity.
The craze for poetry and for becoming an authoress took full sway of her mind, and led her to compose a
considerable number of poems on various subjects. These MSS. were scattered up and down the country till
gathered by a Mr. Drummond, collector of Excise in Greenock, and were printed and published by James Duncan,
Glasgow, in 1734, with the title, “Miscellany Poems by Mrs. Jane Adams, Carts-dyke.” This booklet extended to 189
pages, 12mo., and was dedicated to Thomas Craufurd, Esq., of Cartsdyke. Her patron, Mr. Crawford, thought less
of the poems than Jean, and it is said that, in order to curb her vanity, while visiting at his house at evening
worship, he offered a fervent petition “that the Lord would prick the bladder of Jean's pride and let the wind
escape.” On hearing which Jean started to her feet in the middle of the devotions and marched out in a fury.

The list of subscribers to her book numbered 123. The venture gained her some respect, but apparently little else,
as it ended in a pecuniary loss, which she does not seem to have got over. Being disappointed at the sale of her
book in her own country, she exported a large bale of the impression to Boston, U.S.A., where they remained
unsold. The expense incurred seems to have rendered her nervous, and unsettled her mode of living. These
poems were composed in her youth and were published when she was thirty years of age. She eked out a living for
thirty-one years longer, at the end of which, while wandering about Glasgow, a stranger in distress, she was
admitted into and died in the town hospital there, 3rd April, 1765, and was buried at the expense of the House.

Mr. Scott says: Only a few copies of Jean's book are now in existence; one of them is in my possession.

The song, “There's nae luck aboot the hoose,” which gained her fame, is not included in the published volume, and
it is still doubtful if she was the authoress, although by common consent she gets the benefit of the doubt. At first
this fine ballad seems to have been struggling upwards to its proper place by being sung on the streets and by the
fireside, and afterwards circulated in ballad sheets. In the latter form, Robert Burns, the poet, became acquainted
with it in the year 1771, and characterised it as one of the most beautiful songs in the Scots or any other language.

What made the authorship of this song doubtful was that an imperfect copy was found among the papers of a Mr.
William Julius Meikle, son of the minister of the Parish of Langholm, in Dumfriesshire, whose friend, after his death,
claimed the production as his.


The evidence regarding the authorship of the song has already been thoroughly thrashed out by Cromek,
Motherwell, Sarah Tytler, Roger, and others, who invariably give Jean Adam the credit of the song, both as to its
tradition, language, and geography, and theirs may be supplemented by the following remarks:—
(1) There is no direct proof that either Jean Adam or Meikle ever composed this song, as no copy of it was found in
either of their published works while in life.
(2) The tradition of the authorship of the song has been handed down from two old ladies—that in favour of Jean
Adam by a Mrs. Fullarton, a pupil of Jean, who is said to have remembered hearing Jean Adam recite and sing this
song as her own prior to 1760; that in favour of Meikle by his wife, who on first enquiries manifested some
hesitation, but afterwards stated that her husband had given her the song, and told her it was his own composition.
(3) Anything further said in support of the authorship is mere speculation.
(4) Jean Adam was born in 1704, published her book of poems in 1734, and died in 1765. Meikle was born in 1734,
married in 1782, and died in 1788.
(5) Jean Adam was a poor sailor's daughter, received but scanty education, was early inclined to the muses. Meikle
was born in the inland parish of Langholm, evinced a taste for classical and old English literature, but with the
exception of the copy of this ballad no other trace of broad Scotch was found among his papers.
(6) Robert Burns the poet saw this song in ballad sheets in 1771, and characterised it as of the highest order. Dr.
Beattie's verses were then included in the song, for Burns quotes them. The imperfect MS. of Meikle was not
published by Mr. Sim till the year 1806, and then did not include Dr. Beattie's verses.
(7) The song is written in the common dialect of a Clyde seaport, which a person in Jean Adam's circumstances
would likely use. Meikle, on the other hand, was a son of the manse, and does not seem to have understood the
common phrases of the West. For instance, his line, “There's twa fat hens upo” the coup,” the usual phrase is, “upo'
the bauk” — that is, the spars on which hens generally roost — whereas a coup is a box where clocking hens or
fowls taken to sea are confined.
(8) It is possible that Mr. Meikle had picked up his copy of the song when sung on the streets and by the fireside,
before being printed in ballad sheets or in book form.

I shall further on indicate the probable occasion of the writing of the song, which is as follows:—


An' are ye sure the news is true ?

An' are ye sure he's weel ?
Is this a time to talk o' wark ?
Ye jades, lay by yer wheels.
There's nae luck aboot the hoose,
There's nae luck ava',
There's little pleisure in the hoose
Whan oor guidman's awa'.

Is this a time to talk o' wark,

When Colin's at the dore ?
Gie me ma cloak, I'll to the kie,
An' see him cum ashore.
There's nae luck, &c.

An' gie ta me ma biggonet,

Ma bishop's satin goon,
For A maun tell the Baillie's wife
That Colin's cam ta toon.
There's nae luck, &c.

Ma Turkey shoon they maun gae on,

Ma hose o' pearly blue;
'Tis a ta pleis oor ain guidman,
For he's baith leal and true.
There's nae luck, &c.

Rise up an' mak' a clean fireside,

Pit on the muckle pot;
Gie little Kate her cotton goon,
An' Jock his Sunday coat.
There's nae luck, &c.

An' mak' their shoon as black as shies,

Their hose as white as snaw;
'Tis a” ta pleis oor ain guidman,
For he's been lang awa'.
There's nae luck, &c,

There's twa fat hens upo' the bauk,

Been fed this month an' mair;
Mak' haste an' thra their necks aboot,
That Colin weel may fare.
There's nae luck, &c.

An' spread the table nate an' clean,

Gae ilka thing look braw,
For wha can tell hoo Colin fared
Whan he was far awa'.
There's nae luck, &c.

Sae true his hert, sae smooth his speech,

His breath's like caller air,
His very fit has music in't
Whan he comes up the stair.
There's nae luck, &c.

An' will A see his face again,

An' will A hear him speak,
A'm doon-richt dizzy wi' the thocht—
In troth A'm like to greet.
There's nae luck, &c.

The cauld blasts o' the winter wind

That thirled through my heart,
They're a' blawn by, I hae him safe,
Till death we'll never part.
There's nae luck, &c.

But what puts parting in ma head,

It may be far awa';
The present moment is oor ain,
The neist we never saw.
There's nae luck, &c.

Since Colin's weel A'm weel content,

I hae nae mair ta crave;
Could I but live to mak' him blest,
I'm blest aboon the lave.
There's nae luck, &c.


The query now is, What occasioned the writing of the song, and who was the hero of it ? Mr. Roger, in his Life of
Jean Adam, says:— “We can show by conclusive evidence of its being the composition of Miss Adam. In the first
place, then, it is the composition of Cartsdyke; it is in the Cartsdyke dialect; it narrates an incident that occurred in
Cartsdyke; its principal subjects were a worthy and well-known couple of Cartsdyke, and the names of these, Jean
Campbell and Colin Campbell, are still amongst us. Mr. Campbell was a ship master in the West Indian trade.
These worthy persons were well known in the community, and were conspicuous in it for their mutual matrimonial
attachment.” Mr. Roger further on says:— “This tradition he had from a Miss McAlpine, who was intimate with a
daughter of the Campbells.”

The evidence thus led by Mr. Roger falls short of his premises, for the song itself contains no proof of its
correctness. Mr. Roger does not tell us who this Colin was, or what became of his descendants. He certainly tells
us the hero's name, his occupation, and that he had a daughter, but this is not satisfactory evidence. Colin
Campbell was an Argyllshire and not a Cartsdyke name. It is questionable if a trade was in existence between
Greenock and the West Indies when the song was composed, and it is still more doubtful if Mr. Roger's informant
could have seen a daughter of the real Colin Campbell of this celebrated song.

Although the theory I am going to broach is a little far-fetched, I think there is good reason to conclude it was the
occasion for the origin of this song, namely:—That the song was a Jacobite ballad composed in memory of Colin
Campbell of Glendaruel, who was involved in the Rebellion of 1715; was with the rebels at the Braes of Mar,
Aboyne, and Sheriffmuir; fled with the Pretender next year to the Continent; returned again and fought in his
interest in 1719 at the battle of Glensheil; fled again to the Continent, and never returned to his native place. His
wife, a daughter of McLeod of Harris, and other friends left Glendaruel, and are thought to have taken refuge for a
time in Cartsdyke. This Colin Campbell of Glendaruel seems to have had a daughter or sister, as I am informed,
who was great-grandmother of Mr. Colin Rae Brown, of London and Tighnabruaich; that Mr. Rae Brown's
grandfather, Colin Brown, was named after Colin Campbell of Glendaruel; and that his father, Captain James
Brown (both natives of Greenock), at one time seriously made preparations for proving his claim to the Glendaruel
property, he being next-of-kin to this family by his grandmother. The Campbells of Bridgend seem to have been
descendants of the Campbells of Glendaruel, and they and the said Browns were doubly connected. From the
foregoing, I think it is probable that the friends of Colin Campbell of Glendaruel, who lived contiguous to Jean Adam
in Cartsdyke, engaged her in her maturer years; to celebrate the memory of this patriot and fugitive.


(1) We have here the eventful career of Colin Campbell of Glendaruel, a rebel and an exile.
(2) We have cumulative evidence of his friends having taken shelter in Cartsdyke and being about Greenock.
(3) The burden of the song is pitched in a high key of expectancy, the felicity of which does not seem to have been
(4) The song in its original form contained only ten verses; the last three were added by others. Dr. Beattie of
Aberdeen supplied the eleventh and twelfth verses, and the last verse is by some person unknown. It is in the
words of these three verses that any meeting of Colin and his wife could have taken place.
(5) The ambiguous wording of the song is beautifully padded in with incidents of everyday life, in order to obscure
their object in these trying times.
(6) Yet such expressions crop out as “For he's baith leal and true, words which would indicate the character of an
exile suffering for his King and country.

Section IV.

Neil Dougall, the composer of the tune “Kilmarnock” and other numerous contributions to our Scottish Psalmody,
was born 9th December, 1776, in the fourth tenement from Rue-end Street situated on the south side of Shaw
Street. His paternal grandfather was James Dougall, a pilot in Greenock, his father having died while on a voyage
to Ceylon when Neil was but four years old. His grandfather left a small property in Cartsdyke, which Neil inherited;
and on receiving tidings of the loss of her husband, the mother and boy went to reside in that property, supporting
themselves partly by that and other means.

From that period until he was fifteen years of age Neil was kept regularly at school, where he acquired what was
commonly considered a good education, consisting of reading, writing, arithmetic, and a smattering of trigonometry.
Like most boys brought up about a seaport town, he was fond of boating, and nothing would satisfy him but to be a
sailor. In 1791 he was bound an apprentice on board the ship “Britannia,” belonging to the firm of Mathie &
McGown, of this town.

It so happened that Captain William Mathie, son of one of his employers, purchased a fine little ship called the
“Clarence Yackt.” He had her fitted out with ten guns, and procured a letter of marque authorizing him to make
reprisals on the high seas against the French, with whom this country was then at war. Neil was offered a
transference to this vessel, which he readily accepted.

After trading in this ship for some time between the Clyde and the Levant, on the 4th of June, 1794—King George's
birthday—a holiday, of course, in Greenock, the “Clarence Yackt” was moored in the stream, and a salute was fired
in honour of the day. On the following day the ship hauled into the harbour, and moored on the east side of the Mid
Quay. On the 14th day of same month, the news of Lord Howe's memorable defeat of the French grand fleet on the
1st June, in which he sunk two, burned one, and brought six ships of the line safely into Portsmouth harbour,
reached Greenock. Rejoicings were loud and general, and all the armed vessels were instructed to fire salutes.
The “Clarence Yackt,” as she lay with her bow upwards at the quay, was unable to fire her starboard guns, so it
was arranged to fire two volleys from her larboard side; and in order that the wadding might clear the top of a shed
on a pier near to what is now the west side of the Customhouse Quay, the guns were pointed at a certain elevation.
Captain Mathie was very loyal, and entered warmly into the rejoicing. He, his mate, and three apprentices, the
eldest of whom was Neil, were all that were on board. Neil had the match in his hand to fire one of the guns, when
the Captain hailed an old man-of-war's man to jump on board and lend a hand. He did so, and stepping up to Neil,
said— “I am too old and stiff now to dance over a gun; do you sponge and load, and I will fire her,” and he seized
the match from Neil and off went the shot. Neil, ready for duty, sprang on the gun carriage, and throwing his right
leg over the ship's rail, proceeded to sponge the gun, but a stupid fellow inside neglected to stop the touch-hole at
the same moment—a process that is indispensable in extinguishing any remaining fire—and the result was a spark
left within the gun. Never thinking of danger, Neil proceeded to re-load the gun, which was a double fortified six-
pounder. He entered the cartridge, consisting of three pounds of gunpowder, together with the wadding, and was
just in the act of ramming home when it went off, carrying away his right hand and the outer portion of his arm up to
the elbow, tearing the flesh off his right cheek, and completely depriving him of his eyesight. The poor fellow fell
over the gunwale of a lighter that lay alongside and rolled into the water. He was immediately picked up, and was
conveyed to his mother's house at Cartsdyke, where it was found necessary to amputate his arm above the elbow.
For ten days his life was despaired of; but happily fever did not ensue, and in the short time of seven weeks he was
skin-whole, although exceedingly weak from the loss of blood.
To a person of Neil's active temperament, the loss of his sight was a sad calamity, but the kindness of a wide circle
of acquaintances, who willingly read and conversed with him, soon reconciled him to his fate. Being intelligent, too,
in a remarkable degree, and possessing a cheerful and communicative disposition, his society was much courted.


One night in the winter of 1798, four years after the accident, he was induced to accompany a friend to a singing-
class, and was highly pleased with the performance, although at that era he had no knowledge of the science of
music. He was then urged to go to a singing-school. After much solicitation he consented, and in a short period
became so proficient as to be able him to correct and instruct his teacher.

In the autumn of 1799 his friends advised him to open a singing-class. He complied, and was successful. On the
20th February, 1800, by the advice of two gentlemen of the town, he was induced to give his first public concert in
the Gardeners' Hall. A copy of the programme is framed in the Burns Club Museum, Nicolson Street. He continued
to give an annual concert in Greenock for the next sixty-two years. The last took place in the Theatre, on Monday,
23rd December, 1861.

A copy of the concert programme of 1800 follows:—

“ In the Gardeners' Hall, Greenock, on Tuesday, 20th Feb., 1800,
will be performed

Act I.
Church Tunes, Elgin, Glasgow, and Littleton, in three parts; Songs,
Tweedside, in two parts, The Land of the Ocean, and Tom Bowling.
Act II.
Church Tunes, Old C, Stroudwater, and Plymouth, in three parts;
Songs, The Braes of Ballendiue, in two parts, I'd Think of Thee,
my Love, and Henry Cottage Maid.
Act III.
Church Tunes, Cornish, Bedford, and Saint George, in three parts;
Songs, How Sweet in the Woodlands, in two parts, King George III, or the Tars of Old England, and William at Eve.
End of each Act a Solo Piece will be sung.
N.B.—Ball Music will be provided.
Tickets I/- and also 6d, to be had of Mr. Turnbull, at the Hall, or
Mr. Forsyth, Mid Quay Head.
Doors to be open at half-past 6, and to begin at 7 o'clock.”


In his hours of dark and silent solitude he whiled away his time in composing songs, poems, and hymns, on many
subjects, and although he cannot be called a great poet, yet he could rhyme with effect. As an example, a verse of
his elegy on Robert Burns will suffice:—
“Aft has he, by the cruisey's blink,
Sat doun wi' paper, pen, an' ink,
An' scrieved aff sheets o' Scottish clink,
That we micht read;
Whilk raak's us a' richt wae to think
That noo he's deid.”


It is as a composer of psalm tunes that his name will be longest remembered. In 1801 he composed the popular
tune “Naples,” afterwards “Patience,” but “Kilmarnock” was his chief effort, which got abroad and became, a
favourite tune long before it found its way into print. He was engaged subsequently in the composition of several
metres suitable for the Relief Hymnal, and out of thirty tunes, many of them of this class, nineteen appeared in one
edition, and several of the others afterwards. All of Mr. Dougall's contributions to Scottish Psalmody are of
acknowledged excellence, while some of them are unsurpassed by any pieces extant. His labours in that way
extend to no fewer than about a hundred psalm and hymn tunes, many of which have never been made public, and
about a dozen songs and other pieces, some of which he composed for his classes.


Before he met with the accident, it is said, he was an exceedingly handsome young man. At an early age he
became engaged to a Miss Margaret Donaldson, daughter of Captain Donaldson of this town, who assiduously
helped to nurse him until he recovered. Mr. Dougall then seems to have felt their unequal positions, and proposed
to relieve her of the engagement, but this she would not agree to on any account. Twelve years after the accident,
in 1806, both went to Paisley to get married. When they appeared before the minister and he viewed the pair—the
one a blind, shattered man, the other a handsome young woman—he hesitated and refused to perform the
ceremony, but the bride was not to be done, and curtly replied, “If ye dinna, another will.” The minister at last
consented, and in his wife Mr. Dougall had ever a kind and considerate helpmate. In the following year he
commenced a little business, which, along with his efforts as a successful teacher of music, and a trifling return
from his property, enabled him to retain a respectable position in society, and afterwards to rear a family of four
sons and six daughters, six of whom grew up around him to be men and women, and survived him. In 1824 he
removed his business from Cartsdyke to Greenock, and for a period of upwards of twelve years he occupied the
tavern at the head of Cross-shore Street, well known under his tenancy as the “Blue Bell.” Becoming tired of that
business he abandoned it, and after that continued to keep a few respectable boarders.

In his latter years, through age and infirmity and the failure of his voice, he was compelled to give up teaching;
Band, as to his concerts, they were arranged and carried through his affectionate daughter, Miss Lilias, now Mrs.
Patrick, who was herself an excellent singer and provided eminent assistants, who made the yearly meeting always
very attractive. For some years before his death Neil Dougall resided in the upper flat of No. 6, Manse Lane. He
died 1st October, 1862, in his eighty-sixth year. Mrs. Dougall died five days later, aged seventy-five years. It was a
surprise to the friends when they came to bury him to learn that his widow was dead also, and they were requested
by the family to return in a day or two, when both would be buried together. Of them it might be said—”They were
lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.” Before his death Mr. Dougall composed
the following epitaph, which is inscribed on the tombstone erected by his family over the grave in the Greenock
“Each setting sun proclaims aloud,
That time knows no delay;
That days, and weeks, and months, and years,
Are fleeting fast away.
We all must pass through death's dark vale.
But wherefore dread the grave;
Since Jesus died and rose again,
And mighty is to save.”
N. Dougall.
IN the Register of the Abbey of Paisley frequent mention is made of the surname of Shaw. In the reign of King
Alexander III., John de Shaw was a witness to the donation which John, the son of Reginald, made of the lands of
Auld-house to the monks of Paisley in the year 1284. (Chart, p. 138.)

The three places in the west of Scotland where fealty was sworn to Edward I., in 1296, were Are, Dunbreton, and
Lanark. The magnates of Renfrewshire gave in their submission at the last place; and three of this name (Shaw)
appeared there that year, viz.:—
William de Schawe del Counte de Lanark. Ragman Rolls (p. 143).
Symond del Schawe del Counte de Lanark. (Ibid. 149.) Fergus del Shawe del Counte de Lanark. (Ibid. 160.)

The pedigree makers of the Shaws, like those of other ancient families, were not content to confine the origin of
their clients to what is on record, but must carry us back to mythic ages. Crawfurd, in his history of Renfrewshire,
implicitly follows the line of the Seanachies. In referring to the origin of the Shaws, he says:— “The barony of
Greenock, as I mentioned before, pertained to the Galbraiths of old, and by a daughter and co-heiress of Malcolm
Galbraith of Greenock, by marriage came to the family of Shaw of Sauchie, whose ancestry according to the
famous antiquary, Sir George McKenzie, was descended of Shiach, a son of Macduff, Earl of Fife; and that his
descendants took sirname from the proper name of their predecessor when fixed sirnames came to be used.”
(Crawford Hist., anno 1710, p. 86.)

Mr. Williamson, in his appendix to the first volume of “Old Greenock,” misled by Crawford, says:— “Greenock was
not the original family estate. The original family were the Shaws of Sauchie.” And Mr. Dugald Campbell is also
mistaken, for in his “Sketches” he says:— “It could be said of Greenock, as it was said of Scotland by King James
the Fifth when Queen Mary was born, “that it came wi' a lass, and would go wi' a lass.” It had come to the Shaw
family in the fourteenth century by the marriages of Shaw of Sauchie with one of the daughters of Malcolm
Galbraith, the then proprietor of Greenock.” (Vol. I., p. 95.)

As I proceed I shall endeavour to shew that the Shaws were in possession of Wester Greenock for a generation
before they acquired Sauchie. Fragmentary attempts have at different times been made to trace the genealogy of
the family of the Shaws of Greenock and Sauchie. The most satisfactory that has yet appeared is that of John
Broun Morison, of Finderlie, F.E.S.E., F.S.A., Scot., printed at Perth in 1884. Mr. Broun Morison has kindly lent me
his notes of this and several other old families, of which I make a liberal use.

The compiler, in a few preliminary remarks, surmises that the Shaws of Renfrewshire were vassals of the Stewarts
of that county in the thirteenth century. He traces their connection with Greenock to Malcolm Galbraith, from whom
they acquired the lands of Wester Greenock by marriage with his second daughter, during the reign of King Robert
III., in the latter part of the fourteenth century, and finally he connects them with the Carnock, Cathcart, Houston,
and Ardgowan families.

It is singular that the Christian name of the Shaw, who married Miss Galbraith, is not given, nor yet where he came
from. Mr. Broun Morison commences the genealogy with James, a son of this marriage, from which it is seen that
the Shaws were in possession of Greenock before they fell heir to Sauchie. In fact the Shaws had neither claim nor
title to Sauchie till about the year 1431. And even then they had only a second claim to it. Sauchie and other lands
around it were in possession of a family named de Annand from 1296 to 1431. The last male heir of that line was
an Islay de Annand, who was succeeded by his daughters as co-heiresses—
Margaret, the elder daughter, married William Brown of Colston.
Mary, the younger daughter, married James Shaw of Greenock.

By these marriages the first place, “Principal Manerum,” or baronial rights, which attached to the estate as a whole,
went to William Brown as husband of the elder daughter. The other moiety of Sauchie and other lands inherited by
the de Annands equally divided between the Browns and the Shaws.

William Brown obtained a charter from King James I. of half of the lands of Sauchie, etc. Afterwards, on these
being resigned, they are limited to the heirs of the said William Brown, whom failing to John of Shaw, son and heir
of James of Shaw, senteferi nostri. This charter is dated at Falkland, 16th April, and twenty-sixth year of the King's
reign (1431).

The Browns were the paramount heirs of Sauchie for upwards of one hundred years later, even until the time of
Alexander the sixth laird of Sauchie, as the following indicates. In the Register of the Great Seal, 30th January,
1536, is a charter by King James V., confirming a charter of John Brown in favour of Alexander (Shaw), of Sauchie,
of all and whole the lands of Sauchy and Balquharne, in consideration of a certain sum of money paid by the said
Alexander to the said John in his urgent necessity.
After this the whole of the lands of Sauchie remained in the hands of the Shaws. (Broun Morison's Notes.) Before
proceeding further it is proper to enquire who was the Mr. Shaw that married Miss Galbraith of Greenock, and of
what family he was ? For several reasons I think it is probable that he was of the family of Bargaran, in Erskine
parish. Crawford, in his history published in 1710, says— “The Shaws of Bargaran possessed these lands nigh
three hundred years, and acquired them from a younger brother of the family of Sauchie.” Yet from the above we
see that the Shaws of Bargarau were fully as ancient as those of Sauchie. We have seen that the Shaws of
Greenock only acquired the lands of Sauchie about 1431. The issue of that union would not attain his majority at
least for twenty-one years longer, bringing up the date to 1452. Crawford also says— “The first of the Shaws of
Bargaran have found mentioned is John Shaw, who was contemporary with James II., and in 1454 resigned the
lands of Bargaran in favour of John his son.” (p. 60.)

The Shaws of Bargaran must have been in possession of these lands some time previous to that date. The several
branches of the Shaws of Scotland seem to have been closely related, as shown by their armorial bearings. In
Nisbet's Heraldry it says, “The covered golden cups of Shaw of Sauchie, borne from the earliest times, as
hereditary cup bearer to the King.” In Fairbairn's Crests, Shaw “has a golden cup above two crossed swords.” The
Shaws of Bargaran's arms are, “Azure, 3 covered golden cups,” and that of Greenock, “Azure, 3 cups of gold, etc.”

The ancient family of Bargaran, in their later years were notable for two incidents. Firstly, their house was the
centre for the trial of witches in Renfrewshire in 1697, which caused terror and dismay over the district, ending in
seven of these innocent victims being burnt on the gallow-green of Paisley. And, secondly, they acquired a more
pleasant reputation afterwards, for to this family the town of Paisley is indebted for originating the spinning and
manufacture of linen thread, for which they got a patent, and appended thereto their coat of arms, Azure, three
covered cups, or, as their trade mark.

With these necessary digressions I shall now resume the subject, giving an abridgement of Mr. Broun Morison's
Notes, with the names, etc., of the heirs of Greenock and Sauchie from 1431 to 1633.

James Shaw, of Greenock, son of Mr. Shaw and Miss Galbraith, married Mary de Annand, co-heiress of Sauchie
before 1431. Besides the half of Sauchie, he had a charter of the half lands of Gartinker, in the Royalty of
Dunfermline and shire of Clackmannan, from Andrew, Abbot of Dunfermline, dated 9th June, 1439. He had three
sons, John, James, and George; he was succeeded by the heir, John.

John, the heir, died in 1439, and was succeeded by his brother James.

Jacobus, or James Schaw de Sauchy, is a witness to a charter in favour of Newbattle in 1467. James Schaw de
Salquhy was Comptroller of the House of King James III. In 1471, and James Shaw of Sauchie made resignation of
Sauchie in the shire of Clackmannan, of Greenock in the shire of Renfrew, and other places, and obtained new
infeftments to himself, and Isobel his spouse, in 1483. “He was made Captain of Stirling Castle by James III., with
the custody of Prince James, but he early joined the conspiracy against his sovereign, delivered the Prince to the
conspirators, who put him at their head and refused to admit the King to his own castle.” (Tytler.)

His brother George was born in the end of the reign of King James I., and chosen Abbot of Paisley in 1476. Paisley
was erected into a Burgh of Barony in his favour and that of his successors. He was made Lord High Treasurer of
Scotland in 1495, and demitted the Government of the Abbey to Robert Schaw, a nephew, for which he had the
royal assent by Letters Patent under the Great Seal. He died in 1504.

Abbot George Schaw during his time laid off a new garden around the Abbey and enclosed it with an ashlar stone
wall of a mile in circumference; and to commemorate the great undertaking he put a mural tablet into the wall
bearing the following inscription in alto-relievo:—
Tha callit tha Abbot georg of Schawe
about this Abbey gart make this waw
A thousands four hundereth zier
Aitchty ande fyve the date but weir pray fof his soulis salvacioun
that made thus nobil fundacioun.
(David Semple)

John of Alveth or Alva and his father were keepers of Stirling Castle by charter under the Great Seal in 1488 and
1489, “and from King James III. he and his son, John of Alveth, David Shaw, and Richard Shaw, had a remission
under the Great Seal for their share in the unnatural rebellion which culminated in the battle of Sauchieburn and
death of the King. This remission is dated at Stirling 19th May, 1489.” (Sauchie writs.) This John died before his
father, but appears to have left an heir, James.
James Shaw had sasine of the lands of Greenock-Shaw as heir to the deceased James Shaw of Sauchie, his
grandfather, who died infeft in the lands of Greenock-Shaw, which had been in the King's hands for the space of
one year, 1492, so that old James, the grandfather, died infeft in 1491. In the Records of 1488, he is called his
grandfather's oye. Sir James Shaw of Sauchie, Knight, was infeft in the half barony of Salquhy as heir to James
Shaw, his grandfather, in the tenth year of the King's reign, 1498. He married Alison Hume, and was succeeded by
their son Alexander.

Alexander Shaw granted to John Shaw, his brother, a charter of the life-rent of the lands of Eyal in 1511. He
married Elizabeth, daughter of William Cunningham of Glengarnock who was killed at the battle of Pinkie in 1547.
As already referred to, the Shaws of Sauchie were Comptrollers of the King's household, and were hereditary
masters of H.M.'s wine cellar. In September, 1529, by a Privy Seal warrant, Alexander Shaw of Sauchie was
appointed Master of H.M.'s wine cellar for all the days of his life, with powers to minister and depute as freely as
umquhill James Shaw of Sauchie, his grandsire. He obtained a Charter of Confirmation from James V. of a charter
by John Brown of Sauchie in his favour of the lands of Sauchie and Balquharne, 8th Feb., 1536. In the year 1539
Alexander Shaw obtained from King James V. a grant of the forfeited lands of Fynart, near Greenock, which had
belonged to Sir James Hamilton, son of the Earl of Arran, and in the following year he received a further grant or
renewal of Wester Greenock-Shaw with “the auld castle stead, castle, tour, Fortalice and manor places, new
buildit.” These subjects would have been on the lands of Fynart granted the previous year. Of them Mr. Williamson,
in a note, says: “This description would imply that the Castle had been new built by Sir James Hamilton and not by
Sir Alexander Shaw's grandson as recorded in the first series.” (See Series C. II., p. 14).

Of Finart, Crawfurd in his history of 1710 says: “West of the barony of Greenock lie the lands of Finart, a part of the
patrimony of the noble family of Douglas, which, upon their forfaulture in 1445, came by the gift of James II. to the
first Earl of Arran, anno 1457, and were given in the year 1510 in patrimony to James Hamilton, his natural son by
Mary, daughter of Boyd of Bonshaw. He was legitimate in the year 1512, and in the reign of King James V. was
Lord High Treasurer of Scotland; and in the latter end of that King's reign forfaulted in anno 1540, and his estate
annexed to the Crown, and as already referred these lands were bestowed the same year by King James V. upon
Alexander Shaw of Sauchie and Greenock.”

The lands of Easter Finart were bounded on the east by the Hole or West-burn, on the north by the Clyde, on the
south by the Inverkip Glen, and on the west by the Stewart Finart. Wester Finart is a part of the Gourock Estate
and extended from Achaneich to Achamead. Easter and Wester Finart are divided as at present by the Greenock
and Gourock marches. Wester Finart was also a part of the patrimony of the Earl of Douglas forfaulted in 1445.
Then it came to Stewart of Castlemilk, whose ancestor was William Stewart, a younger son of Sir John Stewart of
Darnley (Crawfurd).

This Sir Alexander Shaw had a daughter named Elizabeth, who played a romantic part, and no doubt through her
influence many of the Royal favours were showered on her father. Crawfurd says she was a daughter of his son,
Sir James Shaw, but Broun Morison avers, and I think correctly, that she was a daughter of Sir Alexander's. Both
say she was mistress to King James V., “The gudeman of Balangeich,” who had several children by her. One of
them born in 1532, named James, afterwards became Abbot of Melrose and died in 1558. His tutor was the
famous George Buchanan. I refer to this incident as the father of the first John Shaw, who appears to have resided
permanently in Greenock, had a charter of lands in Berwickshire in 1546 from James Stewart, commendator, of
Melrose, and, without showing the connection, it would appear strange how this grant was made to the Shaws of
Greenock. Sir Alexander was succeeded by his son James.

Sir James Shaw had a charter from King James VI. to himself and Margery Kircaldy, his spouse, and their son
James, in fee of the barony of Sauchie, dated apud Castrum de Stirling, 4th August, 1578. He was succeeded by
his son James.

King James VI., by the advice of the Lords of his Secret Council, “made and constitute our Lovit Servitor, Sir James
Shaw of Sauchy, Master of our Wyne Seller, and gives him the said office during all the days of his life with power
to him to make deputes under him in said office. Given under the Privy Seal at our Castle of Stirling, 29 September,
1582.” Sir James Shaw of Sauchie, Knight, granted a life rent charter to Dame Margaret Meldrum, his spouse, in
1599. He was succeeded by his son, Sir Alexander.

Sir Alexander Shaw of Sauchie granted a charter to Helen Brace, his wife, in 1625. Among the “Knights dubid by
his Majestie (King Charles I.) during his aboodin Scotland in 1633” was Sir Alexander Shaw of Sauchie on the 16th
July. George Shaw is a witness to the subscription of Sir Alexander Shaw, his father, at Sauchie on 19th
December. The instrument of sasine is dated 26, and recorded at Grail 27 Dec., 1660. Among the writs of Sauchie
seen and noted by Craufurd is an obligation by Alexander Shaw of Sauchie, with consent of George Shaw, his son
and heir apparent, in 1661, which I refer to further on.

We have thus seen that the Shaws acquired the Estate of Wester Greenock about the end of the 14th century by
marriage with the co-heiress of Malcolm Galbraith and nearly half a century later. James Shaw of Greenock, son of
this marriage, acquired the Estate of Sauchie by marriage with Mary de Annand, co-heiress of Sauchie. Down to
the era of Sir James Shaw the eighth Laird of Sauchie, Wester Greenock, was quite eclipsed by the importance of
the Sauchie branch.

There has been some doubt as to when and which of the Shaws settled permanently upon the Greenock Estate.
Crawfurd, in his history of the Shire of Renfrew (1710), says: “The lands of Greenock continued in the family of
Sauchie until the reign of King James V., that Alexander Shaw of Sauchie gave the lands of Greenock in patrimony
to John Shaw, his eldest son by Elizabeth, his second wife, daughter of William Cunninghain of Glengarnock.” Mr.
Broun Morison makes no reference to this transaction, and it does not appear that Sir Alexander Shaw had any son
named John. His three sons on record are James, the heir, and two natural sons, James and Patrick. In the
Register of the Great Seal, there is recorded the legitimation of James Shaw and Patrick Shaw, two natural sons of
Alexander Shaw of Sauchie, 18th March, 1546. Two Charters in favour of James Shaw, heir to Sir Alexander
Shaw, in 1547, are witnessed by John Shaw, uncle to the said James, also by James Shaw and Patrick Shaw, his
brothers, carnelibus. It thus appears that the father of these three sons had a brother named John, to whom, as we
have seen, he granted a charter of the life rent of Kyal in 1511, and this same John had a charter from his grand-
nephew, James Stewart, Commendator of Melrose, Cistertionsis ordinis, of the lands of Balinslie in Berwickshire in
1546. It would thus appear very probable that the father of the first John Shaw, who settled permanently in
Greenock, was John, second son of the 5th Laird of Sauchie.



John Shaw of Wester Greenock, in 1565, married his second cousin Jean, daughter of John Cunningham of
Glengarnock, by whom he had five sons and as many daughters. He died in 1593 and was succeeded by his son

Alexander, the son and heir, died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother James.

James, the third heir, married Margaret, daughter of Hugh Montgomery of Hazelwood, by whom he had two sons
and a daughter. He died in 1620 and was succeeded by his son and heir John.

John, the fourth heir, succeeded the year his father died. When King Charles II. marched with the Scots army into
England the Laird of Greenock was made a Lieut.-Colonel in the regiment of horse commanded by the third Earl of
Dunfermline. At the battle of Worcester, which took place 3rd Sept., 1651, Shaw displayed such valour and loyalty
that his sovereign conferred on him the honour of Knighthood. He afterwards obtained the hereditary honour of
Baronetcy from King James VII. in 1687. He married Jean, daughter of Sir William Mure of Rowallan, by whom he
had John, the heir, and several daughters. He died at Edinburgh in 1694.

Sir John Shaw, the 2nd baronet, was served heir to his father in 1694. In 1677 he married Elenor, daughter and co-
heiress of Thomas Nicolson of Carnock. By her he had five sons and two daughters. Four of his sons were killed in
the wars of the Low country (Irving). He died of gout in 1702 in his 44th year, and was succeeded by his only son
and heir John.

Sir John, the heir, third and last baronet, married Margaret, eldest daughter of Sir Hugh Dalrymple, President of the
Court of Session, by whom he had five sons and one daughter. The promising sons, sadly, predeceased their
parents—one died young, two were killed in the wars and two in duels. His only surviving child, Marion, became the
wife of Lord Cathcart. It was in virtue of certain feus made by Sir John in favour of this lady and her husband that
this noble family came to have property in the town of Greenock. On Sir John's marriage with Lady Dalrymple in
1700, his father and he concurred in making an entail of the estate of Greenock, which they settled on the heirs
male of that marriage, which failing, on the heirs of Margaret Shaw his sister, who afterwards married Sir John
Houston, Bart., by which marriage there was a daughter named Helen, who married Sir Michael Stewart of
Blackball, and through her the descendants of this marriage came to represent the ancient family of Houston as
well as Stewart of Ardgowan and Nicolson of Carnock.

Crawfurd, in his history of Renfrewshire, says: “Since the death of George of Sauchie (son of Sir Alexander, 9th
Laird), without succession, his estate descended to the family of Greenock, who is now the chief of the name and
representative of that ancient family.” According to Mr. Broun Morison the transfer was not altogether so pleasant.
He says: “We give the substance of a few relative charters in the Great Seal Register, following on the above, the
first of which shows how the lands of Sauchie fell into Greenock. Hitherto a matter of speculation., viz.:—
“Charter to Sir John Shaw of Greenock, Knight Baronet, of the barony of Sauchie, with castles, tours, &c., in the
shire of Clackmannan; and lands of Baquhairne with houses, &c., in same shire; lands of Gairdinkeir in the Royalty
of Dunfermline and shire of Clackmannan, with the usual pertinents, all of which belonged heritably to the
deceased Sir Alexander Shaw of Sauchie and the deceased Sir James Shaw of Sauchie, and upon 28th March,
1682, they were adjudged from George Shaw, son, and lawfully charged to enter heir in special to the deceased Sir
Alexander Shaw, his father, and to the deceased Sir James Shaw, his grandfather, at the instance of the deceased
Sir John Shaw of Greenock, Knight Baronet, faither of Sir John Shaw, now of Greenock, in satisfaction to the said
Sir John Shaw of debts amounting to £134,666 13s 4d (Scots money) by decree of the Court of Session, and as
having right as heir served and retoured to the said Sir John and his father, before the Bailies of Canongate 4
Jany., 1694. The Charter is dated 7 Jany., 1698.”

The lands of Sauchie, in after years, were sold to the Earl of Mansfield.
ACTS of Parliament were passed in 1589 and confirmed in 1592, and also in 1594, in favour of John Shaw of
Wester Greenock, for disjoining the lands of Greenock, Finart, and Spangcock from the parish of Inverkip, for the
purpose of erecting a church, manse, and churchyard at Greenock, for his own convenience, and that of “the puir
pepill deulliug vpoun his lands and heretage qlkis or all fishers, and of a ressounable noumer duelland four myles
fra thair parische kirk.'

After the church had been built “the Synod of Glasgow 16 Sep., 1600, ordained that the inhabitants of Over and
Nether Greenock should meet in one congregation.” (Weir). Although the Shaws were in possession of Wester
Greenock and Finart and had many Royal grants prior to this date, yet it does not appear that they got any special
charter for the town of Greenock till the year 1635, which charter was ratified in an Act of Parliament by King
Charles I. in 1641.

There is an impression that it was this Act that constituted the town of Greenock into a Burgh of Barony from that
day forth. But this charter was in the usual form of that of lands always possessed which say “off all and Haill, the
lands of Wester Greenock-Shaw, with the auld castle steid, castles, tour, fortalice, and Manor places new buildit,
bounds, places, orchyardis and yairds of the sarnen, with the milne thereof and thair pertinents whatsumever, &c.”

It is true that the Burgh and Baronie of Greenock was fore-shadowed in the confirmation of above charter, as it
speaks of the new erections contenit in the said charter to the saids John Shaw, his spouse, and their foresaids, of
the tonne or village of Greenock in ane frie burgh of baronie to be callit now and in all tyme cuming the burgh of
Greenock, with all privileges, liberties, and immunities at lenth mentionat and contenit in the said charter,” &c.

Still the confirmation does not specify distinctly what these liberties and privileges were. In the next chapter of the
same Act a protest is made to Parliament by John Spruell, Commissioner for the Burgh of Renfrew, against this
grant to John Shaw, which says:— “Understanding that John Shaw of Greenock is to obtain, in this present
Parliament, ane ratificatione of his infeftment granted to him by his Majestic of the lands of Greenock and of
erecting of ane burgh of Baronie, liberties and privileges therein contenit, whereby we may be prejudged in our
richts,” &c.

We thus see that the ratification was in the future. If full liberties had been given, we would have expected that a
commencement of feuing would have been made, but nothing in this way was done, except a site for a house given
in 1636, probably to one of Mr. Shaw's officials. It does not appear that any other was given for the next thirty
years. In fact, there was no regular feuing till the beginning of the eighteenth century. “There being no description
of tenements by measurement known before the year 1701.” (Williamson.)

Ramsay, in his History of Renfrewshire, says:— “The only privilege that the charter of 1635, and ratified in 1641,
conferred on Greenock was the liberty of holding of a weekly market on Friday, and two yearly Fairs.”

The Act of Parliament of 1670 is the Real Foundation of the Town and Port of Greenock

In referring above to the Crawfurds of Easter Greenock, we have seen that when Lady Kilbirnie got possession of
Easter Greenock she resolved to sell that part of her estate before the year 1668. That portion of it afterwards
called Carsburn she appears to have sold privately to her kinsman, Mr. Thomas Crawfurd, burgess and town clerk
of Glasgow, who in 1669 got a charter under the Great Seal confirming it, along with “the rights, privileges, and
liberties of the free burgh of Barony of Crawfuirdsdyke, with all jurisdiction pertaining thereto.”

The remainder of Easter Greenock which surrounded the above portion about this period was in negotiation for
sale. The Magistrates of Glasgow, it is said, had an eye on it, in order to build a harbour there, but Sir John Shaw
outbade them and obtained the property. After having acquired it, Sir John Shaw, with his son, the second Baronet,
got a Bill passed in the Scots Parliament, uniting their portion of Easter Greenock to that of Wester Greenock,
under the title of “The Burgh and Barony of Greenock.” This Act was passed in the year 1670, and confirmed in
1681, and it seems to have been the real foundation of the Town and Port of Greenock.

This Act of 1670-1681 extends over seven columns 4to of the eight volumes of the Scots Acts of Parliament, and
minutely describes the powers given to the Baron over “the pairts, pendicles, and pertinents of these lands—to
repair and build free ports, harbours and havening places—to buy and sell wine, walx, pitch, tar, lint, wool, and
other kinds of merchandise—to build salt pans, and to fish salmond and herrings—to have power over the
patronage of the Kirk and tithe sheaves, also over milnes and multurs—to appoint Bailies during the Baron's
pleasure—to build and keep ane tolbuith, mercat crosse, and Tron within the samen, and to hold ane mercat day
weekly, and two free Fairs yearlie within the burgh upon the days specified in said charter, either of them to
continue for the space of eight days,—And to uplift and recave the haill cain, customs and casualties thereof, and
apply the sameu to their own use. With power to the said Bailies to hold Baron Courts weekly within the said Burgh,
and to creat Clerks, Sergeants, Dempsters, and all other Officers and Members of Court needful, and to punish,
attach, arrest and incarcerat transgressors.”

The Act of 1670 refers to “the harbours built and erected,” and Mr. Williamson and Mr. Campbell are at great pains
to show that there were harbours in Greenock, and of course built by the Shaws, before that year. Mr. Campbell, in
his Sketches of Greenock, says:— “This pier or landing place was built by John Shaw of Greenock shortly after he
received the first charter in 1635. It was of considerable length, running out into the bay—something, we suppose,
like the quay at Helens-burgh—but was built on the dry stone principle, without mortar.” (Vol. I., p. 65.) But the
query is, Where were the harbours and piers erected, and when? It would appear that it was this same Act that
gave the Shaws a right to the sea shore, as it mentions their having access to “the haill ground and land within the
ebbing and flowing of the sea lyand and foreanent the said lands of Wester Greenock.” Thirty years later, Lady
Shaw, who was conversant with the affairs of the town, from that of the Cain hens to the building of kirks, says:—
“In the year 1700, there was no harbour there but a heap of whin stones for shading the fishers' boats and small
barques; the bay was the only protection that small vessels had to anchor in close to the town.” And Smiles, in his
Lives of Boulton and Watt, confirms the simple story of Lady Shaw. He says:— “The prosperity of Greenock dates
from the year 1707. Before that time there was no pier—only a rude landing stage which Sir John Shaw had
provided for his barge in the 'Little Bay.' Vessels of burden requiring to load or unload their cargoes did so at the
pier at Cartsdyke.” (Chap. V., p. 80-5.) And Mr. Williamson himself, in another place, shows that there was no
harbour in Greenock in 1675. He says:— “A cargo of salt, wine, and brandy (apparently smuggled) was brought
into the Clyde by John Shaw and James Bannatyne of Kelly in 1675. The vessel anchored at the bay of Ardmore,
where she was seized, and brought into Port Glasgow. The reason she was not brought into Greenock was owing
to the want of a harbour or havening places, which had not yet been provided.” (“Old Carsburn,” p. 106.)

The Crown Charter of 1670-1681 placed in the hands of the Shaws of Greenock a powerful instrument for
forwarding the interests of the town and port, yet for the next fifteen years they made no perceptible progress. In
1694 Sir John Shaw, the first Baronet, died. Two years afterwards, his successor engaged in various projects. In
1696, Sir John Shaw, the second Baronet, and others, got an Act of Parliament passed for erecting saltworks after
a new fashion at Alloa and Culross. The same year he is one of the Commissioners of Supply for the shire of
Lanark, and he also appears in Parliament as Commissioner for the Barons of Stirling (perhaps he would be found
there owing to his connection with Carnock). Mr. Scott says:— “He was at this time one of the Directors of the
Darien Co., and many of his letters are to be found in the Darien Papers edited by Hill Burton for the Bannatyne
Club.” He then turned his attention to Greenock, and got an Act of Parliament passed for holding three yearly cattle
Fairs in the town.

In 1698 he presented a petition to Parliament “for an imposition on liquors browen and vinted in Greenock, for
building and repairing the harbour thereof,” which petition was remitted to the Committee of Trade. In 1700,
Parliament is reminded of this business, as the minutes indicate:— “Petition of Sir John and John Schaws, elder
and younger of Greenock, craving that the Act brought in from Committee of Trade allowing the imposition therein
contained for building a harbour in Greenock be now passed; and the draft of the said Act, being also read, it was
ordered to lye on the table that all parties having interest may have occasion to see the same.”

In 1702 Sir John Shaw, the second Baronet, died, and was succeeded by his only son, who in past years, with his
father, endeavoured to get an Act passed in their favour to levy a cess on ale and beer made and sold in
Greenock, and for building a harbour there. King William's Dutch caution got the project shelved.

Sir John now saw that a voluntary assessment was the only remedy left. In this year he convened the people of the
town, and laid before them a scheme for building a harbour. To provide the necessary funds, he suggested that all
the malt to be brewed into ale should be ground in the mill of Greenock; that they on their part would pay for same,
at the rate of one shilling and fourpence per sack, and, in addition, would raise a further sum of £15 yearly towards
the erection of the harbour. Besides these, there was a voluntary cess laid on beer and ale brewed and sold in
town, which is not very clearly defined. Sir John Shaw said if the inhabitants agreed to this proposal, he on his part
promised to pay all the dues received from foreign vessels anchoring in the bay (a visionary income at this era),
reserving to himself the anchorage of vessels belonging to the town. After some consultation, a contract was drawn
out and signed by representatives of the town and Sir John in the year 1703.

A capacious site for a harbour was laid out, containing upwards of ten Scotch acres. (Weir.) The excavations were
laid afterwards on the embankment, which reduced the basin to 8 acres 3 roods and 10 falls. Although this
arrangement was now completed, the work did not begin for four years afterwards, Sir John apparently desiring to
have some funds accumulated, and to see how the inhabitants were likely to implement their part of the agreement.
In 1704 a contract was framed for the construction of the harbour between Sir John and “John Andersone, Masone
at Air.” Anderson was merely to be the Master of Works; his duty was “to attend, serve, and oversie.” His wages
were to be three hundred pounds Scots, or about £25 sterling, per annum.

In 1707 the work of constructing the harbour commenced. Gardeners and masons for excavating and building were
brought from Edinburgh, and in 1710 the first harbour was finished, the whole having cost the sum of £5,555 11s.
6d. According to the arrangements, Sir John was to finance the money required for the work; this he did by drawing
four bonds at different periods upon the representatives of the people, which bonds by the year 1730 were paid in
full. The harbour after this date commenced to be profitable, and by the year 1740, there was a clear surplus of
£1,500 derived from the voluntary assessment and port dues.

Hitherto, during the era of the Barony, the whole power of local government was in the hands of the Laird, the
Baron-Bailie, shore officials, collector of the ale-tax, and docqueters of accounts and other officials, who were
nominated by Sir John or his Baron-Bailie. After 1730, when Sir John was refunded his advances for constructing
the harbour, the people thought they ought to have a voice in the application of the funds derived from it, and other
resources of the town, which for a time Sir John resisted, but ultimately he granted the charter of 1741, which, with
certain alterations, came into force ten years later.

The charter given by Sir John in 1741 gave “full power to the whole feuars and sub-feuars of the Burgh or Barony
of Greenock to meet, when most convenient for themselves, to elect and appoint nine of the most wise, substantial,
and best qualified in the Burgh of Greenock, being actual residenters (the Bailie or Bailies of the Barony, appointed
by me or my heirs, always being of the said number of nine), to be managers of the public funds already belonging
to the same, either arising from the assessment laid by the inhabitants of the burgh with my consent on
themselves, upon all the malt ground in the mill of Greenock, or any other voluntary assessment that shall be
consented to by mo for the support, public use, and benefit of the Burgh.”

This charter was not recorded in the Books of Council and Session for presentation till 10th February, 1751; and it,
having undergone many alterations, continued to be the charter of Greenock till substituted by the Reform Bill of
1832, when Greenock was made a Parliamentary Burgh.

The privilege granted to the Trustees of Council by the first charter amounted to little more than giving the people
permission to tax themselves, subject to Sir John's consent, a boon on which they did not seem to have placed
much value.

No sooner did the new Council begin to act than they found themselves in a difficulty. The voluntary assessment,
by which the business of the town was hitherto conducted, many of the people now for various reasons began to
repudiate. The Council were thus left without cash or credit. At this juncture Bailie Donald, one of their number, was
deputed to go to a Glasgow bank to arrange for a cash credit, but at first was refused unless the magistrates gave
their personal guarantee, to which they demurred, but after further negotiation a cash credit was got for £1,000, on
condition that all the ale and beer brewed and sold within the burgh should be duly assessed. And, in order that the
bank should be made safe of the returns, the Treasurer was instructed to pay the Government Collector of Excise
the sum of four pounds sterling for an extract from his books of the amount of ale and beer brewed and sold, with
the names of the brewers and victuallers brewing and selling the same.

This state of affairs was very unsatisfactory to the Council, and they, with the consent of Sir John, applied for and
got an Act of Parliament passed in the reign of King George II., 1751, to extend over thirty-one years, “for an
imposition of two pennies Scots, or the sixth part of a penny sterling on every Scots pint of ale and beer that should
be either brought in, brewed, tapped, or sold within the town of Greenock and baronies of Easter and Wester
Greenock and Finart or the liberties thereof, and that the said duty shall be made payable by the brewers and
vendors of all such ale and beer to the Trustees to be nominated and appointed by the Act, for the purpose of
cleaning, deepening, building, and repairing the harbours and piers, and for building a new church, town house,
poor and school houses, market places, meal and flesh, and also a public clock.” This Act ended in 1782, when an
attempt was made to renew it, which failed.

Sir John Shaw died in 1752, and the lands of Greenock and its environs then passed into other families.
IT is a mystery to strangers how an obscure parish, with a straggling village of fishermen's houses, and these of a
very primitive type till after the beginning of last century, should now have become one of the seven most
enterprising towns in Scotland.

Conjectures have been and are rife as to the causes of this rapid progress, and one of the most frequent is that the
town came so quickly to the front because of the foresight and help of the Lairds of Greenock. No doubt the Barons
of Greenock had much in their power, for, besides their possession of Greenock, they had lands in several other
Scottish counties; yet, with all these advantages, we find them extremely conservative with their own.

During the era of the Barony, the affairs of the Burgh were conducted by the Shaw family and their favourites, with
the miserable voluntary assessment levied on the people. As to the charter granted in 1741, and registered ten
years later, it virtually amounted to giving the people permission to tax themselves subject to the Superior's

The real causes of the sudden rise and progress of Greenock were the herring trade and Greenock's trade
connection with the City of Glasgow. Each of these potent factors requires more than a passing remark.

Section I.
The ancient motto of Greenock was—
“May Herring Swim which Trade Maintain.”

The river Clyde and its tributaries from time immemorial were famed for their periodical shoals of herrings, which
were caught in great quantities as far up the river as the Burgh of Renfrew. In the year 1160, Walter, High Steward
of Scotland, granted to the monks of Paisley in perpetual alms, “one net and one boat for catchin' herrings.”
(Craufurd.) A Government duty was in the year 1424 imposed on every thousand fresh herrings sold within the
country; four shillings were charged for each last of twelve barrels, barrelled by Scotsmen; six shillings if barrelled
by strangers; and four pence for every thousand red herrings. The amount of money raised from the Customs of
Lochfyne herrings was returned by the Customars of Irvine (a limb of Glasgow) at £10 in 1479, £17 in 1480, and
£34 in 1481. The Customars of Dumbarton returned about the same time £170, and in 1487 the revenues derived
from herrings in the Clyde lochs were £379. (Cochran Patrick.)
In the year 1589 King James VI. granted a charter to Mr. John Shaw, under which charter a church was built for the
accommodation of the inhabitants of Greenock who lived on the lands of Greenock and Spangcock, and said to be
“puir pepill dwelling vpoun her said lands and heretages qilkis ar all fischers and of a ressounable noumer.”

But although Greenock was the centre of this trade, it was chiefly in the lochs branching off the Clyde that the
regular fishing took place. In later years the herring fishing extended along the west coast, even as far north as the
Orkney and Shetland Islands; and the fish were brought to Greenock and prepared for shipment to foreign parts of
the world. The herring trade was considered of so much importance that more than once it was promoted and
supported by Royal Acts of Parliament.

In 1630 King Charles I. made certain proposals to the Privy Council of Scotland anent a scheme for a general
fishery. The Council appointed Commissioners, who reported on the 21st April, 1630, among other things, “that no
Englishman nor other foreigner has ever been allowed to fish within the lochs, bays, and friths, nor within fourteen
miles of the coast.” A charter for a General Fishery Company was granted in 1632, the area of which extended
round the coast of Scotland, from Saint Abb's Head, on the south-east, round the north and west of Scotland till it
ended in the south at the Scottish march in the centre of the Solway Firth. This Act of 1632 defined the exclusive
rights of coast fishing to the Company as heretofore. This Fishing Company was dissolved in 1690. (Cochran

But previous to these Acts of Parliament the Government took care to let the guarding of the Western coasts to
Tacksmen or Barons, who would have certain privileges thereby, and for which they made a return to the King's
Exchequer. Sometimes these Tacksmen sub-let parts of their charge to smaller Tacks-men, as the following will
indicate:— In 1526 King James V. granted to James Stewart of Ardgowan the Assise herring in the West of
Scotland. In 1536 the same King granted to Colin Campbell of Ardkinlas the “Assise herrings in the Western Sea
from the Pentland Firth to the Mule of Galloway, and within the Isles as far and near as the tide flows into the water
of Glide.” The King's rental was payment yearly of “six lasts and two barrels herrings at the bridge of Glasgow
between Martinmas and Candlemas.” This office was continued in the Ardkinlas family till the year 1564. (Reg. Maj.

In 1688 Sir James Stewart of Bute was Tacksman of the Assise duty and Justiciar of the Western Seas betwixt
Pentland Firth and the Mull of Galloway. He deputed to Dugald Lamond of Steillagie to call for and exact and uplift
the Syse duty, fines, whole emoluments and casualties pertaining to the said office, and that out of the fishing
boats, stouts, and coupers within the Oter and Cirie (Kerry); and all along the Lochreid (Lochrual) and by the coast,
also within the Loch of Tarbert, and that for the fishing tyine of year 1688; and empowering him to hold Courts and
decem betwixt fisher and fisher, as also to pursue and decern all persons lyable in the said Syse dutie and fynes
and other casualties, and to poynd and destrensie therefor. Dated said Commission, 8 January, 1688 years.
(Lamont Papers.)

In 1656, during the Protectorate, Cromwell sent a Commissioner named Thomas Tucker to Scotland to report on
the management of the Customs and the Excise; in which report he gives an account of the Clyde ports, which
says:— “That Renfrew, Greenock, Fairley, Culburgh, Saltcoats, and Irwyn were engaged in the herring fishing, their
principal market being Ireland.”

A second Royal Fishing Company was formed by an Act of King Charles II. in 1670, which continued till 1684.
(And. Brown.) This Company had special privileges conferred upon it, one of which was that none other could fish
for herrings within the bounds till the 20th of September. The King himself subscribed £5,000, and one of the rules
was that no member was admitted into the Company who did not subscribe £100. It does not appear that any of
the shares were taken up in Greenock; the only connection it had there was the enclosure called the Royal Closs.
This enclosure was a square of about fifty yards. On the front, facing Rue-end Street, there was a high dead wall
running along the whole length of the present Ewing Buildings. On the south-east it extended along the west side of
Bogle Street, on the north-west there was another parallel wall, and on the south a fourth wall has been replaced
by modern buildings. There were two cart entries into the quadrangle; the principal one was at the front near the
west end of the dead wall, and the other in Bogle Street. Above the door of the latter still remains the date, 1676.
Inside of the square were sheds for storing salt and for storing and curing herrings, boilers for barking nets, and
above the cellars were lofts for storing sails, running rigging, and nets. (And. Brown.)

This ground Sir John Shaw leased to the Company for a period of 722 years. In 1675 a further piece of ground in
that neighbourhood was leased by Sir John for a certain number of years to five Directors of the Company who
were merchants in Edinburgh. In 1674 the Company exported to the port of Rochelle, in France, 1,700 lasts of
herrings, equal to 20,400 barrels, besides what was exported to other ports of France, to Sweden, Dantzic, and
other places.

This Royal Company, after carrying on a thriving business for fourteen years, came suddenly to an end. The
immediate cause of the dissolution was the opposition excited by the exercise of its exclusive privilege. It was
maintained that it impoverished many families who had traded in that way, that it was a hard restraint upon ordinary
merchants, and occasioned great dissatisfaction among the people. This was represented to the Government, the
exclusive privilege was withdrawn, and the concern came to an end.

At the beginning of last century there had been a tax of sixteen shillings and eightpence payable by every fishing
boat which wetted its nets, whether herrings were caught or not, which was a cause of new discontent, but this
grievance also soon came to an end.

The last Royal Act of any importance relating to the fishers, prior to the Union, was passed in 1705. It authorised
and impressed all subjects of Queen Anne within her ancient Kingdom of Scotland to take, buy, and cure herrings
and white fish in all and sundry bays of same. (Cochran Patrick.)

The fishing having thus been Royally encouraged, it was prosecuted with renewed vigour. About the year 1728,
And. Brown, in his “History of Glasgow,” says no fewer than 900 boats were engaged on the Clyde, the half of
which belonged to Greenock, and the rest were hired by curers; these boats carried from twenty to twenty-four nets
each and an average of four men. About 1,900 lasts herring were yearly exported.

The greatest stimulus of all was given to the trade about twenty years later by the society of the free British fishery,
established by Act of Parliament in the year 1750, which then granted a bounty of 30s. per ton on herring vessels.
In 1757 it was increased to 50s., and in 1771, with some alterations, it was reduced to 30s. On the bounty of one
year (1791) were cleared in the Custom House, Greenock, and out ports, 129 busses, on board of 88 of which
were 938 men. (Sinclair's Statistics.)

Alexander McDonald, fish curer, whose death took place 28th January, 1803, was styled “Father of the fishery” in
this quarter, as he was the first person who drew bounty for curing herrings. In 1784, the first year in which reliable
statistics were published, there were belonging to Greenock engaged in the herring fishing 300 vessels, with a total
of 10,120 tonnage, and employing 1,000 men. Besides large quantities of herrings caught in the river and
neighbouring lochs, which were sold for immediate consumption, there were entered for export from 5th January,
1791, to 5th January, 1792, at the port of Greenock 45,054 barrels; at Port Glasgow, 8,434 barrels—total,
53,4888.5 barrels. (Sinclair's Statistics.)

Among the exports of Greenock and Port Glasgow from 5th January, 1796, to 5th January, 1797, were:—

From Greenock White Herring 80,280 barrels

From Greenock White Herring 156.5 barrels
From Greenock Red Herring 1,072 firkins
From Greenock Red Herrings 305,000 in bulk
From Greenock Red Herrings 305 barrels
From Greenock Red Herrings 140 firkins
From Greenock Red Herrings 2,477,100 in bulk
From Port Glasgow White Herrings 7,699 barrels
From Port Glasgow White Herrings 192.5 barrels
From Port Glasgow White Herrings 480 firkins
From Port Glasgow Red Herrings 50 barrells
(Denholm's Hist. Glasgow)

On the breast between the Mid and West Quay being completed it was largely occupied by herring barrels to the
exclusion of other goods, and now and again complaints were made against the fish curers on that account. The
houses in the south side of Lindsay Lane, which extends from the Vennel to the West Quay Lane, then fronted the
harbours, the houses on the north side of that lane not then being built, but although the space then was much
larger than it is now it was all taken up with the herring trade, and in consequence the Magistrates were obliged to
pass an order to confine it as much as possible between the Vennel and the West Quay Lane. This space was not
enough, and gradually the trade began to extend up the new street, which on that account was called the Herring
Street (now Charles Street). The trade also extended along a part of Crawford Street. The cooperages were spread
over this area, and the din of heading and hooping barrels was heard continuously from morning till night during the
fishing season.

The herring trade in its hey-day was the staple industry of Greenock, and was then considered of as much
importance as the more modern sugar trade. The business was almost wholly in the hands of curers from Bute and
other parts of the Highlands. It continued to be a lucrative trade until the emancipation of the slaves, among whom
in later years it had its chief mart. After that date it dwindled down to its present small dimensions.

Carswell's Prayer for Seamen.

Andrew Brown, in his “History of Glasgow,” published in 1797, at page 315, when describing the herring trade and
fishermen of Greenock, says— “These hardy sons of Neptune, though ignorant, were devout. When putting to sea,
after steering the vessel sunwise, they said the following form of prayer, recommending themselves and the boat to
the protection of the Deity, and imploring His blessing on the voyage. This form is in the Gaelic, and was composed
by John Kerswell, afterwards Bishop of Argyle, and printed in 1566.”

These remarks of the Glasgow historian require some explanation, as it would appear that Carswell composed this
prayer for the fishermen of Greenock, whereas the prayer was originally prepared for the boatmen of Argyleshire.
No doubt as the great bulk of the fishermen of Greenock were natives of Argyle they would continue to use this
prayer in Andrew Brown's day.

John Carswell was one of the seven superintendents appointed by the Reformers in 1560. His charge was over
Argyleshire, and, among his other labours, he undertook to translate into Gaelic “The Book of Common Order,”
called Knox's Liturgy, to which he added some matter of his own, among which is this form of prayer. This book
was published in the year 1567.

A new edition of Carswell's book was published in 1873 by the late Dr. McLauchlan, of Edinburgh, to which he
appends the following English translation of Carswell's prayer.

The Manner of Blessing a Ship on Going to Sea.

Let one of the crew say thus:—The steersman: Bless out ship. The rest respond: May God the Father bless her.
The steersman: Bless our ship. Response: May Jesus Christ bless her. The steersman: Bless our ship. Response:
May the Holy Spirit bless her. The steersman: What do ye fear and that God the Father is with you ? Response:
We fear nothing. The steersman: What do ye fear and that God the Son is with you ? Response: We fear nothing,
The steersman: What do ye fear and that God the Holy Spirit is with you ? Response: We fear nothing. May the
Almighty God, for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, through the comfort of the Holy Ghost, the one God Who
brought the Children of Israel through the Red Sea miraculously, and brought Jonah to land out of the whale's
belly, and brought the Apostle Paul and his ship, with the crew, out of the great tempest and out of the fierce storm,
save us and sanctify us, and bless us, and carry us on with quiet, and favouring winds, and comfort, over the sea
and in to the harbour, according to His own good will. Which thing we desire from Him, saying, Our Father which art
in Heaven, etc. Let all the rest say, So be it. (Pp. 240-241.)

Section II.
Greenock's Trade Connection with Glasgow.

From the middle ages, and in some cases from earlier times, downwards, occasional references occur in history to
the towns and creeks on the River Clyde. The first succinct account I have met with is that given by Thomas
Tucker, who was sent during the Protectorate of Cromwell as Commissioner to arrange about the revenues and
customs in Scotland; the result of which he reports to the Government in London in October, 1656.
The following is an abridgement of his report of the Clyde ports:—
After describing its locality, he says— “This toune, seated in a pleasant and fruitfull soyle, and consisting of four
streets handsomely built and in the forme of a crosse, is one of the most considerablist burghs of Scotland as well
for the structure as trade of it. ... The scituation of this toune in a plentifull land, of the mercantile genius of the
people, and strong signs of her increase and growth, were she not chequed and kept under by the shallowness of
her river, every day more and more increasing and filling up, soe that no vessells of any burden can come neerer
up then within fourteen miles, where they must unlade, and send up their goods in small cobbles or boates of three,
foure, five, and none of above six tonnes a boate. There is in this port a collector, a cheque, and foure wayters who
look to this plece. Renfrew, Arskin on the south, and Kirk-patrick on the north, side of Cluyde, with Dumbarton, a
small and very poore burgh at the head of the frith, the former of these are inhabited with fishermen that make
herrings and trade for Ireland with open boates; and the letter gives shelter sometimes to a vessel of 16 tonnes or
thereabouts, coming from England or Ireland with corne.

“the member ports of this district (Glasgow) are—

I.—Newarke (Port Glasgow) a small place where there are (besides the laird's house of the place) some foure or
five houses but before them a pretty good roade, where all vessells doe ride, unlade, and send their goods up the
river to Glasgowe in small boates, and at this place there is a wayter constantly attending.

II.—“Greenock, such another, only the inhabitants are more; but all seamen or fishermen trading for Ireland or the
Isles in open boats, at which place (Carsdyke) there is a mole or peere, where vessells in stresse of weather may
ride and shelter themselves before they passe up to Newarke, and here likewise is another wayter.”
III.— “Fairley Culburgh (Kelburn) Salcoates shores only of roads with a few houses, the inhabitants fishermen, who
carry fish and cattell to Ireland, bringing home corne and butter for theyr own use and expense, a wayter in
extraordinary here takes care of these places, and advertizes the head port when any thing comes in thither.”
IV.— “Bute, a small island lying in the mouth of the Frith, under which some vessells in stormy weather shelter
themselves, but passe afterwards up the river. The inhabitants are all countrymen and cowherds, who feede cattell
and spnne, and make some woolen cloths, which carryed to bee dyed and dressed at Glasgow, where they buy
still whatever they have occasion of for theyr expenses and provision.”
“And Lastly Irwyn, a small burgh towne lying at the mouth of a river of the same name, which hath some time
beene a pretty small port, but at present clagged and almost chocked up with sand, which the western sea beates
into it, soe as it wrestles for life to maintaine a small trade to France and Norway and Ireland with herrings and
other goods, brought on horseback from Glasgowe, for the purchasing of timber, wyne, and other commodities, to
supply theyr occasions with. Here is also another wayter in extraordinary.”

“The vessells belonging to this district are:—

To Glasgow 12 3 x 150 tonnes

1 x 140 tonnes
2 x 100 tonnes
1 x 50 tonnes
3 x 30 tonnes
1 x 15 tonnes
1 x 12 tonnes

To Renfrew 3 or 4 boates of 5 or 6 tonnes a piece

To Irwyn 3 or 4 boates, the biggest not exceeding 16 tonnes

The above is extracted from the Report of Thomas Tucker, upon the settlement of the Revenues of Excise and
Customs in Scotland 1656, printed and presented to the Bannatyne Club by John Archibald Murray, afterwards
Lord Murray, in 1825.

From the foregoing, we see at that date, that all the Clyde ports from Renfrew to Irvine were dependent upon and
subject to the town of Glasgow. Renfrew and Irvine seem to have been the only ports which possessed boats a
little larger than herring busses. The heavier tonnage appear to have been ships owned in Glasgow, with which
they imported their French wines and Norway timber to Irvine, but they found it inconvenient to send goods on
horseback to Irvine to be transhipped to these foreign countries.

At this time the Magistrates of Glasgow proposed to make an extensive harbour at Dumbarton, but were opposed
by the managers of that burgh, on the ground that the great influx of mariners and others would raise the price of
provisions to the inhabitants. (Cleland.)

From an early date the people of Glasgow appear to have had an eye on the bay of Greenock as a place in which
they could construct a harbour and have stores there for their foreign goods. The first practical attempt they made
for this end was when Lady Kilbirnie resolved to sell Easter Greenock. As seen before, she disposed that part of it
called Crawfurdsdyke and Carsburn to her kinsman, Mr Thomas Crawfurd, Town Clerk of Glasgow. The remainder
of Easter Greenock, it is said, was in negotiation for sale before 1667. The Magistrates of Glasgow and Sir John
Shaw were competitors, the former with the object of constructing a harbour there, perhaps beyond Garvel Park,
but Sir John outbid them and secured the property.

The Glasgow merchants being baulked here turned their attention to Newark. This place of old formed a part of the
parish of Kilmacolm, the small village of Newark, so called from the barony of that name, which lay in its immediate
vicinity. The Magistrates of Glasgow in 1668 bought about 14 acres of these lands from Sir Patrick Maxwell of
Newark, with the view to make a convenient harbour, which they called Port-Glasgow. On the harbour being
finished the Glasgow merchants brought their vessels there to discharge, and continued without intermission to do
so till 1684. But owing to the crooked state of the channel beyond Garvel Point they had a difficulty in navigating
their vessels to the Port, especially when winds were contrary. This kept them always hankering for a footing in
Greenock, where they could sail to or from, and find shelter at all states of the wind or tide.

They obtained their desire in 1684. This year the Royal Fishery Company of King Charles II. was dissolved, and
their extensive premises called the Royal Closs, before described, were brought to a public sale and were
purchased by Mr. John Barns, who was Provost of Glasgow in 1682, 1683, and again in 1686, and who transferred
his rights to the Town Council of that city. They took them over at the long lease of the Royal Fishery Company and
obtained possession this same year 1684.

Mr. Williamson in his “Old Greenock” has a curious note about the purchase money of this property. He says: “in
1683 John Barns, Provost of Glasgow, had the gift of fines of nonconformity and irregular baptisms and marriages.
He was known to have lifted 18,000 to 20,000 marks from the poorer sects of people there, and never gave an
account of them. Was it out of these gains he purchased the Fishing Company lease of the Royal Closs which took
place in this very year and which he disposed to the Town Council.” (V. II. p. 79. F.N.)
For upwards of twenty years after this date little is said of the foreign trade of Glasgow. It appears that although
Glasgow from an early date had an extensive trade with the Continent, it was not until the Union with England in
1707 that the Scotch were allowed to trade with the English colonies of America and West Indies, but after this
event these desirable trading fields were thrown open. The Glasgow merchants took immediate advantage of this
boon. But, strange to say, the shipping Glasgow was in possession of at 1656 seems to have disappeared, and at
this era they were obliged to charter vessels at Whitehaven to carry on their new enterprises. It was not till the year
1718 that a Glasgow-owned vessel crossed the Atlantic (Denholm), and Andrew Brown in his history of Glasgow
says: “In 1716 a vessel of 60 tons burden is launched in Crawfurdsdyke, the first built in the Clyde for the American
trade.” He again says: “In 1735 there are forty-seven square rigged vessels belonging to Glasgow, fifteen of which
were engaged in the Virginian trade, and that there were seventy coasters belonging to the Clyde, supposing their
burden 6,000 tons.”

The foreign trade of the Clyde was almost altogether in the hands of Glasgow merchants, Greenock and Port
Glasgow people being merely storekeepers and forwarding agents, and this continued to be so till the deepening of
the river. The foreign goods imported were sugar, rum, and mahogany, from the West Indies, tobacco and cotton
from the Southern States of America, wine and brandy from France, and pine timber from Norway and the Baltic.
These goods required a large storage accommodation, and from the beginning of the connections of these towns
with the city of Glasgow they were taxed to their utmost capacity, and continually calling for more store room. The
Royal Closs store was the first available here and, besides it, temporary sheds were utilized while the goods were
waiting for transhipment to Glasgow.

Port Glasgow during its early years was the chief Government Port on the lower reaches of the Clyde, but in the
year 1714, owing to the amount of foreign goods imported, the Lords Commissioners of Queen Anne's Treasury
constituted Greenock a Public Port, and officers of the Customs from Port Glasgow were ordered to reside in
Greenock for the ease of trade and the collection of the Revenue.

About the year 1728 the first published return of the amount of Customs paid at the port of Greenock was £15,231
4s 4d. This gives but a faint idea of the foreign trade which passed through Greenock compared with which was
forwarded by gabbarts and flat-bottomed boats to Glasgow direct and to the Clyde and Forth Canal to be forwarded
to the towns eastward, and to the Continent with river permits.

The tobacco must have been carried chiefly by chartered vessels to the Continent as the Clyde and Forth Canal
was not completed till 1790. We learn “that the work began 13 June, 1768, filled with water to Kirkintilloch from
Forth 3 Sep. 1773. Work completed and formal opening 29 July, 1790, by Archibald Spiers of Elderslie.”

At this time the Glasgow merchants were threatening to take their vessels to Port Glasgow at all hazards unless
additional store room was provided in Greenock without delay. The Managers of the affairs of the town were
sensible of their reasonable demands and they had several interviews with Sir John for a feu for that purpose, but
the matter was delayed from time to time. In the year 1732 the Managers made a formal application to Sir John for
ground to build stores or cellars upon, between the head of Mid Quay and foot of the Vennel, which he at first
seemed inclined to grant, but Lady Shaw, who held the sway, interfered in order to prevent them getting any
ground except that east of Mid Quay, which the Managers characterised as a place of “Hastiness where every filth
was accumulated.” The people of the town became very indignant and threatened to discontinue to pay the
voluntary tax.

After battling for the said situation for about twenty years, Sir John, a little before his death in 1752, gave way, and
the site originally fixed upon was feued to the town, and in the same year building operations commenced, and in
three years the stores were finished. The only part of these stores now remaining is that occupied at present by Mr.
John Barclay, plumber.

After the death of Sir John Shaw, Lord Cathcart, who married his only daughter Marion, had the chief say in the
affairs of the town. He seems to have been as cautious in running any risks in civil enterprises as those who
preceded him, as the following advice to the Council in 1753 will shew. He says—“If there is found that there is so
great a demand for cellars as to employ the Royal Closs, the present new cellars, and those that may be built on
the unoccupied part of the great street, my opinion is they ought to raise as much money as they can, by selling the
property of the ground for the intended cellars to the town of Glasgow—they giving up the lease of the Royal Closs.
My reason is this, they will get a high price now the tobacco trade is flourishing; were it to slacken at any distance
of time, which God forbid, any misfortune arising for want of demand of cellars will fall upon the proprietors, not
upon the Council or their heirs. The reputation of the town, and the profits arising from the exercise of trade, are
benefits that accrue to the town, whoever the cellars belong to, and there is no surer way to draw rich merchants to
inhabit Greenock than to allow them property there.” There was not much coaxing required to get Glasgow
merchants to invest in Greenock property, as they considered the latter but a limb of the city, and there was hardly
any undertaking of any consequence started in Greenock but Glasgow merchants were interested in it. The first
sugarhouse and the first ropework had several Glasgow merchants as partners.
Next in size to the Royal Closs were the stores at Custom House Place, built for the accommodation of the
Tobacco Lords during that lucrative trade's heyday. These stores were originally feued by Charles Shaw of Sauchie
and Greenock, Lord Cathcart, 11th October, 1766, on the sand beach east of West Harbour— the one-half of the
ground was feued to James Simpson and John Baird, merchants in Glasgow, and the other half to John Glassford
and G. Kippen, jun., merchants in Glasgow. On the map of Greenock of 1818 these buildings are called
warehouses, and the present Dock Lane behind them was called Warehouse Lane. This feu was divided in the
centre of the buildings by a stone gable. Although it may be a digression from the annals, I subjoin the tale of the
catastrophe, which involved the west end of this building, as recorded in the “Greenock Telegraph” of 30th October,
1863. The part burned remained a ruin for about two years, then it was rebuilt and called Palmerston Buildings.
The writer is the only one living of those who suffered by that great fire, and till lately occupied a part of the east
end of the warehouse, which was not burnt.

Alarming Fire—Great Destruction of Property.

Upwards of £10,000 worth of property in buildings and merchandise was destroyed on Wednesday morning by an
alarming tire. Immediately behind the Custom House, and separated from it by the thoroughfare known as Custom
House Place, stood an oblong block of buildings, belonging to the Corporation. This block was about 150 feet in
extent north and south, and 300 feet east and west. It was open in the centre, forming within that centre a large
open court, the access being from the west side, at the foot of East Quay Lane. It extended to Dock Lane on the
south side, to Open Shore on the east, and on the west formed a continuation of East Quay Lane down to the
Custom House. The height of the building was two stories and attics, the latter being occupied by Mr. Joseph
Pennell as a sail loft. The second flat was occupied as meal, hemp, bark and hoop stores, merchants' offices, a
blockmaker's shop, and the Shipwrights' Reading Room. The ground flat was occupied as shops on the side facing
East Quay Lane, and offices and stores on the side facing the Custom House. The south side, to which access was
had by the open court from East Quay Lane, was also occupied as stores for tar, grease, salt, etc.

About two o'clock in the morning fire was discovered to have broken out in a second floor apartment, near the
south-west corner, and above Mr. Douglas's, Mr. McAllister's, and Mr. Griffith's shops. The alarm spread rapidly,
and Mr. Calderwood with the fire brigade, was soon on the spot with their apparatus, but in spite of all their efforts
the fire continued to spread on both sides with alarming rapidity. Immediately in the centre of the block of buildings
were stone gables, and it was hoped these would arrest the progress of the fire; and the firemen set to work from
these extremities in order to secure that result. In two hours after the fire was discovered the whole half of the
square was enveloped in flames, rising to a great height, illuminating the town to a great distance, and alarming the
inhabitants, who turned out of bed in great numbers to witness the imposing spectacle. From some of the shops
and offices a little property was rescued, including the safes with their valuable contents in books and documents.
By five o'clock the fire had nearly exhausted itself; it gradually got lower, and when day broke the half of the square
was a mass of smouldering ruins, the twisted walls only remaining, with a heap of smoking debris inside.

The tenants on the ground floor were, on the east side—Messrs. Laird & Sons, Londonderry Steam Packet
Company; Messrs. McFarlane, Brown & Co., merchants in felt, tar, grease, etc., who also have a ground floor on
the south side of the square; a store used by the Custom House officers as a proving house. The corner premises
are occupied by Mr. William Watt, wine and spirit merchant; on the west side the shops of Mr. Griffiths, bookseller,
Mr. Archd. McAllister, tobacconist; office and workshops of Mr. John Douglas, plumber. On the south side there is a
store occupied by Mr. McPherson, ship chandler, and the tar and grease store of Messrs. McFarlane, Brown & Co.
Second floor—an office occupied by Mr. Edwin Maggs, sugar broker; workshop of Mr. McDonald, blockmaker;
stores containing meal and other produce, rented by Mr. William Anderson, Mr. Niven, and others; a store
containing 150 tons of hemp, belonging to Messrs. Alex. Tough & Son; and the Shipwrights' Reading Room. Top
flat or attics—the sail loft of Mr. Pennell. All these premises, together with the property they contained, with a trifling
exception, were entirely consumed; and the value of the entire property destroyed may be set down at upwards of
£15,000, most of which is said to be covered more or less by insurance, except the stock of Mr. Macdonald,
blockmaker, a quantity of rye-grass seed belonging to Ferguson Brothers, some grocery goods, the property of Mr.
John Lang, grocer, the office furniture of Mr. Maggs, and about 200 barrels of flour belonging to Mr. Robert
Shankland, which were lying in the store of Mr. Niven. The books of Mr. Pennell, Mr. Macdonald, and Mr. Maggs
were destroyed. The latter were enclosed in a “Chubb's Patent Safe,” but on its being broken open, after exposure
to the fire for four hours, they were found to be charred to a cinder, and crumbled away at the touch. The whole
block of buildings is insured for £5,500, and the portion consumed is fully covered. The premises destroyed were
lately altered and improved by the authorities at a cost of upwards £200. When the Glasgow magistrates had in
prospect the deepening of the Clyde, an Act of Parliament of King George II. was passed in 1754, “that dues on all
vessels arriving and departing to foreign ports, and coasting vessels trading to Greenock and Port-Glasgow, were
to be paid for improving the navigation of the Clyde between Dunbuc and the Broomilaw.” Thus showing that these
ports were considered at that era but parts and pendicles of Glasgow.

During a series of years after the middle of last century, the tobacco trade engrossed the attention of the Glasgow
merchants. The importation of tobacco from America in the year 1755 was as follows:— From Virginia, 40,854
hhds.; Maryland - 15,040 hhds; Carolina, 1,249 hhds, Total: 57,143 hhds (Wilson.)
In the year 1770, of 90,000 hhds. of tobacco imported into Britain, 45,000 belonged to Glasgow merchants. The
imports of tobacco from 5th January, 1771, to 5th January, 1772, were 46,055,139 Ibs. (Gibson). And Cleland in
his Statistics, says— “The tobacco trades absorbed the greater part of the capital of the city. In 1773 the merchants
of Glasgow had so far monopolised that article that the imports into the Clyde during that year was 43,970 hhds.,
from which they supplied the farmers general of France, a considerable part of Germany, Holland, Norway, and

This article alone will give an idea of the enormous trade between the Clyde ports and America at that time. Dr.
Strang, in his “Glasgow and its Clubs,” gives the names of twenty-six of the chief firms of importers of tobacco in
the city of Glasgow in 1783, whom he characterises as “The Tobacco Lords.” He says— “They were the princes of
the planestanes, and strutted about there every day as the rulers of the destiny of Glasgow, attired in scarlet
cloaks, curled wigs, cocked hats, and bearing gold-headed canes.” This trade, which was so important to Glasgow
while it lasted, after the war of American Independence commenced, dwindled down to a mere shadow in 1817,
when the imports of tobacco to the Clyde were only 766 hhds.

About the year 1774 John Golborne, from Chester, began to deepen the Clyde between Dunglas and the Castle of
Erskine. The machines he used were called ploughs, being large hollow cases, the backs of cast-iron, the two ends
of wood, the other side open. These were drawn across the river by means of capstans, on long wooden frames or
flats opposite to each other near the banks of the river. Being drawn over empty, they returned with the iron side
downwards, which scraped the bottom and brought up at every return half a ton of gravel, depositing it on the bank;
by which means 1,200 tons were cleared every day. When the river was too wide, the shores were contracted by
jetties up the river from Dunglass, the whole way past the. parishes of Inchinnan and Renfrew to the bridge of
Glasgow. (Crawford and Semple.)

After the deepening of the Clyde, most of the foreign goods imported were carried direct to Glasgow, but the sugar
and rum were still landed in the lower reaches, though held by Glasgow merchants and planters, such as the
Bogles, the Eccles, Stirling & Gordon, and the Ewings of Strathleven, who had their agents in Greenock. The last
link of the principal property the Glasgow magistrates held in Greenock they parted with in 1807. In that year Mr.
John Hamilton, merchant in Greenock, obtained from the magistrates of Glasgow a sub-tack of the Royal Closs, for
the five hundred and ninety years yet to run of the lease, at the price of £3,200, besides relieving them of the yearly
feu-duty and casualties of superiority. This property was conveyed to Mr. Robert Ewing, who built on a part of it that
handsome property known by his name at Rue-end Street.
Section I.

The Gaels being the early inhabitants of this country, I could not with propriety end the early annals of Greenock
without endeavouring to give a sketch, telling from whence they came, who they were, and what they are. A
learned French author named Pellautier, who has made the history of the Celts an object of his particular attention,
says— “It is difficult to determine from what country the Celt came originally. The history and ancient traditions of
the Celts furnish us with no certain accounts of the country whence those people first came. They passed into
Europe beyond the reach of history.”

They were called Keltoe by the Greeks and by the Romans Galli, which invariably signified the same thing; for
Strabo gives it as his opinion that the name Keltoe was applied to the Galli in general. They bristle in the histories
of ethnic writers from the time of Herodotus to that of the Christian era and afterwards. During this time we find
them spread over the west of Europe, from the Mediterranean to the Baltic. Their dialects, as found in the
topography of that wide space and incorporated in the classical and more modern tongues of Europe, are their
most ancient remains. Their language, termed Celtic, as now or recently spoken, extends over Brittany in France,
Cornwall in the south-west of England, North and South Wales, the South and West of Ireland, and the West and
North Highlands of Scotland.

According to the Classical writers the British Isles seem to have been colonised by the Galli or French, for both
Diodorus Siculus and Pliny say that their persons and complexions had a strong resemblance to each other, and
Tacitus surmises that they were of the same race, for he says— “You will find in both nations the same religious
rites, the same superstitions, and the two languages differ but little.” (Chap, xi.)

Between the second and the thirteenth centuries there were many disturbing elements to disarrange and displace
the Scottish Celtic dialect. From the second to the middle of the fifth century, the Roman invasions, no doubt, would
cause many changes. Early in the sixth century the Saxons extended their sway from the Humber to the Forth, and
the majority of place names in that part of the country are Teutonic. About the same era a wave of the Welsh
Britons found their way through the upper parts of Ayrshire, Lanark, Renfrew, and Dumbarton, where they have left
many traces of the Cymric dialect; and from the eighth to the middle of the thirteenth century the Norwegians had
possession of the Western Islands; and we find the topography, particularly that of the outer Hebrides, is almost all
Scandinavian; but on their disappearance at the latter date, the language they spoke died out and gave place to
the Gaelic, although the Northern place names still remain. Coupled with these disturbing elements, the disuse of
the Gaelic at the Court of King Malcolm Canmore, at the end of the eleventh century, with the feudal changes
introduced, which I shall yet refer to, drove the Gaelic-speaking people to the hilly parts of the west lowlands and to
the highlands and islands beyond the Clyde and the Forth.

The two districts in Scotland which have best retained the Scottish Gaelic in its present form, in the topography of
the country, are the mainland of Argyleshire, to which Bute may be added, and the west coast of Scotland from the
Clyde to the Solway. The last traces of Gaelic spoken in Ayrshire and Galloway lingered there till about a century
ago. The Rev. Mr. Landsburgh, of Kilmarnock, has favoured me with an essay he delivered in 1891, “On the Gaelic
Vernacular in the South-west of Scotland: its Decay and Extinction,” from which I make the following extracts:—


That Gaelic was the vernacular of the south-west of Scotland in the sixteenth century is proved from the following
unimpeachable testimonies:—
1. In the celebrated “Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy,” written about the beginning of that century, Dunbar speaks of
the “Carrick lipps” of his antagonist, and that this refers to the Gaelic is made evident by the reply of Kennedy, who
“Thow lufis naue Irische, elf I vnderstand,
But it suld be all true Scotts mennis' lede;
It was the gude language of this land,
And Scota it causit to multiply and sprede.”

2. In the Military Report of Carrick, Kyle, and Cunningham, written between 1563 and 1566, we read:— “Carrick
bailzerie, for the inoste part, speaketh Erish.”
3. Buchanan, in his History of Scotland, of date 1582, writes:— “A great part of this country (Galloway) still uses its
ancient language.” (Vol. I., p. 103.)

An old man named Hugh Gregg, farmer, Meikle Shalloch, told Mr. Landsburgh about 1850, that when his
grandmother first came to the parish of Barr, she could get no good by going to church, as the whole service was
conducted in Gaelic. Barr was constituted a parish in 1653. The statement of the old man probably refers to the
service as conducted by the first minister, the Rev. Fergus McAlexander, who was “outed” in 1662, but survived the
persecution and returned to the parish. He died after the Revolution. Gregg further told him that at a comparatively
late period it was one of the requisites of the parish teacher of Barr that he should be acquainted with Gaelic. In
1678, when the “Highland Host” were billeted on the Western Counties, they could easily converse in Gaelic with
the inhabitants of Carrick and Galloway.


Mr. McKissock, farmer, Bridgend, Ballantrae, declared that in the time of his grandfather, about the beginning of the
eighteenth century, Gaelic was still to some extent spoken in Glen App. The Rev. David Garment, of Rosskeen,
whose ancestors lived for generations at Dalbeattie, said he had often heard his grandfather tell of some old people
in that parish who in his young days spoke Gaelic.


A correspondence on this subject, originated by the Rev. John Wilson, A.M., F.C., Abernyte, was carried on in the
year 1876 in the columns of the now extinct “Daily Review.” It called forth the following letter from a Mr. D. Murray
Lyon, 31st October, 1876:— “I send this corroboration of the statement that Gaelic to some extent was spoken in
Ayrshire in the early part of last century. My grand-aunt, Jean McMurray, who died in 1836 at the age of eighty-
seven, informed me that Margaret McMurray, the representative of the elder branch of the McMurrays of Cultzean,
near Maybole, who died about the year 1760, was long talked of as having been the last Gaelic-speaking native of


It is difficult to say when Gaelic was the vernacular language of West Renfrewshire, but being surrounded by
Gaelic-speaking people in the shires of Bute, Argyll, and Dumbarton, this language would naturally be more current
there than further south, where they were not subject to these intense influences. At all events, it conferred the
name Grianaig on this town, and also many Gaelic names on the land in its vicinity.


The Gaelic-speaking Highlanders and Lowlanders of yore had much in common. Their place names seem to have
been almost equally frequent in this language. In personal surnames the Lowlanders had a much greater variety of
Macs. This arose from their different social systems. Before surnames were assumed in the Highlands, the people
then traced their genealogies backward from son to father for many generations; and when surnames were
assumed by the chiefs or patriarchs, these were adopted by their friends and followers, who formed themselves
into tribal clans. The great chiefs did not exceed a couple of scores of surnames, and perhaps three times that
number of small septs or branches claimed affinity to the larger clans, and followed their respective banners. It was
otherwise in the Lowlands. There they do not seem to have had anything approaching the clan or tribal system.
They appear to have been content to be named from father to son, such as McGeachin, McKendrick, McCutcheon,
McQuistan &c. Sometimes they derived their surnames from their mother, such as McJanet and McVittie, but much
oftener than either from some peculiar characteristics, such as McCracken, McCruitan, McKim, McMath, McKirdy,
McCrindle, and so on. These Macs often attained to be bonnet lairds, who lived and laboured on their small
properties, and were seldom heard of out of their respective localities, except when an invasion or a persecution

The gregarious combinations of the Highlanders were originally adopted more from necessity than choice. Before
the tenth century, hereditary feudalism was alien to the institutions and systems of the Celts. Then the chief
administered the common property for the benefit of all, as the head of the family and not as the lord of the soil.
When King Duncan was assassinated by Macbeth in 1039, his son Malcolm, surnamed Ceanmore, found refuge
with his uncle, Siward, in Northumberland, and his brother, surnamed Donald Ban, betook himself to the Hebrides.
Malcolm remained in his retreat for seventeen years, where he imbibed arbitrary feudal notions. In the latter year,
with the aid of Macduff, Thane of Fife, and Earl Siward, he led a large army against Macbeth, whom they pursued
and slew at Lumfannan, in Aberdeenshire. In the following year, Malcolm Ceanmore was crowned at Scone.


During Malcolm's reign great changes were introduced into Scotland. He married an Anglo-Saxon Princess, who
had a great influence over his future conduct. When he became King he treated the possession of all the land as if
it had been his own. To the Anglo-Saxon Barons, who fled before the Conqueror, he afforded an asylum, and gave
them all grants of the best of the lands from the Tweed to the Beauly Firth. The natives of Scotland, tenacious of
their ancient customs, viewed with disgust the introduction of foreign manners, and secretly censured the favours
shewn to these strangers.

At the death of King Malcolm, who was slain at the siege of Alnwick in 1093, all his children were under age.
Donald, his brother, who had taken refuge in the Hebrides on the death of his father, and now aspired to be either
King or Tanester, collected a powerful army and invaded the mainland of Scotland. On his approach, Edgar
Atheling secured the children of Malcolm in a place of safety. Donald's first measure was to expel all the foreigners
who had found a footing in the Kingdom.

The next year, 1094, Duncan, a bastard son of King Malcolm, who had been left a hostage in England, sought
permission of William Rufus to invade Scotland, which he obtained, and with a numerous army of adventurers, both
English and Normans, expelled Donald and reigned in his stead. In 1095, Edmund, a son of King Malcolm, having
covenanted with his uncle Donald for a partition of the Kingdom, at their instigation Malpedar, Maormor of Mearus,
assassinated Duncan. Donald Ban again ascended the throne. At his restoration all the foreigners were expelled
the Kingdom. Two years later, 1097, King William Rufus, son of the Conqueror, commiserated the state of the
family of King Malcolm, and with his approval and aid Edgar Atheling assembled an army and marched into
Scotland, overcame Donald, and placed Edgar, the son of Malcolm, on the throne. Donald Ban was captured,
condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and his eyes barbarously put out. History says that “Coldingham Priory was
founded about the year 1098 by Edgar, King of Scotland, who, having been driven from his throne, fled to England,
and obtained from William Rufus 30,000 men, and from the Abbot of Durham the banner of Saint Cuthbert, to
assist him to subdue his rebellious subjects. Having succeeded, he afterwards considered he was fully as much
indebted to the banner of this Abbot as to the King and his soldiers, and as a proof of his gratitude he founded the
church of Saint Mary, Coldingham, and bestowed on it the lands of Paxton, Fishwick, and the village of Swinton.”

The kingly hopes of the natives were now gone, consequently they betook themselves to their native fastnesses
among the glens and mountains of the North. The feudal lords came back in greater force than before, with their
retainers of serfs and villeins. In fact, swarms of their villeins were already in Scotland, and would be too glad to
follow their superiors. Of this we learn that King Malcolm Ceanmore invaded England in 1070, and carried
everything before him. Simeon of Durham says:— “He commanded all the young men and maidens to be driven
into Scotland. So great was the number of captives that for many years they were to be found in every Scottish
village—nay, even in every Scottish hovel” (p. 201).

The introduction of the feudal system and that of the Romish Church into Scotland were coeval, and their success
depended on their mutual co-operation; every lord's manor became a parish and the church divided the respect of
the people with the castle. (Cosmo Innes).

For the next two hundred years the feudal barons held sway in the Lowlands and the natives in the Highlands of
Scotland. No doubt during that time some of the feudal barons, such as the Commins, are found in the wilds of
Badenoch, but without some blood relationship they would not be tolerated there. We find this in the case of the
Commins. John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, was the tenth claimant to the throne during the interregnum. He
produced a long genealogy, from which he concluded that he was the lawful heir, being descended from the great-
great-grandson of Donald Bain, who once reigned in Scotland. (Hailes.)

During these long series of years both parties kept aloof and watched each other. The Highlanders in their
extremities made raids on the plains for cattle, for which they were stigmatized as thieves and robbers. Moralists
yet expatiate on their heinous crimes, but Highlanders looked at these forays as acts of retaliation; as to the
morality, they could not distinguish the difference between their taking an occasional nowt in their need and the
others seizing their lands without right or title. The one act was performed piecemeal, the other wholesale.

Sir Walter Scott, in his “Lady of the Lake,” truly says:

“These fertile plains, that softened vale,
Were once the birthright of the Gael;
The stranger came with iron hand,
And from our fathers reft the land.


After the death of the Maid of Norway all the aspirants to the Scottish throne submitted to have their claims settled
by King Edward of England. Robert Bruce, grandson of one of the claimants, in his younger years, led a very
tortuous career; ultimately, he served his country well, but himself and his friends better. Robertson, in his “Index of
Charters” of 1798, says: “There are now in Scotland no records of any kind anterior to the accession of King Robert
I.” In 1306 he was crowned King at Scone, three years later (1309), he commenced to grant charters, and after the
battle of Bannockburn he treated both the Highlands and the Lowlands as a conquered country, granting charters
to his friends and followers, suppressing every opposition, and displacing any doubtful rivals as if they had been so
many pawns on a chess board. Perhaps the exigencies of the times called for this severity, but so thorough was his
success, that it might be said of him as of one of old: “My hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people ....
and there was none that moved the wing, that opened the beak, or even peeped.” The sullen displeasure that
followed soon got vent after his departure. He was succeeded by weak and unfortunate sovereigns, who had
neither his grasp of power nor his genius to rule the nation. This might be said in a certain degree of all his
successors from his son David II. to James VII. The upstart magnates recently placed in power, and the
dispossessed barons who followed Baliol, besides others, were continually striving for the mastery. What a weak
executive could not accomplish it intrigued to do with greedy courtiers, and got them to harry each other, according
to the old maxim, “Divide and conquer.” Browne says: “Sometimes the sovereign attempted to strengthen his hand
by fomenting divisions between the different clans, and entering occasionally into the interest of one in the hope of
weakening another; he threw his weight into one scale that the other might kick the beam, and he withdrew it again
that, by the violence of the reaction, both parties might be equally damaged and enfeebled.” (Highland Clans, Vol.
IV, 394). But even what the sovereign with the aid of the powerful courtiers could not openly manage, James IV.
accomplished by assembling quietly a Parliament in Edinburgh at which the title and possessions of the Lord of the
Isles were declared forfeited to the Crown, which was the final ruin of that once powerful clan.

Besides the animosities engendered by the kings and barons, no less was the rancour of the Roman Catholics and
Episcopalians who had lost their place and power at the Reformation and Revolution. They afterwards incessantly
intrigued with the sovereigns from Queen Mary to the last of the Jacobites to have their positions restored, which
kept the nation in a continual ferment.


The origin of the “Highland Clans” is a subject not yet settled. Browne says that it is involved in obscurity, while
W.F. Skene indicates that it arose after the fall of the Lord of the Isles. It is obvious that the system had its origin
after the era of granting feudal charters, and that subsequent to the time of King Robert Bruce. Before that era the
Highlanders held their lands by use and wont, administered by their patriarchs for their mutual advantage. But on
the introduction of feudal charters the uncertainty of their tenures led the Highlanders, for the preservation and
protection of their lives and properties, to form themselves into distinct clans or blood relations, having a special
tartan dress, coat of arms, war cry, and martial music, which all could understand and rally to the standard in the
event of an invasion or oppression. But with all these native precautions, a feudal parchment, though much
despised by the Highlanders, became a dangerous instrument in the hands of greedy barons in league with the
Court, who often contrived to instigate the chiefs of clans to feuds against each other, then got a Royal
Commission to suppress the rebellion, which they themselves fomented, and ultimately made one or both outlaws
and rebels and then seized their possessions, as was shamefully done to the Macdonalds of Kintyre, the
McGregors of Glenlyon, and many others.

The grievances of the clans are quaintly summed up by the Laird of Coltoqhey, whose property was surrounded by
those of Breadalbane, Montrose, Perth, and Athol families. It is said that after his morning ablutions he repeated his
prayers and along with them the familiar lines called “Coltoqhey's Litany”:
From the greed of the Campbells,
From the pride of the Grahams,
From the ire of the Drummonds,
From the wind of the Murrays,
Good Lord deliver us.

The Highland Clans came to an end in 1748, when the power of the chief was transferred to the sheriff.

Section II.

Our local historians had strange notions about the normal condition of the Highlanders in their own country—of
their moral character—and of the effects of their coming among the people of Greenock.

Mr. Williamson, in his “Old Greenock,” says: “The pernicious effect of the system of hereditary jurisdiction was
experienced first in the rebellion of 1715, and later in that of 1745, when the retainers or vassals followed their
overlords to the field and were at his entire disposal.”

Mr. Campbell in his “Sketches” makes a general charge against Highlanders. Firstly, he indicates that the “Fading
of the Fair” was to overawe the Highlanders and others into having a due respect to the authorities of the town;
secondly, he makes an invidious comparison between Lowlanders and Highlanders, saying “A large body of
seafaring men came to settle in the town from Ayrshire and other Lowland fishing districts about the end of the
seventeenth century, men of exemplary character, who had been brought up in the fear of God, and observed the
Sabbath before the influx of the people from the Highlands had scarcely begun.” And, thirdly, he says: “The
introduction of whisky was comparatively unknown in Greenock until after the rebellion was finally crushed at
Culloden. Government resolved to prevent further rising of the Highlanders by lessening the power of the chiefs,
and this they sought to do by abolishing hereditary jurisdiction. As a consequence the Highlanders crowded into the
large towns for employment and the rising port of Greenock was quite inundated with them. As was to be expected,
they, along with the Gaelic, introduced usages of a more questionable character, and among such was the drinking
of whisky. Being accustomed in the Highlands to this liquor, which they called Usquebagh, and being of opinion
that it was a medicine that cured all the ills of life, the demand soon created supply, and speedily small public
houses, the patronymic of whose owners unhesitatingly betrayed their origin, began to supplant the alehouses, and
did so to the loss and injury of the town revenue. For many years the chief retailers of this liquor in Greenock were
Highlanders, and as a consequence their countrymen suffered more from the curse of drink than the other
inhabitants.” (Vol. I., pp. 203-4).

Happily for the memory of the Highlanders of Greenock the said allegations have little foundation in fact, as I shall
briefly endeavour to show. (1) “Hereditary jurisdiction” with its “pernicious effect” are high-sounding words, the latter
of which would be more applicable to the condition of the feudal villein, who could be bought and sold with the land,
than to the Highlander, whose chief was but a representative of his clan. To say that the Highlanders “were at the
entire disposal of their chiefs” is a mere travesty of speech. The rebellions of 1715 and 1745 are the two cases
cited. It is well known that the Duke of Argyle led the Royalists at Sheriffmuir. If his countrymen wore at his “utter
disposal,” where were they that clay? Not a man of them was there; and again, in 1745, the total number of rebels
from Argyleshire who were at Culloden was only 64, who were there as mere volunteers. (Scot. Hist. Soc., Edin.,

And of the Royalists who were there from that county, not one went as a chief's retainer. They were there as militia
men, balloted by the Government, and even these played no prominent part. Browne says: “The Argyle men, with
the exception of 140, who were on the left of the reserve, were left in charge of the baggage. (Vol. III. p. 243).
Whatever other family ties existed between the chiefs and their clans, there were no restrictions on the latter to go
wherever they listed.

(2) “That after 1745 the Highlanders crowded into the large towns for employment, and the rising port of Greenock
was quite inundated with them.” This is altogether an imaginary assertion, as there is no proof for nearly fifty years
after this event as to where the Highlanders of Greenock migrated from. Although the Highlanders from an early
date visited the town of Greenock in pursuit of the herring fishing, there was no great inducement for them to settle
there till after the charter was granted in 1751. The inhabitants till that era were tightly held in the leading strings of
the Superior. At the end of the rule of the Barony, which existed for upwards of a hundred years, the population did
not exceed 3,000; during the next forty years it increased to about 15,000.

(3) “That whisky was comparatively unknown in Greenock till after the influx of people from the Highlands after
1745.” Although the art of distillation was known in the middle ages, it was late before this article came into general
use. Distilled spirits first became popularly known as aqua vitae, and were used only as a powerful medicine. In
1660 excise duty was first imposed on aqua mice, but no record was kept of the quantities on which duty was
charged till 1684. Owing to its demoralising effects an act to counteract its manufacture was passed in 1736, but
this only led to unlimited smuggling and open evasion of the law. (Ency. Brit.) Colonel Stewart of Garth says, writing
in 1822, “It was not till the beginning, or rather towards the middle, of last century that spirits of any kind were so
much drank as ale, which was formerly the universal beverage; every account and tradition go to prove that ale
was the principal drink among the country people, and French wines and brandy among the gentry. “Whisky house”
is a term unknown in Gaelic. The public house is called Tigli-leann, that is an alehouse.” (Vol. I., p. 196, note.)

From the time that Sir John Shaw made a compact with the inhabitants to raise money to construct harbours, etc.,
it might be almost said that the people of Greenock lived, moved, and had their being in the consumption of ale and
beer, for with the proceeds they were to build harbours, church, town house, markets, and a public clock. The
people often demurred to the payment of this voluntary cess, and only waited for an excuse to discontinue it, which
the imposition of the Government malt-tax gave them in 1715. Chapman, in his History of Glasgow, says: “The
malt-tax excited the reprobation of every party and person in the kingdom.” From this date the voluntary cess on
ale and beer could not be depended upon, and about twenty-five years later an act of Parliament was got, imposing
for the revenue of the town two-sixths of a Scots penny on every pint of ale or beer brewed and vended in the
locality. This would indicate that the people of Greenock got reconciled to whisky by easy transition, and that this
habit was not due to any influence that the Highlanders would exercise over them. It would seem after this that
wine, spirits, and ale were sold in the same shops under the name of drink. It is said in 1792 that 247 shops were
licensed to sell drink in Greenock; but of this large number there is no evidence of the patronymics of the vendors.
The first Greenock Directory was published in 1817. I have gone carefully over its pages and found the number
selling drink that year under various descriptions to be 156; of these 83 seem to be Lowland names, 45 Highland,
20 doubtful, 7 English, and 1 foreign.

Fourth and lastly, the assertion “that the Highlanders lacked decorum and were strangers to religion” shows gross
ignorance of what that people did and suffered for their principles. The Highlanders of Argyle, who chiefly peopled
the town of Greenock, did more to disseminate the scriptures and church standards in their native language than all
the other counties of Scotland. From 1640 to 1647 they were harassed by King Charles I. and his satellites, and
during that time the Presbytery of Cowal had to take shelter in the Lowlands; the Presbytery of Kintyre was under
the rebels, and none was resident in the Presbytery of Argyle proper and Lorn but such as were sheltered in
garrisons. (New Ecc. Stat.) They had respite from 1648 to 1660 during the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, but from
1661 to 1687 the Presbyterian Synod of Argyle was not tolerated. In the latter year it availed itself of the Act of
Toleration passed in July of that year, by which it was enabled to meet in the church of Kilmichael, Glassary. The
sad words with which the Record begins relate to the state of the country during Episcopacy. They are these:—
“The small remanent of the Presbyterian ministers yet extant after the public troubles and residing within the
bounds of the Synod of Argyle being six, and three known as residing in Glasgow” out of its 46 parishes. During the
greater part of these killing times, the Superior of Greenock was in league with the Jacobites. In 1651 John Shaw
of Greenock fought with King Charles II. at the battle of Worcester, and was knighted for his bravery. He afterwards
obtained the hereditary title of Baronet from King James VII. in 1687. When the Earl of Argyle and his compatriots
made an attempt in 1685 to overthrow the rule of these tyrants they received no sympathy in the Lowlands. Sir
Patrick Hume and Sir John Cochrane sailed from the Kyles of Bute for Greenock, where they had a skirmish with a
band of the Royal Militia, commanded by Houston of that ilk and Thomas Crawfurd of Carsburn, whom they put to
flight, but they could not persuade the inhabitants to give any assistance. Thus the antecedents of the Highlanders
make it appear that their coming afterwards would not be a bane but a blessing to the town of Greenock.

From an accurate account of the inhabitants taken in January, 1792, it appears that there were in the two parishes
of Greenock 3,387 families. Of these were—
Persons. Males. Females. Total
Under 12 years of age 2475 2297 4772
Above 12 years of age 4291 5236 9527
6766 7533 14,299

In this number are not included the people on board coasting vessels, who at a very moderate computation would
make it up to 15,000. The number of heads of families, as was noted in taking the above account, born in Argyle-
shire, was 1433, in the shire of Bute 78, and in the Northern Counties 314, so that there were in the two parishes of
Greenock 1825 heads of families from the Highlands of Scotland. (Sinclair's Stat., Vol. V., pp. 560-572.) In the
above census it will be seen that no account was taken of Dunbartonshire, which lay contiguous to this town, and
was at that period intensely Gaelic. In those early times many of the leading men of Greenock were from that
county, such as— the McAulays, McAuslands, Baines, Buchanans, McNaughts, Colquhouns, McFarlanes, &c.

It would be no stretch of imagination to think that at that era three-fourths of the inhabitants were born Highlanders.
The Rev. Mr. Red, in his Statistics, tells us that the great bulk of the labourers, fishermen, and sailors were from the
Highlands, but he does not condescend to say how many of them were in affluent circumstances. However, we
have indications of that elsewhere. We have seen that the leading industry of Greenock—the herring trade—was
almost in the hands of Highlanders from Bute and elsewhere. We also find that of the eighty-two members who
signed the original Deed of the Greenock Library in 1783 about a third of them from their names appear to be
Highlanders, and when the Highlanders of Greenock resolved to build the Gaelic Chapel, between the years 1782
and 1791, their minutes still testify that many of the leading men of the town were of their number. At this time
Roger Stewart, a native of Arran, was a large shipowner and chief magistrate of Greenock; Walter Ritchie, a native
of Argyleshire, was a man of great natural gifts. In 1808 his firm possessed eleven splendid ships, constituting by
far the finest fleet in Great Britain belonging to one firm. (See “Greenock Telegraph”, 2nd Feb., 1899).

Duncan Campbell of Glendaruel, whose place of business was in Hamilton Street, afterwards bought the estate of
Hafton, and was the first who feued in that district of Cowal. Besides these more than a score of Highlanders of
less note were on the Committee who built the Gaelic Chapel. We also learn that Highlanders were the pioneers of
Greenock publications.
(1) In 1780, William McAlpine, the first Bookseller in Greenock, printed a narrative of the Exploits and Adventures of
J. McAlpine, a native Highlander, in the American war from 1773 to 1779. A copy of this book was sold for £10 at
auction in London twelve years ago, and an earlier book was printed by W. McAlpine at his shop, Cathcart Street,
1778, entitled “Poems full of Gospel Marrow and Sweet Invitations to Heaven's Blessing, composed by W. Tenent,
Wheelwright in Glasgow, and copied by John Finlayson, Schoolmaster at Kilern.”
(2) Six years later Godfrey McCalman (an Argyleshire name), Surgeon in Greenock, published a book, entitled “A
Critical Enquiry into the Motion of the Sun and Stability of the Earth.”
(3) And in 1803, the Rev. Neil Douglas, a native of Glendaruel, issued several publications on Religion and Politics.
Mr. Reid, in his Statistics of 1792, says: “A person may at times walk from one end of the town to the other without
hearing a word of any language but Gaelic.”
It is singular that those who have hitherto undertaken to write the History of the Town of Greenock were of
Argyleshire descent. D. Weir was of the Weirs or McNuirs of Cowal. The Williamsons came from Campbeltown,
Campbell from Knapdale, and your humble servant, who indites these “Annals,” hails from Glendaruel.

IT is uncertain by whom, how, or when, the present arms of Greenock were originated. It appears that the crest and
its surroundings had undergone many changes. Some think that the vessel on the top of the Mid Church steeple,
which the Port-Glasgow people called “the gilded Gabbart,” was the original arms. This latter was placed as a finial
on the top of that church steeple about the year 1790. The oldest form of the three-masted ship is that on the old
town drum in possession of Mr. W. O. Leitch. This ship is surrounded by a circle, under which is a man rolling
casks, and outside of the circle is painted, “The Town of Greenock.” Another crest is on the right side of the Watt
Monument, Greenock Library. The ship there is engraved on a shield surrounded with a wavy scroll on which is
written, “Sigillum Burgi de Greenock;” underneath is also the man, casks, and an officer directing operations. The
present official seal of the town is a round stamp upwards of two inches in diameter, with a flat border engraved
“Sigillum Burgi de Greenock;” underneath the ship is also the man, casks, officer, and ships passing. The crest
used by the Town Clerk is a ship within an oval, with the other ornaments as above; round top of circle is printed,
“Burgh of Greenock.” That used by the Chamberlain is a ship without any surroundings, but having underneath it
the words:—
“May God Speed Greenock.”

This motto was suggested by the late Mr. John Adam about the year 1877. The seal of the Harbour Trust is
different from either, being a floriated shield bearing the device of a cog-wheel. The shield is supported by sea
horses. At the top is the crest of the ship with Neptune's trident and a flag appearing from behind the shield. On the
ribbon beneath is the simple “God Speed” from Mr. Adam's motto, while the words, “Seal of the Trustees of the
Port and Harbours of Greenock,” encircle the whole, with a thistle at bottom.

The motto, “May God Speed Greenock,” is blazoned on the Provost's gold badge of office. In the Marquis of Bute's
book on the Arms of the Royal and Parliamentary Burghs of Scotland (Edin. 1897) he says:— “The arms of
Greenock is not recorded in the Lyon Office.” He then says:— “The Town Clerk is good enough to inform us that
the device on the shield was adopted as the arms of the Burgh, the words 'Sigillum Burgi de Greenock' being of
course omitted, and the motto 'God Speed Greenock' inserted. The device is not really a coat-of-arms. It represents
in the foreground the quay with a man nervously rolling barrels, under the imperious direction of another man
whose social position is judiciously indicated by a tall hat and an umbrella used as a walking-stick. Beyond this are
seen the waves of the sea, with a large three-masted ship in full sail, and further off two smaller ships seen in
perspective, one on each side. The large ship has flying at the stern, not the Union Jack, but the national flag of
Scotland. The signboard character of the device is so terrible that Mr. Lonsdale (the artist) has shrunk from
representing the men on the foreground, while the representation of the two little ships seen in the distance is
heraldically impossible.” Further on he adds:— “It is to be regretted that something was not done originally of a
more heraldic character.”

The oldest crest we read of in Greenock was that of the Royal Fishing Company of 1661. It had a seal or coat-of-
arms bearing a Royal Crown, and under it two herrings in saltire, that is in the form of a Saint Andrew's Cross. This
appears to have been the crest or trade mark of the Royal Fishery Company, which came to an end in fourteen
years, but their crest continued to be known in town till a recent date. The oldest motto in town is that of the
coopers' crest, “May herring swim which trade maintain.” I presume this ought to be the crest and motto of
Greenock, for though it may not perhaps be so dignified as the ship and its surroundings, still it has priority in its
favour, and, besides, the herring trade was the making of the town of Greenock. It would also be more genuine
than even the legendary arms of the city of Glasgow.


One of the Royal privileges granted to a free Burgh of Barony was the liberty of erecting a Cross. The original
intention of the symbol was to inspire men with a sense of morality and piety in their daily avocations of life.
Consequently, in every free Burgh all important transactions were originated and often ended at the Market Cross.
Some may think that the Cross of Greenock was at the centre of Cathcart Square, where an engraved slab shows
a horse-shoe, having 1635 above and 1894 below; but this was not the place nor the date of the old Cross. The
original Cross stood in front of the old prison situated east of Cross-shore Street, below the new Post Office. In
front of the Cross was the date 1669 formed with white pebbles, pointing out the locality as the business centre of
the town, hence the Cross-shore, the market place of modern times. Till lately all goods poinded were taken to that
street and sold publicly. “Before the Reformation, all goods brought into the burgh for sale had to be exposed at the
Market Cross, and nothing in the way of business could be done until the town officials had examined them and
determined the prices at which they were to be sold.” (Scotsman, 3rd July, 1897.) From this it is evident that the old
inhabitants considered that this was the real date and foundation of the Burgh of Greenock, the Superior having
then purchased his share of Easter Greenock, and in the following year (1670) got a Royal charter uniting Easter
and Wester Greenock.

The first principal inn in the town was that house at the east corner of Cross-shore and Shaw Street, built in the
year 1716. At first it was occupied by a John McLaren. There the Council met to transact the affairs of the town.
There they also assembled at their annual meeting before Riding the Fair, when the Town Council and Deacons of
Trades were wont to show their loyalty by drinking the King's health and pitching their empty glasses among the
populace ere they issued forth in a formal procession. This pageant was intended to inspire the town people and
strangers frequenting the Fairs with due respect and submission to the authorities under which they were held. It
was abolished in 1822.


Between Cross-shore Street and the Broad Close, where the Tontine was lately situated, were the Courthouse and
Jail. Weir says:— “An ill-looking thatched house of one storey, and consequently of one apartment, from the front
of which the jougs, for securing prisoners and exposing them to the gaze of the populace, were suspended. The
following sentence will give an idea how criminals were dealt with:—John Smith, a vagrant, being brought before
the Court for stealing candles out of the shop of David Smith, candle-maker, declares and acknowledges his guilt.
The Bailie having considered his case, ordains the said John Smith to be conveyed from the bar of the Court and
put into the jougs, there to stand bareheaded for half-an-hour, with some of the candles hung round his neck, and a
label on his breast with the following words in large letters—' Here I stand for stealing candles.' Afterwards he was
drummed out of town,” In 1802 the town jailer and two officers were dismissed for misconduct, and the meeting
appointed William Pugsley jailer, with the annual salary of £21, and Robert Stewart, George Grant, and Mungo
Telfer, town officers, with an annual salary of £16 each, payable half-yearly at Martinmas and Whitsunday, besides
a suit of clothes and a cocked hat. Such was the formidable force of the town at the beginning of last century.


Till an early part of this century “the tucke of drum” was the normal mode of advertising public meetings. It was also
employed to warn defaulting feuars and taxpayers, and drum out of town incorrigible criminals. The last official
drum of the town, already referred to, was rescued from destruction by Mr. W. O. Leitch, when lately an
accumulation of lumber about the town buildings was disposed of. This relic of the past, now in his possession,
shows that it had seen better days. The barrel is yet whole, and also the suspenders, but the skin ends are tattered
and torn. To endow this instrument with a little brief authority, the coat-of-arms of the town of Greenock is painted
on it, as already described.


(1) The Old West Kirk had a bell, but no steeple. This bell was suspended in a belfry, having a stone apex,
supported on pillars, and open from east to west, and was rung by a rope or chain.
(2) The second bell was erected by Mr. John Spreull about the year 1688, on his property in Crawfurdsdyke. This
bell was regularly rung at nine o'clock in the evening—not, as in old Norman times, to let people know they must
put out their fires, but, as a sunset bell, to “toll the knell of parting day. It had also to be rung on the Sabbath, when
sermons were preached in the West Kirk. After it ceased its functions it is referred to, among other things, in a
doggerel rhyme of the period, thus:
“There is a steeple in our toon The tongue of which is grown dumb; There is a dial on our quay Will tell the oors
when the sun shines hie.”
(3) The third was a bell suspended on triangles, for the benefit of the New Congregation, who for twenty years
(1741-1761) worshipped in a loft in the Royal Closs.
(4) And the fourth was that erected about the year 1754 on the new town stores, over an arch in the centre of the
buildings known as the Bell Entry.


The precursors of the clocks were sun dials, one of which was erected at Crawfurdsdyke harbour, and another
suspended on the corner of the old tavern at the angle of Cross-shore and Shaw Streets built in 1716. The first
public clock in the district was erected by Mr. John Spreull, about the time of the Revolution, on his property above
the harbour of Crawfurdsdyke, on which was a bell and clock, and this erection was known to the people as the
Knock House. Some of the ruins of that building were there till Mr. James McLean bought the property and built on
the spot his timber office. It appears that the Knock or Clock passed at an early date into the keeping of the Heid
Court of Carsburn, as it is often referred to in its Minutes, and an annual cess was levied on the inhabitants to keep
it in order, which ended about the year 1758. The second public clock was situated at the West Breast. When the
erection of the town cellars between the Fish Market and Vennel was sanctioned in 1752, it was arranged to have
an entry to the harbour through the centre of the building, over which was erected a wooden steeple with bell and
clock and a front stone wall facing, from which the place derived its name, Bell Entry. This was the only public clock
in the town of Greenock till the Mid Parish Church was built in 1758-1761. The Bell Entry bell and clock ceased
their functions about the year 1839 but remained in their position for several years afterwards, when it was deemed
prudent to remove them so that their weight might not bring down the decayed wood of the steeple. Then a light
arch was thrown over the entry under the steeple, which remained till the Bell Entry was widened about 20 years
ago. A pretty good likeness of the original erection may be seen in Messrs. McKelvie's views of Greenock, and also
in its altered state, in a photograph in Mr. Mathew Howie's, but neither of these show the ornamental balls on the
stone facing angles of the pediment. One of them may be seen in the yard of Mr. T. Kirkwood, who removed the


In early times the large streams passing on both sides of the town supplied the people for sanitary purposes.
Before the Shaws Water Company drained off the springs, fountains, and running brooks, the West Burn was a
formidable stream. In a report of the Committee of the Presbytery in 1657, it is described as “a greit burnes or
watteris impassible in winter.” The Delling and Strone Burns were also of considerable volume. For domestic
purposes there were a number of sunk wells in various parts of the town which supplied their owners and
neighbours when the people were few, but as the inhabitants increased a larger supply was urgently required. In
the year 1773 a water dam was formed near the head of high Lynedoch Street, at a place called Fairy Bridge, the
sources of which were the Ingleston spring and Everton burn. The authorities of the town procured three or four
thousand yards of wooden pipes from Speymouth, with which they conveyed the water to this dam, and thence
from it down the Whinhill Road, now high Lynedoch Street, to the Dove Cots at the south corner of Well-park,
thence in a diagonal way to a cistern or filter at the north west corner of said park, near the top of “Jacob's Ladder.”
All this undertaking was designed and the pipes laid by the famous engineer James Watt. The contents of the
ground occupied by the cistern were 12 falls. The wall of the cistern was removed in the summer of 1852, when
Wellpark was converted into public pleasure grounds. I have been favoured by Mr. Williamson with the following
description of the contract and instruction to the Council:— “That piece of ground on the top of the brae
immediately adjoining the N.W. corner of the west garden, belonging to the Mansionhouse of Greenock, 72 feet in
length, on the S side, the like number of feet on the N side, and 54 feet on each end amounting to 12 falls.”

The Magistrates and Council were not to erect any cistern on the ground, the upper part of whose roof should not
be higher than the level of the present north walk of the garden or whose front should not be in a line with the upper
Terrace wall. The cistern was to be vaulted and the roof covered with earth to the depth of 18 inches at least, and
Sir John Shaw and his heirs were to be entitled to use the top of the above as part of the garden, &c. The exit of
the water from the cistern was by a small well or cave in the face of the brae west of the filter. Semple, in his
continuation of Crawfurd's History of Renfrewshire, says: “In the year 1775 this water was brought into the town in
leaden pipes to 13 public wells built of good cut stone with one cock in each.”

The supply of water to Fairy Bridge dam began to be uncertain, and in the year 1814 the Magistrates feued from
Sir Michael Shaw Stewart about 300 falls of ground on the land of Nether Murdieston which was erected a
reservoir whose waters issuing by the “Blin' Cuddy” were conveyed to said public wells and continued to supply the
whole town till after the Shaws Water Works were introduced into the town on 16th April, 1827.

As the supply of water could only be got from the public wells after 1814 a number of the owners of private houses
in the west end of the town applied to the authorities for permission to take water from them, into their houses
which request was granted on condition that the parties in each case would pay for the privilege sums not to
exceed four to six pounds yearly. This privilege continued till after the transfer under the terms of the 1866 Act of
Parliament applied for by the Police Board concurrently with another Act to make the Gryfe works. The pipe-holders
were the most strenuous opponents to both Bills, because by the transfer Act their privilege was taken away.

As already stated the Shaws water was introduced into Greenock in the year 1827, but as it was not compulsory to
take a supply of it there was little advantage taken of the boon for some years. The first revenue derived from
houses, shops, and shipping, in the year ending 1st October, 1830, amounted only to £188 6s 9d. The Water Trust
did not take actual possession of the Shaws Water Works till 12th April, 1867, when the purchase price, £170,000
with interest, was paid to the shareholders.


On the east corner of this field is the well which supplied the Mansionhouse with water, from which the park took its
name; over this well is an elegant erection. On the north side of the turret is engraved 1629, on the east side the
initials of John Shaw and Helen Houston, his wife; and on the west side, the three covered cups. On the south side
the weather has obliterated the engraving. About 12 feet south of the erection is the stone cistern from which a
leaden pipe conveyed the water to the pump. The cistern is sound and well built of hewn freestone 4 feet diameter
and 14 feet deep and covered over with flags.


The increasing population of Greenock in 1741 rendered it necessary to have more church accommodation than
the West Kirk could afford, but before this could be accomplished summons was necessary to be raised before the
Court of Tiends by the feuars against Sir John Shaw and the other heritors. After much hesitation these heritors
entered appearance and consented to a disjunction on condition of non-liability for stipends, &c. A new Parish
Church was then sanctioned, and a minister ordained, but then there was no regular place of worship except a
large loft in the Royal Closs, originally built for a herring store, where the congregation formed continued to worship
for the next twenty-one years, until the Mid Parish Church was built.


In the year 1686 the “George” of Glasgow sailed from Greenock with a cargo and 22 non-conforming prisoners
sentenced to the Carolinas for disaffection to the Government. This could not have been an ordinary merchant
ship, but one chartered by the Government of King James VII. for transportation. The Continent of North America
and the West India Islands were then English Colonies who would not tolerate the Scotch to trade there till after the
Union in 1707.


Till 1763 Greenock possessed no post office of its own. This year, through the influence of Lord Cathcart, a
separate Bag was established here. A little shed originally built for the water engine on the east side of New Street
(afterwards called William Street) was improvised for the occasion, in which the Bailies and Council also met to
transact business. In 1829 the office was removed to Watt Place at the head of Cross Shore Street, in 1834 to No.
1 Church Place, in 1862 to William Street to the place now occupied by the Provident Bank, in 1876 to the west
side of the Custom House Buildings, in 1882 to the Town Building, Wallace Square, and it remained there till finally
removed to the spacious Government buildings erected on the site of the old Tontine. Till the year 1840 the letter
postage was excessively high. For a letter coming the distance of 20 miles the charge was 5d, for 120 miles 9d,
and a London letter cost 2s 2d. There was much smuggling of letters, resorted to in many ways. At last a bill was
brought before Parliament by the famous Rowland Hill, who was ably supported by his doughty henchman, Mr.
Robert Wallace of Kelly. Mr. Wallace was the first M.P. for Greenock. He sat from 1832 to 1845, being returned
four times in succession. In a letter he sent to Provost Fairrie of Greenock, 13th July, 1839, he says:— “We have
carried penny postage by 213 to 113 to bring in a Bill.” The matter was then referred to a Committee of the House
of Commons, and Mr. Wallace, who acted as chairman, gave the casting vote which secured to the nation the
benefit of the penny postage. The Act came into force early in January, 1840.


By the Act of 1670, the Baron and his Bailie were empowered to hold two yearly “ Frie Ffairs,” which could extend
over eight days. The Act of 1696 by King William, with the consent and advice of the Estates of Parliament, “grants
to Sir John Shaw, his airs and successors for ever, the right and privilege of three cattle fairs yearly, to be held in
the town of Greenock.” After specifying the days on which these fairs should be held, the Act concludes with the
following clause:— “With the haill privilideges, profits, tolls, customs, and casualties of the said fairs and mercats,
with power to the said Sir John Shaw and his foresaids, by themselves and others in their names, to cause,
proclaim, and ryde the said fairs, and to make such orders and directions for the right government thereof as they
see fit, and to take, uplift, and dispose of the said profits, tolls, customs and casualties of the same, with all
confiscations and amercements arising by any thefts, ryots, bloods, and batteries that may happen to fall out
thereat, and to do all other things competent in the like case be so done by any having the right and privilidge of
keeping free fairs and mercats within the Kingdom.”

The fairs of 1670 were held in common both in Easter and Wester Greenock. Saint Helen's Fair was held in July,
and Saint Laurence's in November. The three fairs granted in 1696 were cattle markets, and were discontinued
long ago. The only ancient fair in Greenock is that of Saint Helen's, which is still held on the first Thursday of July.


The first vessel built on the Clyde which crossed the Atlantic was constructed at Crawfurdsdyke in the year 1719.
She was a schooner of 60 tons burthen, commanded by James Crawfurd of this town. Afterwards this class of
vessel increased rapidly, but square-rigged vessels were not built here till nearly half a century later. In 1764 Peter
Love was the first who built a square-rigged ship in Greenock, on the shore at the foot of Virginia Street. Walter
McKirdy built another that same year on the shore at the foot of Charles Street. There were several early
shipbuilders who carried on an intermittent trade, but Messrs. William and John Scott were the first shipbuilders
who gave stability to the trade. I may add that a few years ago I was favoured by Mr. Scott with the following
interesting letter written on board the yacht “Greta”:—
Yacht “Greta.”
The first of the Scott family connected with shipbuilding in Greenock was John Scott, who
had an establishment at the mouth of the West Burn as early as 1710, on land leased
from the Shaw family, being part of the land afterwards feued from Lord Cathcart in 1767
by his son William Scott. The nature of the trade done there in the earlier period was the
building of the herring busses and small craft employed in that trade. In 1765 William
Scott built a large square-rigged ship for some merchants of the town of Hull, the timber
for which came from the ducal woods at Hamilton. (See Weir's History, p. 89, where he is
called in error John Scott.) This ship is remarkable as being probably the first ship built on
the Clyde for owners out of Scotland.

William Scott died in 1710 and was buried at the west end of the old West Kirk, where a
restored stone still marks the date. The oldest son of John Scott carried on the business
with great energy, having as his partner his brother William Scott, on the extended
ground between the West Quay and the West Burn, where in 1800 he built the dry dock
and basin which still exists in the possession of Messrs. Caird & Co.

When the sons of John Scott (my grandfather) came to manhood, William Scott (II.)
migrated to Bristol, where he carried on a very extensive trade as a shipbuilder. He was
the father of James M. Scott, who is still remembered by some old inhabitants as the
founder of Penny Banks in Greenock and the Artizans' Club about 1845. John Scott, after
his brother's departure, carried on the business under the firm of John Scott & Sons till
his death in 1837, and was then succeeded by his sons John Scott and Charles
Cunninghame Scott, the latter being my father.

In 1767 they feued ground on the shore east of the West Burn for a building yard. In 1787. 1788, and 1789, they
added to their three large plots, which nearly extended from the West Quay to the West Burn. Weir, in his History,
says: “The building yard of Messrs. Scott & Sons is allowed to be the most complete in Great Britain excepting
those which belong to the Crown.”

They were followed in 1796 by Steele & Carswell at the Bay of Quick; in 1816 by Robert Steele & Co. at their late
yard; and in the same year by E. & A. Carswell at the Bay of Quick; in 1817 by William Simons & Co., and
afterwards by McMillan & Hunter. For the next quarter of a century wooden shipbuilding was the staple trade of the
town. In the year 1841 it came to a climax, and in that year there were several thousand carpenters employed in
nine building yards. Furthest west at the Bay of Quick were Thomson & Speirs, next Johnston, then Mories & Clark,
and then John Scott & Sons. Beyond the East India Harbour were, first, James Duncan, then James McMillan, then
W. Simons & Co., then Robert Steele & Co., and furthest east was Robert Duncan. This flourishing trade
completely collapsed in 1842. The journeymen carpenters, who earned 21s per week in the previous year, were
now employed breaking stones for the roads at Is per day, and to keep their families as well as other inhabitants
alive, there were seven soup kitchens opened in various parts of the town. Only three of these enterprising
shipbuilders withstood this severe shock—namely, Messrs. Scott, Steele, and Simons. Till near the end of that
decade shipbuilding and shipping were in a languishing condition, and, to crown the misery of the people the
potatoes failed in 1845.

According to Lloyd's Register, there were only about 30 foreign-going vessels built in Greenock by Greenock
shipbuilders for Greenock shipowners between the years 1842 and 1850. There were a few sailing ships built here
as well as two or three of the Cunard steamers, during that decade. Some Greenock owners got ships built in other
places, and a good many North American vessels, which had been lying in the harbour for years covered with
green slime, were repaired and sent to sea. The first stimulus that shipping got was the discovery of guano at
Ichaboc and other places about 1848, when many cargoes of that valuable manure were landed here. Between
1850 and 1860 many vessels were built in Greenock. The last complete wooden ship known to have been built in
Greenock was the “Canadian,” by Messrs. Scott & Sons, about the year 1859, for Mr. William Orr, for the Montreal
trade; and the last wooden steamer was the “Lion,” built in 1866 by R. Steele & Company for the seal fishing.


In 1772 the Magistrates feued from Sir John Shaw Stewart, by his father as Commissioner, the ground of the
harbour which they had hitherto held on lease, on payment of a yearly rent, which was then renounced on
obtaining the feu right. The annual feu, payable at four times in the year, is twelve hundred merks, or £66 13s 4d.
The ground conveyed by the feu contract is described as the Harbour of Greenock, and piers and quay, which,
have been built and gained off the sea since the year 1700, comprehending 8 acres 3 roods and 10 falls, with the
anchorage, shore, bay, and ring dues, payable by ships coming into the harbour. Owen's plan of the West Harbour,
shown as an irregular oval, was drawn this year (1772) and may have been prepared by the Superior for the feuing
of the harbour.


In 1782 a correspondence commenced between some of the merchants and the Town Council with the view of the
latter constructing a Dry Dock, but the Council had neither money nor power to borrow for that purpose. They,
however, agreed to give ground in the West Harbour for a dock at a nominal rate, providing a company could be
formed who would undertake such a work. After a considerable effort a company was formed and upwards of
£3,500 was subscribed. Mr. Anderson, the preses, informed the Town Council that they were still short of money to
finish the contract. The latter ventured to advance £580. The dock was finished in 1786 and cost altogether about
£4,000. The Town Council agreed to take over the dock at cost price from the shareholders should they
subsequently receive power to do so from Parliament. Having acquired the necessary powers the Harbour
Trustees took it over in 1834. Apparently this was the first Joint Stock Company on a large scale formed in


Before the era of Dry Docks, the Tar Pots were useful things in their day for graving the shipping, particularly the
gabarts that traded between this and Glasgow. The Tar Pots gave their name to two local places. That better
known was at the squint corner of the West Harbour at the foot of Cross-Shore Street, at which a dead wall was
erected. Against it sometimes a row of pots might have been seen boiling tar. A more complete erection, though
not so well known, was situated at the foot of the West Quay, where a boiler with furnace was built in and arched
over with stone, with an aperture on top to allow the smoke to escape. In later days the painters of the town used
this place for boiling their raw linseed oil.


In early days a series of beacon lights were ranged around the bay to guide vessels arriving in the offing at night.
One of these was situated at the foot of the west corner of the Herring and Dalrymple Streets; one at Broomhill
west of the Vennel; another in one of the five gabled houses at the foot of Taylor's Close; and another may still be
seen in the gable of one of the oldest houses in Crawfurdsdyke at the foot of the Knowe, 34 Main Street. To
distinguish the lights of this one from others, it had two lights, one in the first and another in the second flat. Each
has a pane of glass, 9x6 inches, built in the wall at the back of the fire-place, evidently with the intention that the
glowing peat-fires in the winter evenings would shed their light to guide the shipping. Doubtless when the
lighthouse keepers retired to rest they would suspend the oil cruisie in the ingle, so that its flickering light would
continue to serve the same end till the dawn of day. In after years houses were built between these lights and the
water, thus obstructing their use. Some houses, too, with dark kitchens had these lights behind the fireplace merely
to show how the pot boiled. But at first the south side of Dalrymple Street and Shaw Street faced the water, so also
did the Main or High Street in Crawfurdsdyke, when the ingle lights were used as beacons. A few years ago, when
Main Street was opened up for laying the pipes to the new Gasworks at Inchgreen, the large stones of the old
breast-work protecting the road from the sea were found to run through the centre of Main Street, thus showing that
there were no houses between the road and the sea when the breast-work was formed.


The submarine island which is formed in the Clyde N.E. of the town of Greenock is called the Greenock Bank to
distinguish it from the high part of the bank opposite Port-Glasgow. In the thirteenth year of the reign of King
George III. the Magistrates of Greenock presented a petition for possession of said bank, describing it as beginning
at a point called the Tail of the Bank on the N.W. of Greenock Harbour, to a point situated to the east of Garvel
Point called the Throughlet. On the 5th July, 1816, during the Magistracy of Mr. Quintin Leitch, the Barons of
Exchequer granted the prayer of the petition, on condition, among other things, that the Town Council and their
successors in office would pay to “us or our Royal successors the sum of one penny Scots money in the Town Hall
of Greenock if asked only.”

On the 3rd April, 1817 an instrument of Sasine was granted and possession taken in a formal manner, conveying
the bank to the Town of Greenock for ever. I am indebted to Mr. W. O. Leitch for the following supplementary note
regarding the taking possession of the Sand Bank. He says:—The Charter by the Barons of Exchequer is dated
30th September, 1816, and contains the following words expressive of the object which the Corporation had in view
in applying for the grant:— Pro proposito asdificandi murum, vel acquirendi ad ripam antedictam ex-Australi latere
ejusdem quantim ad Septentrionem eadem possit acquiri.

“The Magistrates and Town Council were infeft in the Bank on the 3rd April, 1817. Mr. John Scott (grandfather of
the late Colonel John Scott, in the 64th year of his age, “as Bailie in that part,” delivered the symbols of earth and
stone to the Procurator who appeared on the ground to receive them on behalf of the Municipal Body, and, when
he had done so, proposed ‘success to Saint Quintin's Isle' in compliment to the Chief Magistrate by whose
exertions mainly the valuable acquisition had been made. Messrs. Quintin Leitch and Robert Ewing were the
Magistrates, Mr. Archibald Watson, Depute Town Treasurer, was the Procurator.”


A whale fishing company was formed in Greenock in 1752, but did not succeed. In 1786 the company was revived,
and five large vessels sailed for Greenland from Greenock and Port-Glasgow, well equipped, and commanded by
men of experience in the trade. Unsuccessful fishing and the low price of oil again brought the company to a
standstill. In 1811 the trade was resumed, and two ships were fitted out at Greenock, but this expedition also came
to grief. While this business was being prosecuted, a large blubber yard was feued on the Port-Glasgow road, near
the Pottery, and, to prevent a nuisance in town, the blubber brought home was carted there in barrels and boiled.
The last relics of this industry were the large jaw-bones of the whales which were used as ornaments at the
entrance of gentlemen's houses in several parts of the town, and that till a recent date, perhaps the last being at
the entrance to the garden of the house lived in by Mr. Daniel Gaff for many years in Wellington Street, between
Ann Street and Trafalgar Street. Three or four of these whale jaws are still in existence at Halkshill.


Before the Union of Scotland and England, the system of recruiting the strength of the army was a levy by ballot,
which comprehended the whole fencible men of a district. But in 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 fisheries, 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. “A beating
up order” was used by the Government in 1790—thus, “George R. These are to authorise you by beat of drum or
otherwise to raise so many men in any county or part of our kingdom of Great Britain as required, &c.”

These edicts in the hands of unscrupulous men led to painful scenes. In the town of Greenock such were of
alarming frequency. The two most notorious leaders of the Press Gang here were George Gentill and Lieutenant
Benny. They had a rendezvous at the foot of Cross-shore Street and another at the West Quay Head. Besides
these, Benny kept a low public-house in the Vennel, and was surrounded by spies of his own stamp to entrap
seafaring men, whom they put on board war vessels stationed at the Tail of the Bank.

Weir says: “Some have attempted to question the loyalty of the town from the resistance made to the Impress
Service, and it is well known that various mobs had arisen against those employed in this unpleasant duty. The
earliest on record is known by the name of the Gentill mob, when Lieutenant Gentill was attacked and took refuge
in the guard-house at the foot of Cowgate, and the boat in which he came ashore was dragged up to the same
place and broken to pieces. Other serious riots took place but no lives were lost. To call in question the feelings of
the community on this score amounted to nonsense. The Impress Service is one of cruelty and cannot fail to excite
the feelings in an extraordinary degree. Are men to be dragged away from the bosom of their families and from
their homes without exacting the sympathy of those around them? Is a system of kidnapping, which we have
condemned and abolished on the shores of Africa, to be practised in Britain, the land of boasted liberty.” (P. 53).

As an example of its cruelty, may be instanced the case of the grandfather of the writer, Duncan Livingstone, who
followed the herring fishing, and who on coming into Greenock at the end of a fishing season, was forcibly seized
by the Gang and put on board a war vessel, which sailed to the west of Ireland. He was kept there for several
months, till a Highland officer on board interceded for him, when he was allowed to return to Glendaruel to his
sorrowing family. It would take volumes to detail the wrongs inflicted by a callous Government and its myrmidons
upon innocent people, and we ought to be thankful that our lot has fallen upon better times.


The year after Greenock was called a Barony (1636) the first feu granted was at the foot of Broomy Brae, at what
was lately called the “Tan Work Lane or Close.” This would appear to have been given to one of Mr. Shaw's
officials, and we do not learn of another feu being granted for the next thirty years.


“It shall not be leisum (lawful) to erect on said piece of ground a tan work, soap or candle work, Kirk of Belief, or
Sunday meeting house, playhouse, or house for a concert of music or interlude, or any kind of nuisance whatever,
without the consent of the Superior or his foresaids under pain of forfeiture.”


Among the obligations of the vassals or feuars were: “To answer, compeer, and give suit and presence yeirlie at
their heid courts to be keeped and holden be the said Sir John and his bailies at the Mansione Hous of Grinok, or
at any other place within the burgh or barroney of Grinok, against blood, blood-wytes, batteries, evill
neighbourhood, debts, feu duties and the like and for defending and maintaining the liberties and priviledges of the


One of the feudal imposts was “the payment of a peck of multure malt for each boll that should happen to be made,
brewed, or retailed into drink within the baroney, with the knaveship or perquisite to the miller's servant.”


The Shaw family were particular in commemorating events in the town by engraving dates on public buildings, such
as the Mansionhouse, the Manse, Wellpark, and the Royal Closs. The signs at the pediments of the Anchor Inn,
the Bell Entry, the Glen House, and other old buildings, and also the pillars at the Mansionhouse and at the
gateway to Wellpark are topped with imitations of “The Covered Cup” as delineated on the Shaw's coat of arms.


The first case in which we meet with a slated house (the Mansionhouse excepted) is that of Robert Paterson,
Butcher, who feued and built a house in the year 1710 at the foot of the Highland Close. In 1720 there were only
four slated houses in the town.


At the beginning of last century the town of Greenock consisted of a row of thatched houses which commenced
about Brymner Street and terminated at Rue-end, the latter term being generally understood to mean the end of
that row of houses, but Mr. Williamson contends that the place derived its name from the Gaelic term Rudha, for
the promontory, which jutted out into the bay at this point. A wide space intervened, and another row of these
houses commenced on the south side of Dalrymple Street, opposite the Bell Entry, and ended near the west burn.
Of course there were no streets then, these rows of houses ran along the beach, and the passage or road in front
of them was called the High Street. Several others of this class of houses were scattered over the burgh,
particularly about the Vennel. The hens seem to have been in the habit of committing depredations by scratching
the thatch roofs, for several edicts were issued against them from the Baron Bailie Court of Crawfurdsdyke. One of
these is dated 21st November, 1698: “It is stated and ordained that heirafter if there be any hens upon the thatch
houses or yeards (gardens) that the owner of the house or yeard can justte shoot the same attour of former fynes
of fourtie shillings scots toties quoties.”


Almost all the old feu rights and deeds of conveyance make reference to the Beer house as one of the common
office houses. The beer house is met with everywhere, not excepting the Mansionhouse, and the church manse
also had its brewing house.


The ale house and smithy in olden times apparently were conjoined. The first public-house known in Greenock was
beside the smithy at number 60 Vennel. It had the effigy of Vulcan above the door, which the natives called “The
Sign of the Naked Man.” The next is said to have been at the foot of the Herring Street beside another smithy. In
those palmy days neither John Dunlop or Forbes McKenzie disturbed the equanimity of the lieges, all vied with
each other how much beer they could swill for the common good.


An object of importance in the days of yore was a rock called the Meikle Stone situated in the bay east of the
present Mid Quay. It had rings inserted into it for mooring vessels frequenting the bay, and parties having
tenements in the vicinity were required “always to keep the Meikle Stone free that the ships ordinarily were to make
fast to, sua as the said ships may make use of the same for that effect.”


At one time chemists called everything sugar which had a sweet taste, but the term in its scientific sense came to
be restricted to the sweetening principle found in the natural products. It is common to a degree in trees and
esculent plants. It is found in milk and honey, and recently in a powerful form, in the essence of coal tar. The chief
staples from which sugar is extracted are the sugar cane and the beetroot plant. The sweet cane was known to the
sacred writers of old. The prophet Isaiah upbraided the Jews, saying “Thou hast, bought me no sweet cane with
money;” and Jeremiah says, “To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba and the sweet cane from a
far country?” Before and after the Christian era ethnic writers often referred to the sweet cane. But it was so late as
the 15th century that Continental chemists turned their attention to this juice as an article of commerce, and, after
many experiments, endeavoured by boiling and draining to separate the solid sugar from the syrup. It also required
to be purified in order to remove colour, dirt, and living organisms. In Greenock this was done chiefly till about sixty
years ago, with the aid of blood, which process was continued in London twenty-live years later. Bone charcoal
was afterwards adopted, which is still the best substitute discovered.

In 1747 a German discovered the existence of commercial sugar in beetroot and a successor established a factory
in 1801 for the separation of the sugar and molasses. In its early days the sugar refining in Greenock was in the
hands of Germans. Prior to the adoption of centrifugal machinery the separation of the sugar and syrup was a slow
process, taking about a fortnight to drain in iron and clay pans. Before that time the grocers of the town sold chiefly
raw sugar as imported. A leading grocer in Hamilton Street was in the habit of taking into his shop a couple of
casks of West India sugar and same quantity of Mauritius sugar. He would clear the shop floor at night, spread the
sugar lair about, water it with a watering can in order to assimilate its appearance, turn it over, and put it back into
the casks again ready for sale next day. Times are changed. The centrifugal system was adopted here about forty
years ago, and the process of refining can now be done in a day's time.

Raw sugar is now very seldom seen in a retailer's shop, and apparently there is no great secret about the refined
sugar, for the chemist knows perfectly well what are its purity, colour, strength, and flavour; all that the consumers
require to know is whether it is pure cane or beetroot sugar they get.