Greenock facts for kids
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View northwest over Greenock and the River Clyde, with the Caribbean Princess at Greenock Ocean Terminal
|Greenock shown within Inverclyde|
|Population||44,248 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||PA14, PA15, PA16, PA19|
Greenock (i//; Scottish Gaelic: Grianaig, pronounced [kɾʲiənɛkʲ]) is a town and administrative centre in the Inverclyde council area in Scotland and a former burgh within the historic county of Renfrewshire, located in the west central Lowlands of Scotland. It forms part of a contiguous urban area with Gourock to the west and Port Glasgow to the east.
The 2011 census showed that Greenock had a population of 44,248, a decrease from the 46,861 recorded in the 2001 Census. It lies on the south bank of the Clyde at the "Tail of the Bank" where the River Clyde expands into the Firth of Clyde.
The name of the town has had various spellings over time. It was printed in early Acts of Parliament as Grinok, Greenhok, Grinock, Greenhoke, Greinnock, and later as Greinok. Old Presbyterial records used Grenok, a common spelling until it was changed to Greenock around 1700. The origin of the name is unknown, suggested sources have included the Common Brittonic "Graenag", a gravelly or sandy place which accurately describes the foreshore before the docks and piers were constructed, or Gaelic meaning a sunny place, which Grenockians have thought an improbable description. It has also been suggested that "Grian cnoc" or sunny hill could refer to the hill on which the castle and mansion house stood, but this has not found much support.
The spelling "Greenoak" was found in two factory accounts dating back to 1717, and a legend developed of a green oak tree at the edge of the Clyde at William Street being used by fishermen to tie up their boats. This has been generally dismissed as imaginative folk etymology, but the image has frequently been used as an emblem or logo, carved on public buildings, used on banners and badges, and was once emblazoned on the local Co-operative Society emblem. The town's modern indoor shopping centre is called The Oak Mall and uses a green tree as its logo. The name is also recalled in a local song (The Green Oak Tree). Significantly, no green oak appears on the town's coat of arms which features the three chalices of the Shaw Stewarts, a sailing ship in full sail and two herring above the motto God Speed Greenock. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there was a 'Green Oak Tree', situated in Cathcart Square, at the top end of William Street, close to the Oak Mall – indeed, a horseshoe set into the cobblestones, between the 'Mid-Kirk' church and the central feature of the square, was where it once, supposedly, grew.
Early history: baronies and kirks
Hugh de Grenock was created a Scottish Baron in 1296, and the seat of the feudal barony of Greenock was apparently what became Easter Greenock Castle. Around 1400 his successor Malcolm Galbraith died with no sons, and his estate was divided between his two daughters to become two baronies: the eldest inherited Easter Greenock and married a Crawfurd, while Wester Greenock went to the younger daughter who married Schaw of Sauchie. Around 1540 the adjoining barony of Finnart was passed to the Schaw family, extending their holdings westward to the boundary of Gourock, and in 1542 Sir John Schaw founded Wester Greenock castle.
The Scottish Reformation of 1560 closed the chapels in the parish, and as the parish church was some 6 miles (9.7 km) distant at Inverkip over a difficult route which was impassable in winter, in 1589 John Schaw obtained a charter from King James VI to build a kirk for the "poor people upon his lands who were all fishers and of a reasonable number". Later known as the Old Kirk or the Old West Kirk, it was constructed on the west bank of the West Burn estuary and is reputed to have been the first Protestant church built in Scotland after the Reformation.
Fishing villages and harbours
The coast of Greenock formed a broad bay with three smaller indentations: the Bay of Quick was known as a safe anchorage as far back as 1164. To its east, a sandy bay ran eastwards from the Old Kirk and the West Burn as far as Wester Greenock castle. The fishing village of Greenock developed along this bay, and around 1635 Sir John Schaw had a jetty built into the bay which became known as Sir John's Bay. In that year he obtained a Charter raising Greenock to a Burgh of Barony with rights to a weekly market. Further east, Saint Laurence Bay curved round past the Crawfurd Barony of Easter Greenock to Garvel (or Gravel) Point. When a pier (or dyke) was built making the bay an important harbour, the fishing village of Cartsburn gained the alternative name of Crawfurdsdyke. In 1642 it was made into the Burgh of Barony of Crawfurdsdyke, and part of the ill-fated Darien Scheme set out from this pier in 1697. This town was later renamed Cartsdyke.
The fishing trade grew prosperous, with barrels of salted herring exported widely, and shipping trade developed. As seagoing ships could not go further up the River Clyde, the Glasgow merchants including the Tobacco Lords wanted harbour access but were in disputes with Greenock over harbour dues and warehouses. They tried to buy the Garvel estate for a harbour when Easter Greenock lands were put up for sale to meet debts, but were outbid by Sir John Schaw who then got a Crown Charter of 1670 uniting Easter and Wester Greenock into the Burgh Barony of Greenock. A separate Barony of Cartsburn was created, the first baron being Thomas Craufurd. In 1668 the City of Glasgow got the lease of 13 acres (5.3 ha) of land upriver close to Newark Castle, and construction promptly started on Newport Glasgow harbour which by 1710 had the principal Clyde custom house.
In 1696 and 1700 Schaw and residents of the town made unsuccessful bids to the Scottish Parliament for grants for a Greenock harbour, then when the Act of Union 1707 opened up trade to the Americas, they raised their own funds. The work was completed in 1710, with quays extended out into Sir John's Bay to enclose the harbour. In 1711 the shipbuilding industry was founded when Scotts leased ground between the harbour and the West Burn to build fishing boats. Greenock rapidly became a major port and shipbuilding centre, and though from 1774 deepening of the River Clyde increasingly allowed ships to take merchandise directly to Glasgow, merchants continued to use Greenock harbour. The American Revolutionary War temporarily interrupted trade, and the gun battery of Fort Beauclerc near the West Burn was extended to guard against the threat of privateers, but the emphasis shifted to wider markets including imports of rum and sugar from the Caribbean, wines from Spain, and fish from North America. A whaling business operated for about 40 years.
Custom house and steamboats
In 1714 Greenock became a custom house port as a branch of Port Glasgow, and for a period this operated from rooms leased in Greenock. Receipts rose rapidly from the 1770s, and in 1778 the custom house moved to new built premises at the West Quay of the harbour.
By 1791 a new pier was constructed at the East Quay. In 1812 Europe's first steamboat service was introduced by PS Comet with frequent sailings between Glasgow, Greenock and Helensburgh, and as trade built up the pier became known as Steamboat Quay. The custom house needed larger premises, and in May 1817 the foundation stone was laid at the quay for a Custom House building designed by William Burn, which was completed in 1818. Its gracious neoclassical architecture features a Grecian Doric portico looking out over the quayside, which was given the name Customhouse Quay. In 1828 the Custom House was praised as "a grand National Structure" in "the highest style of elegance". By then there were scheduled steamboat sailings to Belfast, Londonderry, Liverpool, Inverness, Campbeltown, the Hebrides and "all the principal places in the Highlands".
The Custom House underwent extensive refurbishment which was completed in 1989 and, until closure of the building in 2010, housed a customs and excise museum which was open to the public. In June 2008 HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) announced that the building would close in 2011 as part of a rationalisation project with any jobs being transferred to offices in Glasgow, and despite a campaign to oppose these plans, the building closed in August 2010.
Riverside Inverclyde arranged further refurbishment works, and in 2013 announced that space had already been let to companies including PG Paper Company Ltd and Toshiba which had planning permission to form meeting rooms and an executive office in the building. Greenock Telegraph estimated that £4.1 milion has been spent over 5 year period for the renovation works.
Areas and suburbs
Arran View, Bogston, Bow Farm, Braeside, Branchton, Bridgend, Broomhill, Cartsburn, Cornhaddock, Fancy Farm, Fort Matilda, Gibshill, Greenock West, Grieve Hill, Hole Farm, Larkfield, Lyle Hill, Lynedoch, Overton, Pennyfern, Strone, Strone Farm and Whinhill. Spango Valley is located to the west of the town.
Greenock's most significant transportation connection is the Container Terminal (see above).
Greenock is Scotland's best served town in terms of railway stations. It boasts nine: Bogston, Cartsdyke, Greenock Central, Greenock West, Fort Matilda, Whinhill, Drumfrochar, Branchton and IBM Halt. Only Glasgow has a much greater number of stations and Edinburgh possesses only one more. Greenock has the longest bored railway tunnel in Scotland in length. Located directly under Newton Street in the town, the tunnel allowed for the extension of the railway to Gourock.
Greenock is served by a number of local bus routes covering the majority of Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow. Long distance services travel regularly to Glasgow, Largs and Dunoon. The majority of routes are run by McGill's Bus Services. The Largs to Glasgow corridor is served by three services, the 901, 906, which provide a bus along this route every 15 minutes for most of the day. Route 907 offers a service from Glasgow's Buchanan bus station to Dunoon via Renfrew road paisley, Port Glasgow and Greenock every 2 hours. The X7 service also offers travel from Greenock to Glasgow, serving the Slaemuir area of Port Glasgow before travelling through Kilmacolm, Bridge of Weir, Houston and Linwood, then joining the motorway to Braehead before heading into Glasgow City Centre.
Greenock is located at the end of the A8 road/M8 motorway which begins in Edinburgh. It is also the northern terminus of Euroroute E05 which heads south through England, France and Spain, ending at the Spanish port and container terminal of Algeciras.
Greenock is one of the settings for Alan Sharp's 1965 novel A Green Tree in Gedde. It is fictionalised as 'Gantock' by Robin Jenkins in his 1979 novel Fergus Lamont (The Gantocks are a rocky shoal in the Firth of Clyde nearby, just off Dunoon). Alasdair Gray's 1984 novel 1982, Janine is set in a Greenock hotel room. Matthew Fitt's cyberpunk novel But'n'Ben A-Go-Go features a submerged Greenock after the effects of global warming. Greenock has featured in the poetry of W.S. Graham (evoking his childhood) and Douglas Dunn.
Greenock is home to the world's first Burns Club, The Mother Club, which was founded in 1801 by merchants born in Ayrshire, some of whom had known Robert Burns. They held the first Burns Supper on what they thought was his birthday on 29 January 1802, but in 1803 discovered from the Ayr parish records that the correct date was 25 January 1759.
The Victorian landscape artist John Atkinson Grimshaw depicted a somewhat idealised Greenock in several of his paintings.
The Mclean Museum is the largest museum in the Inverclyde area, featuring exhibitions on James Watt and a collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts. The Arts Guild Theatre (Greenock) is a local venue that hosts many comedians, musicians and plays every year. It will be replaced in 2013 by the Beacon Arts Centre.
Greenock hosted the National Mòd in 1904 and 1925.
In 2012, Greenock became the setting for the BBC television drama Waterloo Road, after the series was relocated from Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The series was shot at Greenock Academy, a former secondary school in the west of the town.
Greenock has featured as the backdrop to several films: the television films Just a Boys' Game (1979), Down Where The Buffalo Go (1988) and Down Among the Big Boys (1993) and the cinema films Sweet Sixteen (2002) and Dear Frankie (2004). "Leaving" 1988 by Danny Boyle. In "Rob Roy", which is set in the mid-eighteenth century, Greenock is referred to as "the new world".
Engineer James Watt was remembered in the name of the local college, however this was renamed in 2014 to West College Scotland. However, his name is still used at the library instituted in his memory, by the original James Watt Memorial College building on the site of his birthplace in William Street which incorporates a commemorative statue and a pub.
Other Greenockians include the composers Hamish MacCunn and William Wallace, musicians John McGeoch and Thomas Leer, mathematician William Spence, poets Denis Devlin, W. S. Graham and Jean Adam, merchant Matthew Algie, actors Richard Wilson, Martin Compston and Stella Gonet, artists William Scott and Frederick Donald Blake, playwrights Bill Bryden, Neil Paterson and Peter McDougall, comedian Charles 'Chic' Murray, opera singer Hugh Enes Blackmore, broadcaster Jimmy Mack, American football player Lawrence Tynes, Antarctic explorer Henry Robertson 'Birdie' Bowers and portrait painter Leonard Boden.
Two Greenockians, Alexander Bruce and Theophilus S. Marshall, were involved in the drafting of the laws for Australian Rules Football.
People associated with Greenock
Robert Burns' love Mary Campbell (Highland Mary) and her father sailed from Campbeltown to visit her brother in Greenock early in October 1786. Her brother fell ill with typhus, which she caught while nursing him. She died of typhus on 20 or 21 October 1786, and was buried in the Old West Kirk graveyard. In 1842 increasing interest in their romance led to a monument being erected by public subscription to mark the grave. In 1920 when the church site was needed to expand Harland and Wolff's shipyard, the monument was moved to its present site in Greenock Cemetery, with her remains being transferred to a casket and re-interred with due ceremony. The church itself was moved and rebuilt in its current location at the west end of the Esplanade in 1926.
The novelist John Galt, who founded Guelph, Ontario in 1827, lived in the town and based some of his work, most notably Annals of the Parish (1821), on Greenock and surrounding towns. He is buried in the Inverkip Street Cemetery. The mother of American comedian and writer Jay Leno, Catherine Muir, was born in Greenock and emigrated to the US as a child. The American actress Julianne Moore is the daughter of the late Anne Love, a former psychiatric social worker who emigrated from Greenock. The Rev William C. Hewitt (minister at Westburn Parish Church in Greenock), Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 2009–2010, is the first serving minister at a church in Greenock to be appointed.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the Lockerbie Bombing was incarcerated at Greenock Prison from 2005 until his release on 20 August 2009.
Greenock's climate is temperate maritime having mainly cool summers but with relatively mild winters. Its location means that the heat retentive properties of seawater help keep winter temperatures higher. Additionally, the effect of the Gulf Stream on the Clyde helps Greenock's average temperature stay approximately one degree above that of eastern coastal towns on the same latitude. Indeed, Greenock's latitude (55.94 degrees north with a longitude of 4.75 degrees west) places it at the same latitude as the Moscow area. The warming effect of the Gulf Stream however, keeps the winter weather in Greenock much milder than that of Moscow.
Greenock anecdotally has the reputation for having higher than average rainfall (the song The Green Oak Tree comments on this) but this is not statistically true; northwest of Fort William has the highest average rainfall in Scotland. Greenock's location gives long hours of daylight in midsummer with the opposite true in midwinter. On the longest day, 21 June, the sun rises at 04:31 and sets at 22:07. In midwinter, 21 December, the sun rises at 08:46 and sets at 15:44.
View from Greenock East India Harbour over the River Clyde
- Brown, Archibald (1905), The Early Annals of Greenock, Greenock Telegraph printing works, archived from the original on 19 November 2014, https://web.archive.org/web/20141119002236/http://www.inverclyde.gov.uk/community-life-and-leisure/local-history-and-heritage/brown-early-annals-greenock-1905 (Inverclyde Council website)
- Smith, R.M. (1921), The History of Greenock, Greenock: Orr, Pollock & Co, https://www.inverclyde.gov.uk/community-life-and-leisure/libraries/archives-local-history-and-heritage/local-history/local-history-books-online/the-arran (Inverclyde Council website)
- Wood, John (1828), Descriptive account of the principal towns in Scotland: to accompany Wood's town atlas, Edinburgh, pp. 171–177 (Plan of the Town of Greenock from actual survey. – Maps of Scotland, 1825, National Library of Scotland website)
- Snoddy, TG (1937) Round About Greenock
- Weir, D (1827, r. 2004) History of the Town of Greenock
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Images for kids
Free French Memorial on Lyle Hill overlooking Gourock
Greenock Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.