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History of the Town of Greenock


The government of the town, till 1751, might be considered as vested entirely in the hands of the lord of the manor. This year, as we have already stated, the first Magistrates were elected ; and the origin of nine composing the Council, was the continuance of the same number which superintended the receipt of the malt tax. Sir John, in the handsomest manner, vested all the right he possessed in the fears and sub-feuars to elect their own rulers; and few places in Scotland have such an inestimable privilege. To our first magistrates, &c., down to a late period, the inhabitants are under deep obligations. They watched with a parent's care the growing importance of the community; and it was not till about 1796, that bickerings were heard at our council-table. This was revived again in 1812; and at this period the first paper-war commenced. The difference about the old Coffee Room revived party animosity, which has certainly not lessened ; and the town is now divided into two distinct parties, which are known as ''Reds and Blues." The origin of this name arose from the magisterial contest in 1825 the one gentleman's coach-drivers having assumed the blue ribbon as a mark of distinction, and the others immediately decorating their hats with red. This contest lasted for six days, when 497 votes were polled, and the Magistrates voted for by the Reds were elected by a majority of 15. it is to be regretted that party spirit does not rest with these elections, but has been often the means to convey strife and divisions into other societies and institutions, where this should have nothing to do. Every person should be allowed to express and hold his own Opinions, without being held up to ridicule, or condemned for acting the part of every reasonable man, merely showing he has a mind of his own. The Magistrates hold courts every week in the Town Hall, independent of their giving attendance every day, to examine into cases connected with the police, &c.

The Sheriff Court was established on the 27th January, 1815, and opened on the 3d May following. It is held once a week, during session, and oftener, as occasionally required. In virtue of the Act of Parliament in 1825, the Sheriff holds a court for the recovery of small debts. The first Sheriff-substitute was Claud Marshall, Esq., who was also appointed, in June 1815, to the Admiralty Court.

The following abstract of the Town's Receipt and Expenditure will serve as a contrast between the years 1785 and 1819 :-

Independent of the magisterial control over the various funds, &c., there are a number of commissioners and trustees, who act over the fund for paving, lighting, and bringing water, &c., into the town. The Act for regulating this body is on the most liberal terms; and it is impossible for any person to look altogether at the municipal government of Greenock, without out admiring the wisdom which dictated her laws, and also hoping fervently, in the beautiful language of Scripture, "that peace may dwell within her walls," and that a liberal and patriotic feeling may always actuate her councils.


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