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History of the Town of Greenock
Part 3

The Burgher meeting-house in the Market-street was erected in 1758 previous to its erection the members used to meet for worship in a large green, almost behind the Town Hall buildings, where a tent was kept continually standing. In consequence of the noisy situation of the church, and the repairs it required, it was abandoned in 1802, when the Burgher chapel in Innerkip street was erected. The first minister was the Rev. James Ellis, in connection with Paisley: the year following (1758) it was separated from Paisley, and stood vacant till 1761, when Mr. John Buist was ordained he was followed by the Rev. Mr. Dunn, who was succeeded by Mr. Barclay, and is at present without a stated minister.—Cost 1122.

In 1791 the Gaelic chapel was erected. It stands close by the West Burn, on a rising ground, enclosed with a railing, and though a plain substantial substantial building, has rather an imposing appearance. The first minister was the Rev. Kenneth Bayne, who died in 1821, and was succeeded the same year by the Rev. Angus Macbean, present minister. Salary about 250.—Cost 1700, and can hold 1600 people.

The Burgher chapel, Nicholson-street, was built in 1791. The first minister was the Rev. Mr. Jack, succeeded by the present Rev. Mr. Wilson. Stipend 200.—Cost 1300, and can hold 1000 sitters.

Tabernacle, Sir Michael -street, built in 1806, when the Rev. Mr. Herens was appointed. Relief, Sir Michael-street, in 1807, when the Rev. Mr. Auld was appointed.—Cost 2200, and can hold 1200 sitters. Methodist, Tobago-street, in 1814. Roman Catholic, in 1815 previous to this they held their meetings for four years in the Star Hall. The first regularly officiating clergyman was the Rev. John Davidson; he died in 1815, and was succeeded by the Rev. John Gordon, present incumbent, who opened the new chapel 24th December, same year.

The Baptist meeting-house was built in 1821, when the Rev. Mr. Edwards was appointed; since the period of his leaving this place no regular clergyman officiates. These buildings have nothing remarkable in their appearance, and are only characterized by the good taste of those who planned and finished them, for affording pleasant accommodation to their various sitters.

In 1823, Blaekhall-street chapel was finished, from designs by Mr. James Dempster, of this town, a young architect of rising eminence. it stands upon a fine open space near the shore, and has a very substantial, imposing appearance. The first clergyman is the present incumbent, the Rev. Nathaniel Morren.—Cost 3200, and can hold 1600 sitters.

In 1824, the Episcopal chapel was finished. It stands upon the north side of Gourock-street, and has a chaste and elegant Gothic front, designed by and executed under the superintendence of Mr. Dempster, in a manner highly creditable to his abilities. It was consecrated by the Rev. Bishop Sandford on the 30th April, 1825, and shortly after, the Rev. Wm. D. Carter entered on the ministerial duties of the chapel. On his being appointed Chaplain to the Hon. East India Company in 1829, the Rev. J. M. Williams was elected, but he never entered upon his duties, in consequence of his appointment also as Chaplain in India to the East India Company. The Rev. T. H. Wilkinson was nominated_ his successor.—Cost 2300, and can hold 400 sitters.

I hiving now gone over the different places of worship, in the regular succession in which they appear, to have been built, some estimate may be formed from thence of the progress of the town and population from the year 1741, till the present period. Greenock may be said to contain almost all sects and persuasions, and the only class of Christians among us, who have no regular place except a hall, are the professors of Universalist doctrines. In 1817, attempts were made to get a place of worship for the Unitarian but this failed in consequence of the fewness of their number. The inhabitants have been always considered as a church-going people, and though the accommodation is reckoned no more than sufficient for the population, the churches are with few exceptions, well attended.

The following abstract from the sessional records for the years 1820 and 1828, will be of importance. The register of Births cannot but be inaccurate, from the negligence of parents on this important point. A register of Deaths has never been kept, but it is intended to commence one immediately.


Marriages in 1820, 124.-in 1828, 128.
Births in 1820, 263.of which there are males 145, females 118. In 1828, 232. of which there are males 131, females 101.

Paupers receiving parochial aid in 1820, 495 of which there were, males 69, females 426. In 1828, 403-of which there were, males 76, females 327.

Assessment for 1820, 1200-for 1828, 962 6s. 3d.


Marriages in 1820, 60. In 1828, 68.

Births in 1820, 93 of which there were, males 51, females 42. In 1828, 68 of which there were, males 26, females 32.

Paupers receiving parochial aid in 1820, 338 of which there were, males 34, females 304. In 1828, 312-of which there were, males 36, females 326.

Assessment for 1890, 800-for 1828, 750.


Marriages in 1820, 37.In 1828, 43.

Births in 1820, 69 of which there were, males 37, females 32. In 1828, 90 of which there were, males 48, females 42.

Paupers receiving parochial aid in 1820, 207 of which there were, males 68, females 139. In 1828, 106 of which there were, males 22, females 84.

Assessment for 1820, 450-for 1828, 220.

The hollowing sums have been considered necessary for 1829, Old Parish, 830; New Parish, 700; East Parish, 200.  Fancy Farm, 190.

We have only noticed one burying ground as belonging to the town; but the crowded state of this old receptacle of our Fathers' ashes rendered it necessary in 1789 to feu a large piece of ground at the top of Innerkip-street, which was enclosed with a wall; and this was still further augmented by feuing an additional field in 1810, which is also surrounded by a wall having a centre range which divides both places.

Scotland has been long famed for its attention to the education of the rising race; and Greenock has been by no means behind in this important subject. The benefit of Parochial Schools has been long felt and acknowledged, and the reason why there is none here has been matter of wonder to many, A correspondent in the Greenock Paper for April 12, 1809, has the following remarks—"Can any of your intelligent correspondents inform me why no such establishment as a Parochial School has existed in Greenock for nearly 40 years past? and on what grounds the rising generation in this place are deprived of such an institution." Notwithstanding of this want, Greenock has produced some who have been an ornament to there country. Witness the never dying name of James Watt: in Mathematics William Spence; and in the lighter and more amusing parts of Literature, John Galt. There are few indeed but must have felt the force of Lord Eldon's handsome compliment when presenting the Greenock petition against the Catholic claims, amounting to nearly five thousand signatures, when he observed, ''that this was a proof of education in Scotland, and in particular of Greenock, that in a petition so numerously signed, the signatures were all well written, and only three marks." In further proof of this, Greenock has sent forth enterprizing and intelligent merchants to almost every mercantile depot in the world: and as every person has a wish to know the school boy scenes of other days,

' Where in his noisy mansion skilled to rule,
The village master taught his little school,'

we subjoin the following interesting remarks from the pen of Geo. Williamson, Esq.

Mr. Robert Arrol, the author of an elegant translation of Cornelius Nepos published in 1744, with a. vocabulary, chronological table, and erudite notes, was the first master of the Grammar School of Greenock. He also published translations of Eutropius, and select colloquies of Erasmus—but what most distinguishes him, is the circumstance of his having been one of the preceptors of the immortal James Watt. Mr. John Marc was Mr. Watt's instructor in Mathematics. It is regretted that nothing further of Mr. Marc is known, excepting that it appears from the records of the society of Free Masons, known by the appellation of the 'Greenock Kilwinning, No. 11,' of which lie was a member, that he was of Glasgow, at all events that he was initiated in the mysteries of the craft in that city.

"The old Tenement at the foot and on the west side of Smith's lane, otherwise known as the 'Wee Kirk-street,' where it joins the Vennel, is the house in which the Town Schools were kept at the period alluded to, and probably belonged to some one of the Magistrates of the day.

On the 2d October 1751, Mr. John Woodrow was appointed Grammar Schoolmaster on the decease of Mr. Arrol. To this office he united that of Session Clerk. It is not known when he died, but his successor's name was Mr. Bradfute, who continued in office for about four years, and on his death or resignation,— for I have heard he removed to the Grammar School of Glasgow —was on the 15th October, 1769, succeeded by Mr. John Wilson. This respectable individual was the author of "Clyde," an elegant poem republished at Edinburgh, in 1803. A very spirited biographical sketch is prefixed to it, by the late Dr. Leyden, from which, however, I cannot forbear to make the following quotation, as illustrative of the state of Greenock, as regarded statistics and learning sixty years ago.

I have now, (says Dr. Leyden,) to relate a singular transaction, which I can scarcely believe would have taken place in any district of Scotland, but the west, so late as the 1767. Greenock at this period was a thriving sea-port, rapidly emerging into notice. In the beginning of last century it consisted of a single row of thatched houses, stretching along a bay without any harbour. ln 1707 a harbour began to be constructed; but the town increased so slowly, that in 1755 its population amounted only to about 3800 souls. About the latter period, however, it began to increase rapidly, and continued to flourish till the commencement of the American war. Still, however, its inhabitants were more remarkable for opulence and commercial spirit, than for their attention to literature and science. During the struggle between Prelacy and Presbytery in Scotland, Greenock, like most of the towns and districts of the west of Scotland, had imbibed the most intolerant spirit of Presbyterianism a spirit which at no period had been favourable to the exertions of poetical fancy, and which spent the last efforts of its virulence on Douglas of Home. Induced by this religious spirit, and by a cool mercantile attention to prudence, the Magistrates and Minister of Greenock, before they admitted Mr. Wilson to the superintendence of the Grammar School, stipulated that he should abandon 'the profane and unprofitable art of poem-making.' To avoid the temptation of violating this promise, which he esteemed sacred, he took an early opportunity of committing to the flames the greater part of his unfinished manuscripts. After this he never ventured to touch his forbidden lyre, though he often regarded it with that mournful solemnity, which the harshness of dependance, and the memory of its departed sounds, could not fail to inspire.

"He seems during life to have considered this as the crisis of his fate, which condemned him to obscurity, and sometimes alluded to it with acrimony. In it letter to his son attending the University of Glasgow, dated Jan. 21, 1779, he says, 'I once thought to live by the breath of fame; but how miserably was I disappointed when, instead of having my performance applauded in crowded theatres, and being caressed by the great—for what will not a Poetaster, in his intoxicating delirium of possession, dream—I was condemned to bawl myself to hoarseness to wayward brats, to cultivate sand and wash Ethiopians, for all the dreary (lays of all life, the contempt of shopkeepers and brutish skippers.'

Cruel as was the sacrifice which Mr. Wilson was thus compelled to make of the offspring of his imagination, at the shrine of prejudice, yet let it not be supposed that the soil became unproductive of the flowers of literature under such blighting influence, or that poetry has been uncultivated in Greenock since his day.

Mr. Wilson died 2d June, 1789 having two years previously been compelled to retire from the labours of his office by reason of the growing infirmities of age, and a worn out constitution.

Mr. Wilson was succeeded by Mr Thomson, who remained in office down to 29th October, 1794, when Mr. Daniel M'Farlane was appointed his successor, and for the long period of thirty years continued to maintain the reputation which the Greenock Grammar School had acquired under his predecessor.

Mr. M, Farlane was succeeded on resignation in 1824 by Mr. Potter, a young gentleman of learning and talents, united to the most unassuming modesty, and who, had lie been spared to see long life, would have added another to the number of a class of men to whom the community of Greenock owe a debt of gratitude.

On Potter's death, the present incumbent Mr. Brown was appointed his successor of him, of course, I am precluded from saying anything farther, than to express an earnest hope that the youth of Greenock shall long enjoy the advantages of the tuition of so able, zealous, and successful a teacher."
When the Mid Parish Church was finished, the Town Schools removed to the loft at Royal Closs, and continued there, with their various teachers, till about the year 1800. The first teacher of the English School was John M'Adam he resigned in 1772, and was succeeded by John Irvine. On Irvine's resignation in 1779, Hugh Mitchell was appointed, who was the last teacher that received a salary from the town.

In 1772, Robert Nicol was appointed Master of the Mathematical School. In 1775, Captain Campbell, of the Prince of Wales Revenue Cruizer, made a present to the town of an Azimuth compass, which was placed under Mr. Nicol's charge, and was the first of this valuable instrument ever seen in Greenock. In 1781, Mr. Lamont was appointed, and continued in the situation till 1827, when he was succeeded by Mr. Robson, the present master.

Till 1774, the Schools were entirely under the control of the Magistrates and Town Council; but the increasing population brought a number of talented individuals about this time, whom taught with great success. In 1806 the Academy was built, and since that period has continued under the charge of its highly respectable master, C. Buchanan.

At present the Schools are numerous. There is a Free School situated in Ann-street, which is kept up by voluntary subscription, and educates annually about 600 poor children and there is an Infant School, established in 1828, on Mr. Wilderspin's plan. Independent of these, the following teachers may be mentioned:—The Messrs. White, English, Writing, &c., George's-square ; Mr. Hunter, English, and Mr. Nicol, Writing, Sir Michael-street; Mr. Murray, English, Academy Buildings; Mr. Anderson, English, Rue-end; the Rev. Mr. Robertson, Boarding School, Glebe, where all the branches of education are taught. Besides those now enumerated, there are a number of other schools; and, though last not least, there is a Female School of Industry, which has done much good, and has been superintended by young ladies, whose exertions in the cause of the less fortunate of their sex is beyond all praise.

Though the education, in connection with mercantile and other useful pursuits, has been attended to with much care, yet schools of a different order have not been neglected. Sabbath Evening Schools are to be found in every district of the town; and the good which has resulted from this gratuitous teaching has been felt and acknowledged. The Old Parish has schools under the charge of the Session, and the Mid and East Parish have similar establishments. The Relief and Burgher congregations allow the children to meet for an hour after divine service in the afternoon and they are taught, as in other schools, from the Scriptures, Shorter Catechism, and other approved works for the instruction of the young.

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