Friday, 30 March 2012

Celebrating the Comet - Part Five

The Dorus Mhor

Due to heavy competition on the Clyde, with twenty something steam boats being built within four years, Bell decided to change the route of the Comet to a more leisurely journey from Glasgow to Fort William. Below is an example of an advert posted in a Glasgow newspaper on the 5th of August 1812.

By the Comet Steam Boat

The Comet is appointed to sail from Glasgow to Greenock, Gourock, Rothsay, Tarbert, Loch Gilp, Crinan, Easdale, Oban, Port Appin and Fort William, on Thursday first, Sept. 2, 1812, for the above places, at 9 o’clock morning, and to continue during the season every Thursday from Glasgow, and from Fort William on Monday. The hours of sailing will be seen on the boards at each of these places.

Below is an example of some of the journeys the boat travelled and the prices for each journey:
From Glasgow                               Cabin.        Steerage
          To Greenock,…………… ….4/…………….2/6
          To Rothsay,………………….7/……………. 5/
          To Appin,……………………18/…………..13/6
          To Fort William,……………22/……………15/

The voyage took four days to complete, with reasonable time at each stop for the passengers to go out.

However, In December  1820, when driven by a rip-tide on to rocks at Craignish point, near Oban, the Comet could not cope with the tidal race and the vessel broke in two in the Dorus Mhor channel. Fortunately, there were no fatalities, but this signalled the end of the first Comet.

Next week, we will look at the rebuilding of the Comet in 1821.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Graphic Novel: Revisited!

One of the project outputs for identity is to produce 5000 copies of a 64 page "graphic novel", presenting historical stories and personal heritage back to the community in a way that has not been tried before locally.

Over the past six months, six Inverclyde schools have been involved in researching the stories and preparing pages for the novel. As the project slowly begins to reach completion, it has become clear that it has been a while since our last update in reference to the novel; we thought we would share a sneak peek of some of the completed pages.


Friday, 23 March 2012

The Greenock Coin Hoard

On the 19 May 1955, three men: James Hepburn,  James Porteous and James McCormick, were engaged in digging a trench for a sewer between Burns Road and Minerva Lane, Braeside, Greenock when they unearthed what appeared to be a cow horn around four feet below the surface. The horn, measuring approximately ten inches long, appeared to be hollow albeit for a tattered cloth nesting a small collection of sixteenth century coins.

Unfortunately, the horn disintegrated as a result of the elements in turn with a number of the coins. Several other coins were handed to local children as a gift, while the fifty remaining coins were handed over to the Procurator Fiscal for examination.  The coins were found to be of Scottish origin, dating to 1543 during the reign of Queen Mary through to the reign of James VI.

The location of the coins is varied with around twenty being retained by the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh. However approximately thirty coins have become part of the collections at Greenock’s McLean Museum where they are available for viewing.  

Involvement with Local School

In order to highlight the coin collection at the McLean museum, the Identity team at 7 ½ John Wood Street have been working closely with pupils from Glenburn School, exploring the story of the coins through ideas proposed by the pupils in order to produce a graphic adaptation.

On Monday March 19, members of the Identity team visited the Mclean Museum along with a group of nine pupils from Glenburn School in order to get a closer look at the coins. The students and members of the team met with the curator who allowed them to look at and handle the coins and they were asked to draw a picture of their favourite.


Once the pupils had finished investigating the coins and drawing the pictures, they reflected positively about the exhibition:

"It’s really interesting that they found the coins so close to our school."

"I liked the Queen Mary Bawbee, it looks like a 20p."

"Maybe someone put the coins there for safety, and forgot to go and get them later."

"I liked drawing the pictures."

"I enjoyed looking at the coins through the magnifying glass, you could see all the pictures on them."

"The letters are different on them. It’s really hard to see without a magnifying glass."

"I really liked looking at the coins, they looked really old."

Historical Information

In order to add a greater insight to the coin hoard, we have highlighted the area where the coins were found on a few maps. The first map is a modern day aerial view of Burns Road and Minerva Lane, Braeside where the coins were found.

 Below is a map dating from the nineteenth century showing the rough location of where the coins were found. As you can see there is very little in the way of development in the area.

Greenock Looks Ahead

Below is a short excerpt from a video entitled "Greenock looks ahead" which shows the plans for the development of this region.

Unfortunately there are no maps available from the period when the coins were believed to be buried. What we do know is that the land was owned by the DeLindsay family as part of the Dunrod Estate.

The Story of the Coins

As there as little or no evidence of how the coins came to be buried. Local school pupils have been working closely with the Identity team to create a a story which would later be made in to a graphic novel, telling the tale of how the coins came to be buried. Below are a few example pages, one of which has been coloured in by a pupil at one of our many workshops.

Celebrating the Comet - Part Four

The P.S Comet was launched 24 July 1812 and became the first commercially run steamship in Europe. It sailed for Helensburgh the same day.

The vessel was officially christened in August 1812 and advertisements for its services were published in local papers.

Below is an example of one such advertisement from the Glasgow papers August 5 1812.


Between Glasgow, Greenock, and Helensburgh.

For Passengers Only

The subscriber having, at much expense, fitted up a handsome vessel to ply upon the river Clyde, from Glasgow, to sail by the power of air, wind, and steam. He intends that the vessel shall leave the Broomielaw on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, about midday, or such an hour thereafter as may answer from the state of the tide; and to leave Greenock on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, in the morning, to suit the tide.

The elegance, safety, comfort, and speed of this vessel requires only to be seen to meet the approbation of the public, and the proprietor is determined to do every thing in his power to merit general support.

The terms are for the present fixed at 4s. for the best cabin, and 3s. for the second; but beyond these rates nothing is to be allowed to servants, or any person employed about the vessel.

The subscriber continues his establishment at Helensburgh Baths, the same as for years passed; and vessel will be in readiness to convey passengers by the Comet, from Greenock to Helensburgh.

Passengers by the Comet will receive information of the hours of sailing, by applying at Mr. Houston’s office, Broomielaw; or Mr. Thomas Blackney’s, East Quay Head, Greenock.

Helensburgh Baths,                        5th Aug. 1812.

                                                                HENRY BELL

Join us next week when we will be delving further in to the rich history of the P.S Comet.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Celebrating the Comet - Part Three

John Wood (1788-1860) lived at the corner of Kings Street and Scarlow Street. His father John Wood Sr. had been employed by McGill – The first ship builder to be mentioned in Port Glasgow.  
When John Wood Sr. died in 1818, he had already been contracted with Henry Bell to build the first Comet steam boat. Wood's sons, John and Charles, who had encouraged their father to take on this contract in the first place, were now responsible for completing the craft after his death.  

With his father gone, construction of the hull of the Comet  fell to John Wood Jr. The hull of the comet upon completion measured fourteen meters from stern to bow, a width of three meters and weighed an impressive twenty eight tonnes. 

The ship was named “The Comet” after the great comet of 1811, which remained visible to the human eye over Inverclyde for an impressive two hundred and sixty days.

Join us next Friday when we will draw our focus to the maiden voyage of the ship.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Celebrating the Comet - Part Two

Henry Bell

Born in the small rural village of Torphichen, West Lothian in 1767, Henry Bell was the pioneer in the development of steam powered nautical travel. Such was his interest in steam powered shipping that, in 1800, he composed a letter to the British Admiralty, highlighting his vision for the future of the shipping industry; however his notion was hastily rejected.

Not to be deterred by this set back, Bell composed a similar letter in 1803, highlighting the same issues and improvements that had previously been outlined. Unfortunately for Bell, his attempts at revolutionising shipping in Britain fell on deaf ears, despite the appraisal of the highly decorated Lord Nelson.
After futile attempts to implement his idea in Britain, Bell opted to promote his idea in the United States of America, the result of which was met with a great degree of success, inspiring Bell to try to implement his model for a steam powered ship on home soil.
It was while drawing up the plans for his own vessel that Bell came in to correspondence with Messrs John Wood and Co, whom he contracted to build the hull of the boat.
The next post in our countdown to the Comet’s historic bicentennial will focus on John Wood Snr and his sons, John Wood Jnr and Charles.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Celebrating the Comet - Part One

July 24 2012 marks the two hundred year anniversary of the launch of the prestigious P.S. Comet, the replica of which stands proudly in Port Glasgow town centre.

To highlight this historic event the project team based at 7 ½ John Wood Street will be running a brief history of the Comet's memorable saga in a series of weekly instalments. The first of which will focus on the inception of the comet and how it came to be connected with Port Glasgow.

This post will be launched Monday March 12, and will feature a summary of Henry Bell's vision for steam powered nautical travel. From then on the blog will be updated every Friday with a plotted history of key events in the Comet timeline and its link to Inverclyde.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Genealogy Training

Today the Identity volunteer group took a trip to the St Stephens Enterprise Centre to trace their family tree. For the next 10 weeks they will be using various genealogy websites to research their own history and the history of the area with the help of the project team.  If you are interested in finding out more about your roots, come along to 7 ½ John Wood St on a Wednesday at 10am and meet the team. Genealogy sessions are every Thursday from 10am to 12pm. Transport is provided. All are welcome.

For further information please contact:

Kay Clark - Project Manager

7 1/2 John Wood St

Port Glasgow

PA14 5HU

Telephone: 01475 806774

01475 806760


Identity on the Road - Port Glasgow

The project team have been in Port Glasgow since Tuesday 6 February displaying some of the material that has been gathered for the project so far, there will also be a short film on display highlighting the local area.

We are based in 7 ½ John Wood Street, and the exhibition will be open from 9am. We strongly encourage you to come and visit as we would love to hear your stories.