James Watt (1736 - 1819) Inventor & Mechanical Engineer
There can be little doubt that James Watt is Greenock's most famous son. He was born in William Street not far from his statue and just around the corner from the pub named in his honour, The James Watt Bar, now known, by the descendants of those who knew him personally, as the 'Jimmy Watt'.
The local college of further education, the James Watt College, is named after him. So is the Watt Library in Union Street which houses the local history archives relating to Inverclyde. There is also Watt Street, a favourite for driving test examiners - the cambers in the road making the three point turn particularly awkward.
Watt will be forever associated though with watching a kettle boil and formulating a few great scientific ideas while drinking his tea. He also has his name on lightbulbs.
Learn more about James Watt at Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Watt
Hamish McCunn (1868 - 1916) Composer
If you enter the room above the Watt Library which holds the collections and archives of the Greenock Burns Club, the Mother Club, you will be drawn to the portrait of a fine featured young man on the facing wall. Not Robert Burns but Hamish McCunn, an honorary member of the Club.
He lived at Thornhill, Ardgowan Street but acheived his fame in London. He wrote many orchestral and choral works but is better known
today for one particular piece, 'The Land of the Mountain and the Flood', which he composed at the age of eighteen. This work was adopted as the theme tune for the 1970s television programme, Sutherland's Law. Ok, it might not be Star Wars or Chariots of Fire but it's still a grand tune.
Learn more about Hamish McCunn at Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamish_MacCunn
William Quarrier (1829 - 1903) Philanthropist
William Quarrier was born in a house on Cross Shore St, Greenock but moved to Glasgow at an early age after his father died. He was brought up in a situation of poverty and witnessed first hand the squalour, deprivation and utter hopelessness of slum life. At the age of seventeen he became a Christian and also started his training as a shoemaker...a career he would make a success of... eventually owning three shops. With success came an urge to better the life of the orphaned and young homeless of the city. This eventually led to the setting up of the homes between Kilmacolm and Bridge of Weir which at their peak housed more than 1500 children at a time.
To raise money to fund and continue the project, Quarrier sometimes played on the benevolent nature of his friends and business associates. He would hold meetings and at the start of the meeting produce an unpaid bill from his pocket and place it on the table. He would lead the meeting in prayer asking the Almighty that a way might be found that would pay the account...by the end of the meeting the bill would be invariably, and usually quietly, covered.
Quarrier's Village, though now mostly privately developed, is a wonderfully atmospheric place for an afternoon walk. A round trip along the cycle path from Kilmacolm is a perfect walk both in terms of distance and scenery.
Learn more about Quarriers at www.quarriers.org.uk/about/history/williamquarrier.php
Peter Dodds McCormick (1834 - 1916) Joiner and Composer
Henry Robertson Bowers (1883 - 1912) Adventurer
Short, hardy, reliable, understated and the finest example of a man Greenock has ever
produced. He sailed at least five times around the world. He was a Royal Indian Marine. He captured gun runners on the Persian Gulf. He was scared of spiders.
He was born in the house at the corner of the Esplanade and North St. A small plaque on the wall tells you this. He moved to England with his mother and sisters after his father died in 1887. His mother returned to Rothesay when he was in his early twenties. He would swim from Ardbeg Point to Craigmore Pier and back in the dark of a winter's morning.
He travelled to Antartica with Scott on the Terra Nova. He was stranded with horses on ice floes. Read Cherry- Garrard's Winter Journey. Read how they lose their tent and feel the tears in your eyes when they somehow manage to find it. He became the 'fifth man' in the race to the pole. He died with Scott and Wilson. He still lies on the ice.
There is a memorial plaque to him in St Ninian's Church on Bute. His name is also on the family plot in Greenock Cemetery. Follow the main drive...carry straight through....you will shortly find a stone to Peter Gatherer set back on your right...walk behind that stone...turn left...then right....you are in the undergrowth...and then you see his name. Learn more at Wikipedia
For more information visit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Robertson_Bowers
McCormick was born in Port Glasgow and served his time as a joiner. When he was twenty-one he jumped on a ship and went to Australia. He worked at his trade for a while in Sydney but was getting increasingly involved in musical societies. One particular night he was a bit perturbed that Australia didn't have a National Anthem so he went home and wrote one. In the morning it still seemed pretty good. He called it Advance Australia Fair.
It's lyrics are found on the final pages of Australian passports.
Learn more at this site: www.hamilton.net.au/advance/author.html
Chic Murray (1919 - 1985) Comedian
Chic Murray has been described by many as having been rank rotten, others as just plain daft and now, by an ever increasing number including Billy Connolly, as an absolute genius.
He was an alternative comedian before the word was thought of. He was brought up in a close in Bank Street ...a street he once said he spewed up the whole of...they've put a plaque outside his door. He opened doors in his pyjamas. He didn't know the Battersea's dog had been away. Big noses ran in his family. He told us about the lady with the big nose at the wedding in Blackpool...'someone's cooking cabbage in Manchester', she said.
He was the Headie in Gregory's girl and the perfect Bill Shankly. Greenock to this day has more than its fair share of Chic Murray impersonators...George Bryden and Joe Gatherer are not the worst.
More about Chic at this site: www.transdiffusion.org/emc/tvheroes/haldaneduncan/chic_murray_remembered.php
Martin Compston (1984 - ) Actor
A cheeky chappy who, never having acted before, auditioned for Ken Loach for the starring role in
the controversial movie Sweet Sixteen which was being filmed in Inverclyde. Previous to this he was
starring for Greenock Morton Football Club ...in much the same way as Gordon Ramsay starred for
The nice thing is, it doesn't look as though Martin is going to be a one hit wonder...he is serving his
on-screen apprenticeship very well and for three years he was a regular on that seemingly wonderful
series, Monarch of the Glen.
Hollywood almost certainly beckons for this young man now regularly spotted in the company of A-list celebrities. One night he's out with Sting and the next he's down at Word Up.
More about Martin here: www.imdb.com/name/nm1161994/bio
Richard Wilson (1936 -) Actor
Richard Wilson was born in Dunlop St and hated being a skinny child. Lady Alice and Greenock High School turned out a medical lab technician.
He was 27 and in London when the decision was made to act. RADA prepared him for a career on stage and screen. There is so much more to him than One Foot in the Grave. He is nowhere near as grumpy as Victor Meldrew. Within the world of drama he is highly regarded both as a director and mentor.
His was the public face and voice behind the fundraising appeal to raise the funds to build the new Greenock Arts Guild.
More about Richard here: richardwilsonarchive.com/