These tenements – originally eight in number – took their name from the fires which were lit in the gable windows, acting as beacons for the fishermen approaching the old harbour of Crawfurdsdyke.
Little is known about Jean Adam’s early education. After spending a few years with the family of a reverend gentleman of the neighbourhood, whose library was thrown open to her, “she supported herself by keeping a school in Cartsdyke and by assisting as a needlewoman”.
For some unknown reason she gave up her school and for the rest of her life had to depend mainly on the charity and benevolence of friends. She died in poverty in Glasgow on 3 April 1765 and was buried at the expense of the Glasgow Town Hospital.
Jean Adam is remembered as the author of the poem “The Mariner’s Wife”, better known by its refrain “there’s nae luck aboot the house”. Doubt and controversy about the authorship arose from the fact that this particular poem did not appear in her “MiscellanyPoems” published in 1734, dedicated to the Laird of Cartsdyke, Thomas Crawfurd.
The controversy increased due to the fact that the poem was never published in her lifetime. It gained considerable popularity and after her death was printed in many parts of Scotland as a ballad sheet without the name of the author, sold in the streets and sung and recited by fire sides up and down the country.
The main contender for the authorship was Scots poet William Julius Mickle of Langholm, whose widow found an early copy of the verses among his papers. On this claim the poem was later included in the published edition of Mickle’s works and was subsequently repeated in a number of anthologies of Scottish Poems and Ballads under his name.
The dispute continued for many years until what is generally accepted to be the final and conclusive words on the subject were spoken by Alexander Rodger of Bagatelle in 1863 in a lecture to the Greenock Philosophical Society.
He argued that the local setting is easily recognisable as being essentially Greenock and uses dialect and phraseology of the time. The poem was even praised by Robert Burns himself who remarked that it was one of the most beautiful songs in the Scots or any other language.
~~~ THE SONG ~~~
An’ are ye sure the news is true ?
An’ are ye sure he’s weel ?
Is this a time to talk a’ wark?
Ye jades, lay by yet wheels.
There’s nae luck shoot the hoose,
There’s nae luck ava’,
There’s little pleisure in the hoose
Whan oor guidman’s awa’.
It this a time to talk o’ wark,
When Colin’s at the dore ?
Gie me ma cloak, I’ll to the kie,
An’ see him cum ashore.
There’s nae luck, etc ….