Patrick Downie was born in Greenock in 1854. He showed great artistic ability from an early age. His father died when he was still very young, and Downie was forced to seek employment as a van man, and then as a postman.
He decided to devote his life to art and began a period of intense study first in this country and then in Paris. He failed however to find this to be a lucrative prospect at his home in 37 Roxburgh Street, Greenock and in 1887 went to Paisley where he married a daughter of the late ex-Provost Cochran. Downie always remained interested in his native town and his many water colours and oil paintings include a large number of Greenock scenes.
Downie was an early contributor to the principal art exhibitions, including those of the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Glasgow Institute and the Royal Scottish Watercolour Society, as well as to exhibitions in Paris, Venice and elsewhere on the continent. In 1905 he was elected a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colour. In 1906 Glasgow purchased for their permanent collection at Kelvingrove “The Day of Rest – Winter” which was a view of Greenock under a covering of snow. He revelled in snow scenes, old houses doomed for demolition, lanes and closes, and the harbours and shipping.
When George V and Queen Mary visited the Institute of the Fine Arts in Glasgow, the Queen, whose attention had been drawn to a picture by E. A. Hornell, said “I do not care for that style but there is a picture I like”, pointing to one signed by Patrick Downie!
Downie was the first man from Greenock to have a painting exhibited in the Royal Academy. His painting was entitled “A Wet Evening Moonshine” and portrayed the old house with the crow-stepped gable which stood at the south east corner of Hamilton Street and Manse Lane. He once claimed “I could almost rebuild Old Greenock from my sketch-book”. Downie’s talent was invaluable in recording the central part of the town before the changes caused by the Improvement Trust at the close of the 1870’s. Many of his sketches were included in the publication “Views and Reminiscences of Old Greenock”, published by McKelvie & Sons in 1891. Downie died in May 1945 aged 91 years.