Greenock (/ˈɡriːnək/ ( listen); Scottish Gaelic:
Grianaig, pronounced [kɾʲiənɛkʲ]) is a town and
administrative centre in the
Inverclyde council area in
Scotland and a
former burgh within the historic county of Renfrewshire, located in
the west central Lowlands of Scotland. It forms part of a contiguous
urban area with
Gourock to the west and
Port Glasgow to the east.
The 2011 UK Census showed that
Greenock had a population of 44,248, a
decrease from the 46,861 recorded in the 2001 UK Census. It lies on
the south bank of the Clyde at the "Tail of the Bank" where the River
Clyde expands into the Firth of Clyde.
1.2 Early history: baronies and kirks
1.3 Fishing villages, harbours and shipbuilding
Custom house and steamboats
2 Industry and railways
2.1 Victoria Tower
2.3 Battery Park and torpedoes
2.4 Old West Kirk
2.5 Second World War
2.6 Postwar years
5.1 Areas and suburbs
6.5 Trade and commerce
8.1 In television
8.2 In film
10.1 People associated with Greenock
11.1 Public sports and leisure facilities
13 Twin cities
16 Further reading
17 External links
The origin of the name is unknown; Smith (1921) suggested that the
Common Brittonic Graenag, a "gravelly" or "sandy place" accurately
describes the foreshore before the docks and piers were constructed,
while the Gaelic options of Grianach ("sunny bay") or grian cnoc
("sunny hill") were seen by locals as less credible. Johnston
(1934) notes that "some Gaels call the seaport Ghónait", and that a
possible derivation may be greannach, meaning "rough, gravelly".
The option of grian aig, from Gaelic words for "sunny place" or "bay",
has been taken up by the local authority as the Gaelic translation of
the name.
The name of the town has had various spellings over time. It was
printed in early Acts of Parliament as Grinok, Greenhok, Grinock,
Greenhoke, Greinnock, and later as Greinok. Old Presbyterial records
used Grenok, a common spelling until it was changed to
1700. The spelling Greenoak was found in two factory accounts dating
back to 1717, and a legend developed of a green oak tree at the edge
of the Clyde at William Street being used by fishermen to tie up their
boats. This has been generally dismissed as imaginative folk
etymology, but the image has frequently been used as an emblem or
logo, carved on public buildings, used on banners and badges, and
was once emblazoned on the local Co-operative Society emblem. The
town's modern indoor shopping centre is called The Oak Mall and uses a
green tree as its logo. The name is also recalled in a local song (The
Green Oak Tree). Significantly, no green oak appears on the town's
coat of arms which features the three chalices of the Shaw Stewarts, a
sailing ship in full sail and two herring above the motto God Speed
Greenock. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there was
a 'Green Oak Tree', situated in Cathcart Square, at the top end of
William Street, close to the Oak Mall – indeed, a horseshoe set into
the cobblestones, between the 'Mid-Kirk' church and the central
feature of the square, was where it once, supposedly, grew.[citation
Early history: baronies and kirks
Old West Kirk
Old West Kirk of 1591, much altered over the years, was moved in
1928 to a new location, again close to the Firth of Clyde.
Hugh de Grenock was created a Scottish
Baron in 1296, and the seat of
the feudal barony of
Greenock was apparently what became Easter
Greenock Castle. Around 1400 his successor Malcolm Galbraith died with
no sons, and his estate was divided between his two daughters to
become two baronies: the eldest inherited Easter
Greenock and married
a Crawfurd, while Wester
Greenock went to the younger daughter who
married Schaw of Sauchie. Around 1540 the adjoining barony of Finnart
was passed to the Schaw family, extending their holdings westward to
the boundary of Gourock, and in 1542 Sir John Schaw founded Wester
Scottish Reformation of 1560 closed the chapels in the parish, and
as the parish church was some 6 miles (9.7 km) distant at
Inverkip over a difficult route which was impassable in winter, in
1589 John Schaw obtained a charter from
King James VI to build a kirk
for the "poor people upon his lands who were all fishers and of a
reasonable number". Later known as the Old Kirk or the Old West Kirk,
it was constructed on the west bank of the West Burn estuary and is
reputed to have been the first
Protestant church built in Scotland
after the Reformation.
Fishing villages, harbours and shipbuilding
The coast of
Greenock formed a broad bay with three smaller
indentations: the Bay of Quick was known as a safe anchorage as far
back as 1164. To its east, a sandy bay ran eastwards from the Old Kirk
and the West Burn as far as Wester
Greenock castle. The fishing
Greenock developed along this bay, and around 1635 Sir John
Schaw had a jetty built into the bay which became known as Sir John's
Bay. In that year he obtained a Charter raising
Greenock to a Burgh of
Barony with rights to a weekly market. Further east, Saint Laurence
Bay curved round past the Crawfurd Barony of Easter
Greenock to Garvel
(or Gravel) Point. When a pier (or dyke) was built making the bay an
important harbour, the fishing village of Cartsburn gained the
alternative name of Crawfurdsdyke. In 1642 it was made into the Burgh
of Barony of Crawfurdsdyke, and part of the ill-fated Darien Scheme
set out from this pier in 1697. This town was later renamed
The fishing trade grew prosperous, with barrels of salted herring
exported widely, and shipping trade developed. As seagoing ships could
not go further up the River Clyde, the
Glasgow merchants including the
Tobacco Lords wanted harbour access but were in disputes with Greenock
over harbour dues and warehouses. They tried to buy the Garvel estate
for a harbour when Easter
Greenock lands were put up for sale to meet
debts, but were outbid by Sir John Schaw who then got a Crown Charter
of 1670 uniting Easter and Wester
Greenock into the Burgh Barony of
Greenock. A separate
Barony of Cartsburn
Barony of Cartsburn was created, the first baron
being Thomas Craufurd. In 1668 the City of
Glasgow got the lease of 13
acres (5.3 ha) of land upriver close to Newark Castle, and
construction promptly started on Newport
Glasgow harbour which by 1710
had the principal Clyde custom house.
The harbour, c. 1838
In 1696 and 1700 Schaw and residents of the town made unsuccessful
bids to the
Scottish Parliament for grants for a
then when the
Act of Union 1707
Act of Union 1707 opened up trade to the Americas, they
raised their own funds. The work was completed in 1710, with quays
extended out into Sir John's Bay to enclose the harbour. In 1711 the
shipbuilding industry was founded when Scotts leased ground between
the harbour and the West Burn to build fishing boats.
became a major port and shipbuilding centre, and though from 1774
deepening of the
River Clyde increasingly allowed ships to take
merchandise directly to Glasgow, merchants continued to use Greenock
American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War temporarily interrupted trade,
and the gun battery of Fort Beauclerc near the West Burn was extended
to guard against the threat of privateers, but the emphasis shifted to
wider markets including imports of rum and sugar from the Caribbean,
wines from Spain, and fish from North America. A whaling business
operated for about 40 years.
Custom house and steamboats
The Custom House, viewed from the quay.
Greenock became a custom house port as a branch of Port
Glasgow, and for a period this operated from rooms leased in Greenock.
Receipts rose rapidly from the 1770s, and in 1778 the custom house
moved to new built premises at the West
Quay of the harbour.
By 1791 a new pier was constructed at the East Quay. In 1812 Europe's
first steamboat service was introduced by PS Comet with frequent
sailings between Glasgow,
Greenock and Helensburgh, and as trade built
up the pier became known as Steamboat Quay. The custom house needed
larger premises, and in May 1817 the foundation stone was laid at the
quay for a Custom House building designed by William Burn, which was
completed in 1818. Its gracious neoclassical architecture features a
Grecian Doric portico looking out over the quayside, which was given
the name Customhouse Quay. In 1828 the Custom House was praised as
"a grand National Structure" in "the highest style of elegance". By
then there were scheduled steamboat sailings to Belfast, Londonderry,
Liverpool, Inverness, Campbeltown, the
Hebrides and "all the principal
places in the Highlands".
The Custom House underwent extensive refurbishment which was completed
in 1989 and, until closure of the building in 2010, housed a customs
and excise museum which was open to the public. In June 2008 HM
Revenue and Customs (HMRC) announced that the building would close in
2011 as part of a rationalisation project with any jobs being
transferred to offices in Glasgow, and despite a campaign to oppose
these plans, the building closed in August 2010.
Inverclyde arranged further refurbishment works, and in 2013
announced that space had already been let to companies including PG
Paper Company Ltd and
Toshiba which had planning permission to form
meeting rooms and an executive office in the building.
Greenock Telegraph estimated that £4.1 million has been spent over
5-year period for the renovation works.
Industry and railways
The Cut – visitor centre
The Cut – aqueduct
Greenock became a centre of industry, with water power being used to
process imported goods. In 1827
Loch Thom was constructed as a
reservoir with The Cut aqueduct, bringing water to two lines of falls
for water mills to power a paper mill, cotton and woollen mills, sugar
refineries and shipbuilding
Greenock Central railway station
Greenock Central railway station at Cathcart Street opened in 1841,
for the first time providing a fast route from
Glasgow to the coast
linking up with
Clyde steamer services. The provision of this new line
meant there was no need to take the steamer all the way down river
from Glasgow. In 1869 the
Caledonian Railway was bypassed by the rival
Glasgow and South Western Railway which opened a station on the
waterfront at Princes Pier, served by a tunnel under Greenock's west
end. To regain custom, the
Caledonian Railway extended (what is now
known as the
Inverclyde Line) the Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock
Railway west to Gourock; this line was built to run inland through
deep cuttings and tunnels, with a tunnel under the whole length of
Newton Street crossing under the other railway tunnel to emerge near
Fort Matilda railway station. Spoil from the cuttings and tunnels was
used to build an embankment out from the shore to a long timber wharf
Gourock railway station, providing space for railway sidings.
The railway bought Wester
Greenock castle and its extension, the
Mansion House, and demolished them before constructing the tunnel
immediately west of
Greenock Central station, running under the castle
grounds which now form Well Park.
View from above Cathcart Street over Cathcart Square to the Municipal
Buildings, with the Victoria Tower to the right of "Cowan's Corner",
and the Mid Kirk spire of 1781 to the left.
Greenock's increasing importance and wealth was manifested in the
construction of the
Italianate Municipal Buildings, whose Victoria
Tower, completed in 1886, stands 245 feet (75 m) tall. Begun
five years previously in a competition won by architects H & D
Barclay, it exceeds the height of the tower of
Glasgow City Chambers
by more than a metre. The Municipal Buildings were bombed during World
War 2 and what is known as Cowans Corner on the southern elevation of
the building was destroyed beyond repair and remains like so today.
Cowan's Corner is named so after the story of how an obstinate shop
owner took on the town council and thwarted its plans for the
construction of the Municipal Buildings. In the 1850s, the council
started buying up all the property on the projected Municipal Building
site, but the council did not anticipate it would run into problems
when attempting to negotiate with a certain Robert Cowan, one of the
owners of the firm of Cowan & Lawrie that operated a shop on a
corner site in Cathcart Square. The council made every effort to reach
a compromise but Robert refused to sell his property. Only when the
plans were altered, owing to the fact the corner site could not be
acquired, was Greenock's famous landmark — the Victoria Tower —
Work started on the Municipal Buildings in 1881 and was completed in
1886. The total cost was £197,061 — a colossal amount then — and
it left the town with a debt not finally cleared until 1952. After the
buildings were finished, further legal proceedings started and a court
decision meant Robert Cowan had to move. He opened new premises at the
corner of Westburn Street and West Blackhall Street. The property at
the corner of the square was destroyed during the Blitz of 1941.
Despite Robert Cowan being forced out, it would appear the council
could not proceed with any plans it had for the site prior to the
Blitz. A 1957 Telegraph story stated that only a few years earlier had
Greenock Corporation managed to negotiate its purchase due to
conflicting claims by descendants of the original owners. The article
said that it had been suggested the corporation might finally be able
to complete the Municipal Buildings to approximately the original
designs. Cowan's Corner remains vacant but is a landscaped area with
Further evidence of this wealth can be seen in the large villas of
Greenock's west end, one time home to the ship owners, industrialists
and investors. The area is fronted by the mile long (1.6 km)
sweep of the Esplanade with its views across the Clyde to Kilcreggan
which almost convinces the visitor that no heavy industry could have
been anywhere nearby.
Battery Park and torpedoes
War of 1812
War of 1812 reawakened fears of American raids against Britins
ports. Earlier gun batteries, had been dismantled, and in 1813 ground
was granted for a battery at Whitefarland Point:
Fort Matilda was
completed in 1818, and was sporadically modified over the century. The
land to the west of this was common ground for inhabitants of the
town, but in 1907 the
Admiralty compulsorily purchased part of this
land for a torpedo factory. The remaining space was handed over to
Greenock Corporation in 1914 as a public park.
The Clyde Torpedo Factory, which opened in 1910, with 700 workers
transferred from the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. The site was tasked with
designing and testing of torpedoes. These were then tested in Loch
Long. During the
Second World War
Second World War the site switched entirely to
manufacturing torpedoes. The original gun battery site was occupied by
the Navy Buildings, the main offices, just to the east of the torpedo
factory buildings. Following WW2, in 1947, the site became fully
committed to R&D as the Torpedo Experimental Establishment (TEE).
TEE was closed in 1959, when all torpedo research, development and
design were concentrated at the newly formed
Weapons Establishment (AUWE), Portland.
Old West Kirk
Old West Kirk
Old West Kirk features a scale model of a 20-gun frigate above its
Sailor's loft: the Laird's Gallery is on the right.
A church which became known as the
Old West Kirk
Old West Kirk had been established
Greenock in 1591 under the patronage of John Schaw, the first built
Scotland since the Reformation. It was extended over the years, at
an early stage the Schaw aisle provided pews for the Laird of the
Barony, built as a gallery to the east of the nave of the church.
Opposite it, above the front entrance, is the Crawfurdsburn or Choir
Gallery. At the south end of the nave, the Sailor's Loft gallery was
built in 1698, and features a 19th-century model frigate, which
replaced earlier models. At the north end, the Farmer's Gallery is
above the main seating area. A tower was added in the mid 19th
In 1926, to make way for expansion of the Harland & Wolff shipyard
(the present-day location of Container Way), the
Old West Kirk
Old West Kirk was
relocated to a new site on the Esplanade where it still stands. The
shipbuilders provided the Pirrie Hall to the south of the site: this
was opened in February 1925, just after the old church closed for work
to commence, and was used during the works to accommodate services,
enabling the congregation to see progress on the rebuilt kirk. It then
came into use as the church hall.
The church is notable for stained glass by artists such as Dante
Gabriel Rossetti and Sir Edward Burne-Jones. The Church has a
Second World War
Free French Memorial on
Lyle Hill overlooking Gourock
James Watt Memorial College building
Greenock Town Hall
Greenock suffered badly during the
Second World War
Second World War and its anchorage
Tail of the Bank
Tail of the Bank became the base for the
Home Fleet as well as
the main assembly point for
Atlantic convoys. On 30 April 1940 the
Vauquelin class destroyer
Vauquelin class destroyer Maillé Brézé blew up off Greenock
with heavy loss of life following an accident involving two of her own
torpedoes. Although this disaster occurred before the Free French
Naval Forces were established, many people tend to regard the Cross of
Lyle Hill as a memorial to the loss of the Maillé Brézé
as well as to the later losses of the
Free French Naval Forces
Free French Naval Forces which
sailed from the town. On the nights of 6 May and 7 May 1941 around 300
Luftwaffe aircraft attacked the town in the
A large building housing a drapery business constructed on Cowan's
property at the corner of the Municipal Buildings was badly damaged
and was demolished, leaving the blank brick corner area still known as
"Cowan's Corner". This was later set as a garden for the blind.
The original blank brick of Cowans Corner was covered in 2008 as part
of the continuing work to improve the look of the town centre.
Greenock thrived in the post-war years but as the heavy industries
declined in the 1970s and 1980s unemployment became a major problem,
and it has only been in the last ten years with reinvestment and the
redevelopment of large sections of the town that the local economy has
started to revive. Tourism has appeared as an unexpected bonus with
the development of the Clydeport Container Terminal as an Ocean
Terminal for cruise ships crossing the Atlantic. Students who do not
travel further afield for study often attend the
Greenock campus of
West College (formerly known as
James Watt College
James Watt College of Further and
Greenock reached its population peak in 1921 (81,123) and was once the
sixth largest town in Scotland.
Greenock (UK Parliament constituency)
Greenock was a parliamentary burgh in its own right. It
was merged with
Port Glasgow to form
Greenock and Port Glasgow
constituency. In 1997, it became
Greenock and Inverclyde. After the
redistribution of Scottish seats, it was merged into an enlarged
Inverclyde constituency – the first time in political history that
Greenock has not been named in a parliamentary seat.
Inverclyde remains a
Scottish Parliament constituency.
Inverclyde Royal Hospital
Inverclyde Royal Hospital is located in
Greenock serving the
population of Inverclyde, Largs, the
Isle of Bute
Isle of Bute and the Cowal
Peninsula. Ravenscraig Hospital deals with psychiatric, day
patients, referrals and specialised prescribing.
Langhill Clinic situated behind
Inverclyde Royal Hospital is now the
main psychiatric hospital with an IPCU unit and
Day hospital alongside
the main psychiatric ward.
Areas and suburbs
Arran View, Bogston, Bow Farm, Braeside, Branchton, Bridgend,
Broomhill, Cartsburn, Cornhaddock, Fancy Farm, Fort Matilda, Gibshill,
Greenock West, Grieve Hill, Hole Farm, Larkfield, Lyle Hill, Lynedoch,
Overton, Pennyfern, Strone, Strone Farm and Whinhill.
Spango Valley is
located to the west of the town.
Historically, the town relied on shipbuilding, sugar refining and wool
manufacturing for employment, but none of these industries are today
part of Greenock's economy. More recently the town relied heavily on
electronics manufacture. However, this has given way mostly to call
centre business, insurance, banking and shipping export.
The Fleming and Reid merino wool mill employed 500 people – mostly
women and produced wool garments spun and woven at the mill. This mill
was at the corner of Drumfrochar Road and Mill Road.
As of October 2012
Greenock has an unemployment rate of 5.3%, above
the Scottish average of 3.9% (figure is for the Scottish Parliament
constituency and includes Gourock, Inverkip,
Port Glasgow and Wemyss
Greenock waterfront from Victoria
Harbour to Ocean Terminal, the
skyline dominated by Victoria Tower.
The Inchgreen Drydock lacked major repair work for almost a decade,
then in March 2013 it was used for urgent repairs to the ro-ro Stena
Line ferry Finnarrow.
View looking north over the Inchgreen Drydock and repair quay, with
Harbour to the left, after the announcement that
the dry dock cranes are to be demolished.
In the early 17th century, the first pier was built in Greenock.
Shipbuilding was already an important employer by this time. The first
proper harbour was constructed in 1710 and the first well-known
Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, was
established the following year. It was the oldest shipbuilding
business in the world and gained numerous contracts
Royal Navy from 1806, building ships such as Glasgow.
In 1967 Scott's was merged with
Lithgows (founded 1874, later the
largest privately owned yard in the world) the same year becoming
Scott Lithgow, which was later nationalised as part of British
Shipbuilders in 1977. From the 1800 to 1980 many thousands of people
worked to design, build and repair ships. The reduction in
shipbuilding in the 1970s and 1980s meant that none of these companies
are still trading.
Greenock Shipbuilders included: Scotts, Browns, William Lithgows,
Fergusons, Head the Boat Builder (lifeboats). Other marine engineering
related companies included engine-makers – Kincaids, Scotts, Rankin
and Blackmore (which included the Eagle Foundry) – ship repair
(Lamonts) and Hasties for steering gear. Yacht builders included Adams
and McLean (at Cardwell Bay). Other yards included Cartsburn,
Cartsdyke, and Klondyke – all of which closed during the 1970s and
1980s due to competition from
South Korea and Japan.
Part of the site of the Scott's yard, is now an EE call centre, and
the Kingston Yard was redeveloped for housing.
Shipbuilding is now
Ferguson Marine Engineering
Ferguson Marine Engineering in nearby Port Glasgow, after
Ferguson Shipbuilders was taken over by
Jim McColl and began
modernisation. Ship repair work continues at the Garvel Drydock in
Greenock's Great Harbour.
The Inchgreen Drydock was opened in 1964 as one of the largest in the
world at 305 m long and 48 m wide. It was used to re-fit the
RMS Queen Elizabeth, and to fit-out the QE2. In 1966 it came under
the nationalised Clydeport, which was privatised in 1882 and in 2003
was sold to Peel Ports of The Peel Group. They subsequently
operated the drydock as part of their
Cammell Laird shipbuilding
subsidiary. Peel Ports put the drydock on the market for a lease
in 2014, and
Jim McColl opened discussions on leasing the dock to
expand Fergusons' shipbuilding, but nothing came of the
negotiations. On 1 May 2017 Clydeport stated that the drydock cranes
are to be demolished.
Ocean Terminal seen from the esplanade
Freight traffic is handled at the container cranes of Greenock's Ocean
Terminal, at Prince's
Pier which was constructed for the
South Western Railway. The same terminal is a regular port of call for
cruise liners visiting the west of Scotland.
Greenock was a regular port of call for Cunard Line and Canadian
Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s. Ships on the Montreal to Liverpool
transit would anchor at the
Tail of the Bank
Tail of the Bank off
Greenock in the Firth
of Clyde and steam paddlewheel ferries would service the liners.
Cunard operated the RMS Ivernia (1954), RMS Saxonia (1955), RMS
Carinthia (1956) and RMS Sylvania (1957). These four ships were built
at John Brown & Company shipyards, typically 22,000 tons, twin
screw, 600 passengers. CP operated the Empress of Britain (1956),
Empress of Canada and Empress of England.
Harbour is one of the three main ports providing
marine services support to the Royal Navy, in dual site operation with
HMNB Clyde on the Gare Loch. 240 staff of the former Royal
Maritime Auxiliary Service were transferred to
Serco Denholm under a
15-year £1bn PFI contract awarded in December 2007. This facility
means that "Admiralty" boats and tugs are a common sight on the Clyde.
Greenock's attractive esplanade provides a gently curving riverside
walk just over a mile (1.6 km) long extending to the west from
Ocean Terminal to the Royal West of
Scotland Amateur Boat Club
sailing, kayaking and rowing facilities, which originated as a rowing
club built against the east wall of
Fort Matilda in 1866, and was
granted its present title in 1885. The present clubhouse dates from
1878, and was subsequently extended.
Fort Matilda was adapted for various purposes, eventually becoming the
Navy Buildings which housed a main
Her Majesty's Coastguard
Her Majesty's Coastguard centre
until it closed in December 2012, as well as a Royal Naval Reserve
establishment, HMS Dalriada. The buildings have now been demolished,
as a site for blocks of flats off Eldon Street.
Sugar refining began in
Greenock in 1765. John Walker began a
sugar refinery in
Greenock in 1850 followed by the prominent local
cooper and shipowner
Abram Lyle who, with four partners, purchased the
Glebe Sugar Refinery in 1865. Another 12 refineries were active at one
point. The most successful of these was Tate & Lyle. It was formed
from a merger in 1921 between Abram Lyle, who had expanded into
Plaistow, and Henry Tate, who had set up a sugar refinery in Liverpool
and had expanded into London.
The Sugar Shed dominates the
James Watt Dock
James Watt Dock, opened in 1886, provided shipping and
shipbuilding facilities including a large warehouse (known as the
Sugar Shed) which was used for both imported raw sugar, and refined
sugar ready for delivery. By the end of the 19th century,
around 400 ships a year were transporting sugar from Caribbean
Greenock for processing. There were 14 sugar refineries,
including The Westburn, Walkers, The Glebe, Lochore and Ferguson and
Dempster, plus a sugar beet factory on Ingleston Street. Tobacco from
the Americas also arrived here.
When Tate and Lyle finally closed its
Greenock refinery in 1997 it
brought to an end the town's 150-year-old connections with sugar
manufacture. A newly built sugar warehouse continued shipping
operations at Greenock's Ocean Terminal. The former sugar warehouse at
James Watt Dock was by then scheduled as a category A listed
building as a fine example of early industrial architecture, with an
unusual feature of a colonnade of cast iron columns forming a
sheltered unloading area next to the quayside. This building has since
lain empty, with various schemes being proposed for conversion and
restoration. The photographs show the building still intact in
February 2006, but a fire on the evening of 12 June 2006 caused severe
damage to much of the building before being brought under control in
the early hours of 13 June. The local council confirmed that parts of
the building will have to be taken down to ensure public safety, but
promised an investigation and emphasised the importance of this world
In 2007, approval was given to proposals for a major regeneration
project. As of 2018, the building and adjacent area of the dock
accommodated a marina.
IBM arrived in the town in 1951, electronics and light
manufacturing have, until recently, been the mainstay of local
Texas Instruments (Formerly National Semiconductor) has
run a silicon wafer manufacturing plant in the town since 1970.
However, with manufacturing moving to Eastern Europe and Asia, work
has shifted to the service sector, especially call centres. EE and IBM
both have major call centre operations in Greenock, while the Royal
Scotland Mortgage Centre processes Mortgage applications from
throughout the UK & Ireland.
IBM have in recent years curtailed their operations greatly in the
area. Sanmina, another electronics company, took over much of the IBM
installation but moved 370 jobs to
Hungary in 2006. The Sanmina
plant, which consisted of the former
IBM AMDC (Automated Materials
Distribution Centre) and Modules buildings 1 to 5, has since ceased
operation and was demolished in 2009. The
Spango Valley site was
rebranded as "Valley Park" in late 2009.
Lenovo has also re-located away from Greenock, and the plant is now at
10% of the 1999/2000 capacity
Trade and commerce
Greenock's main shopping thoroughfare was Hamilton Street, which
connected West Blackhall Street in the west to Clyde Square in the
east. In 1975 it disappeared along with several other streets as the
area was pedestrianised as Hamilton Way. In the 1990s it was
refurbished again, and The Oak Mall indoor shopping centre (in
administration as of 21 November 2013) now forms the central
feature of the town, and provides most of the major retail shops in
Inverclyde, with approximately 85 units, with main anchor stores
including Boots, Argos, The Body Shop, Clarks and New Look store.
Marks and Spencer was in its original building (dating from 1936)
which was simply built round during the first phase of
pedestrianisation until the store moved to a new unit at a new retail
park in Port Glasgow In addition, two major supermarkets
Morrisons are sited near the mall. A retail estate is located nearby,
in front of the Waterfront swimming pool and leisure centre, and the
streets around the mall provide a large number of smaller shops. Small
groups of shops in most of the areas of the town provide for
day-to-day needs, but most of the specialist shops are in the town
centre. The town contains one diplomatic mission, an Italian
Greenock's most significant transportation connection is the Container
Terminal (see above).
Greenock is Scotland's best served town in terms of railway stations.
It boasts nine: Bogston, Cartsdyke,
Fort Matilda, Whinhill, Drumfrochar, Branchton and
IBM Halt. Only
Glasgow has a much greater number of stations and
only one more.
Greenock has the longest bored railway tunnel in
Scotland at 1.2 miles (1.9 km) in length.
Located directly under Newton Street in the town, the tunnel allowed
for the extension of the railway to Gourock.
Greenock is served by a number of local bus routes covering the
majority of Greenock,
Gourock and Port Glasgow. Long distance services
travel regularly to Glasgow,
Largs and Dunoon. The majority of routes
are run by McGill's Bus Services. The
Glasgow corridor is
served by three services, the 901, 906, which provide a bus along this
route every 15 minutes for most of the day. Route 907 offers a service
Buchanan bus station
Buchanan bus station to
Dunoon via Renfrew road
Port Glasgow and
Greenock every 2 hours. The X7 service also
offers travel from
Greenock to Glasgow, serving the Slaemuir area of
Port Glasgow before travelling through Kilmacolm, Bridge of Weir,
Houston and Linwood, then joining the motorway to Braehead before
Glasgow City Centre.
Greenock is located at the end of the A8 road/M8 motorway which begins
in Edinburgh. It is also the northern terminus of
Euroroute E05 which
heads south through England, France and Spain, ending at the Spanish
port and container terminal of Algeciras.
Greenock is one of the settings for Alan Sharp's 1965 novel A Green
Tree in Gedde. It is fictionalised as 'Gantock' by
Robin Jenkins in
his 1979 novel Fergus Lamont (The Gantocks are a rocky shoal in the
Firth of Clyde
Firth of Clyde nearby, just off Dunoon). Alasdair Gray's 1984 novel
1982, Janine is set in a
Greenock hotel room. Matthew Fitt's cyberpunk
But'n'Ben A-Go-Go features a submerged
Greenock after the
effects of global warming.
Greenock has featured in the poetry of W.S.
Graham (evoking his childhood) and Douglas Dunn.
Greenock is home to the world's first Burns Club, The Mother Club,
which was founded in 1801 by merchants born in Ayrshire, some of whom
had known Robert Burns. They held the first
Burns Supper on what they
thought was his birthday on 29 January 1802, but in 1803 discovered
from the Ayr parish records that the correct date was 25 January
The Victorian landscape artist
John Atkinson Grimshaw
John Atkinson Grimshaw depicted a
Greenock in several of his paintings.
Mclean Museum is the largest museum in the
featuring exhibitions on
James Watt and a collection of Ancient
The Beacon Arts Centre, with the Gallery Suite and café / bistro
looking out over the Custom House
Quay waterfront and the Clyde.
Greenock Arts Guild's Beacon Arts Centre (replacing the former
Arts Guild Theatre) opened in 2013 in a new building at Greenock's
Custom House Quay. It provides a 500 seat theatre that hosts a regular
programme of plays, concerts, musical events, comedians and other
events and a Studio Theatre, as well as a multifunction Gallery Suite
providing rehearsal and meeting rooms which combine for event or
performance space, and a café / bistro, both with views over the
Greenock hosted the National Mòd in 1904 and 1925.
Scotland adaptation of the
Para Handy novels, entitled
The Vital Spark, was filmed in Greenock. In 2012,
Greenock became the
setting for the
BBC television drama Waterloo Road, after the series
was relocated from Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The series was shot
Greenock Academy, a former secondary school in the west of the
Greenock has featured as the backdrop to several films: the television
Just a Boys' Game (1979),
Down Where The Buffalo Go
Down Where The Buffalo Go (1988) and
Down Among the Big Boys (1993) and the cinema films Sweet Sixteen
Dear Frankie (2004). "Leaving" 1988 by Danny Boyle. In "Rob
Roy", which is set in the mid-eighteenth century,
Greenock is referred
to as "the new world".
The town has a daily evening newspaper, The
Greenock Telegraph. Dating
from 1857, it is one of the oldest daily local newspapers in the
United Kingdom.
Inverclyde FM on line is a community
Internet radio station run by volunteers. An internet-based TV
Inverclyde TV – is run by Creative Industries students
at Greenock's West College
Scotland – http://www.inverclyde-tv.com
A statue at the original
James Watt College
James Watt College building marks the site of
James Watt was remembered in the name of the local college,
however this was renamed in 2014 to West College Scotland. However,
his name is still used at the library instituted in his memory, and by
James Watt Memorial College building on the site of his
birthplace in William Street which incorporates a commemorative
statue. More recently, the
James Watt Wetherspoons pub was converted
from the Cathcart Street post office building.
Other Greenockians include the composers
Hamish MacCunn and William
Wallace, violinist Henri Temianka, musicians
John McGeoch and Thomas
Leer, mathematician William Spence, poets Denis
W. S. Graham
W. S. Graham and Jean Adam, merchant Matthew Algie, actors
Martin Compston and Stella Gonet, artists William
Scott and Frederick Donald Blake, playwrights Bill Bryden, Neil
Paterson and Peter McDougall, comedian Charles 'Chic' Murray, opera
singer Hugh Enes Blackmore, broadcaster Jimmy Mack, American football
player Lawrence Tynes, Antarctic explorer Henry Robertson 'Birdie'
Bowers and portrait painter Leonard Boden.
Two Greenockians, Alexander Bruce and Theophilus S. Marshall, were
involved in the drafting of the laws for Australian Rules Football.
People associated with Greenock
William Kidd claimed on death row that he was born in Greenock,
but subsequent evidence has shown that he was born either in Belfast
Robert Burns' lover
Mary Campbell (Highland Mary)
Mary Campbell (Highland Mary) and her father
Campbeltown to visit her brother in
Greenock early in
October 1786. Her brother fell ill with typhus, which she caught while
nursing him. She died of typhus on 20 or 21 October 1786, and was
buried in the
Old West Kirk
Old West Kirk graveyard. In 1842 increasing interest in
their romance led to a monument being erected by public subscription
to mark the grave. In 1920 when the church site was needed to expand
Harland and Wolff's shipyard, the monument was moved to its present
Greenock Cemetery, with her remains being transferred to a
casket and re-interred with due ceremony. The church itself was moved
and rebuilt in its current location at the west end of the Esplanade
Cemetery entrance from
Inverkip Street, with plaque commemorating John
The novelist John Galt, who founded Guelph, Ontario in 1827, lived in
the town and based some of his work, most notably Annals of the Parish
Greenock and surrounding towns. He is buried in the
Inverkip Street Cemetery. The mother of American comedian and writer
Jay Leno, Catherine Muir, was born in
Greenock and emigrated to the US
as a child. The American actress
Julianne Moore is the daughter of the
late Anne Love, a former psychiatric social worker who emigrated from
Greenock. The Rev William C. Hewitt (minister at Westburn Parish
Church in Greenock), Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church
Scotland in 2009–2010, is the first serving minister at a church
Greenock to be appointed.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence officer convicted of
Lockerbie Bombing was incarcerated at
Greenock Prison from 2005
until his release on 20 August 2009.
Dr Donald McIntyre
FRSE (1891–1954) was born and raised in Greenock.
Cappielow Park, home of Morton F.C.
Greenock Morton F.C.
Greenock Morton F.C. are the local senior football team who currently
play in the Scottish Championship. Founded in 1874 as Morton F.C.,
they play their home matches at Cappielow. At lower levels of the
Greenock Juniors F.C.
Greenock Juniors F.C. play in the West of
Greenock hosts a rugby union team,
Greenock Wanderers RFC, founded
in 1873. It is one of the oldest clubs in Scotland.
Greenock also has 2 successful athletics clubs,
Inverclyde AC and
It is also the hometown of the
Greenock Cricket Club. and Greenock
The town was also the host of the first ever international women's
football match, which was between
Scotland and England; it was held at
the Ravenscraig Sports Centre.
Public sports and leisure facilities
Leisure facilities in
Greenock are primarily provided by Inverclyde
Leisure. There are several sports facilities in the town and
surrounding area managed by
Waterfront Leisure Complex
Greenock Sports Centre
Lady Octavia Sports Centre
Boglestone Community Centre and Fitness Gym
Ravenscraig Sports Centre
Battery Park Pavilion
Gourock Fitness Gym
Gourock Outdoor Swimming Pool
Birkmyre Park Fitness Gym (Kilmacolm)
As of 2009, there are plans to build a new multi-purpose facility at
Greenock Temp.(click to enlarge)
Greenock's climate is temperate maritime having mainly cool summers
but with relatively mild winters. Its location means that the heat
retentive properties of seawater help keep winter temperatures higher.
Additionally, the effect of the
Gulf Stream on the Clyde helps
Greenock's average temperature stay approximately one degree above
that of eastern coastal towns on the same latitude. Indeed, Greenock's
latitude (55.94 degrees north with a longitude of 4.75 degrees west)
places it at the same latitude as the Moscow area. The warming effect
Gulf Stream however, keeps the winter weather in
milder than that of Moscow.
Greenock anecdotally has the reputation for having higher than average
rainfall (the song The Green Oak Tree comments on this) but this is
not statistically true; northwest of Fort William has the highest
average rainfall in Scotland. Greenock's location gives long hours
of daylight in midsummer with the opposite true in midwinter. On the
longest day, 21 June, the sun rises at 04:31 and sets at 22:07. In
midwinter, 21 December, the sun rises at 08:46 and sets at 15:44.
Greenock's twin cities are
Veulettes-sur-Mer and Cany-Barville, both
in France. Another sister city is Coatesville, in Pennsylvania.
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Media related to
Greenock at Wikimedia Commons
Greenock travel guide from Wikivoyage
Wikisource has the text of The New Student's Reference Work article