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Gourock

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Gourock, a watering-place in Innerkip parish, NW Renfrewshire, extending nearly2 miles along the southern shore of the Firth of Clyde. By water it is 1½ mile S of Kilcreggan at the narrowest, and 4 3/8. miles SW of Helensburgh; whilst by road it is 1¾ mile N of Ravenscraig station, 2½ miles ENE of Cloch Lighthouse, and 2¾ WNW of the centre of Greenock, with which it communicates by a tramway opened on 1 July 1873-'It lies,'says Mr Macrae,'along the firth, right and left from Kempoch Point, opposite the mouth of Loch Long, where the firth broadens out into its full beauty and magnificence. A hill called Barrhill (478 feet), precipitous on the western flank, and descending and narrowing to a point at Kempoch, cuts Gourock into two villages-Gourock proper and Ashton, the E and W ends of the place-each with its own bay. Gourock proper looks mainly up the Clyde, towards Roseneath and Helensburgh. Ashton, round the point, looks across the firth westward to Strone, Holy Loch, and Dunoon-'Whereto need only be added that Gourock Bay, measuring ¾ mile across the entrance and 3 ¼ furlongs thence to its inmost recess, affords good anchorage for yachts, being free from rock and shoall on its western side is an excellent stone pier and jetty, constructed in 1840 for steamers and small sailing craft. West Bay is hardly a bay in the proper sense of the term, so slight is its encurvature; but its rocky or shingly beach is well adapted for bathing. The greater portion of Gourock proper is a continuous, well-built terrace-line, fully ½ milelong, and standing on nearly a dead level close to the beach; but a considerable portion consists of short streets and separate houses on the face of the brae behind. A small portion of Ashton, joining on to the lower end of Gourock proper, and sometimes called Kempoch, is a double line of houses or short street, of similar character to the main part of Gourock proper; the greater portion is an array of villas or neat two-story houses, in terrace line, confronting the West Bay; and a small but conspicuous portion consists of separate villas on a highline of road along the crest of a steep overhanging brae, with gardens and garden walls running almost precipitously down its face. The site of all the beachward portions of the town is the narrow, low platform of the old sea-margin that fringes nearly all the Firth of Clyde; and the site of the higher portions is a range of braes, abrupt or sloping, formed by the upheaval of eruptive rocks. The seaward view from the town is everywhere charming and diversified, ranging over an extensive reach of the Dumbartonshire and Argyllshire hills, mountains, and sea-lochs; the roads from its two extremities, towards Greenock and Innerkip, are delightful carriage-drives; and the steep grounds behind afford delightful rambles to pedestrians, and command magnificent views. The gentlest part of the ascent, southward from the E end of Gourock proper, is traversed by a carriage-road towards the vale of Kip Water and the dingle thence to Greenock, is partly occupied by the park and mansion of Gourock House, and contains some exquisite scenery. Gourock, indeed, has so neat and cheerful an aspect, such snug and comfortable houses, such capital bathing-grounds, such ample facilities of communication both by land and by water, and so prompt and full a supply of the genera; conveniences and comforts of life, as well to merit the character of a first-class watering-place. It was a sea-bathing resort in times long prior to the introduction of steam navigation, and it continues to be frequented more or less throughout the year, being always crowded during the summer months.

The town has a post office under Greenock, with money order, savings'bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, a branch of the Union Bank, 5 insurance agencies, 6 hotels, gasworks (1849), police and coastguard stations, a rifle corps, bowling, curling, skating, sailing, and cricket clubs, a young men's Christian association, temperance and other societies, a masonic lodge (1878), and the Gamble Institute, erected in 1874-76 at a cost of £8000 by Mrs Henry Gamble of Ashburn. Besides two public halls, with accommodation for 350 and 100 persons, this handsome building contains a public library, coffee and smoking rooms, and baths. The quoad sacra parish of Gourock, constituted in 1857, is in the presbytery of Greenock and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Successor to a chapel of ease of 1776, its church was built in 1832-33 at a cost of £2300, being a neat structure with a square battlemented tower. In 1882 it was enlarged, and greatly improved by the introduction of an organ and a stained-glass window. A hall and rooms behind were added in 1874, and a manse was purchased in 1877. The Free church (1855-57) is a handsome Gothic edifice, whose tower was completed in 1877There are also a Gothic U.P. church (1848), an Independent congregation that arose from the expulsion by the U.P. synod of the Rev. David Macrae (1879), an Episcopal church, St Bartholomew's (1857), and a Roman Catholic, St Ninian's (1880), which, Early English in style, is divided into two flats-the upper one the church, the lower a schoolroom. Two handsome new public schools, the Central and the Eastern, were built in 1877, and, with respective accommodation for 330 and 150 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 241 and 146, and grants of £222, 5s. and £135, 9s. A monument of prehistoric times is a monolith of grey mica schist, 6 feet high and 2 in diameter, which stands between the edge of the cliff and modern Gourock Castle. It bears the soubriquet of'Granny Kempoch,' and for ages was looked upon with superstitious awe. Sailors and fishermen would pace seven times around it, carrying a basketfull of sea-sand and chanting an eerie strain, thereby to ensure a prosperous breeze; whilst a newly-wedded pair must also make the round of it, if they would have good luck. In 1662, Mary Lamont, a girl in her'teens, was, with other women of Gourock and Greenock, condemned and burned as a witch. She confessed, among other things, to having been present 'at a meeting at Kempoch, where they intended to cast the long-stone into the sea, thereby to destroy boats and ships; where also they danced, and the devil kissed them when they went away'

This is not the first mention of Gourock, since James IV. sailed hence on his expedition to the Western Isles (1494); and its vanished old castle, small and unimportant though it was, is known to have been held by the powerfull Douglases down to their forfeiture in 1455Forming the western part of Finnart barony, the lands of Gourock were thereafter held by the Stewarts of Castle milk till 1784, when they were sold for £5000 to Duncan Darroch, once a poor Innerkip herd-boy, whose great-grandson, Duncan Darroch, Esq. (b. 1836; suc1864), holds 4248 acres in Renfrewshire and 32,000 in Ross-shire, valued at £4387 and £1062 per annum(See Torridon.) To him belongs Gourock House, with its beautiful grounds, although he has never made it his home; another mansion, modern Gourock Castle, was built near the site of its predecessor in 1747, and is a plain edifice, with later additions.

So early as 1694 Sir William Stewart of Castle milk obtained a charter incorporating the lands of Gourock into a free barony, and Gourock itself into a burgh of barony, with power to rear, build, and enlarge the same town, and to hold a court and market every Tuesday, with two annuall fairs on 12 June o- s- and 10 Nov. o- s. A- rope-walk, started in 1777, was removed to Port Glasgow in 1851; a copper-mine was sunk in 1780 in the valley behind Tower Hilll and the first red herring ever cured in Great Britain was cured at Gourock in 1688. These industries all are things of the past; but still, after upwards of sixty years, whinstone is largely exported from Craigmuschat Quarry. The Police Act of 1850 was adopted in 1858, the General lmprovement (Scotland) Act of 1862 in 1877; and under the latter Gourock is governed by a provost, two bailies, and five other commissioners. The municipal; constituency numbered 1105 in 1883, when the annual value of real property was £24,179. Pop. of town (1841) 2169, (1861) 2116, (1871) 2940, (1881) 3336, of whom 3308 were in the police burgh and 1438 were males; of quoad sacra parish (1871) 3291, (1881) 4296, of whom 4149 were in Innerkip and 147 in Greenock West parish. Houses in town (1881) 830 inhabited, 264 vacant, 4 building.—Ord. Sur., shs. 30, 29, 1866-73. See the Rev. David Macrae's -Notes about Gourock, chiefly Historical (Edinb. 1880).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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