Greenock (Gaelic Grianaig, ) is a large town and former burgh of barony in the Inverclyde council area of western Scotland. It forms part of a contiguous urban area with Gourock to the west and Port Glasgow to the east.
Greenock's population was recorded as being 45,467 in the 2001 census, a decrease from about 78,000 in 1966. 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, and is in what was the county of Renfrewshire.
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 eliminated the necessity of taking 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. 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 to avoid disturbance to the villas of Greenock's west end.
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 (74.7 m) tall. Begun five years previously in a competition won by architects H. & D. Barclay, it audaciously trumps the tower of the contemporaneous Glasgow City Chambers by more than a metre. It remains uncompleted, however. A local businessman called Robert Cowan refused to sell his building in front of the tower for less than his own price, preventing completion of the right hand façade of the southern elevation.
In 1907 the Admiralty compulsory purchased part of this land and constructed 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 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.
Greenock reached its population peak in 1921 (81,123) and was once the sixth largest town in Scotland.
The Inverclyde Royal Hospital is located in Greenock serving both the population of the town and wider area including Port Glasgow, Gournock and the Isle of Bute.
Ravenscraig Hospital is also located in Greenock dealing with pyschiatric, day patients, referrals and specialised prescribing.
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 shipbuilders, Scott's, was established the following year. It was the oldest shipbuilding business in the world and gained numerous contracts with the Royal Navy from 1806, building ships such as the Prince of Wales.
Scott's was nationalised in 1969 and merged with Lithgow's (founded 1874, later the largest privately owned yard in the world) the same year becoming Scott Lithgow. Other yards included Cartsburn, Cartsdyke, and Klondyke - all of which closed during the 1970s and 1980s due to competition from South Korea and Japan.
The site of the Scott's yard is now occupied by a T-Mobile call centre.
Ship repair work continues at the Garvel dry dock.
Freight traffic is handled at the container cranes of Greenock's Ocean Terminal, at Prince's Pier which was constructed for the Glasgow and South Western Railway. The same terminal is also a regular port of call for cruise liners visiting the west of Scotland.
Greenock's Great Harbour is one of the three main ports providing marine services support to the Royal Navy, in dual site operation with Faslane at HMNB Clyde on the Gare Loch. This formerly came under the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, but is currently operated by Serco Denholm, who are preferred bidders for the next contract. 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 Boat Club sailing and rowing facilities and clubhouse at the corner of the Navy Buildings which house a main Her Majesty's Coastguard centre as well as a Royal Naval Reserve establishment, HMS Dalriada.
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 famous of these (and successful, being the only survivor until August 1997) 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 also expanded into London.
By the end of the 19th century, around 400 ships a year were transporting sugar from Caribbean holdings to Greenock for processing in the 14 sugar refineries. 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 the James Watt Dock was by then scheduled as a grade 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 heritage building.
However, with manufacturing moving to Eastern Europe and Asia, work has shifted to the service sector, especially call centres. T-Mobile and IBM both have major call centre operations in Greenock, while the Royal Bank of 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. As of 2006, Sanmina have themselves announced major cuts, with 370 jobs being moved to Hungary.
Sanmina has now shut and the remaining workers are being re-located.
Lenovo has now also re-located away from Greenock, and the plant is at 10% of the 1999/2000 capacity
As of 2008 the plant has now been scheduled for 'shutdown' with the remaining workers being 'relocated'
Greenock is Scotland's best served town in terms of railway stations. It boasts nine: Bogston, Cartsdyke, Greenock Central, Greenock West, Fort Matilda, Whinhill, Drumfrochar, Branchton and IBM Halt. Only Glasgow has a much greater number of stations and Edinburgh possesses only one more.
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 of Algeciras which also possesses a container terminal.
Greenock is fictionalised as 'Gantock' by Robin Jenkins in his 1979 novel Fergus Lamont (The Gantocks are in fact a rocky shoal in the Firth of Clyde nearby, just off Dunoon). Alasdair Gray's 1984 novel 1982, Janine is set in a Greenock hotel room. Greenock has featured in several of the poems of Douglas Dunn.
Greenock has featured as the backdrop to several films: the television films Just a Boy's Game (1979), , Down Where The Buffalo Go (1988) and Down Among the Big Boys (1993) and the theatrical films Sweet Sixteen (2002) and and Dear Frankie'' (2004),
Greenock's most noted son is the engineer James Watt. He is remembered in the name of the local college, at the library instituted in his memory and by the original James Watt Memorial College building on the site of his birth place in William Street which incorporates a commemorative statue.
Other famous Greenockians include: the composers Hamish MacCunn and William Wallace, musicians John McGeoch and Thomas Leer, poets Denis Devlin, W. S. Graham and Jean Adam, merchant Matthew Algie, actors Richard Wilson, Stella Gonet and Martin Compston, playwrights Bill Bryden and Peter McDougall, comedian Charles 'Chic' Murray, opera singer Hugh Enes Blackmore and Antarctic explorer Henry Robertson 'Birdie' Bowers.
The novelist John Galt, noted for founding Guelph, Ontario in 1827, lived in the town and based some of his work, most notably Annals of the Parish (1821), on Greenock and surrounding towns. He is buried in the Inverkip Street Cemetery.
Lawrence Tynes, kicker for the New York Giants an American Football team in the NFL, originates from Greenock and has several family members still in the town. The British painter, William Scott (1913-1989) was born in Greenock and lived there with his family until 1924 when the family moved to Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. The Oscar winning screenwriter, Neil Paterson (1916-1995) was born in Greenock, as was the radio and television presenter Jimmy Mack (1934-2004).
Catherine (Muir), a homemaker, was born in Greenock and immigrated to the United States as an eleven year-old. Catherine is known for being the mother of Emmy-winning American comedian and writer Jay Leno. Jay is best known as the host of NBC television's long-running variety and talk program The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Mary Campbell, Robert Burns' Highland Mary, is buried in Greenock Cemetery where there is a monument to her memory. Greenock is also home to the world's first Burns club, The Mother Club, which was founded in 1801.
Its most infamous resident is Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence officer and former head of Libyan Arab Airlines, who was convicted on 31 January 2001 of murder after causing a bomb to be placed on board Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland on 21 December 1988 with the loss of 270 lives. Megrahi was moved in February 2005 from solitary confinement in Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow to Greenock Prison, where he is expected to serve the rest of his 27-year sentence.
Another famous local resident was recently covered in an article by The Daily Telegraph and is known as "The Catman". He is a man of around 60 who lives wild.
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.
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; the Western Highlands in fact has the highest average rainfall in Scotland.