The Ghost of Burghs Past

The empty shield that once bore the Gourock Coat of Arms blazon at Gourock Park, removed by persons unknown (Picture from Greenock Telegraph)

The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best – and therefore never scrutinize or question.

– Stephen Jay Gould

It is no great surprise to see that Inverclyde Council has voted to remove instances of Gourock’s Burgh Coat of Arms from public view. The results of last year’s consultation were as follows:

Of the 205 respondents, 50 felt that the coat of arms should be retained (although a great majority of them were in favour of information boards to explain them); 77 felt the coat of arms should be changed or removed; and 23 didn’t know or weren’t clear about their views.

There were 29 comments left as part of the survey; 11 of these were strongly negative about the coat of arms (some respondents were ‘shocked’ and ‘horrified’ upon seeing the coat of arms for the first time), five were of the view that it is history and therefore cannot be changed, and two believed it to be inaccurate to describe the man as enslaved.

Inverclyde Now

And Councillors have acted accordingly:

COUNCILLORS have agreed that Gourock’s controversial coat of arms should be removed from display where practical.

The coat of arms includes a figure widely considered to be that of an enslaved man.

Councillors agreed that officials should now look into the practical issues arising from the decision and report back.

The coat of arms features at several Gourock buildings and on a stained glass window at the Watt Institute in Greenock.

Gourock Community Council use the coat of arms, and it is on the badge of the Gourock Athletic amateur football team.

The coat of arms was adopted in 1954 and was based on the burgh seal which dated from the 19th century. Gourock Burgh became part of the new Inverclyde District Council in 1975.

Inverclyde Now

The discussion & vote can be found at the 55 Minute mark on the Council’s Youtube site:

Ultimately, it was a nuanced and sensitive discussion, and I must give particular thanks to Gourock Councillor Chris McEleny for his considered words in what could easily have devolved into a heated and unproductive debate. I also appreciate the qualification “widely considered” on the Inverclyde Now article for reasons I’ve gone into before. It seemed more likely than not that the Council would choose to take the same route as other councils and local authorities, especially given the recent (and long overdue) reappraisal of Scotland’s history.

The question becomes, what now for the Gourock Man?

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Gourock Coat of Arms Public Consultation

The following post is an expansion on my response to Inverclyde’s Historical Links to Slavery Working Group: Gourock Coat of Arms Public Consultation. I have written on the Gourock Coat of Arms before, and I have a deep personal interest in it stemming from an early age. Therefore I felt it would be beneficial to share my response on this site. Inverclyde Council had pre-emptively planned to remove the Coat of Arms, concurrently with plans to de-colonise the Watt Institute’s museum collections.

I encourage any Gourockian readers to fill out the survey & hand it in by Wednesday 24th November.

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We Do It To Ourselves

I’ve found great difficulty mustering the heart & will to post anything on the blog in the past few months. Everything since the election has seemed so counter-intuitively dark and dreich, a sense of failure clad in the gaudy rainments of victory. For all the gains we made since 2014, we still keep failing somehow. Almost as if I’m starting to understand the Cringe.

Image courtesy of the McLean Museum & Art Gallery

This is – was – the Duncan McPherson Centre.

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Remembering Forgotten Histories

The Fisk Jubilee Singers, 1875: B.W. Thomas, Julia Jackson, Maggie L. Porter, Ella Sheppard, F.J. Loudin, H.D. Alexander, Georgia Gordon, Jennie Jackson, America W. Robinson, Thomas Rutling

Current events often inspire an itch in me to go back to history. Given the global situation, this means going through my own library, or diving into the internet for digitised offerings.

One such gem is The Singing Campaign for Ten Thousand Pounds by Gustavus D. Pike. This 1875 book covered the journey of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choir of former slaves who toured the world to fundraise for education for freedmen and other black Americans:

And yet again, I found myself surprised that Scotland – Gourock itself – plays a tiny role in this amazing story.

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The Streets Where We Live

In case it wasn’t obvious from recent posts (and ones not so recent), I wholeheartedly support the movement which has led to protests against systemic injustices around the world in the past few days. That it should be even necessary to state this is purely because too many people are either conditional in their support, or outright silent, & I didn’t want to leave any ambiguity on my part. I value the lives & wellbeing of my BAME relatives, friends, colleagues, and fellow people, than I do “accommodating” or “keeping the peace” with people who disagree.

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Blazoned Across The Stars: International Women’s Day 2020

Grannies are formidable figures in Scottish culture, hence why this 4,000 year old megalith is affectionately titled “Granny Kempock.”

Men have sat at the feet of women down the ages and our civilization, bad or good, we owe to the influence of women.
Robert E. Howard, letter to Harold Preece, December 1928

I watch Suffragette back when it came out, knowing it was going to be rather difficult to get through. I’m not good with historical dramas which centre around oppression and unfairness: I keep wanting to leap into the screen and sort everything out. Because in cinema, that’s how things work: charismatic individuals with right on their side just get things done with rousing speeches or acts of defiance. It’s why heroes like Zorro and Superman are so popular – the will and the determination to change things for the better with the strength & ability to make those changes. The strong should use their strengths to carry, not to crush – but it has been bred into us to suffer some tyranny for some security.

I still profess to having a childlike view of such things. I don’t like it when the strong use their power to keep those weaker than them down. But worse, to me, are those who just stand by and let it happen – because I know there have been times when I was one of those bystanders. When women were beaten by policemen with truncheons, sympathetic men and women did nothing. When women are imprisoned, their husbands are ashamed to pay their bail. When women go back to work, they are disciplined – by their employers, or their husbands – for their insubordination. That was at best. At worse, they were complicit in the social exclusion that the state fostered against the agents of change. Alienating. Shaming. The violence against their bodies is bad enough, but the violence done to their minds and souls is what truly cuts.

And we, as a species, are still at it. For all we’ve made strides in many nations, there are still too many where women and girls are forbidden from basic freedoms, forced into “marriage” (how anyone can define such a union as marriage is beyond me), where abhorrent treatment is a fact of life. Being part of a global community carries responsibilities – otherwise, it is a community without collective consequences. All throughout history, women made their mark, from Sappho and Elpinice to Aspasias of Athens and Thargelia of Miletus: and this is no less true in Scotland, from the Caledonian Period to the Middle Ages, on through to the present leader of our nation. Even my own little hometown of Gourock can boast women writers, artists, politicians, journalists, and war heroines. – to say nothing of my mammy, my sister, my niece, my granny, my aunties and great-aunties and cousins, and my many brilliant female friends who are such an inspiration to me.

The least I could do is be as brave as they are.

Woman have always been the inspiration of men, and just as there are thousands of unknown great ones among men, there have been countless women whose names have never been blazoned across the stars, but who have inspired men on to glory.
– Robert E. Howard

 

Louie

It is with a heavy heart that we have to announce the passing of ‘Big’ Louie Pastore. A loving husband, dad, grandad, brother, son, brother-in-law and great friend to many.

Louie passed away at Ardgowan Hospice this morning surrounded by his family.

His memory will live on through his photographs and his contributions to Inverclyde’s arts and music scene.

His family would like to thank all the staff at Ardgowan Hospice for all their hard work in looking after Louie, and we would also like to thank everyone for their kind words and condolences.

“𝐼 𝑑𝑜𝑛’𝑡 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝐼’𝑚 𝑔𝑜𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒, 𝑏𝑢𝑡 𝐼 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑚𝑖𝑠𝑒 𝑖𝑡 𝑤𝑜𝑛’𝑡 𝑏𝑒 𝑏𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔.” (David Bowie)

Louie Pastore
Rest in peace
1962-2019

Louie Pastore was a very close friend to the family, especially my mother and father, who knew him for most of their lives. He was someone I wish I got to know better, because he shared a lot of interests, hobbies, and causes with me. We graduated from the same university course, where he went on to do teaching. He played music at the Spinnaker; he adventured all around Inverclyde looking for ancient artifacts and taking wonderful photographs; he contributed so much to the local community, through projects like Heid ‘o the Hill and Dark Side o’ the Clyde.

Louie was a big reason I became so invested in local history. I always had a great love and appreciation for Scottish cultural heritage, but Louie knew about the Roman remains at Lurg Moor, the prehistoric rock carvings at what is now Gourock Golf Course, and anything and everything archaeological in Inverclyde.

A great deal of the work I do, from occasional posts on this blog about local history & lives, to Gourock Heritage & Arts, is thanks to his shining example.

A man like Louie lived for his family, his tribe, his local community. I hope we can keep his spirit going.