Sunday, 21 December 2014

Working Class Gourockians: Forgotten and trapped between Ashton and Greenock Westenders

Geographically, culturally and historically, there are two parts to Gourock. Traditionally, Gourock proper or Gourock Bay (which covers the area from Shore Street to Cardwell Road) and the newer Ashton area over on West Bay.

Working class people tended to live over on the Shore Street, Cardwell Road, east end of the town while the Middle Classes and the wealthy Glasgow merchants built their summer houses further along Cloch Road. Kempock street was the middle ground between these two worlds. This is why the Gamble Halls are situated in the older, east part of town, the building was given as a library and baths for the improvement of working people through recreation and reading.

The above picture is from the 1950's. It's the workers at Adams Boat Yard in Gourock which includes my Great Granda Hermann, my Granda Robey, my great uncles Bert, Hermann, Harry, Bernhardt (Benny) and Jimmy who all worked in Adams Yard as shipwrights. They all lived along Shore Street and also just up above Shore Street on McCallum Cres. Hermann was the Foreman and Jimmy was Union shop steward, after work they used to meet in the back room of the Albert Bar and my Granda also worked in Monteiths Bar at night. Unusually, my Great Granda Hermann Ahlfeld has two gravestones in Gourock Cemetery, one from his family and one from his co-workers at Adams Yard. 

Other working men who lived around the east end of the town worked in places like the Gasworks and the Quarry. They drank in the various other pubs which still remain in this part of the town today, pubs such as the Victoria Bar, the Darroch etc... Later, many Gourock men (And women) also worked in the Torpedo Factory which was built at the Battery Park (despite bitter objections from the wealthy west enders in Greenock) which is why the Factory Social Club remains in Gourock today.
Later, many of these workers moved up to Midton. For example, my Dad was born and raised on Shore street but later moved up to Midton (to a house with an inside toilet). Midton was started in 1944 and consisted of 11 pre-fabricated houses (pre-fabs) Later Midton expanded to include the Council estate which which was built in the 1950's.

Sadly, the problems faced by Working Class people in Gourock were often ignored because many of Gourock's traders, business owners and Middle Classes were often more vocal and had more influence than our elected members. Over the decades, this resulted in a disconnect between Working Class Gourockians and various Labour controlled Councils in the 70's and 80's. I'm really not sure how much has changed almost 60 years later. Gourock is often still hostage to a small but vocal business class and often still dismissed as a town of snobs and rich people.     

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