Greenock, Scotland: Old Photos & Films

Greenock, the largest settlement in the Scottish area of Inverclyde, was once an important manufacturing, export and shipbuilding centre. It suffered badly in the bombing of May 1941, before watching many of its industries disappear in more recent decades. Many photos and films still exist to chart the many changes this town has witnessed.


Old Photos Through The Decades

old greenock

Selection of black and white photos set to music. Lots of people, places and industries in the old days.

Greenock in old photos.

Another selection of old photos, many in colour.

Greenock old pics 2

More than 22 minutes of old photos and pictures from many different decades and locations.


1937: The Launch Of A Ship

Greenock (1937)

From the British Pathé collection comes this quick clip of a ship being launched in 1937. Was it an Indian dignitary in attendance?


Greenock Blitz: 6 & 7 May 1941

On the nights of 6th and 7th of May 1941, Luftwaffe bombing raids involving hundreds of aircraft took aim at the shipyards and berthed ships. Unfortunately, most of the bombs and incendiary devices fell on residential parts of town, causing damage and huge fires. 

  • 271 people were killed
  • over 10,200 injured
  • Nearly 5,000 homes were destroyed outright
  • 25,000 homes suffered damage

Greenock Blitz 1941

William Young identified the damaged sites. Where some of the old landscape still exists he’s compared old photos of the site to photos taken in the same location in 2014. He’s added clear titles to identity each scene.

VE Day 75 Inverclyde – The Greenock blitz

A photo montage showing how extensive the blitz damage was. Good clear location titles.


A Town About To Change

Film of Old Greenock

Film 1: 24 minutes long: Greencok Plans Ahead (1950s)

Hamilton Tait’s film with the title card: Greencok Plans Ahead. Almost 45 minutes long, this film looks at the industrial and housing issues facing the local Corporation. It then considers the plans to resolve these problems, as drawn up by Sir Frank C. Mears (11 July 1880 – 25 January 1953).

At the time, Greenock was the 6th largest borough in Scotland, with a population of nearly 80,000 people.

There are hardly any vehicles on the wide, tree lined roads of the smart, planned residentials streets.

The ‘clutter’ of mixed housing and industry clearly worried the planners, although the busiest streets still look very quiet to modern eyes.

However, the freight steam trains pottering about along normal roads certainly does look a bit worrying!

The blitz of May 1941 caused lots of damage, and the wrecked housing blocks appear.

The new plans envisioned expansion of the port, sugar refining factories and the knitwear industry. They also looked at the hand made furniture using cooperage skills.

The planners wanted the town centre to be focussed on business, services and transport. Retails would replace the bomb damaged streets.

“This old school will be demolished as it stands in the way of development”.

800 houses were in the process of being built at Larkfield.

Bishopton was proposed as a satellite town for 30,000 people.

Baby clinics were the focus of the healthcare service. Maternity services had only just been moved into the state healthcare sector from the local authority.

New Wellington Park would offer different ways to enjoy leisure time.

Film 2 Starts at 24 minutes in: Sea City (1970s)

A film in colour, showing the port and the locally produced products exported across the world.

Because it has a narrative revolving around a schoolby, a wide range of people and places appear.


The 1940s & 1950s

Unveiling Memorial To Free French (1946)

Unveiling of the memorial to the Free French Navy, which was a sculpture in the shape of an achor.

The Free French Navy

Around 1940 the Free French Navy arrived in town. The sailors were given use of the Martyrs North Church hall, which was used as a canteen and bunking house for those on shore leave. Even Charles De Gaulle visited the church to meet the men stationed there.

The Free French Navy ship, the Maille Breze, exploded. Many sailors died, with others badly injured. Local women gave first aid to the survivors in the halls, before transfer to the old Greenock Royal Infirmary in Duncan Street.

Those who died were buried in the local cemetery, with a service held in St Mary’s church. Then in 1946, they were interred and returned to France, and the memorial was erected on the waterfront.

Lord Inverclyde

Present is Lord Inverclyde (John Alan Burns, 4th Baron Inverclyde, 12 December 1897 – 17 June 1957). He was wounded in the trenches in the First World War before transfer to the War Office. In the Second World War he was back serving in France, then rescued from RMS Lancastria when she was sunk off St Nazaire on 17 June 1940.

Lord Inverclyde married first the daughter of Arthur Sainsbury (of the supermarket chain) and then June Howard-Tripp, a star of the silent films. Both marriages ended in divorce. 

He enjoyed his flat in Mayfair, his yacht and his autumnal grouse hunts, choosing not to be involved with the running of the Cunard Steamship Company Ltd, co-founded by his forebears.

Greenock 1959

It’s a bit fuzzy, but this old cine film includes lots of locations and gives a good impression of where people were spending time. Also, William Murray has added some interesting information too.


The 1960s & 1970s

60s greenock 2

A great collection of 1960s colour photos.

Greenock in the 60s and 70s

Lots of people, places and vehicles.


The 1980s & 1990s

Greenock 1981 – A shipbuilding town

Recording a drive from the BPI factory at 90 Port Glasgow Road into the town centre in October 1981. Captures the shipbuilding firms and suppliers before the industrial landscape changed forever.

Greenock 1992 Inch Green works – Scott Lithgow – Anaplast BPI

Brian Jones used a Video 8 camcorder to record what he saw from the top of the silos at Anaplast (British Polythene Industries). This is now a housing estate. At the time, petrol was 47.9p a litre!