NS2776 : Burial place of John Galt

taken 6 years ago, near to Greenock, Inverclyde, Great Britain

Burial place of John Galt
Burial place of John Galt
As an inscription beside the main entrance of the burial ground points out, "within these walls is the final resting place of John Galt, novelist". The plot is shown in the foreground of the present picture; the novelist's father, mother, and sister, and her children, are also buried here.

Of the three tablets, the one furthest away reads as follows (note that the "&c &c" is written on the stone; it does not represent text that I have omitted):

"Here are deposited the remains of JOHN GALT, formerly Shipmaster and afterwards Merchant in Greenock. He died on the 6th of August 1817 in the 67th year of his age, having uniformly enjoyed the esteem of all who knew him. Also JEAN THOMSON, his Spouse, who died 18th July 1826 in the 80th year of Her age. Also JOHN GALT, their Son, who died on the 11th of April 1839 in his 60th year, Author of the Annals of the Parish &c &c."

(For Galt's place of residence at the time of his death, see NS2776 : Plaque for John Galt.)

The middle stone commemorates ROBERT ANDREW MACFIE, his sister MARY, and another sister JANE THOMSON MACFIE. It ends with the following verse:

"The saints in early life remov'd
In sweeter accents sing
And bless the swiftness of the flight
That bore them to their King."

The nearest stone commemorates AGNES GALT (widow of Robert Andrew MacFie, "late merchant in Greenock"). Agnes was the sister of John (the novelist).

It would be out of place to give a summary of Galt's entire life here; the following description concentrates, instead, on his early life in Greenock. Information about other periods of his life can be found elsewhere.

John Galt, the novelist, was born in Ayrshire on the 2nd of May 1779 (as far as he knew, he was born in Irvine; at any rate, he grew up in Irvine). The family spent some time each year in Greenock, and permanently moved there in about 1789 or 1790, where they lived in a new house which John's father had built. In the 1830s, when Galt wrote his autobiography, his sister was still living in that house.

In Greenock, Galt numbered amongst his close friends Mr James Park, whose father (also called James Park) was a tanner, and whose brothers Robert and William operated a tanwork in Harvie Lane. The younger James died in January 1818. Galt and Park were occasional contributors to the Greenock Advertiser newspaper.

Galt worked for a time as a clerk in the offices of James Miller & Co (he describes Miller himself as "one of the fattest men I ever saw", and, though rather pompous, as having great integrity; his good qualities outweighed his foibles, and Galt would later remember him with affection). Miller was the uncle of Robert Ewing; Ewing, who became a Magistrate, would become another of Galt's close friends. Galt later went into partnership with him, in the firm Ewing & Galt.

John Galt had a great deal of appreciation for Greenock's Public Library. However, when revolutionary feeling was strong on the continent, the works of certain "suspect" authors were removed from the library, and placed in the custody of Mr John Dunlop (he was the "John Dunlop, Tide Surveyor" who is mentioned at NS2776 : The Dunlop Memorial). This action greatly displeased Galt and others, and the policy was later reversed.

John Galt was a prolific author, publishing some works under his real name, and others under a pseudonym. His early work "Annals of the Parish", which is mentioned specifically in the inscription quoted above, was inspired by a solitary walk he made, one Sunday, to the nearby village of Inverkip. Galt noticed many changes there, and, while he could see that they were undoubtedly improvements, he felt, at the same time, that the town had lost something. The novel itself is fairly typical of Galt's work in that it describes Scottish country life and the effects of social change (the book would also give John Stuart Mills the word "utilitarian").

In his later works "The Member" and "The Radical", Galt would touch upon politics and, in particular, the theme of political corruption.

His output was diverse; for example, in one of the works that he published under his "Reverend T Clark" pseudonym, he reworked the Wandering Jew legend to provide a framework "for conveying a more lively, and even a more philosophical, view of the progress of the human mind during the last seventeen hundred years, than any other abridgement or compendium of history".

John Galt is commemorated elsewhere in Greenock by a memorial fountain on the Esplanade: NS2677 : John Galt memorial fountain / NS2677 : John Galt memorial fountain / NS2677 : John Galt Memorial Fountain.
Inverkip Street Burial Ground
This burial ground opened in 1787; the existing one at the Old West Kirk had, by then, proved too small for Greenock's growing population. See a Geograph article Link for a more detailed history. For all of the inscriptions, see "Renfrewshire MI pre-1855" (vol 1). The adjacent Duncan Street Burial Ground Link was created in 1816. These grounds were closed up in 1859, having been superseded by Greenock Cemetery: Link
The Inverkip Street Burial Ground is discussed in the last few pages of LinkExternal link (PDF).
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NS2776, 857 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Monday, 8 July, 2013   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 30 July, 2013
Geographical Context
Burial ground, Crematorium 
Person (from Tags)
John Galt 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 2739 7613 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:56.8267N 4:45.9441W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 2739 7613
View Direction
Northwest (about 315 degrees)
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