The Shankland bells of Greenock

Anne Shankland, UK

I recently received this email, prompted by Alison Paul's article about her Greenock ancestors, telling us of a peal of bells donated by a member of this family.

Congratulations on your very comprehensive site!

Did anyone in your group know that there was, until recently, a chime of 10 bells and a ringing mechanism in Greenock North Church (St George's)? The original six of these bells (four more were added later) were donated by Mrs Robert Shankland in June 1889 "in memory of her parents Mr and Mrs Gibson of Paisley".

Shankland Bell inscription

The relevant inscription on the No 9 bell is as follows:

THIS PEAL OF BELLS WAS PRESENTED BY MRS ROBERT SHANKLAND TO THE FREE MIDDLE CHURCH, GREENOCK IN MEMORY OF HER PARENTS MR & MRS GIBSON, PAISLEY 1889

RECAST BY GILLETT & JOHNSTON, CROYDON, 1913 & 1950

Ringing Machine plaque

The ringing mechanism, a kind of large-size musical box movement, carries a handsome dedication plate with the following inscription:

THIS RINGING MACHINE AND PEAL OF BELLS WAS PRESENTED TO THE FREE MIDDLE CHURCH, GREENOCK, BY MRS ROBERT SHANKLAND IN MEMORY OF HER PARENTS MR & MRS GIBSON, PAISLEY, JUNE 1889

My reason for enquiring is as follows.

St George's Church, Greenock

The church has become disused and the congregation intend to put it up for sale. Realising the value of the bells (as bells, not as scrap metal) the bells were removed in August this year and are currently in safe storage. They are in the custody of the Keltek Trust (www.keltek.org), a charity which is dedicated to preserving and recycling redundant bells, putting them back into use rather than seeing them broken up for scrap.

I am a member of the Scottish Association of Change Ringers (SACR) (www.sacr.org) which is an organisation representing church bell-ringers throughout Scotland. It is affiliated to a world-wide representative body, the Central Council of Church Bellringers (www.cccbr.org.uk). As you can imagine, the SACR and CCCBR are also interested in preserving bells. I was lucky enough to be present and help the professional bellhangers remove the bells in August. Now the SACR is engaged in trying to find a new home for these 10 bells (and, incidentally, another 12 which were removed at the same time from Mount Zion Church, Quarriers Village) preferably in the west of Scotland.

Ringing machine keyboard

We feel that it would be nice to keep descendants informed of the outcome of our efforts, and the ultimate fate of the bells. The ringing mechanism and keyboard, by the way, were left in the church and, to the best of my knowledge, are still in there. Mrs Shankland's descendants might be interested in preserving them.

I have asked the Minister of St George's, but neither he nor his congregation have any knowledge of descendants. When a Google search turned up your website, and, in particular, the article by Alison Paul on Shankland Road with its excellent family tree, it became clear that I was on the right track. Robert Shankland would appear to be the younger of the two shipowning brothers and the Provost of Greenock who opened the James Watt Dock in 1886. That would make Mrs Robert Shankland the Janet Gibson he married.

If any of your members are interested - or can fill in any information about Mr and Mrs Gibson's descendants - please contact me. I have photos of the bell removal and more information on the bells themselves.

Best wishes,

Peter Whyatt


Anne Shankland, November 2007