Robert Wilson and Helen Brodie

Robert Wilson was the seventh child and sixth son of James Wilson and Catherine Boak. He was born on 1 January 1795 and baptised on 26 February 1795 in Kirknewton, Midlothian, Scotland:

Robert Wilson, son of James Wilson in Crosstown & Catharine Boog his Spouse was born on 1st day of Jany 1795 & baptised on the 26th day of Feby 1795.1

For some unknown reason there are two baptism records for Robert, with only his mother’s name being different between the two registrations.

First Baptism Registration

First Baptism Registration
General Records Office of Scotland

Second Baptism Registration

Second Baptism Registration
General Records Office of Scotland

Crosstown is believed to be a mistaken rendering of Corston, the name of the property where Robert’s father was employed as a tenant farmer. Even with those rural beginnings, given his later history it is obvious that Robert received “the rudiments of an education.” According to James Frame in his history of the Trinity United Church:

He received the rudiments of education at the Parish School, and for some time followed the occupation of a mechanic. Aspiring to higher things, he formed a taste for intellectual and scientific pursuits, and took up his abode in Edinburgh to qualify himself for the profession of an architect. He had not long resided in the ciry when his views underwent a change. He soon recognised the fact that no profession was so well fitted to elicit the noblest exercises of his faculties as that of the Gospel ministry. Encouraged by the venerable Dr. Hall, whose ministry he attended, he became a student at Edinburgh University, and graduated Master of Arts, showing also a talent for poetry.2

In fact Robert published a book of poetry in 1822 called "Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect". The book was published "for the author" in Edinburgh, Scotland and would appear to have been heavily influenced by Robert Burns, the most well known of Scottish poets, who also wrote a volume with the same title, an example follows.

Beneath a lowly roof o' straw,
Did I the vital air first draw,
When surly Winter held his reign
Owre histy height an' level plain.
Sae deep the snaw lay on each field,
It ilka hedge an' dyke conceal'd;
While through my cottage' chinky door
The drift pil'd on the earthern floor.3

James Frame continues his discussion of Robert Wilson in his history of the Trinity United Church, noting that:

He studied theology at the United Secession College under Professor Dick. Receiving license as a preacher in 1828, he was called to St. Andrews and to Kendal on the same day. The synod decided he should go to the latter place, and he was ordained there on 25th December, 1828. He laboured in Kendal with unremitting zeal to a small but devotedly-attached congregation.4

Robert Wilson married Helen Brodie on 21 September 1829 in 'St. Cuthberts', Edinburgh, Scotland.5 Helen Brodie was born on 28 June 1800 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the daughter of Andrew Brodie and Jean Clark.6

Dr. the Rev. R. Wilson, A. M. Minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Kendal, to Helen, second daughter of Mr. Andrew Brodie, surveyor, Edinburgh.7

Marriage Registration of Robert Wilson and Helen Brodie

Marriage Registration of Robert Wilson and Helen Brodie
General Records Office of Scotland

According to Margaret Rackham, a Wilson family researcher, Robert and Helen's first child, a daughter Jane Clark Wilson, was born about 1830.8 No other records confirming this event have been found.

Owing to the death of the Rev. William Wilson, the church was "preached vacant" by the Rev. Dr. Kidston of Glasgow, on the fourth Sabbath of March, 1831. Soon thereafter the Rev. Robert Wilson, of Kendal, being on a visit to Scotland, his native land, occupied the Nicholson Street pulpit. His ministrations were accepted by many members of the congregation. The Presbytery was petitioned for moderation. A meeting took place on 10th January, 1832, at which Dr. Kidston reported that 333 members and 92 adherents had subscribed a call to Mr. Wilson. Although there were several dissenting voices, the call was sustained and referred to the Presbytery of Annan and Carlisle. The dissentients persisted in their opposition, but after some delay the call became effectual, and the Rev. Robert Wilson was inducted as the congregation's third minister on 25th June, 1833.9

There are Communion Tokens still in circulation for Robert’s early services at Nicholson Street.

Communion Tokens advertised for sale on eBay

Communion Tokens advertised for sale on eBay

Communion tokens were first suggested in 1560 by John Calvin and Pierre Viret in Geneva, and although the city council rejected the practice, the following year their idea was implemented in Nîmes and Le Mans. By 1586 communion tokens were in use at the Walloon church in Amsterdam. However, most were issued in Scotland, where over 5,000 types have been recorded….Most tokens are from the 19th century, but R. M. Grieg wrote in 1964 that they were still used by "a few congregations in the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia." Communion tokens were also used in Scottish Episcopal churches.

The issuing of these tokens is dependent on the practice of closed communion, in which only members of the church are allowed to participate. Raymond Mentzer says that "to avoid profanation of the Eucharist, the elders in the role as moral watchdogs distributed these entry counters to those members of the faithful whom they deemed qualified by virtue of correct belief and proper conduct." The distribution of the tokens would normally be preceded by catechetical instruction.10

Robert and Helen's second child was another daughter, Catherine Boak Wilson, born on 11 October 1833 in Renfrew, Greenoch, Scotland. Along with a number of other children Catherine was baptised on 22 December 1833, also in Greenock.11

In 1835 Robert published a pamphlet of 25 pages titled “An address to the religious community of Greenock on the importance of church establishments”.12

In July 1835 a sermon of Robert’s titled “On Early Piety” was later published in an edition of The Scottish Pulpit, Volume V. The introductory paragraph appears to make a parable of the experiences of his many brothers and sisters who emigrated to Australia.

Were any of you, christian brethren, intending to emigrate to a country of which you had little knowledge, and where you expected to spend the remainder of your days, you would certainly consider your selves fortunate in meeting with any one who was fully qualified to give you a particular account of it. Believing your future prospects to be deeply affected by his communications, you would listen to him with the profoundest attention, and, according to his information, make such preparations as appeared necessary for rendering you comfortable and prosperous in your new habitation. Into a world of which, as yet, you have little acquaintance, many of you are about to enter; and to such nothing can be of greater importance than the useful intelligence and salutary advice of one who has obtained a complete knowledge of it by experience.13

Also that year, 1835, but deduced from later events, Robert and Helen had their third child and daughter when Helen Wilson was born, no doubt named after her mother.14

Soon after his settlement in Greenock Mr. Wilson interested the congregation in the cause of the missions, with the result that on 10th March, 1835, a missionary society was originated under the title of Nicholson Street Church Home and Foreign Missionary Society, he himself becoming its first president. The third annual report of the society showed the collections to amount to £35 17s. 1 1/2d. This society, although under another name and a new constitution, still exists as one of our healthiest church agencies.15

In 1837 Robert Wilson published "The Pleasures of Piety", another book of poetry. A reviewer in the Metropolitan Magazine of 1838 wrote that:

The inspiration of the poet scarcely answers to the earnestness of the preacher, and seldom reaches the sublimity of his theme; yet the "Pleasures of Piety" contains many agreeable passages.16

The work started as a poem in 8 books but was issued in a second edition in 1840 as a poem in 10 books.17 In the same year the first edition came out Robert and Helen’s fourth daughter, Robina Mary Wilson, was born on 11 September 1837 in Renfrew, Greenoch, Scotland.18

In 1838 in preparation for publication in 1839, Robert Wilson provided a summary of the Second United Secession Congregation at Nicholson Street, Greenock. At that time he reported that he had been minister there for 4 ½ years. There were 1060 seats in the congregation, of which 763 were let (or paid for) and 297 were unlet. Let seats could cost a parishioner between 7s 6d or 1s 6d, no doubt depending upon placement. Only 50 percent of the unlet seats were ever occupied, generally “by the poor and working classes”.19

In 1839 Robert Wilson published a poem titled “The Battle of Drumclog”, a short work of 28 pages. No copy has been found at the time of writing.20

Robert and Helen’s only son James Robert Wilson was also born about 1839. Later that same year, according to Margaret Rackham, Jane Clark Wilson died on 22 October 1839.21 No record of this event can be found on either Scotland’s People (for either Jane or Jean, names that were interchangeable in Scotland) or in the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints indexes.

Nor can the family be found in the 1841 census, searching for a Robert and Helen Wilson, aged between 40 and 50, returns 7 matches but they are not connected.

In October 1842 however the family appear in the historical records when they suffered a double blow with the loss of two of the children within a couple of days. James Robert Wilson died on 19 October 1842 at Greenock at the reported age of two years. The cause of death was reported as Scarlet Fever, and James was noted to be the only son of Reverend Robert Wilson.22 Helen Wilson died on 21 October 1842 at Greenock. The cause of death was reported as Scarlet Fever.23

At a time when there were no antibiotics there was no effective treatment for Scarlet Fever. The Wilson family at the beginning of 1843 comprised Robert, Helen, and their daughter Catherine. Later that year Helen Brodie Wilson was born on 10 July 1843 in Renfrew, Greenoch, Scotland.24

Between 1843 and 1844 Robert and a number of other authors issued a series of pamphlets discussing various aspects of their Christian beliefs.

Date Title Details
Oct 1843 What is truth? : a speech delivered in the Synod of the United Secession Church, October 10, 1843, in support of an overture from the Presbytery of Paisley and Greenock, respecting an essay on the extent of the death of Christ, by Edward Polhill, lately published with a recommendatory preface by Professor Balmer, D.D. ; with an appendix.25 48 Pages
Author: Robert Wilson
1843 A blow at the root : being a letter addressed to the Rev. Robert Balmer-- regarding his recommendatory preface to Polhill's essay on the extent of the death of Christ26 40 Pages
Author/s: Robert Balmer and Robert Wilson
1843 The blow averted : being a letter addressed to the Rev. Robert Wilson containing strictures on his letter to the Rev. Robert Balmer entitled "A blow at the root"27 18 Pages
Authors: Adelphos, Robert Wilson and Robert Balmer
1844 A letter to the Rev. William Scott, Leslie ; in which his own position to his presbytery, and to the United Secession Synod, is examined : as well as that of the Rev. Robert Wilson, Greenock28 24 Pages
Authors: Moderate Calvinist, Robert Wilson and William Scott

In 1845 Robert published a small pamphlet of 8 pages titled “Reasons of Protest and Appeal”. According to the description of the work, it was an appeal “against the deed of the United Associate Presbytery of Paisley and Greenock, March 18, 1845, agreeing to proceed with the trials for license of Mr. William Graham.”29

Around 1847 Robert published "The Consummation: an Ode on occasion of the Union of the Secession and Relief Churches." which was reviewed in the United Presbyterian Magazine of July as follows:

The muse which had sung of the "Pleasures of Piety" could not fail to be roused by an occasion so interesting and auspicious as the union in which our church is now rejoicing. Mr Wilson's poem exhibits much of true poetic fire. His sketches of sonic of the deceased fathers, as well as of the more prominent among the existing ministers, on both sides of the church now united, are faithfully conceived, and are drawn with much felicity. As an improvimtore production, "the Consummation" is one of the most successful efforts with which the christian muse has furnished us for many a day.30

Also in 1847, Helen Brodie’s mother died on 10 July in Lasswade, Midlothian.

Kirkbank. At the house of her son. the Rev. W. C. Brodie. Lasswade. the 10th instant, Jane Clark, relict of late Mr. Andrew Brodie, surveyor in Edinburgh.31

In 1848 Robert is recorded as obtaining a patent for a steam turbine design.

Two of the turbine designs proposed by Wilson

Two of the turbine designs proposed by Wilson
Steam Turbines: Their Design and Construction Rankin Kennedy Whittaker & Co 1910

He obtained patent No. 12,026 in 1848 for steam turbines. Two of the drawings, reproduced above show conceptual designs of steam turbines, which were decades ahead of their time. The axial flow and radial flow compound arrangements outlined by Wilson show a remarkable understanding of how steam could be used efficiently in a steam turbine, and in fact such arrangements came to be widely used much later, being painstakingly developed by Charles Parsons. However, there is no evidence that these concepts were developed to any tangible form, and indeed any attempts at practical application would have faced enormous challenges at that time.

Charles Parsons described Wilson as ' of the most conspicuous workers in the design of the compound turbine… The patent is of unusual length and rich in detail, and describes radial flow and parallel flow compound turbines design for moderate ratios of expansion. The blades and guides were proposed to be fastened by casting them into the hub and case, a method occasionally used at the present time. The principles of Wilson’s design are generally correct, but the proportions of his turbines are extravagantly incorrect, the blades being too large and too few for success. I had a model made of Wilson's turbine eighteen years ago, and under steam all that could be said is that it went the right way. I do not think that Wilson can have made a model and tested it before he applied for his patent…'32

Robert is recorded in Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History which, noting his ordainment and assignment to the Greenoch church, observed:

An esteemed member of the congregation, well qualified to judge, writes this:-

Dr Robert Wilson in his latter years devoted a good deal of time towards working out a rotatory steam engine of a very novel character. This he patented, and had an engine made to his designs, which wrought very well, but was more expensive for fuel than the average engine of the time. By a slight alteration of the design, however, he found it made an admirable water-wheel, and several wheels on this principle were constructed in different parts of the country. To older engineers the 'Wilson Wheel' is still a familiar name, and at the present time part of the machinery at the Greenock Foundry is driven by one of them. Recent events have shown that Dr. Wilson's steam rotatory engine was right in principle, but had been introduced before its time. In recent years a demand for rapid driving engines has sprung up for driving dynamos for use in the production of electricity. Among the competitors in producing these engines is the Hon. Mr. Parson, son of Earl Rosse, of telescope fame. This gentleman has been successful in constructing a combined steam turbine and dynamo, which is now largely used. The steam turbine used by him is constructed on the same principle as one of the designs included by Dr. Wilson in his patent specification, the higher pressure of steam in use at the present day giving the conditions necessary to success which were wanting when Dr. Wilson conducted his experiments." 33

In January 1849 Robert the Greenock Advertiser named Robert Wilson in an advertisement for an “Annual Soiree” in the United Presbyterian Church.

The above SOIREE will be held in the UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Nicholson Street, Tuesday evening, 23d January, 1849, Rev. ROBERT WILSON, A.M., in the Chair; when the Rev. William Anderson of Glasgow, and several Ministers of the town, will address the meeting.34

Robert Wilson is recorded as marrying James King and Agnes O’Connor in November 1850:

James King baker son of the late Duncan King clockmaker in Greenock, and Agnes Connor daughter of the late John Connor labourer in Greenock, both residing in the Old Parish were booked the 8th and married 26th November 1850 by Rev Robert Wilson of the U.P.C.35

In the 1851 census the family are registered as living at 5 Nelson Street, Greenoch, Renfrewshire, with the following details.36

Name Relation Condition Age Rank or Profession
Robert Wilson Head M(arried) 56 Minister of United Presbyterian Church
Helen Wilson Wife M(arried) 50  
Cath. B. Wilson Daughter U(nmarried) 17  
Robina M. Wilson Daughter U(nmarried) 13  
Helen B. Wilson Daughter U(nmarried) 7  
Agnes Wallace Servant U(nmarried) 22 House Servant

About the year 1854 the Senatus of the University of St. Andrews showed their appreciation of the Rev. Robert Wilson's life and talents by conferring upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity, an honour to their minister which the congregation much appreciated.37

Robert Wilson is recorded as marrying Alexander Taylor and Janet Campbell in January 1854:

At Cathcart Street, Greenock, on the 30th ultimo [January], by the Rev. Robert Wilson, A.M. Mr Alexander Taylor, to Janet, only daughter of the late Mr Daniel Campbell.38

Helen Brodie Wilson died on 4 April 1857 at 2 Nelson Street, Greenock. The cause of death was recorded as Pulmonary Consumption which she had suffered from for "many months". Helen was buried on 6 April 1857 in the Greenock Cemetery.39 In the newspaper report of her death Helen was reported to have died at George Square, and was referred to as the youngest daughter of Reverend Wilson, and her age was reported as 13 years and 9 months.40

Just over a year later Robert Wilson, 63, died on 23 April 1858 in at 2 Nelson Street, West Greenock, Renfrew, Scotland. The cause of death was also recorded as Pulmonary Consumption from which the deceased had suffered for several years. His parents were reported as James Wilson, Forrester (dec) and Catherine Wilson, maiden name Boak (dec). Robert was buried in Greenock, Renfrew, Scotland on 26 April 1858.41

Death of Rev. Robert Wilson DD

At a late hour upon Friday evening last the Rev. Dr. Robert Wilson of the United Presbyterian Church, Nicholson Street, closed his useful career. He had been long in very indifferant health, and his complaint, chronic phthisis, had for years forbidden hope of recovery. His great affection for his relatives and friends no doubt at times induced him to desire longer life, his resignation to the Divine will in this and otherwise was complete and admirable. Few clergymen have enjoyed in this town more of the honour and affectionate regards of all sorts of conditions of men; and this was won by no hesitation in forming or boldly expressing his own opinions on all subjects scientific, literary, political and religious, but by the evidently perfect sincerity of his own convictions and the respect which he displayed for those of others. We have plenty of men with unbounded liberality for others' opinions so long as they are identical with their own; but Dr. Wilson had learned a higher wisdom; he could tolerate the intolerant, and allow liberty and show kindness and respect to those who most widely differed from him. He thus won the regard of all.

Dr. Wilson was a man of genius. Though not what is called a popular preacher, he had a special faculty of illustrating scripture, and his expositions were to attentive hearers complete and forcible embodiments of Divine truth. He held and published peculiar views upon geology and astronomy. On the former subject his theories were similar to those of the Dean of York, and opposed to the views of Mr. Hugh Miller, who referred to them in his latest work, the Testimony of the Rocks. Subsidiary to his important office of a minister of the gospel, Dr. Wilson was greatly interested in the advance of mechanical science, in which he made much progress, and showed high skill. A few years ago an ingenious water wheel of his invention was fitted up at Mr. Matthew Brown's sugarhouse, Port-Glasgow, which effected a large saving of power, and it was his conviction that it might all be adapted to the economy of steam.

All his life Dr. Wilson possessed extraordinary rhyming powers - a faculty which his good taste and gentle feelings led him to restrain and apply only to kindly amusement, or more refined and elevated instruction. While a student at Edinburgh in 1822, he published a volume of poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect - a tongue which his patriotic as well as poetical temperament prompted him ever to retain and cherish. In later years he published the "Pleasures of Piety," a work showing both taste and study, and which has gone through more than one edition.

Dr. Wilson was born in the parish of Kirknewton, within a few miles of Edinburgh, about sixty-three years ago, and was educated at the University of that city, where he obtained his A. M. degree. He was, shortly after receiving license from the Edinburgh Secession Presbytery, ordained at Kendal in the north of England in 1828, and was inducted as successor to the Rev. William Wilson in Nicholson Street Church here in 1839. A few years ago the University of St. Andrew's (sic) conferred upon him the honour of D. D. Previous to studying for the Church, he intended to be an architect, and was for some time in Edinburgh engaged in attending to some of the practical departments of that profession.

Dr. Wilson leaves behind him so fine an example of manly, unassuming piety, of unswerving regard for truth, courageous maintenance of his own opinions, courteous respect for others, and of the earnest discharge of his high office, that his name will long honourably survive in this community. His congregation lament the removal of a faithful, high-minded pastor, whose place it will be difficult to fill. His loss as husband, father, and friend is irreparable; but what slight alleviation can be supplied by kindly and respectful sympathy from the large circle who held the amiable deceased in honour and esteem, will not be wanting.42

Last Will and Testament of Robert Wilson.43

Robina Mary Wilson died on 23 October 1858 at 2 Nelson Street, West Greenock. The deceased was recorded as aged 21 years, the single daughter of Robert Wilson, Doctor of Divinity, and Helen Wilson, nee Brodie. The cause of death was pulmonary consumption, the same condition that had killed her sister and father. Just like her sister it was reported that Robina had suffered for "some months" as certified by James Mackie. Robina was buried in the Greenock Cemetery.44

The location of Helen and Catherine Wilson, the remaining surviving members of Robert and Helen’s family, is not known for the 1861, 1871 and 1881 census records.

Helen Wilson (nee Brodie) died on 21 November 1890 at 12 Rankellar Street, Edinburgh. The newspaper report of Helen's death referred to her as the widow of Reverend Robert Wilson and daughter of the late Andrew Brodie, surveyor, Edinburgh.45

Catherine Boak Wilson is reported to have married James Smith, but this seems unlikely as her death on 2 September 1895 in Edinburgh, Scotland was reported under her birth name.46 The notice referred to Catherine as the only surviving daughter of Reverend Robert Wilson.47

  • 1. GROS OPR Births 690/00 0030 0249 Kirknewton and East Calder
  • 2. Frame, James: A century of church life and work: being a historical sketch of Trinity United Presbyterian Church, Greenock, and its ministers; J. McKelvie, 1893
  • 3. Wilson, Robert: Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect; self published, 1822 and available on Google Books
  • 4. Frame, James: A century of church life and work: being a historical sketch of Trinity United Presbyterian Church, Greenock, and its ministers; J. McKelvie, 1893
  • 5. GROS OPR Banns and Marriages 685/02 0410 0487 St Cuthbert's
  • 6. GROS OPR Births and Baptisms 685/02 0120 0453 St Cuthbert's
  • 7. Lancaster Gazette Lancashire, England, 3 Oct 1829
  • 8. Rackham, Margaret: Family Group Sheets; Book 2, Page 65, birth date probably derived from age stated at death.
  • 9. Frame, James: A century of church life and work: being a historical sketch of Trinity United Presbyterian Church, Greenock, and its ministers; J. McKelvie, 1893
  • 10. Wikipedia: Communion Token;
  • 11. GROS OPR Births 564/03 0050 0529 Greenock Old or West
  • 12. Wilson, Robert: An address to the religious community of Greenock on the importance of church establishments; Greenock : Printed in the Intelligencer office, 1835; Worldcat
  • 13. The Scottish Pulpitt, 1836, Volume V.
  • 14. Rackham, Margaret: Family Group Sheets; Book 2, Page 65, birth date probably derived from age stated at death.
  • 15. Frame, James: A century of church life and work: being a historical sketch of Trinity United Presbyterian Church, Greenock, and its ministers; J. McKelvie, 1893
  • 16. The Metropolitan Magazine Volume 21 1838 and available on Google Books
  • 17. Wilson, Robert: The Pleasures of Piety (2nd Ed); Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd; London, Hamilton and Adams; 1840 (details of the publishing of the 1st Ed. will be added when they are available
  • 18. GROS OPR Births 564/03 0060 0043 Greenock Old or West
  • 19. Eighth Report of the Commissioners of Religious Instructions, Scotland; Edinburgh, 1839
  • 20. Wilson, Robert: The Battle of Drumclog; Glasgow : Robertson, 1839. Worldcat
  • 21. Rackham, Margaret: Family Group Sheets; Book 2, Page 65
  • 22. Greenock Advertiser 21 October 1842
  • 23. Greenock Advertiser 28 October 1842
  • 24. GROS OPR Births 564/03 0060 0296 Greenock Old or West
  • 25. Wilson, Robert: What is truth? : a speech delivered in the Synod of the United Secession Church, October 10, 1843, in support of an overture from the Presbytery of Paisley and Greenock, respecting an essay on the extent of the death of Christ, by Edward Polhill, lately published with a recommendatory preface by Professor Balmer, D.D. ; with an appendix; Glasgow : David Robertson ..., 1843; Worldcat
  • 26. Wilson, Robert and Balmer, Robert: A blow at the root : being a letter addressed to the Rev. Robert Balmer-- regarding his recommendatory preface to Polhill's essay on the extent of the death of Christ; Glasgow : D. Robertson, 1843. Worldcat
  • 27. Adelphos, and Wilson, Robert and Balmer, Robert: The blow averted : being a letter addressed to the Rev. Robert Wilson containing strictures on his letter to the Rev. Robert Balmer entitled "A blow at the root"; Edinburgh : M. Paterson, 1843. Worldcat
  • 28. Moderate Calvinist, and Wilson, Robert and Balmer, Robert: A letter to the Rev. William Scott, Leslie ; in which his own position to his presbytery, and to the United Secession Synod, is examined : as well as that of the Rev. Robert Wilson, Greenock; Edinburgh : M. Peterson, 1844. Worldcat
  • 29. Wilson, Robert: Reasons of Protest and Appeal; Greenock : John Malcolm, Printer, [1845?]; Worldcat
  • 30. The United Presbyterian Magazine July 1847 and available on Google Books
  • 31. Perthshire Advertiser Perthshire, Scotland, 22 Jul 1847
  • 32. Grace's Guide Ltd.: Grace's Guide to British Industrial History; (retrieved 3 Mar 2016)
  • 33. Grace's Guide Ltd.: Grace's Guide to British Industrial History; (retrieved 3 Mar 2016)
  • 34. Greenock Advertiser 19 Jan 1849
  • 35. Talking Scot:
  • 36. GROS Census 1851 564/00 121/00 001 Greenoch
  • 37. Frame, James: A century of church life and work: being a historical sketch of Trinity United Presbyterian Church, Greenock, and its ministers; J. McKelvie, 1893
  • 38. Happy Haggis:
  • 39. GROS SR Deaths 564/03 0190 Greenoch
  • 40. Greenock Advertiser 7 April 1857
  • 41. GROS SR Deaths 564/03 0212 Greenoch
  • 42. Greenock Advertiser 27 April 1858
  • 43. GROS Last Will and Testament SC58/42/24 Paisley Sherrif Court
  • 44. GROS SR Deaths 564/03 0505 Greenock Old or West
  • 45. Greenock Telegraph 23 November 1889
  • 46. Rackham, Margaret: Family Group Sheets
  • 47. Greenock Telegraph 2 September 1896
John Horton
John Horton's picture
Modern Covers of Robert Wilson's Books

Print on demand has meant that some of Robert Wilson's books are now available online. Here are some of the modern covers of Robert's books:

Gillian Wilson
Gillian Wilson's picture
Rev Robert Wilson's portrait
Painting of Rev Robert Wilson There is a reproduction of a painting of Robert Wilson which circulates as a photo. This seems to have come from the book referenced in the article above, published in 1893, a centenary account of the Trinity United Presbyterian Church of Greenock (author James Frame).  This account also mentions that the original oil painting was done by Rev. Robert Wilson's friend Mr. Alexander Keith. But what happened to the original painting?
The family story was that Robert's daughter Catherine donated it to 'Greenock Town''. In 2008 Mr. George Woods, the assistant curator of the McLean Museum and Art Gallery in Greenock looked into what this might mean:
'I have checked the registers at the Museum back as far as 1876, the year we opened, and it does not appear that the portrait was donated to the McLean Museum. Until around 1913 the Museum did not generally collect artworks and phrases such 'donated to Greenock Town' or 'donated to the Town of Greenock' usually means at this period the Burgh of Greenock Town Council, which had a small collection of artworks, mostly portraits of prominent citizens, displayed at the Municipal Buildings. No other gallery or museum other than ourselves existed in the area at the time and no other building, authority or organisation appears to have held a collection of artworks.
Unfortunately the Burgh Council does not seem to have published any catalogues or other accounts of the works they had. The best account for their artworks during this period is R.M. Smith's description in his History of Greenock which was published in 1921 and lists the paintings held by the Council at that time. I have checked the relevant pages and he does not mention a portrait of the Rev. Robert Wilson as being present at that time.  Smith did not claim that his list was complete, it was just a list of the works he thought would be of most interest to his largely local readers, so it is possible that the work was there.
The Burgh of Greenock Town Council was replaced as the local authority by Inverclyde District Council in 1975. It was during this period that the McLean Museum came under control of the local authority and as part of the Museum's remit took over many of the paintings formerly owned by the Burgh of Greenock Town Council at the Municipal Buildings. There was not a portrait of the Rev. Robert Wilson amongst that group of works at that time.

There is one other possibility as to the fate of the portrait. If it did end up in the Town Council's collection of works at the Municipal Buildings then it may have been lost or damaged during the Second World War. Greenock was the target of heavy air raids during 1941 and the Municipal Buildings sustained serious damage which also included the loss of some artworks. Unfortunately there does not now seem to be an extant list of what perished during the raids.
Although unable to discover the fate of the work I hope that this information is of some interest. "