The town of Greenock, with a population of almost fifty thousand residents, is nothing if not a large town. This number might be a bit misleading, though, because less than fifty years ago the population was nearly eighty thousand. Even before that time, in the 1920s, Greenock's population exceeded eighty thousand and thus it is confusing at the very least to see Greenock at a fraction of the size that it used to be. This shouldn't be too disheartening, though, because the fact of the matter is that Greenock is actually very old and its population has fluctuated wildly throughout its long life, this most recent century being but a microcosm of the town's population trend throughout history.
In the 1500s Greenock was a small, innocuous fishing village of little regard except to the fishermen whose livelihood was dependent on the town's small but consistent economy. By the 1600s, however, Greenock's ambition was fully realized when it became an important port town for not just Inverclyde but for the nation as a whole. It quickly became one of the premier port cities because of its location on the western edge of Scotland. Spices and sugars were traded from as far as North America and Greenock grew admirably during this time. Unfortunately, this was a very tough time for Scotland. The end of the 17th century saw the nation as far weaker than its neighbours and Greenock was one of the only port towns of any worth. In addition the King's Navy was far weaker than France, England, and nearly every other country in the area and thus an ill-fated plan known as the Darien Scheme arose. Essentially, the plan was to create a new Scottish colony in Panama and it was from Greenock that the last vessels filled with men to populate the new land took off on their voyage. Sadly, most of these men were sick or dead by the end of the journey and Scotland saw its fortunes drop even more frighteningly.
By the 1700s and 1800s, however, Greenock was still peaking and it is during this time that its population began to increase exponentially for many years. Some lived in the town for the work while others lived there because of the peace and beauty of the seaside atmosphere. It helped that the Greenock Railway was constructed to allow easy access back and forth to the massive town of Glasgow and, as soon as heavy industry became the standard across the developed world, Greenock was a full-fledged industry town. From this point up until the 1920s Greenock was at the top of its game and even after the 1920s its population still held up admirably until the 1960s. All the same, the city is still proud and bold and it is most assuredly possible that we will see Greenock rise to the top again some time in the future. Greenock has weathered far more iniquities than what this most recent century has thrown at it and it is this writer's prediction that Greenock has only just begun.