27 Nov

Whisky, War and Provost Greenlees.

Allanna Brough, Archive

Knowing that I still had lots of biographies on the original shareholders still to complete, I took the easy option and began to build the story of Agnes Galbraith Greenlees as I knew who she was. Thanks to earlier research which led to the blog for “Gentleman Greenlees”, I knew that Agnes was his Sister in Law.

It was fairly straightforward to build her biography. Agnes Galbraith Wallace was born in Ayrshire in 1867, the daughter of a Farmer. In 1889, she married James Greenlees in Campbeltown. James and his brother, William, were distillers and co-owners of Longrow Distillery. In 1912, William bought 100 shares and Agnes bought 50 shares in the Picture House. I thought it strange that James didn’t buy any shares but then I looked a bit closer at the list of original shareholder names.

Agnes and James Greenlees had four sons, John, Robert Wallace, William and James. Two hundred shares were purchased in 1912, with the boys being named as the shareholders. A nice gesture by their Father who was a successful Distiller and Wholesale Whisky Merchant in Glasgow.

So the next step for me was to look a bit closer at the boys. I decided to see what picture I could build for Robert Wallace Greenlees. He had a middle name. Middle names are good for genealogical research…

Robert Wallace Greenlees was born in 1895 in Bothwell, the second son of Agnes and James Greenlees. By 1911, aged 16, Robert was at Fulneck Boarding School in Leeds. In 1912, Robert’s Father buys him 50 shares in the Picture House. According to the London Gazette in 1914, Robert was already a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He saw combat in Gallipoli and Egypt, rising to the rank of Major. At the end of the war he was awarded the MBE for his services in conjunction with military operations in the Balkans. By 1923, Robert owns and is living in “Redcliff” on Kilkerran Road, (his late Uncle William’s villa) and in 1925 he married local girl, Victoria Isobel McKersie. (Victoria was the Daughter of another original shareholder and Distiller, William McKersie. Her sisters had driven a field kitchen during the war and her Mother had been awarded an MBE for her services with the British Red Cross)…it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the McKersies and Greenlees were well acquainted with each other, having much in common thanks to the whisky industry and the impact of WW1.

In 1939, Major Robert Wallace Greenlees was too old to see active service but Campbeltown had set up its Air Raid Precaution (ARP) classes in the Grammar School. That August, the Campbeltown Courier published the names of the 54 ARP wardens, with Major Robert Wallace Greenlees as Deputy Chief Warden.

I thought I was finished with Robert Wallace Greenlees, but then I remembered a conversation about a Provost Greenlees…so I went digging a wee bit more and sure enough…there hadn’t been just one Provost Greenlees but two! (Sometime in the late 1800’s, a Charles Colville Greenlees had been Provost of Campbeltown.)

Major Robert Wallace Greenlees, MBE, J.P, Stockbroker, was Provost of Campbeltown from 1950- 1952. In 1950, Provost Greenlees accepted the Sasine from Sheriff Smith during the 250 year anniversary of Campbeltown’s Burgh celebrations.

Major Robert Wallace Greenlees, MBE, J.P, died in 1964.

Photographs credit: The London Sphere Newspaper archive, July 1st 1950.


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