Influences on a Young Glover
In the years between 1838 and 1844, when Thomas Blake Glover would have been around 7 years old, the Royal Burgh of Fraserburgh was becoming more prosperous, sophisticated place and expanding every day.
Although the footprint of the town was much smaller than it is today. Commerce Street being the southern boundary and the town only spanning as far West as Schools Street. By 1840, this small area had a population of just under 3,000 people and bustling with life. Especially between February and July when the herring fleet and all its workers were in town, swelling the population.
Events to Remember
While Thomas Blake Glover, clearly an intelligent child with an enquiring mind, was between the ages of four and six. He lived just up the street from the Harbour and two very exciting things happened, only a few hundred yards from his home.
Ships above the Water, in 1842, Fraserburgh Harbour Commissioners installed ‘Morton’s Patent Slip’ in the Harbour basin just around the corner from Commerce Street. This was a steam-driven railway which hauled large boats right up out of the water so they could be repaired and maintained. This had never been possible before, and the sight of an entire ship rising steadily out of the harbour must have been a breathtaking sight. This was an expensive and controversial project for the Harbour Commissioners, but it paid off, and the harbour continued to grow and thrive, with more boats, trades and activity every year.
It seems likely that Thomas remembered the event vividly, because 27 years later and by then an industrialist himself, he installed an identical mechanised slip in the Harbour at Nagasaki, to a most satisfactory display of amazement from the assembled locals.
Lighting up the Night, 1841 the coming of the Gasworks powered by imported coal meant that Commerce Street, Shore Street and the Harbour could be lit up at night. This would have changed life in the town centre significantly bearing in mind in the depths of winter it gets dark by 3pm!
A wee boy in the Broch
According to the parish minister, writing in 1840, small children were put into female run infant schools early, with the principle aim of keeping them out of harm’s way around the busy town and harbour. At around the age of five Thomas went to the new school in Saltoun Place, where he would start to to learn his catechism, Latin, Greek and mathematics, as well as poetry. His parents clearly expected him to get a full education, which he continued at Aberdeen Grammar School in the years that followed.
Fraserburgh became quite cosmopolitan from this date. The rapid expansion of the herring industry bringing a workforce from Wick to Yarmouth. Thomas, with his English father and Banffshire mother, was used to hearing many different voices and accents. He later developed a considerable talent for learning languages.
Surrounded by Progress
‘The Broch’ saw much new building at this time and Thomas would have been surrounded by masons and joiners, all hard at work on elegant and fashionable houses, commercial premises and extension and upgrade of the harbour – including the construction of the long breakwater later known as Balaclava Quay.
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