A FORMER councillor is leading calls to restore a 158-year-old monument honouring Greenock’s most famous son.

Gourock resident Jim Hunter is alarmed at the condition of the James Watt Cairn in Greenock Cemetery and wants to see Inverclyde Council officials step in to have the historic structure tidied up.

It is damp and covered in moss, which the former parks boss fears is eroding the stone.

Steps leading up to the cairn and paths surrounding it have also been neglected and become dangerously slippery.

Mr Hunter, who served as a councillor for nearly 20 years, has suggested that the monument – located next to the Highland Mary memorial – should now be moved to a more prominent location in the town to avoid further corrosion and pay proper tribute to the world-famous inventor and engineer.

He said: “When I was a councillor and parks boss I had the Watt Cairn cleaned up but it becomes all green again very quickly and it’s a mess now.

“The cairn is very important. It’s next to the Highland Mary memorial, which has been done up a few times, but the Watt Cairn is a mess.

“I’m worried about the stones, which have come from all over the world, and some are very soft.”

The cairn dates back to 1859 and includes masonry from places like Peru, Malta and The Giant’s Causeway.

The plot is also the resting place of Watt’s ancestors, whose remains were removed from the Old West Kirk in 1927.

Mr Hunter believes moving the cairn to a more central location in the town for all to see would be a fitting tribute to mark the 200th anniversary of Watt’s death in 2019.

He said: “With the 200th anniversary of his death coming up I believe it should be somewhere down in the town.

“His ancestors are buried beside it but you could still move the cairn and have a plaque here in the cemetery for his ancestors.

“The time is right to look at the Watt Cairn.”

A council spokesman says uncertainty over the ownership of the cairn has prevented work being carried out.

He said: “Any work on a memorial within a graveyard would require to be either carried out by or with the permission of the current owners.

“We have checked historical records and they are inconclusive about the current ownership of the memorial.

“If Mr Hunter contacts us direct with his concerns and suggestions, we can try to find out more.”