ALISTAIR Montgomery is appealing to readers for help in tracing images of his great great grandfather, John Black, who was Provost of Greenock from 1899 to 1901.

Mr Black was still in office when he died at the age of 80 at the family home, Copthorn, 8 Eldon Street.

Alistair, who lives in Dundee, told me his grandmother, Frances Duffus, was born at Copthorn in 1894.

On the day Mr Black died, 23 September 1901, the Telegraph said: “In the removal of Provost Black, Greenock has lost an esteemed citizen, and one who has long figured prominently in the affairs of the town.

“It is given to few men to be privileged, as he was to serve the public at such an advanced age, and his demise although it had not been unexpected, will cause a deep feeling of regret throughout the community.

“Until a comparatively recent period, he enjoyed excellent health, and his tall, well-set, robust figure was for years one of the most familiar to be seen on our streets.” Mr Black, who was born in Greenock on 3 July 1821, came from a long established local family.

His great grandfather had been harbour master at Greenock and his grandfather was a well known Clyde shipmaster.

Mr Black’s father was a solicitor with an office in Cathcart Street and his son entered the same profession.

Joining his father in partnership in 1842, the firm became known as John Black & Son, and continued under that title until 1859, the year in which Mr Black senior died.

The business after that was carried out by Mr Black for a quarter of a century during which he gained a foremost position at the local bar.

In 1884 he assumed his son, George Hedger Black, as a partner. This connection lasted until 1892, when he handed over the practice to his son, who three years later was joined by Bailie John Cameron, the firm now being known as Messrs Black & Cameron.

Mr Black entered the Town Council somewhat late in life. In November 1887 he was elected as one of the representatives of the Eighth Ward, and on 10 November 1899 was unanimously appointed Provost.

He had been one of the oldest members of Lodge Greenock St John’s No 175, and had served as its secretary. His brother, Patrick McNaughton Black, was a past master of the lodge.

With help from the Watt Library, Alistair Montgomery, has obtained several published tributes to his great great grandfather.

One mentions that Mr Black always maintained a warm interest in the West Stewart Street lodge. Quite recently, it states, he presented the lodge with two oil paintings of relatives associated with it in its earlier years.

Alistair appreciates that the presentation took place a long time ago and it is possible the paintings deteriorated with age, eventually having to be discarded.

However, he would love to know if the paintings still exist somewhere. If so, he would happily pay to have reproductions of the originals made.

The Black family no longer have any connections with Greenock, and Alistair would be grateful to hear from anyone with information relating to his local ancestors.

Please contact me if you can help.