Inverclyde Council steams ahead James Watt’s 200th anniversary plans

James Watt Walk
Launch of James Watt virtual walk

Inverclyde Council is building up a head of steam to mark the 200th anniversary of James Watt’s death with a year-long series of events, highlighting the life and work of the Greenock born inventor.

The inaugural event starts at 4.30pm on Friday 18 January at Cowan’s Corner, Greenock with the launch of a high-tech, James Watt virtual walk and the screening of two films about the engineer.

The James Watt walk is a joint venture between the World Walking exercise app and Kilmacolm Primary School. World Walking encourages people to stretch their legs by matching how far they have walked with virtual images of routes from around the world, including iconic locations such as the Sahara Desert and the Great Wall of China.

In November 2018 pupils from Kilmacolm Primary were drafted in to help develop the new commemorative route. Pupils started following in James Watt’s footsteps while doing their daily mile – a national initiative which encourages people to walk, run or jog a mile every day.

The walk starts in Greenock and ends in Cornwall taking in key locations in Watt’s life, such as the University of Glasgow and Kinneil House. It’s estimated that nearly 1.7 million steps are needed to complete the 727mile (1,160km) walk.

The pupils also became news reporters for a bespoke video about the project called Watt’s Walking Wonders. The video has been created with the help of students from West College Scotland. The video is being premiered at the official launch on Friday 18 January.

Watt’s Walking Wonders will be followed by a 17 minute film from the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive about James Watt and Greenock. The 1959 film was directed by Stanley L Russell and produced by Thames & Clyde.

Councillor Jim Clocherty, Inverclyde Council’s Convener for Education & Communities, said, “The James Watt walk is a chance to follow in the footsteps of one of the most influential Scots ever to have lived. James Watt was born in Greenock and his influence is recognised across the UK and throughout the world.

“The James Watt walk is a great way to learn about his life and what an amazing contribution he made as a Scottish inventor, mechanical engineer and chemist. You can even encourage your family, friends and colleagues to take part and discover the life and work of James Watt. Join us on social media to mark the bicentennial of his life this year using #WheresWatt to share what you have learned about him.”

Anyone interested in following in James Watt’s footsteps can find the new route on a special landing page. The landing page was created with Great Place Scheme funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Click the link to the landing page shown on the left hand side.

Inverclyde Council will be marking the achievements of its famous son throughout 2019 with a number of events including the relaunch of the Watt Institution, comprising the McLean Museum & Art Gallery and Watt Library. There will also be an associated art exhibition in the Beacon Arts Centre in August 2019.

James Watt is most famous for inventing the double condensing steam engine that was the powerhouse behind the Industrial Revolution. He was born on 19 January 1736 and died on 25 August 1819.