Breaking the Mould, new James Watt staute for Greenock


Work starts at the Watt Institution on Saturday 19 September on a new sculpture to commemorate the life and work of Greenock’s most famous son, engineer and inventor, James Watt.

The sculpture, created by Jason Orr, is the culmination of a wider project called, Watt? which also includes an augmented reality app and heritage trail. Watt? has been created by RIG Arts with a £33,500 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The sites of the Watt Heritage Trail are the Dutch Gable and James Watt building on William St, Greenock, at the Watt Institution and the Watt Memorial Cairn at Greenock Cemetery

The project commemorates James Watt’s genius but also acknowledges both his family’s links to slavery and his personal opposition to it. He cancelled an order for one of his engines from a French company, based in Haiti, where slaves were fighting for their freedom.

In a letter to the firm he said, “We heartily pray that the system of slavery, so disgraceful to humanity, were abolished by prudent though progressive measures.”

Councillor Jim Clocherty, Convener of Inverclyde Council’s Education & Communities Committee, said, “RIG Arts has come up with an amazing project which uses traditional and contemporary techniques to provide a ‘warts and all’ perspective on James Watt and his achievements.

“His impact on the world was enormous and it is right that we celebrate his achievements. But we must never forget that much of the wealth generated during the period was based on slavery.”

Karen Orr, CEO at RIG Arts said, “Watt? celebrates Greenock’s most famous son in his birthplace. We used creative research to work with our community to interpret, record and share the history of James Watt and to acknowledge his importance locally, nationally and internationally.


“The project was created to support Inverclyde’s celebration of James Watt’s Bicentenary and has used creativity and technology to share heritage with a wider audience.  The outputs of the project have been a Watt Augmented Reality Heritage Trail, an interactive sculpture, a comic book, animations and a script for a shorty play has showcased the story of James Watt in an innovative and contemporary way which will engage people throughout Inverclyde and beyond.”


·         The sculptural relief will be erected and welded onsite on Monday 21 September

·         The Augmented Reality plaques/stands will be put in place on Saturday 26 September

·         The RIG Arts website Watt Augmented Reality page will be updated w/c 28 September

St Patrick’s Primary worked on the animation ‘James Watt How Who?’ and volunteers from the Inverclyde Tourist Group assisted the children with their research. – password watt


James Watt is widely regarded as the father of the Industrial Revolution thanks to his work on condensers. This made the steam engines of the day economically viable by improving their efficiency.

Breaking the Mould, new James Watt staute for Greenock