Janetta Bowie

Janetta Bowie

Janetta Bowie was born at 4 Hope Street, Greenock on 16th August, 1907.  She lived locally all her life and was well known as a teacher and writer.  Janetta was a founder member of the Greenock Writers’ Club.

In 1925, Janetta was Dux of Greenock High School and she went on to study English atGlasgowUniversity.  She graduated MA in 1928 and went on to Jordanhill College of Education from which she graduated as a teacher at the age of twenty one.

Although her degree would have enabled her to teach in a secondary school, Janetta began her teaching career inJ eanStreetPrimary School, Port Glasgow, as jobs in teaching were difficult to obtain at that time (1928).  She taught in the local area for around forty years.

Head Teachers were almost exclusively men in the 30’s -50’s and promotion for women teachers was obtained mainly by taking special courses in Infant Teaching with a view to becoming an Infants’ Mistress and, therefore, in charge of the younger classes in a primary school.   This was the route taken by Janetta who became Infants’ Mistress at ChapeltonSchoolin Port Glasgow in 1946.

Later, in 1964, Janetta became Infants’ Mistress at Greenock Academy. At the end of her teaching career, she taught remedial subjects in Finnart School  which was a junior secondary school at that time.  She held the post of Principal Teacher of Remedial Subjects.  Another “string to her bow” was that she taught Borstal girls in Greenock Prison in the evenings.

Janetta never married as her career was very important to her and, in her era, women teachers had to resign when they married.

Her hobbies included photography, gardening and writing.  She had a “second career” as a writer, both during her teaching days and on her retirement.  It was always her custom to write short stories, poems and plays for publication and also for broadcasting on the radio.  She also had articles published in a number of Scottish Journals.  During her days as a teacher she gathered a great deal of material for her books from her pupils, their parents, her colleagues and from her observations of “life” in a staffroom.

The Burgh Council commissioned Janetta to write a booklet,

“The Port Past-Present 1775-1975”, for the bicentenary of the Burgh of Port Glasgow.

In describing Port Glasgow she says, “Its frontage was for long a straggle of cottages, exposed to the sea, in a bay of golden sand.”   Recognise this anyone?


Janetta is most famous for writing “Penny Buff”, “Penny Boss” and “Penny Change”.

Penny Buff was the first of Janetta Bowie’s books centred on her career as a teacher and incorporating the foibles of the education system, particularly with reference to the Inverclyde area, in the 1930’s.  She won the Constable Trophy for it in 1973, awarded by the Association of Writers’ Circles.

Children starting school for the first time were said to be in “the penny buff” They progressed to “the tuppeny buff” etc.


As previously explained, Janetta, was a university graduate who began her teaching career in Jean Street Primary School in Port Glasgow, because of a shortage of teaching posts at the beginning of her career in 1928.

Janetta’s second book sees her teaching in Chapelton Primary School in Port Glasgow  where she has been promoted to the post of Infants’ Mistress, known as “The Headmistress” by the parents of her pupils. We are entertained by the various characters—pupils, parents and staff who comprise the mythical “Heather B rae” PrimarySchool and by the insistence of “Admin” that at least three gym sessions per week are to be undertaken by each class in the school, lack of equipment and facilities notwithstanding.

Later, in 1964, Janetta became the Infants’ Mistress at Greenock  Academy Primary School.

The third book in Janetta’s trilogy on her teaching career features the 1970’s and the changes in educational methods in schools.  New schools are being built, new books are issued some schools are “designated” and get extra funding and additional staffing and Jeanetta has to “move on” as the primary department of Greenock Academy is phased out.  All of her books are written in a humorous way and incorporate the richness and descriptiveness of the Scottish language with particular reference to the local vernacular.


Here are a few of my favourite examples of Janetta’s use of language and her colourful expressions.

From “Penny Buff”:-

“…..desks scored, stained, gouged and hacked by the raspings of fidgety youth”

She speaks of “the indiscriminate use of the strap”.

Fire Drill is “…a crescendo of bells in chain reaction.”

The school known as “The Adam Beave Foundation” was nicknamed “The Adam and Eve School” or “The Garden of Eden”.

On Teaching Practice, she says she and her fellow students were given a “Room of our own”, namely the toilet!  “Its smell was sullen, strong, vinegar.”

The school was called “Midden Street”; the students Peg and Meg and among the teachers were Miss Broadbottom and Miss Patty”

From “Penny Boss”:-

Janetta visited a member of the Education Committee whose house had a “ponderous oak door with a heavy knocker like a gargoyle.” On arrival at the house with its owner, he “does not disturb this malevolent knocker”

One of Janetta’s “remedial” girls wrote, “the ganitor wares a uniform it has butins he is the man who wips up the vomit if yoo ar ill.”  (Penny Change)  I think a bit of spelling and punctuation would be on the agenda there.

Janetta, describing a storm says, “Great bangs, crashes and thumps, and an orchestration of unidentified noises create what sounds like the full-scale air raids of 1941.

I wish I had her gift of language.

Contributions on Janetta Bowie from those who knew her

Peter McKay’s Story

Peter McKay is a former pupil of well–known author and teacher, Janetta Bowie. Peter was taught by Miss Bowie when he started his primary education atChapeltonSchoolin Port Glasgow in 1953.   He remembers having Miss Bowie, who was at that time Infant Mistress of Chapelton, for three six month spells and he has fond memories of being a pupil in her class.

One of Peter’s recollections is that Janetta Bowie and her colleagues Miss Lord and Miss Latham used to take a bus from Chapelton down to “The Star Hotel” in Port Glasgow where they had lunch every day.  They then took the bus back up for afternoon school.

Peter recalls that Janetta lived at 32 Fox Street,Greenockand says that she used to hang fairy lights on her door in the shape of a large three and a two on her door each Christmas.  He knows this because he later moved to Greenock and lived near Miss Bowie.

Peter has a copy of Janetta’s book, “Penny Buff” which she inscribed for him:-      01. 04. 75   To Peter, my old pupil, with good wishes.

“She taught at Finnart School as well,” says Peter and she referred to Chapelton School as “Heather Brae” in her book “Penny Buff.

“I remember she had legs like tree trunks,” says Peter.

“I used to see her in her latter years walking with a baby buggy,” added Peter.

“She used it for support as she obviously did not want to be seen walking with a Zimmer.”

32, Fox Street, Greenock

       Heather Dalgleish’s Slant on Janetta Bowie

As Heather Dalgleish talks of Janetta Bowie her sheer affection for her former teacher shines through.  It was as Heather Gunn (her maiden name) that she sat in Janetta Bowie’s class in primary two in Greenock Academy in 1967/ 1968.  It was in the “new” Greenock Academy that Heather was taught, the school having moved to Madeira Street in 1964.

“Miss Bowie was a fantastic teacher,” enthuses Heather. “When we heard, at the end of primary one, that we were to have Miss Bowie in primary two we were a bit unsure.  We were scared she might be strict and we worried about it especially as we had a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Jagger, in primary one.  We were so wrong!  Janetta Bowie was a brilliant teacher.  She was so warm and good fun and she was very artistic too.  Some of our primary two class entered a painting competition, “The Brownlee Award” and I painted what we knew as “Mc Cullock’s Clock”.  This is the clock on what is now the Westburn Church in Nelson Street, opposite the Ardgowan Hospice.  My painting was typical of that of a seven year old girl and she suggested ways in which I could improve my picture, like putting fluffy clouds in the sky.  I made some changes and my entry won 2nd Prize in my category.  It meant so much to me then and I’ve never forgotten it.”

“Janetta used to write plays, poems and short stories,” recalls Heather, “and we used to gather round the radio at the front of the classroom and listen as some of her short stories or plays were broadcast.”   Heather agreed it was quite something to listen to a play or short story written by your own teacher while she was in the room with you.

“At the end of primary two we were sad to be leaving Miss Bowie and moving on to another teacher, so we decided to collect money to buy Miss Bowie a special present,” recounts Heather.  “It was our own idea and we collected our own money and I went with a few other girls in my class to choose the special present ourselves.  We chose a large, colourful brooch which we had wrapped and handed it to Miss Bowie, along with a card, on the last day of term.  She was so pleased and seemed quite overwhelmed and also genuinely delighted with her gift.

I wondered if Heather had ever met up with Janetta Bowie in later life and she remembers seeing her shopping in a local supermarket but she was too shy to speak to her.  “I wish I had spoken to her,” said Heather, “because I am sure she would have remembered me.  That’s the kind of person she was.”

“I am so glad something is being written about her now, as it would be so sad if her contribution as a teacher and a well-known writer was to be forgotten.”

Rose A Hurrell

Rose Ann Hurrell was formerly Rose Ann Bratton., This is what she has written about herself.

I was born at 4 Argyll Street, Port Glasgow on 10/06/1939. It was an old tenement building opposite the Kingston Shipyard.  We had two rooms and a kitchen and we were very lucky because we had an inside toilet. I was the 7th child of nine children.

The schools I attended were Chapelton Primary until aged 12 and Port Glasgow High from 12 to 15 years old.

We attended St. Mary’s Episcopal Church at Blackstone Corner.  The Minister was Rev. Canon Patrick Walker.

On leaving school my first job was as a warper at the Glen Mill for 18 months.  My second job was as a Pinkie on ward 5 at Greenock Royal Infirmary.  This was followed by my training as a nurse then working as a staff nurse in Casualty for a year.

I was married in December 1961 and moved to Cornwall.

The following is what Rose has written and sent to us from her home in Cumbria.

Rose A Hurrell

My sister sent me on a cutting from the Greenock paper re people’s memories of Miss Bowie.

I have fond memories of my days at Chapelton School where I remember Miss Bowie from.  She travelled by bus each day and walked up Glenburn St., and Horses Bray on to Langbank Road, where the school was situated.   She always had a smile.   She was one of the few teachers who never used the tawse.   I remember the items she taught me to sew e.g.  a lap top bag (for keeping sewing work in) and a pair of French knickers.

It was many years before I met her again and that was strange how it came about.  I was working as a ward sister in the geriatric ward of Meneag Hospital in Helston CORNWALL.   A voluntary worker – a member of the Red Cross, visited weekly and selected books and returned them to the local library for the patients.   Her name was Mary Bullock.   I often chatted to her, and one day, she said I’ve been speaking to you for years and never asked where exactly in Scotland you grew up.   I told her and the next question was the name of my childhood school.   Imagine my surprise when she told me that Janetta Bowie was a dear friend of hers – they met on a holiday to Iceland and remained friends.

On Mary’s next visit she said she had told Janetta all about me and that Janetta would love me to write to her.  I did, and she sent me on signed copies of the books she had written.   She asked me to visit her in Eldon Street on my next visit to PORT GLASGOW.   I did so and spent a very pleasant afternoon with her.  We talked about all the old teachers at Chapelton and some of the pupils. One of them cleaned for her.  I thought it would be difficult making conversation after all those years, but not at all.   She was then researching a book on a deceased Greenock Author – I’ve forgotten his name.

A mini stroke last year has caused a wee bit of memory loss – especially names.

She spoke well of her mother.   How she worked hard to put her through her education.  She also spoke of another love – her work as a voluntary worker at Gateside Women’s Prison. – teaching the Borstal girls.

All too soon my visit was over.  My brother called to give me a lift and when she answered the door she knew him right away.

I daresay I haven’t told you anything you didn’t know before but she was a wonderful person – my privilege to have known her.

Yours sincerely

Rose Hurrell


Lesley Crawford, friend of Janetta Bowie

Lesley Crawford knew Janetta Bowie quite well as Janetta was a founder member of The Greenock Writers’ Club which Lesley later joined.

Janetta wrote poetry, short stories and plays for radio etc. and she was quite successful in being published and having her plays broadcast on radio.

Lesley remembers Janetta as president of the Greenock Writers’ Club and said that she was quite strict about members doing their utmost to have their work published.  She did not see the point in them writing if their work was not published and read by a wider audience.


Members of Greenock writers’ Club in 1987

Back row: Helen Brown, Paula Braithwaite, Ellen Crumlish, Pat Gonet, Rosalind Woolard, Lesley Crawford, Brian Rowlinson, Second Row: Nan Morrison, Ella McNish , Morven McGibbon, Heather Robertson, Margaret Gaffney, Fay Martin, Gwen Eastwood, Margaret Lightbody,  Seated: Joe Dagleish, Josephine Roddick, Agnes Chisolm Margaret Ryan (President G.W.C.), Janetta Bowie, Eleanor Fraser, Blair Binnie.  On Floor: Cathy McPhail, Muriel Thompson.

There are some well-kent faces in this group, among them Cathy McPhail who became a published author and whose plays were broadcast on the radio both in theUKand inCanada.  Margaret Ryan also became a published author and wrote a number of children’s books. Many others were successful in local competitions and in Scotland-wide competitions open to the many writers’ groups inScotland

Lesley Crawford was able to show me a copy of

“The History of The Association of Scottish Writers 1969 – 1994” written by Janetta Bowie.

Lesley remembers Janetta had a lovely garden at her home at 32 Fox Street,Greenock and she gave Lesley five bulbs from her Crocosmia plant.  This plant has a big stalk with large, red flowers and Lesley planted the bulbs which continued to “come up” every year. She, in turn, has given many bulbs from this plant to friends, over the years. They tell her that the plants have grown well in their gardens also.  A living memory of Janetta Bowie, one could say.

Janetta had large pots in her basement in which she planted bulbs etc. and she would show these to the children she taught, some of whom were unaware that flowers and plants could be grown from bulbs and grown indoors rather than in a garden or a park.

Janetta Bowie took young, aspiring members of the Writers’ Club under her wing and would invite them to her house where she would give them encouragement and tuition.  She passed on tips like,

“Write according to what the editor wants.”

“Pay attention to the number of words for a story or article…this is important to an editor.”

“Look at the various kinds of magazines to ascertain what type of articles they publish.”

Lesley confirmed that Janetta was an only child and that her mother made sacrifices to see that Janetta was well educated.

Janetta was a founder member of the Greenock Writers’ Club. She joined in the Club’s celebration of its 20th Anniversary but she died in 1996, before the Club celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 1998.

In 1990, Janetta instigated the awarding of a trophy to the winner of the Club’s competitions.  This trophy was known as “The Alistair Walker Memorial Trophy” and was a Puffin, in keeping with Puffin book publishers.  There was also a Janetta Bowie Trophy awarded bi-annually for a work of non-fiction.

Fond Memories of Janetta Bowie — Miss Bow Wow 

Gordon McMillan

Gordon Mc Millan knew Janetta Bowie because she was a friend of his mother for many years.  Mrs. Mc Millan was a primary teacher like Janetta and the latter was a frequent visitor to their home when Gordon was a boy.  He liked her.

“She was terrific, like a fond auntie to me,” said Gordon.

Janetta was Infant Mistress at Greenock Academy when she taught Gordon in primary two.  It was among his most enjoyable educational experiences.  He remembers listening to “Singing Together” on the radio while he was in Janetta’s class and he enjoyed singing lessons in her class.  She would sometimes play the piano for the children.  She was affectionately nicknamed “Miss Bow Wow” by the children.

Janetta used to visit the McMillan home and sometimes Gordon’s Mum and Dad would take her for a day out in the car and they would stop for a picnic.  Occasionally they were joined on their outings by Miss Meg Blue of Johnstone Street, who was another of Janetta’s friends.  Another of the jaunts which they often enjoyed was to the Community Drama Festival at the Arts Guild Theatre.

Mrs. McMillan used to help Janetta by accompanying her on shopping trips.

Gordon has an old diary of Janetta’s as well as a scrapbook of her press cuttings, compiled by Janetta herself.  He also has some photos of her taken during the years when she was friendly with his mother.

Gordon remembers Janetta as being a strong-willed woman who entered into a debate very readily and who was fond of winning an argument.

She was successful in having poems and stories published as well as having plays and short stories broadcast on the radio. Articles by Janetta were also published in the “Times Educational Supplement” and in “The Scots’ Magazine”, for example.

“Janetta was not shy of her own achievements and liked to be recognised for her broadcasts and for her books and other publications,” said Gordon.  “She was quite capable of taking somebody down a peg or two,” he added.

After her books had been published, Janetta purchased writing paper with her own letterhead. E.g. “Janetta Bowie, Writer and Broadcaster.”

Gordon, too, remembers her using a baby buggy to get around in her latter years.

Margaret Ryan

Friend, colleague and fellow author of Janetta Bowie.

Margaret Ryan is a past president of Greenock Writers’ Club and was a member of this club at the same time as Janetta Bowie.

Margaret has gone on to become a successful writer of children’s books.

She has warm and affectionate memories of Janetta Bowie and stresses the practical help and encouragement Janetta gave to embryonic young writers.

In appearance, Janetta was typical of the old fashioned teacher but she was very encouraging and very interested in what young writers were trying to achieve in their work.  Janetta had a room in her house to which she invited groups of young writers.  There, they would read and discuss their material with Janetta who would tutor them, show an interest in their work and advise them regarding which publications would find their work suitable and, hopefully, publishable.

Although best known for her trilogy, “Penny Buff”, Penny Boss”, and “Penny Change,” Janetta also wrote a history of “The Association of Scottish Writers” and a booklet to celebrate the bi-centenary of the Burgh of Port Glasgow, “The Port Past-Present………1775-1975”

Margaret said that Janetta could be acerbic on occasion and did not suffer fools gladly.

She was able to solve the mystery of Janetta’s use of a baby buggy in her latter years.  Janetta was a little infirm and needed support of some kind so the baby buggy served the dual purpose of giving her something to lean on and enabling her to carry her shopping home.

“I was upset when she died,” said Margaret.  “I felt she was a loss personally and a loss as a writer.”

Janetta’s father was sea going and, when she was nine or ten, he gave her a lovely turquoise glass, brought from theFar East, on which coloured beads had been painted.  This would date back to the early 1900’s.   The glass had what appeared to be lines painted round it.  When you used a basin or a jug to fill it with water the water came pouring out of the sides.

“It’s a lovely thing,” said Margaret and Janetta gave it to me as a present.  I still have it.

When Janetta died she left the contents of her house to a friend and she left the actual house to a charity which was involved in scientific discovery.  The charity was able to sell the house and to use the money for its research.

Muriel Thompson

“Janetta Bowie was my first boss,” said Muriel Thompson, “and I learned far more from her than I did in my three years at Jordanhill College.”

I worked with Janetta in Chapelton Primary School where she was the Infants’ Mistress.  We were friends as well as colleagues and Janetta attended my Retiral Dinner.

She wrote stories, poems and articles as well as her three books for which she is more famous. i.e. “Penny Buff”, Penny Boss”, and “Penny Change,”

Janetta once wrote an article on “The Cross of Lorraine” which was published.  She had another look at the article to see if she could make any further use of it.  Realising the cross was made from concrete, she re-vamped her article and sent it to a builders’ publication and got the article published again!

Janetta was a strong character, a Margaret Thatcher type, who brooked no argument and who could be abrasive at times.  She was “Agin the government” and would fight her corner if she felt strongly about something.  She was a bit of a “women’s libber” before “women’s libbers” had ever been heard of.  An example of this is that she had her own house built at a time when women were not given mortgages or allowed to purchase a property of their own. Janetta marched down to the council offices and demanded a mortgage to have her own house built.  Her argument was along the lines of, “I am not going to marry nor have children for whom I am responsible.  I am not going to give up my job.  I am well able to pay a mortgage and I don’t see any reason why you should not give me one.”

She got her mortgage and had her house built at 32,Fox Street where it still stands.


Janetta Bowie’s House at 32 Fox Street as it is today (March 2012)

Had Janetta not founded “The Greenock Writers’ Club” and given help and encouragement to them then writers like Cathy McPhail and Margaret Ryan might not be the successful writers they are today.

Muriel recalls an occasion when Janetta encouraged the staff to go on strike.  They were teaching at Chapelton School, which has since been demolished, and the heating had broken down.  There was a coal fire in the staffroom and the children were taken in, half a dozen at a time, to heat up.  When the heating had not been repaired by the afternoon Janetta instructed the staff to stay where they were and said they must refuse to return to their classrooms.  The Head came to find out why the staff had not reappeared and Janetta said the conditions in the school were unacceptable.  The temperature was so low they had to keep their coats on and they were still frozen.

“No shops or factories would expect their workers to put up with such conditions,” declared Janetta.

The Head implored the staff to “go back to work” and he would guarantee that the heating would be repaired by the following morning.  The staff went back to their classes and, by the following morning, the heating was restored.

Muriel said that Janetta was an excellent teacher who had some innovative ideas and was “ahead of her time” in the world of education.  She had stacks of writing strips prepared (all done personally by hand) and when a child finished a strip s/he would go and take the next strip and carry on with that.  These strips progressed from the very easy to the more difficult so the child would make progress in small, manageable steps with plenty of practice at each stage.

During the earlier part of her teaching career the strap was in fairly frequent use in schools.  Janetta did not believe in using the strap and discouraged her staff from using it also.   In later years, when the strap was banned in schools, Janetta said it could be a useful tool in maintaining discipline.  Just her way of being contrary!

“Janetta had a book in which she had written her teaching ideas,” said Muriel.

“When I first started teaching she handed it to me and said that I might like to copy it out.”  “What all of it? “ I asked.

“I copied it all out by hand, a task which took many hours, and I used it throughout my teaching career. I found it an invaluable aid. There were three headings which Janetta liked us to follow Safety,Manners, Morals.”

When she reached the age of sixty, Janetta retired from her promoted post as Infants’ Mistress and left the world of primary education.  Since teachers could continue to teach in non-promoted posts until they were seventy, Janetta took up teaching in FinnartSecondary Schooland was in charge of remedial education.  Some of her pupils were not academic nor were they interested in the formal schoolwork they were being given so Janetta did some wonderful projects with them based on their own interests and abilities.

Their ambition was to get married and have children and run their own home.  Janetta zoned in on this and did projects where they went round the area looking at churches, in which to get married and perhaps to find one which would look good in the photos.

Suitable venues were discussed and inspected. They calculated the number of guests they would invite to the wedding and looked for ideas for the menu for the wedding breakfast. What starters would they have?  What about the main course and the pudding? This would all have to be costed to see how much “per head” they would need to pay.

Next they considered the question of the wedding dress.  They would research when white wedding dresses became the norm and look back at what brides had worn in past times.  The type of material to be chosen and the cost of the material, trimmings and the making up of the wedding dress would have to be calculated as well as finding out the countries from which the material came and how it came from its original home to be on the shelves of local shops.

Cleverly, Janetta incorporated geography, history, maths etc. into these projects in a way which the girls enjoyed, without really realising they were doing “schoolwork”.

Initially, Muriel got to know Janetta through teaching with her but they also shared an interest in writing and Muriel joined The Greenock Writers’ Club which had been founded by Janetta.  Muriel was modest about her attempts at writing but she did get some articles and short stories published in magazines like “The Scots’ Magazine” and even had some of her stories broadcast on the radio.

Members of The Greenock Writers’ Club regularly went to the annual Writers’ Weekend at Pitlochry where Muriel was also successful in winning some of the competitions.

This is the house Janetta had built for herself having insisted that she be given a mortgage.  It is at 32 Fox Street,Greenock.


Janetta Bowie – Friend and Mentor of Cathy Mc Phail

Cathy McPhail is now a well known writer but in her apprenticeship period she owed a great deal to Janetta Bowie whose interest and encouragement helped to set her on the road to publication.

“If Janetta saw a young writer whose talent she recognised she would do everything in her power to encourage that aspiring writer and would be fulsome in her praise of his/her talent,” said Cathy.

“She had to see in you talent, dedication and perseverance,” adds Cathy “because she knew that you had to have a determination to succeed.  Talent alone was not enough.”

When Cathy joined the Greenock Writers’ Club Janetta took notice of her.

“She encouraged me and pushed me to try harder and showed me ways of improving my writing.  She always wanted me to strive to do my best and it meant a great deal to me that Janetta Bowie respected me as a writer,” Cathy said.  “She believed in me and that meant something.”

“Janetta advised me to start an album of my press cuttings,” remembers Cathy, and I ventured to say, “What if I don’t have any press cuttings to put in an album?”

“You will,” replied Janetta,” you are going places!”

Cathy was not a particularly confident young person but Janetta’s practical help and belief in her ability to write gave Cathy a real boost.  She talks of the groups of young writers whom Janetta would tutor and of how she would invite little groups to a party or soiree at her home.

One such party was given for Margaret Ryan (fellow member of the Writers’ Club) who had just had her first children’s book published.   At this time, Cathy had had a romantic novel published and was no doubt pleased about that.  Janetta floored her by saying,

“Don’t you worry, Cathy, when you get a real book published I’ll have a party for you too!”  Obviously Janetta was not impressed by Cathy’s romantic novel!

Cathy describes Janetta Bowie as “the Grand Dame” of the local writers and says she was supportive and complimentary to her personally and to others too but she could be acerbic if the occasion demanded it.

Cathy Mc Phail has gone on to have many books published and has had her plays and stories broadcast on radio in many parts of the world.

She has written a comedy series which is to be put on to CDs and there are plans afoot to make one of her books, “Another Me” into a film.

She has not forgotten the debt she owes to Janetta Bowie who recognised her talent as a writer from the very start.


Janetta Bowie

ONE of Greenock’s well-known citizens, teacher and writer JanettaBowie, has died in her 89th year. She was still active, and a few days before her death she had written a poem and was judging entries for an article competition for Greenock Writers’ Club.

Janetta never married because her career meant so much to her – in her day teachers had to resign on marriage. She was dux ofGreenockHigh Schoolin 1925, and winner of the Sir Godfrey Collins Prize for English. Because of her mother's belief in the education of women Janetta was able to attendGlasgowUniversityeven though her father had died, and she worked every holiday to help to defray the expenses.

In 1928 she graduated MA and went to Jordanhill College of Education to become a teacher at a time when students outnumbered jobs by two to one. By the age of 21 she began her first teaching post, atJeanStreetSchool, Port Glasgow.

She later took a course in infant school method as there was no other means of promotion open to women in primary schools at that time. She also taught in what was known as a junior secondary school where, as later at the women's prison in Greenock, she believed that by learning to express their feelings in words girls could begin to cope better with their lives.

In 1967 she became a member of theGreenockWriters' Club which she supported throughout her life with enthusiasm, giving encouragement to many now well-known writers. She was present at the celebration in 1992 of its jubilee and also in 1994 at the jubilee of the Scottish Association of Writers of which she was a founder member and honorary vice-president.

In 1973 Janetta won the Constable Trophy, presented by the publishers who published her winning entry, Penny Buff, which described a Clydeside school in the 1930s. It was successful and was broadcast as a series to be followed by Penny Boss and Penny Change. These memories of a teacher's life and times were shot with humour about the pupils she had encountered. It is a pity that they are now out of print.

Janetta also wrote poetry and articles which were published in theUKand abroad, especially in theUS.

Her love of Scottish literature and language led to her promoting it whenever an opportunity arose. Her own quirky sense of humour was at its best in her children's stories as she was not afraid to make us laugh at our own Scottish foibles. She will be missed by her many friends but she had no surviving relatives.

An appreciation by

SHEILA LIVINGSTONE, president, Scottish Association of Writers

Copy of Obituary, Janetta Bowie           GreenockTelegraph 1st March 1996

By Jeremy Burrows

“Penny” author dies.

An important chapter in the history of Greenock Writers’ Club has now closed with the sudden death of its founder member, Janetta Bowie.

Miss Bowie, who was 88, died at her home on Tuesday.

Her three books published after her retirement were based on her experiences as a teacher in Greenock and Port Glasgow.

During her career she held the post of head infants’ mistress at the former Chapelton School, Port Glasgow and Greenock Academy.  She was also principal teacher in remedial subjects and in charge of classes for borstal girls at Gateside Prison,Greenock.

As well as seeing her three books –“Penny Buff, Penny Boss and Penny Change—published, she also had several illustrated articles published in various Scottish journals and children’s plays, stories and talks broadcast on the radio.

“She was a great stalwart and was always ready to help with anyone’s writing problems,” said author and club member Margaret Ryan.

”She encouraged a high standard and always wanted you to do your best—I think that was the schoolteacher in her.   She will be greatly missed.”

As well as founding Greenock Writers’ Club over 30 years ago, and latterly serving as honorary president, Miss Bowie was also a founder member of the Scottish Association of Writers.  In 1973 the organisation awarded her book Penny Buff the Constable Trophy.

Miss Bowie’s funeral will be held this Monday at 11am at Greenock Crematorium.


For more information on Janetta Bowie click on to these web sites.

Inverclyde Council website – with link to PDF file of her history of Port Glasgow:


Herald article “From a blackboard to a typewriter”, March 28 1975:


Herald article “Teaching no joke” (review of “Penny Change”), December 1 1977:


Obituary in the Herald, April 13 1996: