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Annals of Garelochside
Chapter V - Helensburgh; Its History, Institutions, and Inhabitants


THE flourishing town of Helensburgh has a fine situation on the undulating slope rising from the shore opposite Greenock, and forms a pleasing object in the landscape as seen from the deck of the steamers sailing up the estuary of the Clyde. It was founded in 1777, by the superior of the land, Sir James Colquhoun, and was named after his wife Helen, daughter of Lord Strathnaver, son of John, Earl of Sutherland. The town is laid out after an effective plan of feus; its streets are wide, intersecting one another at regular intervals. From being a mere straggling row of humble houses in the beginning of the century, mostly situated on the shores of the shallow bay, the town has assumed the extensive proportions it now displays. Along the shore, in front of the main street there extends a sort of esplanade walk, with a break where the Established church, and the street beyond intervene to vary its uniformity. From this esplanade the various streets run far up the ascending ground, and ranges of fine villas, some of a highly ornate style of architecture, adorn either side. Handsome church spires arise from amidst the verdant flowering gardens and clumps of trees, and, in other parts of the town, the public buildings are worthy of the prosperity of this popular place. 'While, from every coign of vantage in the streets and terraces of the upper portion of the town, there are gained delightful views of the Rosneath peninsula, with its lordly castle, or palace, amidst stately fir trees, the long stretch of purple moor, and clusters of plantations round the shores of the Gareloch, the swelling forms of the noble Argyllshire mountains in the background, and the winding, wooded slopes of Pow and Shandon towards the north. Helensburgh, from its position, enjoys a great deal of sunshine in summer, and sometimes, the fervent heat is rather too much at the height of the season, unless tempered with the refreshing sea breeze. It is a favourite place of resort for those who wish to combine the pleasures of the town along with rural scenery, as they can take the steamers which sail to some of the romantic and beautiful islands and lochs in the Pest Highlands. In summer also, the railway brings down thousands of visitors, for the day, who throng the streets and esplanade, or wend their way to Cairndhu park, from whence a prospect of the Gareloch and opposite shores of Rosneath is obtained.

Very little of old Helensburgh remains, namely, the row of humble, thatched, or red tiled, cottages that used to run along the shore road in what is now known as Clyde Street. In those days there were no steamers to transport their motley company of pleasure seekers from the dingy and smoky purlieus of Glasgow, into the heart of the West Highland scenery, enjoying a constantly changing series of panoramic views of mountain, moor, and pebbly strand, as they swiftly glided along. No railway invaded the secluded valleys, down whose heath and bracken clad braes the sparkling burns leapt in headlong race to the brawling stream rust-ling amidst the rocks of its wave-worn channel. Not even the well appointed coach, with its cheery driver urging his rapid team of horses along the highway, and the guard sounding his "echoing born" to the delight of ruddy faced village children, was ever seen by the peaceful waters of the Gareloch. Those passengers who sought to reach the great capital of the West of Scotland, from the outlying towns down the Clyde, or in its vicinity, had to hire a post-chaise, or to trudge on foot their weary way to purchase, perchance, some of the "luxuries o' the Saut Market." And if they wished to make their way across to Greenock, or Port-Glasgow, they had to take the ferry boat from Drumfork ferry house, long kept by Walter Bain, and brave the often stormy passage, with the possibility of being storm-staid for one or more days, ere the return voyage could be made.

Helensburgh is spoken of in Chalmers' "Caledonia," as follows:

"This village was founded by the proprietor, Sir James Colquhoun of Luss, about 1775, but during twenty years it made very slow progress. Since 1795, it has increased rapidly, having become a regular fashionable sea bathing place, for the merchants and manufacturers of Glasgow and Paisley, who have regular and easy conveyances to it by means of steamboats. It is built on a regular plan, has a theatre, several inns, a large Hotel, extensive hot and cold baths, with every accommodation for invalids. It has been created a burgh of barony, with a regular establishment of magistrates, and a small harbour for coasting vessels and pleasure boats has been constructed at it. This rising town already contains a permanent population of 1,000, and in the summer season it has more than three times that number of people."

A number of years later, in 1839, it is thus described by the Rev. Mr. Laurie of Row in the Statistical Account. "The only town in the parish is Ilelensburgh, a rapidly increasing watering place. It was founded by the first Sir James Colquhoun, and was named in honour of his wife, Lady Helen Sutherland. It was created a burgh of barony by charter in the year 1802, and has a provost, two bailies, and four councillors. It has the privilege of holding a weekly market and four annual fairs. There is a small and incommodious pier, principally used by the steamboats, of which several sail daily to Glasgow. There is also a daily post from Dunbarton and Greenock." There are not very many living who can remember the town as it was seventy years ago, and therefore it is interesting to read what an intelligent visitor, the Rev. W. M. Wade, says of Helensburgh, in his work on the Watering Places in Scotland, published at Paisley in the year 1822. In this pleasantly written book we read, "As a watering place Helensburgh is well and genteely frequented. Houses and lodgings are often engaged months before they are required, and yet disappointments are not uncommon. The houses already built accommodate a resident population of more than about 900 or 1000 persons. Many of the bathers lodge in the hotel, a large edifice; or in the inns, of which there are, or were, lately three. Of the private lodgings, some are well, and even elegantly fitted up, and furnished. The baths, of which there are both hot and cold, with every necessary convenience, are in a handsome and commodious edifice, a little apart from the town. Near them are some handsome dwelling houses. Helensburgh contains a theatre and a post-office, at which the arrival from Glasgow is daily, as is the despatch thither. A small harbour for coasting and pleasure vessels is an agreeable appendage to the place. Towards improving it a Government grant of 1500 has been made." The author goes on to speak of communications between different towns on the Frith of Clyde, by means of steamers, and in summer a daily coach runs to Dunbarton and Glasgow. He also gives various routes for excursions along the Gareloch. Mentions the "Inn of South Cairndow, opposite the mouth of Loch Gare." Speaks of "Rosneath Castle as yet unfinished," and mentions a "ruined chapel," near the beautiful bay of Camsail, on Rosneath side of the Loch. Also alludes to Faslane house, on the Gareloch, as "a pleasant villa that was wont to be let during the bathing season, and in the neighbourhood of which is a bowery chapel ruin."

Yet another description is given of Helensburgh in the Road Book of Scotland, published in London, 1829. "Helensburgh in Dunbartonshire is pleasantly situated on the north bank of the Frith of Clyde, and is much frequented as a watering place. It was founded towards the close of the last century by Sir James Colquhoun of Luss, and laid out on a uniform plan. Government granted 1500 towards the construction of a harbour, on condition that Sir James should expend an equal sum. Hence there is a ferry to Greenock. About 500 yards to the east are the Helensburgh hot and cold baths, fitted up on an elegant plan. Ardencaple Inn, in Dunbartonshire, is situated on Gair Loch, on the opposite shore of which is seen Rosneath House."

The contrast is striking between the old and the handsomely appointed modern town, with its fine Gothic churches, ornate municipal buildings, large and commodious post-office, public halls, streets squares and terraces of variegated freestone, and well arranged shops full of all the most attractive wares, and a broad esplanade and sea wall thronged in summer with crowds of visitors enjoying their breezy promenade. The broad streets run up the hill from the main terrace on the sea front, some of them planted with strips of turf on either side, and trees at intervals, like the boulevards of Paris. There is a delightful combination of grass plots, umbrageous hedges, and green shrubs, mingled with the decorated villas, giving an air of opulent prosperity to the town, and these are gradually extending to the upper slopes, which afford beautiful vistas of the Coeval mountains and reaches of the Clyde. No doubt, Helensburgh was a considerable time in arriving at its present condition, since January 1776, when the lands of Maligs were first advertised by the superior, Sir James Colquhoun, who had acquired them from Sir John Shaw of Greenock. An elaborate feuing plan was prepared in 1803 by Mr. Peter Fleming of Glasgow, regular rectangular blocks for building sites being laid down, the streets leading from the shore and the cross streets being all of a uniform breadth of sixty feet. *

 The quantity of land allotted for the proposed burgh was 173 acres, 3 roods, "exclusive of the high road from Glasgow to Inveraray leading through these lands." There were, at that date, 82 feus taken off, the first one being at the foot of William Street, where the old red-tiled house, which still stands, is an undoubted relic of the Helensburgh of that period. There was also planned a good large harbour, with two breakwater walls on either side, and a consider able space of wharfage, although this was only partially carried out. This proved a great drawback to the prosperity of the town for a number of years, for, although the Government granted 1500 conditionally, the amount raised locally never got beyond 1100, and thus the scheme of a harbour fell to the ground. The original pier was a mere stone dyke for landing goods and passengers, but it was gradually improved and lengthened, being under the management of a committee of subscribers till 1834. In that year it came under the control of the provost and council as well, a piece of ground was purchased on which to erect a bazaar, or market place, but this plan was superseded by Sir James Colquhoun granting all the vacant ground, eastward to the old granary, in front of the Established Church, on condition of this being kept vacant for future improvements of the pier and harbour. Having no actual rights of property in the pier, the original subscribers transferred their control over it to the town council, in the expectation of a large and commodious harbour being constructed, worthy of the rising importance of the town.

Under the first charter, the bounds of the burgh of Helensburgh extended from the Glenan Burn to the old road leading to Luss at Drumfork on the east, and about as far to the north as the existing line of King Street. Owing to the discontinuance of the ancient custom of perambulating the marches, and the boundary stones having been removed, it is not now easy to determine the exact limits of the burgh on the north. The curious old ceremony used to be annually observed known as the "riding of the marches," when the magistrates and council officially assembled, accompanied by a crowd of boys, and the march stones or dykes were duly pointed out to all present. When the new Act of Parliament was got, these old boundaries were extended, and the burgh ran from the East Toll to Ardencaple wood, a distance of over a mile, and up the hill more than a quarter of a mile from the shore. One great advantage that Helensburgh enjoys is from being situated on a natural slope of ground, and the feuing lots are in rectangular squares of two acres each, the number of houses on each acre being restricted to four, and in many instances to two, except in the two principal streets to the front. Many of the houses are of the cottage description, though a number of modern villa residences of considerable size have been erected in the last few years. Nowhere along the coast are there to be seen more tastefully laid out pleasure grounds, gay with spring and summer flowers, and many varieties of plants, elsewhere only seen under glass, grow in the open air owing to the southern exposure they enjoy away from the blighting effects of the east wind.

It is curious to read the first public notice regarding Helensburgb, which then had not yet acquired its name, in the old Glasgow Journal, of date 11th January, 1776, twenty years after the purchase of the Barony of A aligs by Sir James Colquhoun.

"NOTICE. To be feued immediately, for building upon, at a very reasonable rate, a considerable piece of ground, upon the shores of Malig, opposite Greenock. The land lies on both sides of the road leading from Dunbarton to the kirk of Pow. The ground will be regularly laid out for houses and gardens, to be built according to a plan. There is a freestone quarry on the ground.

For the accommodation of the feuars the proprietor is to enclose a large field for grazing their milk cows, etc.

"N.B. Bonnet-makers, stocking, linen and woollen weavers, will meet with proper encouragement. There is a large boat building at the place for ferrying men and horses with chaises."

In the old charter of 1802, the town was created a burgh of barony, for the purpose "encouraging industry and promoting manufacture in the village of Helensburgb." The boundaries are described as on the south by the river Clyde, on the north by the march dyke of the farm of Stuckleekie, and by the march dyke of the farms of Two Maligs and of Glenan, on the west by the burn of Glenan, and on the east by the road leading from Clyde to Loch Lomond, commonly called the "Duke's road."

There is no doubt that Sir James Colquhoun was correct in his surmise that Helensburgh would prove an attractive place of resort for visitors, and it has now come to be recognised, by medical men of high reputation, as especially favourable for invalids. Certainly it is since the opening of the railway in 1857 that the great prosperity of the town may be said to commence, and the introduction of gas in 1844 was another vast improvement over the old system of lighting by oil and candles. This was simultaneous with the new Police Act of 1846, when the powers of the governing authorities were enlarged, in accordance with the efficient maintenance of law and order. And the fine water supply, gained from the reservoir on the Mains-Hill above the town, has been a permanent blessing to the community, since the town council carried out this great improvement in March 1868.

There are still living natives of Helensburgh who can perfectly recall the old features of the town as it was before the epoch of water supply, gas, railway, police acts, boulevards, banks, and other of the institutions of modern society. One of these, Mr. M'Aulay, fisherman, whose familiar form has long been known to passengers, as he sits at the head of the pier in summer, has kindly furnished the author some interesting reminiscences. The oldest houses in the town he considers to be the red tiled ones at the foot of Maitland Street, which used to be occupied by John Gray, while a cooperage was situated on the shore, nearly opposite; but in one of the great storms, more than sixty years ago, this building was entirely washed away. There was a carved stone over the door, with the cooper's coat of arms, consisting of the letters, P. G. M. D. G., a pair of compasses, and some implements, with the date 1778, which is now to be seen built into the wall of the house at the foot of the street next the shore.

The Helensburgh of those days consisted of Clyde Street and a few houses in Princes Street. Mr. M'Aulay, when a boy, remembered there was a broad stretch of green grass all the way from the pier to Cairndhu point, with whins, brambles and sloes, growing in abundance. In his early days there was a sort of rude harbour, formed by the pier, which ran out in breadth over twenty feet at first, then became a sort of rough dyke, a few feet wide, with an arm striking off nearly at right angles. There were generally two or three wherries and coal gabbards in the harbour, as all the coals came by this means to the town, and on being taken ashore were carted over the beach near the granary into Sinclair Street for distribution. A shed, in those days, rested against the walls of the old granary, and outside of all was the road, but these outlying sheds were subsequently all swept away by the sea. When the tides suited, three of these wherries would start from the harbour ; and smacks with grain, farm produce, and often passengers, traded with the various coast towns down the Clyde.

Steamers regularly made the voyage from Glasgow to Helensburgh and the Gareloch, touching all intermediate points in the river. One of these, the Helensburgh, Captain Macleod, was in her day a notable vessel, with a gross tonnage of 125 tons. Her side lever engine, of 52 horse power, was constructed by the eminent Robert Napier, at his foundry at Camlachie, and she was the first single engined steamer which had two eccentric rods, one for going ahead, and one for going astern, while her mast was of iron. She was sold in 1835, and ran between Liverpool and Woodside, till she was broken up in 1845. The Clarence, Captain Turner, the Caledonia, Captain White, the Waverley, Captain Douglas, the Sultan, James Oswald, and the steamers of the Helensburgh Steamship Company, Monarch, Emperor, Sovereign, were all well known to summer visitors of the period. The Waverley used to leave Glasgow every day at 10 A.M. for Helensburgh, and the Caledonia at 3 P.M., and three times a week the former sailed to Garelochhead. The latter, in the days before there were piers on the loch-side, made the run every day to the Gareloch, and towed a small boat from Helensburgh pier, in which the passengers landed at Row and at Rosneath. The Clarence and Helensburgh also made runs to the Row and Rosneath ferries, and the passengers at the old pier of Helensburgh had often great difficulty in landing on the narrow plank extending from the vessel to the wave-washed stone pier, if the wind was high and a heavy sea on. In those days there were no piers at Renfrew, Dunbarton, or any of the river-side towns, until you reached Port-Glasgow. Row was the first pier built on the Gareloch, and steamers were glad to land their passengers there, when it was impossible to take the ruinous stone dyke at Helensburgh. The wherries sailed thrice a week from Helensburgh to Rosneath, and sometimes to Shandon and Rahane, taking loaves of bread, which old " Gibbie " Macleod used to distribute at the Clachan village, and at the Parkhead, in Rosneath policies. Although there were often abundant shoals of herring in the Gareloch, the fishing latterly was not much carried on while there were salmon stake nets on the shore in front of where Ferniegair now stands, as also at Craigendoran. There were large quantities of fish of the usual varieties to be had by line fishing from boats, also excellent sea trout, sometimes four and five pounds in weight, were often caught.

Education in the landward part of the parish, and in Helensburgh, was of the usual excellent description, so well known as forming a special feature in Scottish rural life since the days of John Knox. Truly our country owes a debt of gratitude to the hard working, and often self-denying, men who for so many years upon miserably inadequate emoluments, imparted admirable tuition to the youth of Scotland. By the Act of 1696 it was decreed that the heritors in each parish should supply a suitable school-house, with a salary for the master of not less than a 100 merks, 5 us. Old., nor over 200 merks, 11 2s. 3d., payable half-yearly, besides the casual fees, which formerly belonged to the readers and clerks of the Kirk Session. By the subsequent Act of 1803, a dwelling house and garden was further provided, and adequate school buildings for the district. These village schoolmasters were frequently men of capacity and learning, who often had been educated for the ministry, but failed in attaining to the dignity of a parish minister, and were content to seek to bring into play the latent qualities of intellect and scholarship which might be found amongst the children of the humble cottars. He generally also acted as registrar, session clerk, and precentor in the church, besides being secretary or manager of the various charitable and other village associations. Mr. Battison of this town was a man of varied occupations, and in addition to being an instructor of the ingenuous youth of Helensburgh, he was town clerk and collector of statute labour money for the burgh. His school in 1834 was incorporated with the session school of Row, which was built by public subscription, and enjoyed the government grant, being kept up by the Free Church until the passing of the Scotch Education Act of 1872.

In many respects a teacher of exceptional merits, Mr. Battison was sometimes assisted by his nephew James Walker. There was another school, attended by some sixty scholars, in Mr. M'Aulay's time, established by Mr. Hunter, who used to keep a similar one at Car-dross. He built the schoolhouse in what was then called Sir \Villiam Wallace Street, at the corner of Princes Street, and his fees were from 3s. to 4s. per quarter for each scholar, the instruction imparted being chiefly writing and arithmetic. There was also a third school, the teacher's name being Mr. John Oatts, which for a time occupied a room in the old municipal building, that was built at first for a theatre. Mr. Hunter managed to combine the two offices of teacher in Princes Street, and grocer in Clyde Street, and is still remembered by some as of a gentle and genial disposition, unlike the stern, conventional pedagogue of fiction. In those days the Church used to superintend much of the instruction given, and her ministers took an active part iii the inspection of schools. In 1847, when the quoad sacra Church of Scotland was opened, there was a flourishing school in connection with it, under the charge of Mr. John Fraser. Old Mr. Story from Rosneath, Mr. Laurie from Row, and Mr. John Anderson, all used to assemble in the schools at the examination time, and see that the boys and girls were properly instructed in religious as well as secular knowledge. Mr. Hunter used to fill the office of precentor in the Original Seceders Church (which then stood in Colquhoun Square), along with his work of imparting tuition to the young.

A school which proved of great use to the community was established in the year 1851 in the room above the old town hall, chiefly through the interest and liberality of several public spirited ladies and gentlemen. Mr. George Mair was appointed as teacher, and about fifty children, in the first instance, were enrolled, chiefly from amongst the poorer classes of the community, the fees being reduced to a minimum. Two years afterwards, a government loan was obtained, and was the nucleus of the present large Grant Street School, and Mr. Zair, happily, is still spared in the post he has so long and faithfully filled. The Hermitage Public School, under the able guidance of Mr. David Buchanan, is very successful in imparting secondary education, and also the widely known Larchfield Academy, under the superintendence of Mr. Thomas Bayne, where so many scholars have gained considerable distinction. The Row School Board has an extensive jurisdiction, embracing Helensburgh, Row, Shandon, Garelochhead districts, and even extends as far as the peaceful region of Glenfruin; while the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Schools provide for the comparatively small number of children embraced in these denominations.

At the commencement of the present century the only place of worship for the inhabitants of Helensburgh was the Parish Church at Row, and a pleasant walk it was along the Gareloch side on a calm summer morning. The oldest place of worship in the town was the square building, known as the "Tabernacle," which was erected on the site of the present Congregational Chapel in James Street as far back as 1802. For many years this remained the only chapel in Helensburgh, although a very small Episcopal congregation was founded in 1814. Towards the close of last century, the early Scottish Congregationalists made Helensburgh a preaching station in summer, and conducted their services, either in or out of doors, according to the state of the weather. Thus a small flock was formed, and, in 1800, an application was made to the Rev. Greville Ewing, of GIasgow, to send down some of the young men then studying for the University under his training. In 1801, Mr. Ewing was prevailed on to visit the small congregation, and, shortly afterwards, subscriptions were gathered to defray the expense of a humble place of worship. This was of very rude description, without any flooring, but with a foot-board laid on the earth within each pew. The following sketch of this primitive building was furnished to Mr. Macleod by a friend, and gives us a glimpse of what Helens-burgh was in these early days of its existence. "Our early recollection of the building itself is that it stood in the middle of a field where a number of sheep grazed in summer, which afforded to us youngsters, who were within the walls on Sundays, as we looked out at them through the old-fashioned windows, more suitable illustrations of the restoration of the wanderer of the flock, and of innocence and pastoral life, than what the `secondly ' or ' thirdly ' of the discourse often gave us. In wet weather, the approach to the building was somewhat critical, for the ground was mossy and undrained, and a row of stopping-stones led across the line of the then unformed street near which it stood, and these stepping-stones were by no means reliable to those who were not to the manner born. Inside, the building was bleak and bare, seated with high, stiff pews, all overlooked by an enormous pulpit, with a wooden canopy." Another small congregation was that of the few Original Seceders from the Church of Scotland, who met for worship in 1824, in the old Granary, which is such a conspicuous landmark near the shore.

In his book upon Helensburgh and the Garelocb, Mr. Macleod gives some of his uncle's reminiscences of the town, as he knew it shortly after the commencement of the century. There was then no doctor within its bounds, Dr. Hunter from Dunbarton, being chiefly called into requisition in cases of emergency. About 1809 the magistrates and Council began to occupy the old theatre, which had been put up mainly by the surrounding county gentlemen, but it had a brief existence. The Council held their courts in this building, until the handsome new Town's House was built in 1878. For a number of years the municipal honours were not much coveted, for those elected to office often preferred rather to pay the small fines of ten or five shillings, exacted from such as declined to serve as bailie or councillor. At first the magistrates might be seen dispensing justice seated on a log on the shore, perhaps with their coats off in warm weather. At other times they would prefer the seclusion of a public-house kept by one of the bailies. The more important class of offences consisted in members of the corporation neglecting to attend the Parish Kirk, which were punished by fine and admonition, and the minor charges were chiefly disturbances in the public-houses. Those of the bailies and councillors who adhered to the Church of Scotland had a seat set apart in the Row Church, a fine of one shilling being imposed when any member failed to attend worship with the Council. On occasions of special importance, the two town's officers, with their halberts, accompanied the whole Council to church. One of the officers, a very worthy man, old James Lennox, survived to within a few years ago as assistant harbour-master, and his familiar and weather-beaten visage must be still well remembered. For a time he acted as burgh-officer, fiscal, constable, harbour-master, town-crier, and pursued his avocation of fisherman, his services being remunerated by means of a collecting box, which annually went the round of the various householders.

Fowler's "Helensburgh Directory, for 1834-5," gives the population of the burgh as about 1200, the qualified voters for the county being stated as 69 within the burgh, and in the suburbs 24. The municipal constituency consisted of 56, who were all the male inhabitants, having right to a house and garden ground within the burgh by feu or lease of 100 years, and, as such, entitled to choose annually on the 11th day of September, at eleven o'clock forenoon, the magistrates and town council out of their number. The householders names, as given in the directory, numbered 217 within, and about 12 more outside the burgh. No less than 126 householders offered lodging accommodation for summer visitors, the number of apartments ranging from 1 tip to 14. There was a Public Subscription Library, which had been established by means of 4 shares, owned by householders connected with the town. It was located within the walls of the old theatre, then doing duty as the municipal buildings, and the pit and boxes forming the court hall. Inside this building where once the actors were wont to "strut and fret their hour upon the stage," there were a grocery store, the library, and the police cells. The Subscription Library proprietors used every year to dine together in the Baths Hotel, but it was broken up in the year 1850, and the books divided by lot among the shareholders.

In Fowler's Directory, the beauty of Helensburgh is referred to in glowing terms. "Readily accessible by land and water—close to a fine beach, open to the soft and salubrious marine breeze, celebrated for its fresh water springs, sheltered by hill and wood from the keen blasts of the north and east, plentifully furnished by the sea with wholesome, palatable and nutritious food, at a short distance from a complete depot of every necessary, and almost even every luxury of civilised life, in the immediate neighbourhood of charming and varied scenery, of the safe and pleasant ride, and of the romantic walk—what can be awanting to render Helensburgh a most attractive spot to all who resort to the sea-shore in quest of health."

There were, in the older days of the burgh, two annual fairs held, which were kept up for a number of years, servants being hired at them, and a good many cattle bought and sold. At these fairs, there figured the usual concomitants of travelling circuses, wild beast shows, jugglers and acrobats, wandering minstrels, shooting galleries, wheel of fortune men, and, along with all these attractions, the public-houses did a large business to the grievous detriment of the neighbourhood. Smuggling used to be carried on with more or less impunity, in those days, and plenty of contraband whisky could be had in the licensed houses in the burgh. The wherries brought over the malt from Greenock, and it was taken to the various well-known haunts of the smugglers on the Garelochside under cover of night. It was wonderful how cleverly those engaged in these evil practices managed to evade the Revenue officers, but occasionally they were captured, and lodged in comfortable quarters in the old jail in the High Street of Dunbarton, opposite the Elephant Hotel.

To one visiting Helensburgh about the year 1830, the town would present a very different appearance from what it now does. It would then have only the one long front row of houses, in Clyde Street, small two-storied buildings, hardly one of which is now to be seen, and about half-a-dozen newly built ones in Princes Street. There was no esplanade, or sea-wall, the old crumbling pier jutted out into the waters of the Frith, and a considerable expanse of grass land lay between the road and the beach at the east bay, on which the schoolboys played their favourite game of shinty. A similar field lay in front of the west bay, and this was usually selected by the itinerant Punch and Judy shows, and others of the travelling showmen for their novel entertainments. The tide has gradually swept away these two verdant strips of ground, but the old Granary still rears its unadorned walls where it has stood so long. The \Vest, or Glenan, burn flowed into the sea close to where William Street now is, a limpid stream, with grassy banks and mossy stones, brambles and ferns beautifying its course, and it ran into the sea under the stone bridge over which the road went. In those days the Ardencaple woods, which extended to the end of Clyde Street, were full of fine, lofty trees and sweet hazel dells, and the avenue to the old castle entered by the gateway which now leads to Ferniegair. There used to be a singularly picturesque old gate lodge, with thatched roof and rustic wooden pillars, which the late Mr. Kidston reluctantly had to pull down, some years after he built his new house. But the old gate remains, exactly as it was, with the grey granite posts, which were said to have been brought from Inveraray, encased in iron. There were several villas at this end of Clyde Street; the one next Ferniegair, now the property of Dr. Douglas Reid, so long and so honourably known in Helensburgh, having formerly been occupied by Lord John Campbell. The next but one was built by Mr. Kerr, the founder of a well-known firm of accountants in Glasgow, and Lady Augusta Clavering occupied the one next the burn. This is a plain, substantial house, with a grass plot in front, and a strong iron railing next the street. It was built about the year 1804, by Dr. Gardiner, and is now so far altered that there are two tenements in it, the upper storey being entered by a stair at the back. Immediately across the burn there was the old ferry-house, Samuel M`Kinlay's public-house, a small red-tiled building, with two massive iron rings, on either side of the door, to which the ferry-boat could be attached.

At the other end of Clyde Street, not far from where Craigendoran pier now stands, there were, close to the shore, several ornate villas, amongst them Provost Dixon's residence of Rockbank, Rockfort, and the adjoining Baths Hotel, a square castellated building, which had been started as far back as 1808, by the enterprising genius Henry Bell. [The ground for Henry Bell's Baths was feued by hint in 180G, and the hotel was afterwards built, the whole property being acquired by James Smith of Jordanhill, in 1823, and held, till 1883, by his representatives.] There was another hotel at that time, now known as the Imperial, but then called the Tontine, and afterwards the George, and was first kept by Mr. Napier, afterwards, about 1840, by Mrs. Aberdeen. Several of the houses in Clyde Street had been built about 1830, Mr. M`Callum's well known drapery store, Mr. M'Lachlan's shop, and the one adjoining, which was known as the Caledonian Hotel, and kept by James Lamb. In Maitland Street, and in Sinclair Street, there were several two storey houses, and the one in Colquhoun Street, now number 21, had recently been built, and was then considered a handsome house. In Princes Street there were a few houses, and in John Street some cottages, and one two-storey house built by Mr. M'Hutcheon. The three-storey building in Princes Street, so long the old Post Office, was one of the early dwelling houses of the town. The adjoining long single storeyed cottage, with red-tile roof, was always known as the "Bog house," probably from the marshy character of the ground there, and was taken down twenty years ago. The site of Colquhoun Square was formerly a disused red-stone quarry, which had been first excavated for making a common sewer in 1843, and a pool of water gradually accumulated in which a poor old woman was drowned. This woman was a noted hawker, who owned a pony and cart, and sold herrings and oysters, which had been got in Loch Long, all the way between Garelochhead and Dunbarton. In Mr. M'Aulay's early recollection, the Post Office used to be at Mrs. M'Kinlay's, in Clyde Street; there the first Provost Breingan was Postmaster. Afterwards Mr. Hunter in Clyde Street kept it, and latterly it was beside the familiar "Bog house," from whence the office was removed to its present amplified and decorated home in Colquhoun Square.

Severity years ago the green fields extended all the way down the slopes to Clyde Street, excepting the portion of Princes Street above alluded to, and the burns, apart from the two stone bridges in ClydeStreet, were either spanned by small wooden structures or crossed by stepping stones. Even at a later period the streets now running up from Clyde Street, with houses and villas on both sides, were merely indicated by incipient side walks and rows of trees, at intervals, on which the village boys delighted to hang swings of ropes. Seven farms existed on what now constitutes modern Helensburgh, and the schoolboys could play to their hearts content all along the verges of the east and west burns, within whose borders the infant town was comprised. Woodend farm to the east was close to the Ardencaple policies, then came Easterton, next Glenan, then Malligs, Stuck, Townhead and Kirkmichael. Several of the old farm houses are still standing, and the Malig Mill close beside the Luss road is worth a visit. It is a plain building, with the inscription on a stone inserted in the front wall, "Malig Mill, 1834," and the Malig burn runs beside it, under a rocky bank, well clothed with hazel and brushwood in summer. In former times there were three public wells on what is now the Luss road, but only one remains, built of massive old slabs of stone, and the venerable iron spout and handle are still quite fit for duty. Two similar wells existed farther down the road, one at the corner of Princes Street, beside the hedge, which forty years ago bordered the road there, opposite the railway station, and the other at the Established Church.

Some of the announcements in Fowler's Directory are curious in their way, as shewing the changes sixty years have wrought. There were then two inns, the Baths Hotel, kept by Mrs. Henry Bell, with superior accommodation, and with hot and cold baths, also "chaises, noddies and curricles." The Tontine Inn, also in Clyde Street, announced the same useful vehicles for hire. There are two places of worship in the town besides the Row church, several Sabbath schools, and the Helensburgh Infant School instituted in 1833, supported by voluntary contributions. The ministers are the Rev. John Laurie, Row, Rev. John Anderson, and Rev. John Arthur. The Provost, James Smith of Jordanhill, eminent in many ways as an author and scientific man. There is a Reading Room, Library, and Post Office, shops of every description, and "what they do not afford can easily be procured from Greenock." It is also noted that steamboats call nearly every hour in going to Rosneath and Garelochhead. "A small harbour for steam and coasting and pleasure vessels is an agreeable appendage to the place." Henry Bell's labours are eulogised as from the man who had "opened up new channels of national happiness and universal benefits—to whom we owe floating bridges upon the ocean." There are various wine and spirit merchants, some of them combining other occupations, as John Bain, boot and shoe maker, with the sale of spirits, "James Breingan, grocer, wine and spirit merchant, Postmaster, and Procurator Fiscal, Clyde Street," and "J. Glen, flesher and spirit dealer." Two carriers :—John Glen, for Dunbarton and Glasgow, starts Tuesday, arrives Wednesday, and John Bain, Maitland Street, for Garelochhead twice a week. Steamers Clarence, Sultan, Helensburgh, WWaverley, besides three ferryboats to Greenock.*

Various ancient Scottish customs used to be kept up by the Helensburgh people in the days when steamboat and railway communications had brought the town into more immediate contact with the more prosaic and utilitarian centres of civilisation. Before regular steamers ran to Greenock and Glasgow, coaches took passengers several days in the week to Dunbarton and Glasgow, and James Stewart used to drive his carrier's cart for light goods, with accommodation also for two or three passengers, three times a week to Glasgow. Donald M`Callum also made the journey thrice a week, with his one-horse van, with groceries and sundry light ware. The following extracts from the Glasgow Directory for 1806 give the coaching and carrying accommodation to Dunbarton and Helensburgh "Dunbarton. A Coach from Mr. Burns' Bull Inn, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 5 o'clock; fare 5s.

"Helensburgh. From the Star Inn, at 4 afternoon, every lawful day; fare 6s., outside 4s.; and from Gow's, Queen Street, at 11 forenoon, every lawful day; fare 5s.

"CARRIERS' CARTS.

"Dunbarton. At Provan's, 64 Ingram Street; at Gow's, Queen Street; and at Ronald's, 73 New-Wynd; arrive on Tuesday and Friday, and depart on Wednesday and Saturday.

"Helensburgh. At Nelson's, 45, and M'Farlane's, 148 Stockwell, and at Bryson's, Argyll Street; on Thursday once a week."

New Year's day was welcomed by old and young as the statutory outlet for frolic, and the various Scottish dainties, in the shape of cakes, puddings, and their accompanying potent beverages, were liberally set out for the parties of merry-makers who perambulated the town. A variety of sports were provided for the athletic youth —shinty matches, football, quoits, foot-races, jumping matches, and, if frost prevailed, the "roaring game" of curling—all were indulged in, and the utmost good humour prevailed. Cock-fighting amongst the school-boys was one of those cruel pastimes which lingered on long into the present century, and this so-called "sport" was actually encouraged by the schoolmaster, and the unseemly spectacle was thus presented of pupils and dominie exhibiting what would now be termed an "object lesson" of cruelty to animals.

The vicinity of the Gareloch afforded ample opportunity to all who enjoyed the pursuit of fishing for indulging their fancy, while, with a good many, it partook more of a business than a recreation. Bait could easily be procured by digging in the sand, at low tide, when quantities of log-worms would be got, with mussels and other shellfish. It is requisite, at the present day, towards success that the fisherman should be well acquainted with the haunts of the fish at special seasons and conditions of the tide. Formerly there was abundance of sea-fish of all sorts, but now the supply is much diminished. Much of the diminution of the fish may be set down to the bad practice of trawling on the banks in the spawning season. Still there are quantities of cod, whiting, flounders, and lythe, while the saithe, a coarse-grained, dark-fleshed fish, will be found in abundance amongst the shallow currents of the loch. Great numbers of this fish are to be got about the Mill Bay, and above the "Narrows" of Rosneath ferry, in the mornings and evenings, with a white feather on the hook, and the indications of the fish are obtained from the surface agitation of the water. As a rule, saithe are about the size of herrings, but eight or nine pounds is no uncommon weight for specimens to be got near the mouth of the Gareloch. The boat should be moored in the run of a current, where the water is about twelve feet deep, and the bait allowed to play below the surface, by dipping the point of the rod under water. The following practical hints from an experienced angler will be found serviceable and interesting. Sea-trout are to be got at the various creeks, and near the mouths of the burns that flow into the loch, but not in deep water. In the early spring they are to be caught on shore-lines, baited with common earth-worms, but later in the season they are found to be indifferent to this species of bait. Trawling from a boat is the favourite mode of trout-fishing on the loch, with sand-eels, minnows, and sprats for bait, and it is necessary to have a very long line, especially if the day is calm. After hooking the fish, it is best to keep out in deep water, for there is much chance of losing him amongst the tangle and sea ware nearer the shore. Sea-trout are to be found varying from half a pound up to six pounds, and even more. Trout are got in all the small burns in the vicinity of Helensburgh, but they are of such insignificant size as hardly to reward the trouble of catching them. Salmon, that in former years used to be so plentiful in the loch, are now rarely to be caught. Cod-fishing is still very successful at times, and with the line and mussel bait, cod of ten, twelve, and sixteen pounds weight will be got. One old fisherman on the Gareloch, who still prosecutes his calling, took with the line, some years ago, a cod of twenty-three pounds weight in the Strouel Bay. Mussel bait is now difficult to get in any quantity, whereas in former years there were immense deposits of mussels in Strouel Bay, and near the "Narrows." There is still abundance of small, immature mussels on the Row point at low water, but so little is done to protect the spawn that, every year, this valuable bivalve is becoming more difficult to procure.

Helensburgh at present enjoys the advertising medium of two weekly newspapers, which chronicle all passing local events, and circulate in the district. As far back as July 1856, there was a modest sheet, published under the title of the Helensburgh Telegraph, printed and edited by the then local bookseller, who gave as his address, Robert Oliphant, West Bay, Helensburgh. On the first page was a woodcut representing Clyde Street, as it then appeared, with its humble unadorned edifices, the rough sea beach close to the street, and no broad esplanade and graceful Henry Bell monument to give dignity to the principal thoroughfare of the "Brighton of Scotland." The last page of the Telegraph, which was a monthly organ, was entirely occupied with the local steamboat and coach announcements. The coach started for Dunbarton at a quarter-past seven a.m., and half-past two p.m., returning at nine a.m., and twenty minutes past five p.m. The first steamer left Garelochhead at a quarter before seven a.m., and the last at four p.m., there being seven runs down the loch. A few of the well known inhabitants and tradesmen of the time appear in the advertisement sheet, amongst them those two greatly esteemed veterans, Ex-Bailie Finlay Campbell, and Mr. George M'Lacblan, who delights both young and old with his pawky humour, and mellow words of wisdom. Mr. Peter Campbell, the popular auctioneer of to-day, then followed the useful calling of a maker of cabinets, but hardly another of the advertisers will be found in the present Directory of Messrs M'Neur & Bryden.

A large portion of the August issue is taken up with the account of the visit to Helensburgb of the celebrated preacher, Mr. Spurgeon, and with a summary of his fine discourse, from the solemn text, "He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied," from that chapter in Isaiah, which is the Christian's great charter and title deed to glory hereafter. Owing to the immense crowd which gathered on the occasion, in place of having the service, as was proposed, in the Free Church, the worshippers assembled in the Manse grounds, when by seven o'clock an audience of over 2,500 were present, including twenty ministers of various denominations. Great as were the expectations raised, those assembled were not disappointed with the fervent oratory of the devoted Baptist preacher, whose sermons have stirred the world as none others have during this century.

The Telegraph, in the same number, devoted its leading article to some exceedingly plain-spoken comments upon the state of Helens-burgh ten years before, when it emerged from a straggling row or two of houses into a rapidly extending and populous burgh. Then it was ill lighted, ill drained, and streetless. Behind the first row of houses was a chaos of half feued fields and quarry holes, amidst which a few cottages had sprung up here and there. During the day, the streets afforded good pasturage to a number of the feuars' cows and horses, and to occasional troops of black cattle from the hills. The corporation kept one officer, John Campbell, who united, according to tradition, the occupation of ginger-beer trader along with his more onerous public duties, and against whom the baron bailie vindicated the majesty of the law by several times imposing upon him a fine for non-attendance at the parish kirk. Its native population was lazy, ignorant and disorderly, addicted to habits and vices of the lowest order, and few efforts were made to reform them. It was prolific of small public houses, and the manners of the inhabitants were such as to have acquired for the village an evil and unenviable cognomen. This is certainly not a flattering picture of the morals and manners of the natives of Helensburgh, and the physical deformities which abounded came in for sarcastic comment. In more than one issue of the paper, violent denunciations were expressed of the old "granary," which then, as now, occupied the foremost site in the front street, right before the Established Church, with its ambitious Italian tower. Years come and go, bailies and provosts fulminate in vain against its hideous deformity, but this old relic of Helensburgh, in the past century, asserts its existence as of yore. The architecture of the neighbouring church is, to a certain extent, enhanced by the vicinity of the ancient receptacle for grain, but it has been much eclipsed by several of the ornate ecclesiastical edifices which have been reared in different parts of the town. Within the walls of the parish church, its late genial and popular minister faithfully proclaimed the everlasting Gospel for close upon fifty years, and constituted nearly the sole remaining link between his brethren in the Presbytery of Dunbarton, and those who filled their places two generations ago. The other clergymen of Helensburgh are diligent in their Master's work, and the large congregations who attend their ministrations, and the numerous admirable Christian agencies at work, amply prove that the pure teaching of the Word of God will be followed by abounding blessing.

The village, as has been stated, was, in July 1802, created a Burgh of Barony, with the view "of encouraging industry and promoting manufactures in the village of Helensburgh." For regulating the civic administration of the burgh, the charter declares that the Magistracy shall consist of one Provost, two Bailies, and four Councillors, to act along with them, all inhabitants within the burgh, having right, by feu or lease, of one hundred years to a house and garden, should have the privilege of burgesses. The powers of the Councillors were limited, consisting chiefly of holding a weekly market, and four annual fairs, the levying of tolls and customs at markets, and the preservation of good order. The old statute of George II., regulating the privileges of Burghs of Barony, only conferred the power of awarding payments of rents and feu duties to the baron, with trifling jurisdiction in civil actions, and in criminal actions, extended to ordinary assaults and minor offences. In November 1807, the magistrates purchased from James Smith a feu of ground opposite David Colquhoun's house, for the purpose of erecting a Town's House, and subsequently the plans and specifications were approved of, the building to be proceeded with at all convenient speed. Shortly afterwards this scheme was abandoned, and the ground feued was surrendered to the superior. For many years the duties of the municipal authorities were very light, and, among their records, there may be read the dutiful address which the Council presented to King George IV., on the occasion of his visit to Edinburgh in 1822. The place of meeting for the Council was the old Town Hall, a building of humble dimensions, which no longer exists, and of which no representation remains, and subsequently in the Theatre, which had, early in the century, been built for the patrons of the drama in Helensburgh. This edifice was transformed, by a dividing wall separating the stage from the auditorium, and the conversion of pit and boxes into the Council chambers and Court house,—the police office taking the place of the stage. Concerts and other entertainments were also held in the new hall, and on the Sundays it was utilised for public worship. Henry Bell enjoyed the honour of being the first Provost of Helensburgh, in the year 1807, and his term of office was distinguished by various improvements which suggested themselves to this inventive genius,—such as the introduction of water, the laying out of new streets and squares, and the starting of industrial enterprises. From that time down to the present day the civic chair has been filled by a succession of practical men, who carried out the numerous schemes of public utility which have made Helensburgh what it now is,—an important and thriving town. Another notable man, who was twice Provost, was the well known James Smith of Jordanhill, who, before he succeeded to the estate, lived a good deal in Helensburgh. As a scientific discoverer, and a diligent student in botany, geology, meteorology, and other physical sciences, Mr. Smith achieved very high distinction, and as an author of several works showing much erudition, his name adorns the ranks of literature. The work on which his fame chiefly rests is The Voyages and Shipwreck of St. Paul, which has gone through many editions, and has been received with unqualified approval, not only in this country, but in America, and on the Continent of Europe. Mr. Smith wrote other valuable books and scientific treatises, and formed at Jordanhill a fine library, enriched with works of discoveries by sea and land. He lived to an advanced age, dying in 1867, and for upwards of sixty years was an enthusiastic owner of yachts, some of them, such as the Orion, being notable in their day. His son, the lamented Archibald Smith of Jordanhill, a man of singular beauty and nobility of character, while pursuing a laborious professional career, found time for those deep mathematical and magnetical researches that gained him European fame, and from which nautical science received benefits, whose practical importance can hardly be overstated.


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