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Helensburgh


Argyll and Bute

Located on the Firth of Clyde, at the entrance to the Gare Loch and bordering the West Highlands, Helensburgh is an affluent small town situated 5 miles (8 km) west of the southern end of Loch Lomond and 8 miles (12 km) northwest of Dumbarton in Argyll and Bute. Established in 1777 by Sir James Colquhoun of Luss and named after his wife, Lady Helen Sutherland, Helensburgh was created a Burgh of Barony in 1802, but only really came to prominence with the arrival of the railway in 1857. Before this it was known as the home of Henry Bell (1767 - 1830), who was appointed the town's first Provost in 1807. It was here he launched Europe's first practical steamship, the Comet, in 1812. The railway brought a sudden expansion and the town became a favourite holiday resort for wealthy Glaswegian merchants. Helensburgh is therefore distinctive owing to its considerable number of grand Victorian villas laid out in a grid pattern on the steep slope which descends to the Clyde. Its most notable building is Hill House (1903), designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for the publisher Walter W. Blackie (1860 - 1953) and now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Other distinguished buildings include Victoria Hall, built by public subscription in 1887; the former Helensburgh Conservative Club (1894, by Honeyman & Keppie, with Charles Rennie Mackintosh principally responsible); The White House (1899); and the Tourist Information Centre, housed within a prominent clock-tower on the waterfront, which is a remnant of Charles Wilson's Parish Church of 1846, the rest of the building having been demolished in 1982. Several other fine churches remain and Helensburgh still benefits from two railway stations, separated by only a half-mile (0.8 km); a terminus at Helensburgh Central (1899) and Helensburgh Upper (1894, but replaced in the 1980s), from where the single-track West Highland Line continues to Garelochhead and eventually Fort William and Mallaig.

Other notable residents of the town have included munro-bagger Rev. A. E. Robertson (1870 - 1958), John Logie Baird (1888 - 1946), the pioneer of television, Hollywood actor and actress Jack Buchanan (1891 - 1957) and Deborah Kerr (1921 - 2007), entertainer Jimmy Logan (1928 - 2001), Simple Minds drummer Kenny Hyslop (b. 1951), and artists Stephen Conroy (b. 1964) and Louise Scullion (b. 1966).

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