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For the Australian town, see Helensburgh, New South Wales. For the suburb of Dunedin in New Zealand, see Suburbs of Dunedin.
Colquhoun Square Helensburgh.jpg
Colquhoun Square in Helensburgh town centre
Helensburgh is located in Argyll and Bute
Helensburgh shown within Argyll and Bute
Population 14,626 (2001 Census)[1]
OS grid reference NS298833
• Edinburgh 61 mi (98 km) E
• London 363 mi (586 km) SSE
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district G84
Dialling code 01436
Police Scottish
Fire Scottish
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
Coordinates: 56°01′00″N 4°44′00″W / 56.016667°N 4.733333°W / 56.016667; -4.733333

Helensburgh (/ˈhɛlənzbrə/; Scottish Gaelic: Baile Eilidh) is a town in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It lies on the north shore of the Firth of Clyde and the eastern shore of the entrance to the Gareloch.

Helensburgh was formerly in Dumbarton District, but was re-allocated under local government reorganisation in 1996. Prior to 1975 it was part of the former Dunbartonshire.


Although there are some prehistoric remains in the Helensburgh area,[2] the oldest building in the town is Ardencaple Castle which was the ancestral home of Clan MacAulay, and the history of which may date back to the twelfth century.[3] Today only one tower of this building remains, the rest having been demolished in 1957-59.

Sir James Colquhoun buys the area[edit]

In 1752 Sir James Colquhoun (died 1786), chief of the Clan Colquhoun of Luss, bought the land which was to become Helensburgh;[2] at that time it was known by such names as Malig, Millig or Milligs.[4] In 1776 he placed an advertisement in a Glasgow newspaper seeking to feu the land, and in particular he stated that "bonnet makers, stocking, linen and woolen weavers will meet with encouragement".[2] However his efforts were unsuccessful, partly because roads were rudimentary and also because the shore at Helensburgh made it unattractive to shipping—it was shallow, dotted with large rocks and subject to a prevailing onshore wind.

No precise date is known for the change of name to Helensburgh. However it was probably around 1785 when Sir James decided to name the town after his wife, Lady Helen Sutherland (1717 - 1791); she was the grand-daughter of the 16th Earl of Sutherland. However for a few years both the old and new names for the town were in use.

Lady Helen Colquhoun (née Sutherland) after whom the town of Helensburgh is named
Sir James Colquhoun, who named Helensburgh after his wife

Helensburgh received its burgh charter from King George III in 1802.[2] This was somewhat surprising, as the 1799 Statistical Account of Scotland indicates that Helensburgh only had a population of about 100 at that time.[5]

In 1808, Henry Bell bought the public baths and hotel, which his wife superintended while he continued his interest in early steamboats such as the nearby Charlotte Dundas and the North River Steamboat which Robert Fulton had just introduced at New York City. To improve hotel trade, he had the paddle steamer Comet constructed and in 1812 introduced Europe's first successful steamboat service, bringing passengers down the River Clyde from Glasgow to Greenock and Helensburgh. The Clyde steamer trade developed rapidly, and Helensburgh pier and Craigendoran pier at the east end of the town both became major departure points. From 1858 holidaymakers were brought to the resort and the steamers by the Glasgow, Dumbarton and Helensburgh Railway terminus built in the centre of the town, and in 1894 a second railway station was opened higher up the hill on the West Highland Railway to Fort William.[6]

Helensburgh born coal miner Charles Harper emigrated to New South Wales (now a state of Australia) and became the first manager of the Metropolitan Coal Company before being killed in a mine accident in 1887. In that year, the company took over the mining lease on an area south of Sydney known as Camp Creek. When the coal mine opened the following year, the town was named Helensburgh, possibly named after his birthplace or after his daughter Helen. The two Helensburghs are now sister cities.[7]

Hill House, Helensburgh.

In 1903, Charles Rennie Mackintosh built the Hill House for the publishing tycoon Walter Blackie. The house, in Colquhoun Street on the north edge of town, is one of the best examples of his style, with startlingly modern interiors incorporating furniture which he designed. It is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is a popular tourist attraction.

The Baronetcy of Helensburgh[edit]

The Raeburn Baronetcy, of Helensburgh in the County of Dunbarton, is a title in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 25 July 1923 by King George V for William Raeburn. He was head of the firm of Raeburn & Verel, Ltd, a shipping company whose ships constituted the Monarch Steamship Company. His obituary in the Helensburgh & Gareloch Times describes how he was involved in various aspects of the shipping industry and how "in 1916 he was appointed President of the Chamber of Shipping by the shipowners of the United Kingdom". On his retirement from that post he was awarded with a knighthood. He also represented Dunbartonshire in the House of Commons as a Unionist from 1918 until 1923 and it was at the end of his political career that the Baronetcy of Helensburgh was created for him. He died on 12 February 1934 at the age of 83, having come to live in the town towards the end of the 19th century. During his life he had been a Justice of the Peace and had also been involved with many local organisations.

The town today[edit]

Helensburgh's "Rhu Road", looking west towards Rhu, Rosneath and the Gareloch.
Telephoto view of Helensburgh in winter, seen from Greenock to the south.

Helensburgh today acts as a commuter town for nearby Glasgow, with a population at the 2001 census of 14,626, and also serves as a main shopping centre for the area and for tourists attracted to the seaside resort. Helensburgh is also influenced by the presence of the Clyde Naval Base at Faslane on the Gare Loch, a major local employer. The town is a popular destination for day trippers.

The town is served by three railway stations, Helensburgh Upper on the West Highland Line, Craigendoran, on the North Clyde Line and Helensburgh Central, the terminus of the North Clyde Line.

The seafront has an indoor swimming pool, an esplanade walk, a range of shops, cafes and pubs, and sailing facilities including Helensburgh Sailing Club.[8] At Rhu, just beyond the town boundary, there is a marina.

The streets are built on a gentle slope rising to the north east, and at the brow of the hill a golf club has views looking south out over the town to the Clyde, and to the north across nearby Loch Lomond to the Trossachs hills.[9]

The paddle steamer Waverley calls in to Helensburgh pier during summer sailings. Until April 2012, a regular passenger ferry service ran from Helensburgh pier to Kilcreggan and Gourock, (until 2007 the historic ferry Kenilworth was used on this route);[10] Craigendoran pier fell into disuse in the late 20th century.

In a 2006 survey, Helensburgh was shown to be the second most expensive town in which to buy property in Scotland.[11]

The town is situated close to Faslane Naval Base, Faslane which is the site that houses the British nuclear deterrent fleet of Vanguard class submarines. The base is only 6 miles (10 kilometres) away from the town. Around 520 people are employed directly by the Trident programme, many of whom commute to Faslane.

Helensburgh is home to a number of annual events, with the local branch of Round Table running an annual fireworks display on Guy Fawkes Night and hosting a Real Ale Festival[12] at the Sailing Club.


Sports are well represented with various football, rugby, cricket, athletics, netball, hockey, curling, bowling, golf, sailing and fishing clubs amongst others active in the town.

Notable residents[edit]

Bonar Law, Prime Minister
Vice-Admiral Sir Ian McGeoch

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Comparative Population Profile: Helensburgh Locality Scotland". General Register Office for Scotland. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d Stewart Noble (editor): 200 Years of Helensburgh 1802 - 2002 (ISBN 1 902831 38 1)
  3. ^ Edward Randolph Welles: Ardincaple and Its Lairds (Jackson, Wylie & Co 1930)
  4. ^ Joan Blaeu (or Joannis Blaeu): Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus c1654
  5. ^ Sir John Sinclair (editor): The Statistical Account of Scotland 1791-1799, vol IX - Dunbartonshire, Stirlingshire & Clackmannanshire (EP Publishing Ltd 1978)
  6. ^ Leighton, John M. (1840). Strath-Clutha; or, The beauties of Clyde. pp. 179–182. 
  7. ^ "Helensburgh - History". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 21 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "» News". Helensburghsailingclub.co.uk. Retrieved 21 December 2011. 
  9. ^ "Helensburgh 18 hole golf club with stunning views over the Clyde and Loch Lomond". Helensburghgolfclub.co.uk. Retrieved 21 December 2011. 
  10. ^ "New operator for Gourock – Kilcreggan Ferry". Spt.co.uk. Retrieved 27 August 2013. It’s regrettable that we could not maintain the link to Helensburgh. With passengers on that route representing only 7% of the total and the subsidy cost per head being £20, it was simply unsustainable. 
  11. ^ http://www.hbosplc.com/economy/includes/Scotlandposttownwinners2006FINAL.doc
  12. ^ "Helensburgh and Lomond Real Ale Festival | 20th & 21st May 2011". Helensburghalefestival.co.uk. 21 May 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2011. 
  13. ^ "Public Service – Major Phil Ashby QGM – Heroes Centre". 
  14. ^ a b "Unseen Cecil Day-Lewis poem comes to light showing basic rhymes for schoolboy". The Daily Telegraph. 
  15. ^ "Literature – William Auld – Heroes Centre". 
  16. ^ "Two Perspectives of Helensburgh An illustrated talk by Malcolm Baird for the Helensburgh Heritage Trust, April 4, 2006" (PDF). Retrieved 21 March 2013. My father was born in Helensburgh in 1888 at “The Lodge” which still stands on the corner of West Argyle Street and Suffolk Street 
  17. ^ a b "St Columba marked 150 years". 
  18. ^ "Literature – Dr Osborne Henry Mavor CBE – Heroes Centre". 
  19. ^ "Sport – Robert "Bobby" Brown – Heroes Centre". 
  20. ^ "Entertainment – Jack Buchanan – Heroes Centre". 
  21. ^ "Sport – John Buchanan – Heroes Centre". 
  22. ^ Rebecca Garrett, "Helensburgh musician John Butt gets OBE in New Year Honours," S1 Helensburgh, 10 January 2013, URL=http://www.s1helensburgh.com/news/helensburgh-musician-john-butt-gets-obe-in-new-year-honours.html
  23. ^ Bertie, David M. (2000). Scottish Episcopal Clergy, 1689-2000. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. p. 201. ISBN 0-567-08746-8. 
  24. ^ "Science & Innovation – Horatio Scott Carslaw – Heroes Centre". 
  25. ^ "Actress Morven is in demand". 
  26. ^ "Movies – Andy Clyde – Heroes Centre". 
  27. ^ "The Arts – Stephen Conroy – Heroes Centre". 
  28. ^ "Sport – Charlotte Cooper Sterry – Heroes Centre". 
  29. ^ "Movies – James Copeland – Heroes Centre". 
  30. ^ "A.J.Cronin: The casebook". 
  31. ^ "Sport – Arthur Drummond Downes – Heroes Centre". 
  32. ^ "Burgh's Victoria Cross hero". 
  33. ^ http://www.helensburghheroes.com/heroes/malcolm_finlayson
  34. ^ "J.Arnold Fleming: Burgh benefactor". 
  35. ^ Jaques Waardenburg. 1999. Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion. Aims, Methods and Theories of Research, Volume I: Introduction and Anthology, p244. New York : Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016328-4
  36. ^ "Literature – Tom Gallacher – Heroes Centre". 
  37. ^ "Public Service – Major John Gilmour DSO MC – Heroes Centre". 
  38. ^ "The Arts – Norah Nielson Gray – Heroes Centre". 
  39. ^ "The Arts – Sir James Guthrie – Heroes Centre". 
  40. ^ "Science & Innovation – William Herbert Guthrie-Smith – Heroes Centre". 
  41. ^ "Science & Innovation – John Michael Hammersley – Heroes Centre". 
  42. ^ "Science & Innovation – James Ballantyne Hannay – Heroes Centre". 
  43. ^ "Kenny Hyslop". Helensburgh Heroes. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  44. ^ "Hazel often comes home". 
  45. ^ "Helensburgh's Prime Minister". 
  46. ^ "Public Service – James Jardine – Heroes Centre". 
  47. ^ "Deborah Kerr". Helensburgh Heroes. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  48. ^ R.J.Q. Adams, Bonar Law (1999)
  49. ^ "The Arts – William Leiper – Heroes Centre". 
  50. ^ "Literature – Robin Lloyd Jones – Heroes Centre". 
  51. ^ "Entertainment – Jimmy Logan OBE – Heroes Centre". 
  52. ^ "Public Service – Ronald Waterson Low – Heroes Centre". 
  53. ^ "Slavery abolitionist from Cardross". 
  54. ^ "Movies – David MacDonald – Heroes Centre". 
  55. ^ "Literature – Helen MacInnes – Heroes Centre". 
  56. ^ "Sport – Murdo MacLeod – Heroes Centre". 
  57. ^ "Public Service – Vice Admiral Sir Ian McGeoch – Heroes Centre". 
  58. ^ "Bobby McGregor MBE". Helensburgh Heroes. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  59. ^ "Sport – Michael McIntyre – Heroes Centre". 
  60. ^ "Entertainment – Lex McLean – Heroes Centre". 
  61. ^ "Sport – Moses McNeil – Heroes Centre". 
  62. ^ "Sport – Peter McNeil – Heroes Centre". 
  63. ^ "Entertainment – Neil Mitchell – Heroes Centre". 
  64. ^ "Literature – Neil Munro – Heroes Centre". 
  65. ^ "Helensburgh golfer Gary Orr misses cut at Qatar Masters". dailyrecord.co.uk. 30 January 2009. 
  66. ^ "Sport – Derek Parlane – Heroes Centre". 
  67. ^ "Sport – Luke Patience – Heroes Centre". 
  68. ^ "Reporter wins third BAFTA". 
  69. ^ "The 1st Baronet of Helensburgh". 
  70. ^ "Sport – Gordon Reid – Heroes Centre". 
  71. ^ "Sport – Emma Richards MBE – Heroes Centre". 
  72. ^ "The Arts – George Rickey – Heroes Centre". 
  73. ^ "Sport – Rev Archibald Eneas Robertson – Heroes Centre". 
  74. ^ "Public Service – Patrick Campbell Rodger – Heroes Centre". 
  75. ^ "The Arts – Randolph Schwabe – Heroes Centre". 
  76. ^ "The Arts – Louise Scullion – Heroes Centre". 
  77. ^ "Gordon Sherry on the comeback trail". 
  78. ^ "Madeleine Smith's letters discussed". 
  79. ^ "Movies – Martin Smith – Heroes Centre". 
  80. ^ "Walter Smith". Helensburgh Heroes. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  81. ^ "Sport – Peter Such – Heroes Centre". 
  82. ^ http://www.helensburghheroes.com/heroes/majorgeneral_philip_thomas_tower_cb_dso_mbe_goc_middle_east_land_forces_1967
  83. ^ "The 1st Baron Strathclyde". 
  84. ^ "Tom Vaughan". Helensburgh Heroes. Retrieved 21 December 2011. 
  85. ^ "Commerce – Kim Winser OBE – Heroes Centre". 

External links[edit]