Helensburgh Advertiser

Inventing A Burgh

In the first in a new three-part series exclusive to the Advertiser, Stewart Noble from the Helensburg­h Heritage Trust looks at the town’s very earliest days


SO, just imagine that you have bought a large area of land with the potential to be developed into a town. What steps do you need to take along the way to achieve this?

Perhaps you should draw up some form of checklist.

What might be on this checklist? Well, a plan showing how the land might be used would be a good starting point. You might also give the place a distinctiv­e name. A major attraction would be to give this new settlement the powers to govern itself perhaps it should become a burgh. Then the boundaries of the town should also be carefully delineated. And, of course, an imposing coat of arms would just round the whole scheme off.

These were some of the issues facing Sir James Colquhoun of Luss in 1776 some, obviously, more of a priority than others.

More than 20 years bought some land wh now stands, but had with it. In those days principall­y as Millig as Millig and Malig

This land had prev Sir John Schaw (or S and Sir John had bo the Macaulays of Ar after they had fallen

However, before de checklist, let’s firstly


It has generally be was in 1752 that Sir J had bought the land Helensburg­h now sta Schaw. However it is as that, because Sir J April 5, 1752, quite p sale of the land had who actually was the

Sir John’s daughte only child; by marria Lady Cathcart. Whe relevant chapter in t of Helensburg­h’, I sa who had sold the lan other earlier writers her as the seller.

However I have sin Marion had died 19 y father. Sir John’s onl sister Margaret, and years before him. Ho wife, Margaret Dalry him in 1757.

Did Sir James Colq buy the land from Si himself, or did he bu heirs? If the latter, w

earlier, he had ere Helensburg­h done nothing it was known s, but such names ere also used. iously belonged to haw) of Greenock, ght it in 1705 from dencaple Castle on hard times. aling with the jump back to 1752.


n believed that it ames Colquhoun on which nds from Sir John not quite as simple ohn Schaw died on ssibly before the een concluded. So seller? r, Marion, was his ge she had become I was writing the he book ‘200 Years id that it was she d to Sir James and had also identified

uhoun actually r John Schaw y it from Sir John’s ho were they?

There are two bits of evidence which appear to answer these questions: the inventory of Sir John Schaw’s estate, compiled after his death, and the writings of William Fraser.

Let’s have a look at Sir John’s estate first. Unfortunat­ely the documents available from the National Records of Scotland through its scotlandsp­eople. gov.uk website shed only a little light on the subject.

They do, however, show that Sir John Schaw had not made a will before his death, and consequent­ly, as an alternativ­e, a testament dative and inventory were produced, as well as an eik (a supplement to the inventory).

His grandson, Charles Schaw of Sauchie, 9th Lord Cathcart (Marion’s son), was responsibl­e for producing these, and he had also been appointed as Sir John’s executor under the testament dative.

Crucially, the lands of Milligs do not appear as part of the inventory of Sir John’s estate. The inventory consists principall­y of his house and its furnishing­s, as well as a considerab­le list of people to whom Sir John had lent money.

It therefore seems safe to conclude that an agreement for the sale of the lands of Milligs had already been concluded between Sir James Colquhoun and Sir John Schaw before the latter’s death.

However records of land transactio­ns held in the Register of Sasines, although not conclusive, seem to point to the 9th Lord Cathcart as having been the one who actually sold the lands of Milligs to Sir James Colquhoun.

Secondly, let’s look at the writings of

William Fraser. In 1869, he produced a book entitled ‘The Chiefs of Colquhoun and their Country’. This book was written after the author was given access to the archives of the Colquhoun family, chiefly at Rossdhu, but also elsewhere. Four years later William Fraser had produced ‘The Cartulary of Colquhoun of Colquhoun and Luss’ a very detailed record of the documents which he had consulted for his earlier book.

In his 1869 book William Fraser gave a comprehens­ive account of all the lands that Sir James Colquhoun had bought. “In the year 1757,” he wrote, “Sir James Colquhoun purchased from Charles, Lord Cathcart, for £6,500, the barony of Malligs, including the three merk land of Kirkmichae­l marching with Colgrain; the five merk land of Drumfad, in the moor above Malligs; the £8 land of Malligs and miln of the same, with the teinds; the £1 6s 8d land of Stucklecki­e, and the easter town of Ardincaple, with the teinds and fishings; a pendicle of the mains of Ardincaple, extending to about half an acre; the two merk land of Little Drumfad or Drumfad-Leckie, in the moor above Malligs, with the teinds, all in the parish of Row; and the lands of Meallin of Auchintaal, on the east side of Garvil Glen, in the parish of Cardross...”

A merk, by the way, was equivalent to 13s 4d of the £1 Scots, which was itself one-twelfth of the pound sterling. This would have made the value of a merk to be about 1s 1d of the pound sterling (or just over 5p).

However, on the next page, Fraser wrote: “In a memorandum-book kept by Sir James, there is an entry in his own handwritin­g stating that the last instalment of the price of the Malligs was paid to Lord Cathcart on 5th of June 1756.” So, although Fraser has apparently muddled the years, it seems pretty clear what happened.

My conclusion is that Lord Cathcart’s grandfathe­r, Sir John Schaw, had probably agreed the sale to Sir James, but had died before the sale could be concluded.

Sir John may also have agreed before his death a schedule of payments with Sir James Colquhoun, and these payments would have been made to Lord Cathcart.


This land, of course, is what we now know as Helensburg­h, but in those days it seemed to have a variety of names Malig, Maligs and Millig were perhaps the most common.

At the start of 1776, Sir James placed an advertisem­ent in the ‘Glasgow Journal’. It read: “Notice: To be feued immediatel­y, for building upon, at a very reasonable rate, a considerab­le piece of ground on the shores of Malig, opposite Greenock. The ground will be regularly laid out for houses and gardens, to be built upon according to a plan, etc.”

Nowadays we tend to think that the concept of the feuing of land was something which had its roots in the feudal system of mediaeval times. However in Scotland it survived right up to 2000, when it was abolished by the Scottish Government.

Although the feuars of land and buildings owned the properties in question, what they could do there was governed by rules laid down by their feudal superior and in 1776 this was Sir James Colquhoun.

So, for example, the feuar might not be allowed to run a business from his home, or to explore for minerals such as coal on his land; he might also have to build and maintain a wall of a certain height. And, in addition, the feuar would have to make an annual payment of feu duty to his feudal superior.

In return for all this, Sir James stated in the advertisem­ent that he was planning “to enclose a large field for the grazing of...[the] milk cows” belonging to the feuars. In addition, there was also “a large boat building at the place, for ferrying men and horses with chaises”.

In the latter part of the 18th century it was becoming popular to lay out towns according to a regular plan, with straight streets, Edinburgh and Inveraray being examples.

Sir James’s advertisem­ent had referred to just such a plan, andan example may be seen in the shape of a plan for Helensburg­h drawn up by Peter Fleming, probably some time between 1800 and 1810. Although much of the concept was actually realised, a substantia­l harbour just to the west of today’s pier never was built.

Next week, Stewart looks at how Helensburg­h got its name and how the boundaries of the town were establishe­d.

To find out more about the fascinatin­g people and places of Helensburg­h’s history, see the Heritage Trust’s website at helensburg­hheritage.co.uk.

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 ?? ?? Charles Schaw of Sauchie, 9th Lord Cathcart (1721-1776), in a portrait by Joshua Reynolds, in the Manchester Art Gallery Images: Helensburg­h Heritage Trust
Charles Schaw of Sauchie, 9th Lord Cathcart (1721-1776), in a portrait by Joshua Reynolds, in the Manchester Art Gallery Images: Helensburg­h Heritage Trust
 ?? ?? Timothy Pont drew this map of the area around 1600, but very little will h
Timothy Pont drew this map of the area around 1600, but very little will h
 ?? ?? ce discovered that ears before her y sibling was his she had died two wever, Sir John’s mple, died after
ce discovered that ears before her y sibling was his she had died two wever, Sir John’s mple, died after
 ?? ?? Sir James Colquhoun (1714-1786)
Sir James Colquhoun (1714-1786)

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