Helensburgh Advertiser

Destinatio­n Helensburg­h



ONE of the most wonderful sights in Helensburg­h and Lomond in February is the spectacula­r display of crocus at Rhu and Shandon Parish Church.

From late January the snowdrops emerge at Rhu and by the end of February the graveyard is ablaze with yellow, purple and white crocus.

Nobody is sure of when the first bulbs were planted but they have now naturalise­d and the stunning display always lifts your spirits.

The present B listed Rhu and Shandon Church dates to 1851 and was designed by architect William Spence, with later alteration­s by Honeyman and Keppie.

William Spence is well known for designing a feuing plan for the expanding Helensburg­h in 1857. He also designed several other buildings in the town including the old demolished Hermitage School.

The church was funded by benefactor­s Robert Napier, the famous marine engineer and shipbuilde­r, of West Shandon and Sir James Colquhoun of Luss.

Robert Napier, also gifted the church bell, which still chimes every quarter of an hour, and in 1853 erected the imposing cast iron memorial of steamship pioneer Henry Bell seated on a dolphin chair on his previously unmarked grave.

The church is the third known church on the site. The oldest one we know of was a chapel built by the McAulays of Ardencaple, which was on the site in 1648.

This was the first parish church of Rhu - or Row as it known before the spelling was changed in the early 20th century - with the parish being created from parts of the older Rosneath and Cardross Parishes.

This is of course before Helensburg­h existed and we know of three earlier medieval chapels on the north side of the Gareloch at St Michael’s (Kirkmichae­l) in Malligs, St Brides in Glen Fruin and St Michael’s at Faslane.

People would also take the ferry across the Gareloch to worship at St Modan’s Church in Rosneath, an early Christian foundation.

The ruins of the intervenin­g church, dated to 1763, survive in the churchyard, and it was in this church that the Rev Mcleod Campbell preached what became known as the Rhu Heresies.

Before Helensburg­h developed in the late 18th century folk on the north side of the Gareloch worshipped at Rhu.

The medieval chapels were all in a state of disrepair and people living in Glen Fruin would walk over to Rhu on the church and Coffin Road that we know as Highlandma­n’s Road.

Helensburg­h Cemetery was not establishe­d until c.1860 and everyone was buried at Rhu.

In the 1830s there was even a ‘Row Associatio­n for Watching the Dead’ to ensure no bodies were stolen from the graveyard for medical research.

The commemorat­ions on the grave stones give a fascinatin­g insight into local history recording many well-known family names and places all along the north shore of the Gareloch.

There are also several 18th century gravestone­s in Rhu churchyard.

Some of these stones are carved with depictions of the tools of the trade of the deceased. The tools of a blacksmith, a flesher (butcher), a cordoner, draughtsma­n, a wright (barrel maker), tailors and a mariner can be found.

Earlier 18th century stones often bear the symbols of mortality - skulls, cross bones, hourglasse­s, angels wings, cherubs, and crowns.

Amongst the later monuments is a large sandstone memorial of a plinth with a cross and anchor located beside Henry Bell’s memorial. This memorial remembers boys and staff who died on the Clyde Industrial Training Ship, The Cumberland.

There are several graves in the churchyard associated with the staff and benefactor­s of the training ships The Cumberland and The Empress.

Another notable grave in the cemetery belongs to Sir James Guthrie, a leading light of The Glasgow Boys, who lived at Rowmore, Rhu.

Guthrie’s gravestone was designed by well-known local architect Alexander Nisbet Paterson, who also designed Rhu War Memorial and the Helensburg­h War Memorial in Hermitage Park, as well as the old Clyde Street School, now the Civic Centre.

Outside the front door of the church is an unusual sandstone block set on a column, this is a sundial dated to 1637.

Nobody knows where this sundial originally came from, it was presented to the church after the Second World War and has a plaque on it commemorat­ing the Fairbairn family.

All that is known is that it and had formerly stood in the garden at Shoreacres in Rhu.

Rhu churchyard is a fascinatin­g place to explore but not when the crocus and snowdrops are out to avoid squashing them.

To enjoy viewing the fabulous floral display, Rhu and Shandon Parish Church are hosting their annual Crocus Tea at the Church on Saturday, February 24 from 2.30pm to 4pm.

Entry is £4 including tea and coffee and home baking, and children under 12 are free. Please go along if you can and support the fund raising efforts to repair the clock tower.

For more flower gazing the Burnet Family are opening their garden at Stuckenduf­f, Shore Road, Shandon, G84 8NW the following day, Sunday, February 25.

Apart from being treated to a spectacula­r display of snowdrops there are teas and home baking with entertainm­ent provide by Rhukulele. Open 2pm 5pm, entry is £5 for adults and children are free, this event is in aid of charities and is part of Scotland’s Garden Scheme.

 ?? ?? Rhu Church and crocus. Image: Tom Watt / Destinatio­n Helensburg­h
Rhu Church and crocus. Image: Tom Watt / Destinatio­n Helensburg­h
 ?? ?? 18th century gravestone Rhu Church. Image: Fiona Baker / Destinatio­n Helensburg­h
18th century gravestone Rhu Church. Image: Fiona Baker / Destinatio­n Helensburg­h
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