This week's Eye on Millig column sees Leslie Maxwell return to the fascinating story of attempts to cut down on drinking in Helensburgh and the surrounding area in the 19th and early 20th centuries – and looks at some of the 'temperance hotels' which sprung up in the area.

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MOST communities of any size in the Helensburgh area, except Luss and Cardross, boasted at least one temperance hotel — and they formed a highly visible and important part of the wider Temperance movement.

They aimed to provide people with the various amenities of a standard hotel, except the alcohol.

As such, in addition to providing meals and accommodation, they were also frequently used as a venue for weddings, meetings, club activities, and other events.

Recently Eye on Millig ran two articles about temperance locally, based on research by local historian and Helensburgh Heritage Trust director Alistair McIntyre, and he has also investigated the hotels catering for followers of the movement.

“Although the day of the temperance hotel is long gone," he tells me, "there is often a tangible legacy, whether through the buildings which housed them, or by way of place-names."

The first temperance hotel in Britain was opened in 1833 by Joseph Livesey, a key figure in the Temperance Movement. In Scotland, the first to be opened was on Princes Street, Edinburgh, in 1848 by Robert Cranston, a prominent Chartist.

The Waverley Hotel, as it was called, was carefully sited close to the newly opened railway line, and it survives as a now-licensed hotel to this day.

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The best-known member of the Cranston family was Kate Cranston, whose fame springs from her Glasgow tearooms – yet another scheme designed to wean people away from the temptations of alcohol.

In Helensburgh, the Railway Temperance Hotel on East Princes Street was, like Cranston’s hotel, obviously aimed at those using the 1858 railway, connecting Helensburgh to Glasgow and beyond.

It seems likely the hotel came into being not long after 1858, and it was certainly in operation by the time the first Helensburgh directory was published in 1864.

It was often referred to by the name of the hotelier. Thus, in the 1860s and 1870s, it was also known as Sharp’s Temperance Hotel, the then proprietress being Mrs Jane Sharp.

A photograph exists showing the hotel at the time when Mrs Bewley was manageress, from around 1910 until 1922, and her husband John Bewley was the ticket collector at Helensburgh Station.

The hotel was located on the upper floors of a tenement building opposite the Station, and the “Railway Temperance Hotel” sign prominently displayed there strikes a somewhat defiant note, as both shops on the ground floor below at the time were wine and spirit merchants!

The hotel was a distinctive part of the town scene for many years, and it was the longest running temperance hotel in the whole district.

Latterly under the management of the Moore family, it was still in business by the late 1960s, when it also offered bed and breakfast. By the early 1970s, however, it had closed its doors.

There is still a tangible reminder of its presence — the keen-eyed can make out the word “Temperance” on the decayed sign across from Helensburgh Central station.

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There was another Railway Hotel at 20-22 Craigendoran Avenue, which was well placed to capture trade generated by Craigendoran's railway station and piers. This does not seem to have advertised itself as a temperance hotel, but it may well have fallen into that category.

The Station Hotel made its appearance just after the turn of the 20th century, when it was being run by the Misses Smith. By 1905, a Miss Reynolds was in charge, and it was often referred to as Reynolds' Hotel.

By 1911, a Miss Law was hotelier, and the hotel was being called the Lomond Hotel. Still under that name, the proprietress by the end of World War One was Mrs Catherine Gillies, and she was still running the business by the close of the 1920s. However, by the 1930s, this hotel had given way to private residences.

Another temperance hotel in the town was the Eagle Temperance Hotel at Blythswood Terrace, 88 West Clyde Street. It was opened around 1900, and the hotelier was a Miss Deans.

With a central location, convenient for those coming by land or sea, and commanding an extensive view across the Clyde estuary, the hotel might have been expected to blossom. Despite this, and a very visible sign outside, it was no longer in operation by 1905.

Another temperance hotel was Gatenby’s Temperance Hotel, located at 4 West Clyde Street. It appears to have made its appearance in the early 1870s.

An advert in the 1878 Guide to Helensburgh describes it: “Gatenby’s First Class Temperance Hotel: facing the Pier, it is two minutes walk from the railway station.”

However, as with its counterpart at Blythswood Terrace, it too closed down before long, the last entry in local directories being 1882.

Why did two of those hotels close within such a short space of time?

One obvious possibility is that trade for such enterprises in Helensburgh may simply have been insufficient, even though they came into being at a time when the Temperance Movement was at its height.

The number of fully licensed hotels in the town was never excessive, the longest running being the Queen’s and the Imperial.

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The Rosneath Peninsula was famously a virtually “dry” locality, though not as a result of Government legislation, and it boasted several temperance hotels. However, it had not always been almost drink-free.

When the young Robert Story, a native of Yetholm, near Kelso, came to Rosneath in 1815 as assistant to the Rev Dr Drummond, the parish minister, he was horrified at the drunkenness and dissipation that abounded.

Dr Drummond had been a committed minister, but by 1815 he was in his declining years. Story was ordained as parish minister in 1818, and he lost no time in addressing the culture of drinking that prevailed.

After his death in 1859, he was succeeded as parish minister by his son, the Rev Robert Herbert Story, who adopted a similar approach.

Several sources — including Robert Story — attribute much of the reduction in drinking to the stance taken by the Dukes of Argyll, who owned much of the Peninsula, but it seems likely that it was Robert Story and his son who did most.

One measure of their success was the reduction in outlets retailing whisky.

In Dr Drummond’s time, there had been plenty, but by the time Robert Story died, there was only one, Rosneath Ferry Inn, which remained licensed throughout the period.

Auchmar Temperance Hotel, also known as Clynder Temperance Hotel, opened its doors around 1865.

The name Auchmar came from a cottage which stood on the site from 1832, owned by Mrs Jean Buchanan, the widow of Andrew Buchanan, who styled himself “of Auchmar”, a small estate near Drymen.

The first hotelier was George Dodds, who was the brother of the parish schoolmaster, John Dodds. The location and timing of the new hotel seemed highly favourable as it was close to Clynder Pier which opened in 1866.

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The following year George Dodds tried to obtain a full licence for his new enterprise, but it was refused despite several attempts. In 1869 he was granted a licence by 11 votes to eight, but on appeal this decision was revoked.

Around 1870 George Dodds relinquished his business, the new proprietor being James Spalding.

He also tried to obtain a licence, but he was refused after a campaign against the granting of a licence led by the Rev Robert Herbert Story.

By the turn of the 20th century the hotel was being run by Mrs Agnes Whyte or McLean, who also made repeated attempts to gain a licence, but was knocked back on each occasion. Appeals were lodged, but these were also rejected.

From about 1906 until 1911, the hotel does not seem to have functioned, though householders were living on the premises.

In 1912 the hotel did gain a new tenant, Thomas Glass, a warehouseman from Lochwinnoch. He immediately applied for a licence, but this was turned down. So it was that the hotel retained its temperance status until 1920 when Glass was granted a licence.

As a licensed hotel, Auchmar continued to function until 1986 when it was completely gutted by fire, a fate which overtook a number of other hotels in the area around this period.

The site lay as a shell for quite some time, but eventually the rubble was cleared, and houses built on the site.

A private Clynder Temperance Hotel was run from Crossowen House around 1904, the proprietress being Miss Duncan, but it was not in business for long.

* To be continued next week.