IN this week's Eye on Millig column, Leslie Maxwell and Alistair McIntyre continue their look back at the stories of Helensburgh and Lomond's 'temperance hotels', as the area tried to crack down on drinking in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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ON THE far side of the Rosneath Peninsula, Kilcreggan hosted the Argyle Temperance Hotel for some years. It was in a prime location, almost opposite Kilcreggan Pier.

As with the Railway Temperance Hotel in Helensburgh, it was located on the upper floors of a tenement building, with shops on the ground floor.

Local historian and Helensburgh Heritage Trust director Alistair McIntyre has investigated the town and district hotels which catered for followers of the Temperance movement.

The Argyle was in operation by 1862, and the census of 1871 reveals that the hotelier was Matthew King (39), married, with a wife and child, and they had a general servant.

In 1881 the hotel buildings were purchased for £1,450 by William Frame, who ran a grocery on the ground floor of the adjacent Argyle Buildings.

Frame’s grocery, as with Currie’s grocery and bakery at Cove, had been licensed as far back as the early 1860s, though restricted to the sale of ales and porter. The hotel, however, continued as before, but with quite a turnover of managers.

READ MORE: Eye on Millig: Part one of the history of Helensburgh and Lomond's temperance hotels

At the turn of the 20th century the hotel was no longer being advertised in the media, and this continued until the early 1920s when Miss Eliza Geddes was the hostess.

Around 1928 she was succeeded by John McDiarmid, who operated the hotel for several years. By 1933 he was no longer running it, though he remained as a resident, and the hotel ceased to function.

It left a tangible reminder of its presence by way of the nearby Temperance Brae, and given its severe steepness, anyone using it would be strongly advised to be strictly sober!

The story of temperance hotels on the Peninsula is one of very mixed fortunes, although the hotel trade as a whole has always had its ups and downs.

Auchmar Temperance Hotel at Clynder was not alone in seeking to overturn its temperance status, and it is a fact of life that many hotels depend heavily on the sale of alcohol to help keep themselves afloat, so a temperance hotel was always going to have to find extra revenue to be viable.

Arrochar and Tarbet have had their share of temperance hotels. Ross’s Temperance Hotel opened to the public in the early 1870s, under the proprietorship of Alexander Ross.

The site was well chosen, not far from the junction of two main roads, and within a short walk of Arrochar Pier.

Unlike many of the temperance hotels in the area, Ross’s Hotel remained in the hands of the same family for many years, as they owned the building.

READ MORE: Eye on Millig: How Helensburgh tried to tackle the 'demon drink'

After the death of her husband, Mrs Ross continued running the business until around the start of the First World War, when she was succeeded by John Forrest Ross.

In 1924, he applied for a licence, but he was refused. However, when he applied again the following year, he was successful, and the hotel thereafter ran as a licensed hotel, being managed in time by the Misses Ross.

In 1961 the hotel was taken over by John Galbraith, who already owned the nearby Arrochar Hotel; his acquisition was renamed the Loch Long Hotel, and thrives to this day.

A twist to the story is that an earlier hotel in Arrochar had that same name, and it too had started out as a temperance hotel.

Teighness, or Tyness, Temperance Hotel goes back to around 1906, when Campbell Henderson founded the hotel beside the main road leading south from Arrochar.

It was often referred to as Henderson’s Temperance Hotel. In 1930 an application was made for a licence. Objections were raised, and the licence was initially refused, but later granted.

At some stage, probably in the late 1930s, when the hotel was under different management, it changed its name to the Loch Long Hotel, and it was under that name that a terrible fire raged through the premises in September 1955 and four people lost their lives.

That marked the end of the hotel.

Garelochhead also had a temperance hotel. In 1905, McPherson’s Temperance Hotel launched at Woodlea, beside the main Garelochside road, near the south end of the village, and almost opposite Garelochhead Pier.

By 1907 the name had been changed to McNeil’s Temperance Hotel.

READ MORE: Eye on Millig: The story of Helensburgh's vote to 'carry on drinking'

At this hotel, on March 10, 1907 Hector McNeil was born to Margaret McNeil, wife of Donald McNeil, a journeyman joiner from the island of Barra.

Young Hector eventually became a long-serving MP for Greenock, and he rose to become Secretary of State for Scotland from 1950-51.

The McNeils did not put down roots in Garelochhead, and their very brief stay in the village is something of an enigma.

Woodlea was owned by the McPhun family, but the hotel was registered in the name of Margaret McNeil. However she and her family moved to Glasgow not long after the birth of their son.

The tenancy of the hotel then fell to Alexander Crerar. Known variously as Crerar’s Temperance Hotel and Woodlea Temperance Hotel and Boarding House, there was a period of stability under his management until 1930.

One notable development during his tenancy was the setting up of a branch of the National Bank of Scotland on the premises in 1922.

By the early 1930s the tenancy had passed to the Misses Margaret and Charlotte McPherson. The sisters ran the temperance hotel for many years, in time becoming owners as well as managers.

One blow must have been the closure of Garelochhead Pier in 1939, but the hotel was still functioning into the 1950s. It was described as empty by 1960 and became private dwellings.

Woodlea Hotel can claim to be one of the longest running among local temperance hotels. No attempt was ever made to acquire a licence.

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There are no local examples of hotels going from licensed hotel to temperance hotel status, but there is one example of a licensed premises defaulting to unlicensed.

Whistlefield Inn had a long pedigree, having its origins in a humble drystone and thatched building serving to accommodate cattle drovers. By the later 19th century it had been rebuilt as an imposing structure, but it gained a reputation for scenes of drunken behaviour.

With the death in 1920 of Mrs Munro, the proprietress of 50 years, the opportunity was taken to call time on the possible resurgence of unruly behaviour.

When new proprietor John McDougall applied for a licence in 1920, the application was turned down, and also fell on appeal.

That same year, the Helensburgh and Gareloch Times reported that drunkenness in the area had abated considerably.

In 1923 a fresh application for a licence was made in the name of Leonard Charles Prefect, but this too was rejected.

According to the newspaper, a successful campaign against renewal of licence was headed by the Rev Walter Ireland, United Free Church minister at Garelochhead.

It is not known if Whistlefield Inn functioned in temperance mode, but the building quickly became private accommodation, as it is now.

Temperance hotels, as with the wider Temperance Movement as a whole, may have been relegated to the pages of history, but alcohol abuse is still a major issue in the society of today.

If you have a local history topic you think worth investigating in a future Eye on Millig column, email the details to

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