THE story of Helensburgh GP Dr Fordyce Messer has attracted the attention of London-based Anne Hunter and her sister Helen Murden who are researching their family history.
A well known figure with his fine flowing beard, Dr Messer has a double claim to fame.
His coachman, coach and horse disappeared into the Gareloch, never to be seen again, and he is also responsible for the two ‘devils’ facing St Michael and All Angels Church in William Street.
About 1874 he moved to Helensburgh to succeed a Dr Skene who had just died, and moved into Craigellachie, 9 William Street, which he shared with his land steward brother John. He speedily built up an important practice.
Anne said: “My sister and I have been doing some family history research. We came across the fascinating article about Dr Messer and Craigellachie on the Helensburgh Heritage Trust website.
“I have some RAF records of a cousin of my grandfather’s and the address he was residing at when he left the service in 1939 was Craigellachie in William Street. Would you know if it was a private residence then, or whether it was perhaps a boarding house?
“He was born in Durham in 1907, but it’s not quite clear from the RAF records why he was in Helensburgh — possibly he was posted to the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment, which was known as RAF Helensburgh.
“His name was Edward Spencer and his wife was Emily. We don’t know how long he stayed there or if they had any children, although we have found out he died near Manchester in 1992.
“Our father’s father, Harry Murden — Edward’s cousin — left the family home in Yorkshire around 1935/6. Dad was five or six at the time, and no-one ever heard from him again. Apparently not long afterwards Edward lost contact with the family too and they didn’t know what happened to him either.
“Would any visitors to the website know if there are any relatives of Edward still around the area? We did notice there was a Murden who attended Helensburgh School in 1974 — perhaps Harry ended up there too! We would be really grateful for any information anyone may have.”