The Maclachlan Dynasty of Town Clerks
1846 to 1956
John Maclachlan was a shipbuilder in Paisley who, with his wife Janet Lindsay, had a son Robert born in 1793. From 1815 to 1846 Robert Maclachlan was the Minister of Gilmour Street Congregational Church in Paisley.
He and his wife Catherine Lewis, also had a son, George (left), born in 1823 who, in 1846, qualified as a solicitor and set up practice in Helensburgh.
His office was at 3 Young’s Yard, which became 2 Princes Street and is now the site of the Royal Bank of Scotland. In 1847 he was appointed Town Clerk of the Burgh Council on a part time basis.
George Maclachlan had married Elizabeth Butt (born in Gorbals, Glasgow, 5th November 1827) and in the course of a long life together they had eleven children, all born in Helensburgh.
In the Census held in 1851, George and Elizabeth lived at 48 Princes Street and he gave his occupation as ‘Writer and Procurator in the Dumbarton Courts’. No children were recorded at that address on census night.
By the 1861 Census they lived at 76 West Argyle Street, George was ‘Writer and Town Clerk,’ and there were eight children. Their son Robert was stated to be aged 17 and an apprentice engineer, whilst John Butt was 15 and a bank clerk.
John Butt Maclachlan forsook the bank and also studied Law. In 1881 he was described as ‘General Law Clerk’ but he qualified as a solicitor in 1883. He then joined his father and uncle in the solicitors firm known as Maclachlan and Son.
Elizabeth’s brother, Edward Butt, was also a lawyer who worked in George’s practice, however he was appointed to the position of Chamberlain (Treasurer) to the Burgh Council. So legal, secretarial and finance were all successfully run by the same family from the same office!
In 1891 George was ‘Town Clerk and Solicitor’ and John Butt was ‘Solicitor’, and they were both resident at Blairlomond, Stafford Street. Although 35 years -old, John was unmarried and living at home. In 1902 John B was appointed Town Clerk jointly with his father.
Later he married Mary Pattburg of Rhu and their family included Edward Butt Maclachlan, born on 14th March 1903. In the fullness of time in 1927 he also qualified as a solicitor, and followed his father and grandfather into the firm and also by being appointed Town Clerk of Helensburgh jointly with his father in 1928.
The family seemed to have ‘disappeared’ at the time of the 1901 Census! But research found that the enumerator had spelled the family name as‘ Maclauchlan.’ John and his sisters Elizabeth and Charlotte were still living at home.
On 2nd October 1897 the Council recorded a tribute to George on his completing 50 years exceptional service, but because of the Town Clerk’s modesty, no celebration was, in the event, held! One hundred years ago, on 8th December 1906, George Maclachlan retired after approximately 60 years in office as Town Clerk.
The Burgh Council and 326 ‘inhabitants of this neighbourhood’ contributed to the retiral gift and tribute. Samuel Bryden was Provost and Chairman of the Committee which presented a Silver Salver, Rosebowl, Candelabra and a pair of candlesticks, and recorded the appreciation of the townspeople in the Illuminated Address which listed all the contributors.
At the same time James Whitelaw Hamilton, a prominent Town Councillor and associate of “The Glasgow Boys” group of artists, negotiated for Sir James Guthrie, President of the Royal Scottish Academy and a Rhu resident, to paint a portrait in oils of George, which was also presented. The original now hangs in the Council Chamber of Municipal Buildings.
A favourite quote from the painter was that his sitter was prone to nod off during the sittings! A copy was made and has been, like the silverware, been gifted to Helensburgh Heritage Trust by the family.
George lived until 16th May 1911 when, at the age of 88, he died of old age at Blairlomond, and was recorded as a Joint Town Clerk and widower of Elizabeth Maclachlan who had died only two months previously. His son, John Butt qualified as a solicitor in 1883 aged 28, became Town Clerk in 1911, following nine years of acting jointly with his father.
He retired from office in about 1930 and died on the 12th August 1940 aged 85 at Toruaine, being described as Town Clerk and Solicitor (retired). The tradition then continued with grandson Edward Butt Maclachlan, born 1903, being admitted a solicitor in 1927 and appointed Joint Depute Town Clerk in November 1929.
He acted jointly with his father until 1940 and then had the full Town Clerkship until he retired because of ill health in 1956. He died on 14th June 1963 at the age of 60 at Greenhaugh. At different times the house had two names, but ‘Toruaine’ and ‘Greenhaugh’ both mean ‘Green Hill!’ (In Gaelic and English).
There were no children and his brother Ian, also a solicitor, but practising in Glasgow, bequeathed the presentation silverware to his daughters, who in turn have gifted it to to the Heritage Trust.
Co-incidentally, Ian had married Jenny McEwen Bryden who was granddaughter of Samuel Bryden, the Provost who had made the presentation to George Maclachlan in 1906!
Thus ended the Maclachlans being Town Clerks of Helensburgh for 110 years, 1846 - 1956. The solicitors firm ‘George Maclachlan and Son’ joined ‘Ormond and Stanton’ to become ‘Maclachlan Stanton and Co’ in the 1950’s and then, after a merger with ‘McArthur Brown and Co’ of Dumbarton, became the current ‘McArthur Stanton’ of Helensburgh and Dumbarton.
- This article was researched and prepared by Kenneth N.Crawford, December 2006.