Solicitor, Writer, and Town Clerk of Helensburgh
1846 until 1911
Reported as a thoughtful and diligent scholar at the Academy in Paisley, George Maclachlan was apprenticed to a local Law Firm on leaving school.
However, in 1845 he ‘crossed the water’ to Helensburgh and continued his studies here, being employed by a Law Firm in an East Clyde Street tenement. This resulted in him being admitted as a Solicitor in 1846 at the age of 23.
Work was not plentiful as many cases were settled outwith the Courts and so he became involved also with the work of the Burgh Council, to the extent that a formal resolution on the 18th September 1847 appointed him part-time Town Clerk at a salary of £25 per annum.
There were problems, however — the previous Clerk, John Black refused to hand over the Minute Book! But after a few months things settled down.
In the late 1840’s George built the house ‘Toruaine’, 54 William Street for the retiral of his mother and father from the Ministry at Paisley Congregational Church, to Helensburgh. They lived there at least until until Robert’s death on 22nd April 1866 at the age of 73. It appears that later the house was occupied by John Butt Maclachlan and his family for he also died there in 1940.
His career was synonymous with the growth of the town as, when he arrived, it was one or two rows of whitewashed cottages with a few villas behind, and a population of about 2,500 whilst, at his death in 1911, it had expanded to be an important residential area with its own pier and railway and 8,500 residents.
George was soon regarded as a highly competent servant of the Burgh, with methodical habits and business acumen. His ability to gauge accurately the will and direction of a meeting enabled him to table a well-expressed resolution at the appropriate time to bring the discussion to a swift conclusion.
He was always courteous and with a steadfast and upright character, the Council rarely went astray when it followed his advice. He became the oldest Town Clerk and almost certainly the longest serving holder of that office in any town in Scotland.
George Maclachlan and Son Solicitors firm continued in business until the 1950’s, providing careers for his son and grandson prior to a merger with Ormond and Stanton and later with Dumbarton firm McArthur Brown and Co., so that it now continues as McArthur Stanton in Colquhoun Square.
Out of the office, his support of the Law was maintained as Dean of the Faculty of Dunbartonshire for a number of years and as Clerk and Treasurer to the School Board of the Parish of Rhu from the passing of the 1872 School Board Act for most of his career.
He was dedicated to the well-being of the young, from the building of the Industrial or Ragged School in Grant Street in 1853 to its successor, Clyde Street Parish School, opened in 1904.
A devoted office-bearer of Helensburgh Congregational Church for over 50 years, George was Superintendent of its Sunday School. Nevertheless he was seen as having a broadly based faith and was active in setting up the Working Boys and Girls’ Religious Society. He was the first in Scotland to take up the Christian Endeavour Movement and was a frequent visitor to the YMCA.
Literary talent showed in homely tales written for a newspaper in Paisley; he used a light style with a delicate sense of humour. Later he wrote Guidebooks and articles on Natural History with a richer and fuller means of expression.
Today he is remembered and referred to for “The Story of Helensburgh” still on Library shelves. Typically, it was published without being attributed to him.
Out of doors, there were few lochs and streams in Scotland that he had not fished and he was a lecturer on such subjects such as birds, flowers and fish.
George Maclachlan died peacefully at his home, Blairlomond, on 16th May 1911, two months after his wife Elizabeth, and was survived by three sons and four daughters.
A detailed Obituary appeared in the Helensburgh and Gareloch Times on the day after his death. Burgh flags were immediately flown at half-mast and his funeral at Helensburgh Cemetery was described as one of the great occasions in the Burgh history.
The family is remembered in the naming of Maclachlan Road and Maclachlan Place.
- Biography written by Kenneth N.Crawford from research by Alistair McIntyre for the Helensburgh Heritage Trust Exhibition “The Maclachlan Dynasty of Town Clerks”, December 2006