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Cairndhu's war role

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cairndhu_hotel139SECOND World War events in the Helensburgh area still attract a lot of interest over 60 years later.

Recently the Helensburgh Heritage Trust website received this inquiry from a professor based in Canberra, Australia.

John Rayner wrote: “I am currently undertaking research on the degaussing of naval ships during World War Two, degaussing being the process of demagnetising a ship to protect it from magnetic mines.

“The records I have obtained from the Australian Archives for 1940-42 contain many signals from the Australian Navy address to Cairndhu House, Helensburgh. I was wondering if you have any records regarding degaussing activities at Cairndhu House.”

As it happens, the inquiry went to the right person, Trust company secretary John Johnston, who replied: “I have an interest, as during the war my grandmother, Mrs Brenda Johnston, had over 200 naval officers billetted in her house all involved with degaussing. I remember meeting them when coming on holiday.”

John was able to tell the professor that Cairndhu was built in 1871 for John Ure, Lord Provost of Glasgow, whose son became Lord Strathclyde.

“It is a grand house,“ he wrote, “a miniature French chateau in Francois 1 style. The interior has splendid features such as a dramatic black and gold Anglo-Japanese ceiling with sunflowers, bamboo and birds. There is very good stained glass by Daniel Cottier.

“After the Second World War it was a hotel, and it is now a nursing home. I do not know what happened during the war, but I suspect it was requisitioned for the navy because of the enormous activity in the quickly built port in the Gareloch.”

Such is the speed of the internet that Professor Rayner responded after some research: “It sounds like a magnificent property. It seems that it was requisitioned in September 1940 and set up as an outstation of HMS Vernon, the Portsmouth shore base with special responsibility for mines.

”The house was assigned the name HMS Revlis, also the name of a motor yacht employed at Helensburgh, and given over to degaussing operations. It was returned in 1947.”

Both plan to continue their research, and Mr Johnston would be glad to hear from anyone who can add to their knowledge.

He still lives in Rhu Arden, Upper Sutherland Crescent, where his grandmother lived from 1904, and says that other similar houses had service personnel billetted, and after the Clydebank blitz many provided homes for evacuees.

Last Updated ( Friday, 30 April 2010 10:32 )  

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Final Open Meeting

Rev-John-Anderson-29.03.17-wThe final Open Meeting of the season was on Wednesday March 29 at the Civic Centre, East Clyde Street, Helensburgh. The Rev David Clark spoke on the Kirk in the Square and the Rev John Anderson.

Winter Talks 2016-17

  • Wednesday September 28 2016 — Ewan Kennedy: The Leiper Legacy
  • Wednesday October 26 — The Rev David Clark: Helensburgh Boys Brigade Centenary
  • Wednesday November 30 — Ian MacEachern: The Luss Slate Quarries

  • Wednesday January 25 2017 — Bill Anderson: The Anderson (Local Collection) Trust
  • Wednesday February 22 — Dr Andrew Bicker: Recent Archaelogical Discoveries on the West Coast of Scotland
  • Wednesday March 29 — The Rev David Clark: The Kirk in the Square and the Rev John Anderson

Meetings in Helensburgh Civic Centre, East Clyde Street, at 7.30pm prompt.

Charity Number

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation
SC024603