Glenfinart revisited

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Glenfinart House from Nursery Field.

 

A recent visitor to Glenfinart Walled Garden had a fascinating story to tell. It was only Don Ward’s second visit to the village since 1960. On that occasion he was accompanying his mother Helen Bonnieman who had lived in Ardentinny as a child.

Helen was born in 1908 and moved to Ardentinny at an early age when her father, who had previously been a footman at Drummond Castle near Crieff, was appointed butler at Glenfinart House, Ardentinny. The family lived in a cottage at Stronvochlan (see photo below) until after the First World War.

Helen’s father was subsequently called up for service in the war and served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Helen and her three brothers all went to the village school and thoroughly enjoyed their time there.

On Don’s last visit with his mother in 1960, they visited the (then) Ardentinny Post Office which was located at Rock Cottage (see photo). His mother said that the Post Office was exactly the same as she remembered it all those years ago, and with the same owners. Indeed, her family had attended the wedding of the postmaster/mistress (most likely the Gardners) some 40 years earlier. At the time of Don and his mother’s 1960 visit, the 80+ year old Postmaster was out on his bike delivering the village mail!

We are indebted to Don for allowing us to publish his excellent colour photographs from 1960.

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Glenfinart House from shoreline with metal shed at nursery field.

 

Gardner's Post Office and store.

Gardner’s Post Office and store.

 

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Ardentinny Church and cottages from beach road.

 

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Stronvochlan.

 

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Ardentinny Hotel.

 

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Ferry Cottages.

 

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The (then) School.

 

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Stronvochlan.

 

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Ardentinny Church.

 

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Arched Bridge over River Finart.

 

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“Ban the Bomb” demonstration at Ardnadam Point.

 

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Possibly “Maid of Ashton” off Hunters Quay.

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Who do you think you are Glenfinart?

Continuing on from our previous article on Glenfinart House when it was used as a holiday centre between the 1930’s and early 60’s. Elizabeth Brooking, granddaughter of  the late Henry C. White, owner of Friendship Holidays Association, has provided us with  more images and information from her archive. In addition to Glenfinart House, Henry C. White owned a chain of holiday centres throughout the UK as well as offering holidays in France, Switzerland and Italy.

The house finally closed as a holiday centre in 1961, on the death of Henry C.White and the majority of the building was destroyed by fire in 1968. All that remains today is the main turret.

Through the previous posts on Glenfinart House at Ardentinny.org, Elizabeth (whose parents met at Glenfinart House) has also found a long-lost relative who shares the same great grandfather as her. This has resulted in dozens of unknown relatives being traced. She’s looking forward to meeting at least some of them in the future!

With the help of Ardentinny.org Elizabeth has also been in contact with others researching the history of the Friendship Holidays Association and the hope is that the FHA material which has been collected will be archived for future generations, to provide a history on the organisation and the people involved.

As a footnote In 1966, Elizabeth Brooking’s mother wrote a story for a competition based on the Ardentinny fire. It can be read here.

Photographs courtesy Elizabeth Brooking. 

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Advertisement from 1934.

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1930’s: ‘Promotional’ letter on the opening of Glenfinart House.

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Glenfinart House probably in the 1950’s.

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1932 holiday brochure.

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Article on the man behind Friendship Holidays Association, Henry C. White.

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1961: Probably the last group of guests at Glenfinart House, as the centre closed that year following the death of H.C.White.

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1968: Article from Dunoon newspaper on the Glenfinart House fire.

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Cuil Burn as referred to in the comment below.

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Memories of Glenfinart House fire

Linda’s mother and Shandy the boxer at Glenfinart House 1968

As a young girl of 13, Linda Sinclair was on Holiday at Glenfinart House Hotel, Ardentinny in the summer of 1968. This was the week before fire destroyed the historic house on 24th August, of the same year. Linda’s brother Jim and his family were actually in the hotel when the fire alarm was sounded, they were in the second floor room of the Tower.

The following are some of Linda’s recollections.

I do have very vivid memories of Glenfinart House. I can remember exactly the way the house looked in August 1968.

The entrance into the hallway had a great sweeping staircase and deep red carpet. There was a large stained glass window on the curve of the staircase with its coats of arms and a huge chandelier hung in the hallway. To the right, at the bottom of the staircase, was a long corridor, on the right of that was the large dining doom to the front of the house with a view of the loch.

I remember the hallway was hung with very large oil paintings of past residents, and a battle scene with men in tartan (I didn’t like it, as there were dead horses and dead people in it!). Further along was a very large sitting room that was not very inviting, it had a huge ornate fireplace and the furniture was old dark mahogany. Nobody ever sat in this room. There was a bullet hole in one of the windows at the top I remember, and the curtains were heavy and dark. This window also looked out over to Loch Long.

On the left side of the corridor was a smaller room which was the bar, it had patio windows and steps down to the garden at the back, a door in the corner led to upper floor bedrooms.

The kitchens were also on this side of the corridor, across from the dining room. I remember there was a huge oil painting on the corridor wall. It was of Glenfinart House, from the shoreline of the Loch, with the forest behind the house. All purple and green hues. It was amazing and it took up the whole wall, and had an ornate gilt frame. Oh, what happened to these paintings? I reckon they were all destroyed in the fire (so sad).

I remember the hut with the biggest book in the world that was on your left as you came into the driveway. I also remember my room which was to the side of the house. It looked on to the stone bridge that led down to the little bay.

I was told of a ghostly lone piper who played the lament on the top of the tower and about a lady who was one of the inhabitants.

Also I remember the people who had the hotel were not Scots. They were Londoners. I think the lady who owned Shandy the dog was named Cath and there was a waiter named Dave who had a bad limp.

Glenfinart House burns on 24 August 1968

24.08.68
In one of the largest incidents of its kind in Argyll the Brigade were called on Saturday, August 24, 1968, at 0846 to the Glenfinnart Hotel, Ardentinny. Repeat calls had been received from Cove and Kilcreggan and crews arrived to face a serious fire which is well illustrated by the fireground message “A building of 2-3 and 4 floors about 120 feet by 230 feet, first floor, roof and tower well alight. Make pumps 3.”Seven jets were used on this fire and crews were in attendance for over 13 hours.
Courtesy: Dunoon Fire Service Centenary 1889 – 1989.

My niece Lesley was one of the children that was in the second floor room when the fire broke out. She told me that she was sitting on her potty at the time, and my brother picked her up potty and all and took her outside.

I had made great friends with the owners’ boxer dog named Shandy on my stay, and was completely devastated when the dog was killed in the fire. My brother had tried to save the dog, as it was in the room above, and he heard it run up and down the room in distress. He tried to get up the stairs to the room but the heat and smoke was too intense.

Glenfinart House today

My brother told me that the Dunoon Fire Brigade recovered the poor dog’s body and laid it to rest on the grass lawn on the right of the front of the door. I did go back some weeks later and found the grave of Shandy and cried my eyes out. In later years my family, who are in the demolition business from Glasgow, demolished the house. Only the tower remains today.

We are grateful to Linda Sinclair for sharing her memories with us. We would very much welcome any additional anecdotes related to the history of Glenfinart House.

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