Can you help uncover the heritage of our hall?
The Committee is looking for a volunteer to help set up a Heritage Project to record the history of the village hall which is a Listed building-possible funding from the Big Lottery may be available to pay for time spent and expenses. If you are interested please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The history of Rhu village hall is a secret and that is the way it is staying for the time being. Despite being a centre for the community life of the village the great exertions that brought about the hall into being remains obscure. What efforts were made to raise the funds? Who were the main contributors from the local community? All these questions could expect to be answered by the newspaper report when the hall was opened, but where is it? So far, despite much searching the report remains unfound.
It is a wee bit like searching for a needle amongst a haystack in the close-typed pages of the Helensburgh & Gairloch Times. We know that the hall was built between 1903 and 1905. A search in the paper in 1905 revealed a reference to the hall as evidently up and running in the early part of the year. In the whole of 1904 and 1905. I have yet to find a reference to the hall opening officially. Other openings however, figure more prominently, such as the Clyde Street School. The article for that we illustrated with a drawing of the building. Yet, an oh-so-brief mention on the 23rd November 1904 which was found simply intimates that the new reading room was opened on Saturday afternoon week when a number of members were enrolled. The room is comfortable and well furnished with papers, says the report.
All this is vaguely mysterious, since anything approaching news in Rhu (or Row as it then was written) was documented with great diligence, even down to the item telling that a Rhu man was not drowned at sea! (Mr Jamieson from Rhu did not, it seems, go down with the ship he was on off the coast of Spain).
Generally the hall is reckoned to have been designed by Alexander N Paterson, a well-off gentleman-architect who could easily be described as renowned, as the estate agents would say. His work has a high reputation amongst architectural historians today. Many buildings in Helensburgh and district are by him, including, co-incidentally, the former Clyde Street School and several houses in upper Helensburgh which he remodelled or built for himself. He was also an artist, was married to an artist, his daughter Viola became an artist,
His brother-in-law was one of the Glasgow Boys, and his own brother was James Paterson, another of the Glasgow Boys group of artists. What is most interesting about Paterson in the context of Rhu Community Hall is that his father, a wealth manufacturer, moved to Rhu in 1893 where he doubtless swiftly became a pillar of the community and who knows maybe a major player in the move to build a village hall. Whatever the history and whoever the architect was, he managed to produce a remarkably pretty building that was both straight forward and uncomplicated, yet also highly attractive. The architectural experts point out the crowstep gables (which certainly have some resemblance to those on Patersons Canary Island villas in Helensburgh). They also dwell on the plumbing upstand pipes with their thistle-like heads very much a Paterson habit.
What such accounts don’t dwell on is the usefulness of the building and useful it remains.
Whether more information will emerge to tell a further story of the moves to create the hall in the first place, only time (and a lot of searching) will tell.