Henry Bell first Provost of Helensburgh
To begin with, Henry Bell was the first provost of Helensburgh. He was born in 1766 in Linlithgow. Later, he trained in Glasgow as a millwright, ship model maker and engineer. Eventually, he lived in Helensburgh, in the late 1790s. Although, he was rejected by the Admiralty, for his plans for steam navigation. Nevertheless, he built the Baths Inn in 1807 and became a hotelier. Notably, it is recorded that Henry Bell was a man of action and had many schemes outside the building of boats.
The first steamship called the Comet
There is little doubt, that Henry Bell, working from his Baths Hotel, commissioned the first steamboat in the world. Moreover, it also put Helensburgh at the centre of steam passenger ships. The Comet was named after a great comet. Significantly, the comet was seen for several months in 1811-1812. The Comet, built by Wood and Company of Port Glasgow. It was the first of many designs, and a significant role played by Robert Napier who devoted his skill to the construction of steamships.
Clyde navigation beyond Dumbarton
Navigation of the upper Clyde beyond Dumbarton was always difficult. It was only navigable by smaller vessels. In 1840 an Act was passed in Parliament, authorising the deepening of the river throughout to at least 17 feet at neep tides.
During the early days, The Baths hotel had a primitive jetty. Then in 1882, The North British Railway operated the Steam Packet service to Helensburgh. The Craigendorran Pier served the paddle steamers on the Clyde.
Henry Bell died on 14th March 1830, aged 62 in abject poverty. Trustees on the river Clyde raised an annuity of £100 to him and later on to his widow. This was an acknowledgement by the trustees of the Clyde of his great invention and the benefits of steamships to the Clyde. His grave is in Rhu churchyard, see http://www.canmore.org.uk with a statue of himself, on a plinth.
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Photo Credits: all ArgyllWalks