Interesting History and Facts about Rosneath...

In 1489, Colin Campbell, the first Earl of Argyll, received the grant of 'the lands of Rosneath' from the Scottish crown and for some five centuries thereafter they remained in Campbell hands. The second Earl of Argyll, Archibald Campbell, fell at Clodden field along with most of the Scottish nobility including his brother- in-law the Earl of Lennox.

In 1644 Archibald the eighth Earl and first Marquis of Argyll disagreed with the religious policies of Charles 1 of the United Kingdom and in the following civil war supported the Scottish Covenanters against the King's army in Scotland,composed mainly of highland clans and a contingent from Ireland, led by James Graham, Marquis of Montrose.
Indeed Argyll's army was soundly defeated by Montrose and his men and following the battle of Inverlochy, elements of Montrose's force invaded and sacked Argyll, including Inverary.

The people of Rosneath were summoned by the ringing of the church bell to learn that the dreaded royalist Highland and Irish forces were in the Dunoon area, a short distance only across Loch Long, and Rosneath's Campbell tenants were greatly alarmed at the possibility of an attack by the royalists.

However, following the final defeat of Montrose's men by the Covenanters at
Philliphaugh, Archibald, the 8th Earl of Argyle, supported the restoration of King Charles 11 and indeed crowned him at Scone in 1651.
Some ten years later Archibald again lost royal favour and was then executed in Edinburgh.


As Scottish political affairs became more settled during the 18th and 19thcenturies the Argyll family regained political power as Dukes of Argyll with great influence over local and national matters. The family produced many leading soldiers and statesmen and in 1871 the Marquis of Lorne MP, heir to the Duke of Argyll, married HRH the Princess Louise, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. Rosneath became the princess' favourite Scottish home and on visits to the Rosneath estate, she and her husband were duly welcomed at the village pier 'by the principal tenants, the magistrates of Kilcreggan and Cove and the resident gentry' of the peninsula.


Although Rosneath castle's construction date is not known it is thought to have been
sometime in the 12ft century. The main access to the castle was from the shore below where visitors, including the Argyll family when travelling from Inverary to their Rosneath lands would disembark from their galley and enter the castle by means of an easily defended tunnel leading underground into the castle basement.
In 1806 the fortress was seriously damaged by fire and was replaced by the new and palatial Rosneath House situated a short distance to the west of the original castle site. The new house required many servants, was difficult and costly to heat and in 1897, Princess Louise engaged Sir Edward Lutyens to design a new annexe to the old Ferry Inn, conveniently close to Rosneath pier and the paddle steamer service to the railway at Helensburgh.
The new annexe would require minimum staff and serve as a more comfortable home for the princess and her husband when they visited their Rosneath estate.
In addition to her many interests the princess had always been concerned with the welfare of wounded soldiers, especially members of her Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders - 'Princess Louise's Own'. She had intended that in the event of war the annexe would become a military hospital and during the 2nd South African war it was used as a recuperation centre for wounded troops.
Following the outbreak of war between Britain and Germany in 1914 the annexe was soon filled with men returning from the horrors of 'the trenches'.
Princess Louise also became patron of a new disabled serviceman's centre at the former Erskine House and was active at the Princess Louise Military Hospital' in Sussex and her London home in Kensington, where many of the injured soldiers convalesced.
The 1914-18 war must have been especially distressing for Louise since Wilhelm 11, Emperor of Germany, had been her favourite nephew. Indeed in the 1900s Wilhelm 11, a keen yachtsman, was participating in the annual Clyde 'fortnight" series of sailing events, in his racingyacht Meteor when he sailed up river aboard his steam yacht Hohenzollern, anchoring in Camsail bay where Wilhelm enjoyed a pleasant day with his aunt Louise.

A junior member of Princess Louise's Rosneath staff, employed in her favourite beautiful rose gardens behind Rosneath House, recalled the day when he was called in from garden duties, instructed to wash ,tidy up, make sure hands and finger nails were scrupulously clean, don a fresh white jacket and repair to the beach

where a boat would take him out to the moored steam-yacht. He was delegated to help set the lunch table in the main saloon and when the table was cleared and the gentlemen ready for their a postlunch smoke, he went round with a large silver box of cigars and cigarettes and had the honour of striking and holding the match while the Emperor of Germany' lit up'.

In 1914, Britain went to war with the German empire in the 'Great War' and during the years following the 1914-18 war, despite vast social and economic changes throughout Europe and Britain, Rosneath reverted largely to its pre-war near feudal way of life. Princess Louise returned whenever possible to enjoy the quiet solitude and many fond memories of happier days spent with her late husband who had died in 1914.

She was popular with her tenants and villagers and one or two locals remain who can remember her visits, her interest and involvement in village affairs and her attendance at Rosneath church which she had generously endowed over the years. At least one resident can remember the princess, surrounded by her scouts, guides and cubs as she planted a tree in the church grounds. Also remembered is the magnificent bonfire and firework display organised by her estate staff in 1935 to mark the jubilee of King George V Princess Louise's concern for the young people of the district led her in 1912 to ask the village school headmaster if he would form a scout unit. Some twenty-four boys were duly enrolled to form the 1$ Rosneath (Princess Louise's Own) scout troop. A new trek-cart was gifted to the troop by Louise and each boy received a Campbell tartan neckerchief to be worn proudly and uniquely with her special authority.

In 1914 new colours were presented to the scouts by the princess who retained great interest in their welfare and on many occasions entertained them to tea and cakes at Rosneath House or at the Ferry Inn.


When the Duke of Argyll died at Cowes on 2 May 1914 before the outbreak of war, his remains, accompanied by the Princess and the new Duke of Argyll, were taken by train from London to Craigendoran pier then by special paddle-steamer to Rosneath where they was carried by tenants to the church and lay overnight before the funeral. At the request of Princess Louise, village scouts kept watch over the coffin during the night and on the following day other members of the Rosneath scout troop, along with the Cove and Kilcreggan troop, accompanied the funeral party by paddle- steamer to Kilmun for burial. The Rosneath scouts carried the many wreaths and one of them Arthur McGrouther of Clynder carried the personal wreath of Kaiser Wilhelm ll of Germany.

In 1927 a general meeting held in Rosneath village school considered the possibility of forming a company of girl guides. A proposal that Princess Louise should be asked to act as patron was agreed and following her approval of the project she presented the new guide troop with colours at a ceremony in the village hall and invited them join her for tea and cakes in the Ferry Inn.


Rosneath's prestigious royal connection of some sixty-eight years ended in1939 with the death of Her Royal Highness the Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll. In early 1940 the estate was sold thus ending also some five hundred years of Clan Campbell superiority at Rosneath. The near feudal village lifestyle that had prevailed for so long was now in doubt and the estate tenants faced an uncertain future.

However, Britain was again at war with Germany, defence matters were paramount and soon brought unprecedented change to Rosneath, the peninsula and Garelochside. The boat building yards of James A. Silver of Rosneath and McGruer at Clynder, along with McKellars of Kilcreggan were among the first to be affected as they began converting private craft for coastal patrol duties and building new craft for the Royal Navy. Army personnel also arrived to build gun and searchlight facilities and this former Campbell 'Clachan House' at Rosneath became quarters for Royal Engineers engaged in preparing a site at Faslane for a new military port. James A. Silver's yard also became headquarters for an air sea rescue unit of the Royal Air Force, while Rhu bay became an experimental centre for RAF seaplanes and flying boats.

In the summer of 1941, despite their neutrality in the European war, the American government, following extensive and secret meetings with British leaders, despatched civilian contractors to Scotland and Northern Ireland where they would build 'advance' bases for use by British forces initially then by American forces in the increasingly likely possibility that the United States would become involved in the conflict. Rosneath was chosen as a perfect site for a naval base with sheltered deep water in Rosneath Bay surrounded by flat land with heavily wooded areas for accommodation purposes. In July 1941 the first group of American civilians arrived to find the 996 Dock Operating Company of Royal Engineers already established at Rosneath House and building piers for unloading construction equipment as it arrived from America.
With the arrival of additional American engineers: a labour force from Ireland, local workers, many shiploads of vehicles, heavy construction equipment, materials and food supplies from the US, work on the base proceeded rapidly. Initially, the new facilities were used by the Royal Navy for maintenance and repair of convoy escort vessels however, in August 1942, with the United States no longer neutral and fully involved in the war, Rosneath base was officially taken over by the United States Navy. Rosneath House became USN headquarters and planning centre for ‘Operation Torch', the proposed Allied invasion of north-west Africa.
Thousands of US Navy, US Marines and US Army personnel arrived at Rosneath to practise amphibious landing techniques in the Gareloch and around the shores of the peninsula and the Clyde sea lochs. The densely wooded 'Green Isle' area near Rosneath House provided cover from possible aerial attack for an accommodation area for some six thousand men. American troops were also billeted in Helensburgh private homes as were British commandos who trained with them for 'Operation Torch'.

Following the success of the north Africa landings, Rosneath base was handed back to the RN with the exception of several areas retained by the USN: Clachan House and the surrounding 'seabee' (Construction Battalion) camp, Portkil Hospital and dock space plus fuelling facilities for submarine depot ship USS Beaver and the submarines of USN submarine squadron 50. In August 1943 however the base was again taken over by the USN for use as receiving station for their naval activities in European waters and a major supply, maintenance and training centre for the naval build-up to D-Day, the invasion of France on 6 June 1944'
As the successful invasion proceeded and the Allied armies advanced into German held Europe, Rosneath base remained busy as Russian naval forces arrived to take over surplus US ships under 'lease-lend' arrangements. Marines of the Royal Netherlands Navy also trained at Rosneath at this time and when the war in Europe ended in 1945 the base was decommissioned by the USN in June of that year and returned to British control. As HMS Rosneath the base acted as an assembly point for landing craft and small naval ships and a 'demob' station for many wartime naval personnel.

In 1946 a proposal to renovate the base facilities for use as a combined operations establishment was considered then cancelled and in 1948 the base was closed with the exception of the tank farm area and a section to be retained by the Admiralty for storage of in-shore mine sweeping vessels. The original American tank farm was renovated to become a 'North Atlantic Treaty Organisation' ship fuel station while the remainder of the former base industrial area and the Clachan House section were dismantled and cleared to make way for housing development, a new church and a new school.

Following the departure of The Royal Navy in 1948, Rosneath House lay empty and when de-requisitioned it was sold along with the surrounding policies. The new owner removed the roof and in 1954 the building and policies were purchased by the United British Caravan Company. In 1961 the roofless building was finally demolished and the grounds were gradually improved to form the present attractive waterside holiday area. Fittingly, for such an ancient and historically rich area,the heritage of many centuries has been preserved by the present owner in the name 'Rosneath Castle Holiday Park' On 10 September 2000, on a site generously donated by the Quibell family of Rosneath Holiday Park, the United Kingdom State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Rosneath Anvil Trust, with financial contributions from various companies and individuals dedicated a memorial to those who built Rosneath Base and in honour of the American and British forces who served or trained there during the war years 1941- 45. Valuable practical assistance was provided by Commander Jones R N, the musicians of HM Naval Base Clyde band and the base 'padre' who conducted the dedication service in the presence of the HM Naval Base Commodore, a USN construction battalion (Seabee) senior officer and USN colour party, a British Legion colour party,the Lord Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire, John McFall MP, local council members and some three hundred local spectators.

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