Helensburgh’s Colquhoun Square revision a continuing and maturing asset

Helensburgh’s Colquhun Square, which was given a major creative repurposing under Argyll and Bute Counckl’s CHORD scheme, is an enduring and developing success.

It not only continues to be well used but it’s attractiveness has clearly given the Clydeside town a boost to its self-confidence, with the mood of the place steadily upbeat.

The way it is developing – part of the original plan – is seeing charming details added -‘ for example to the black granite blocks used to delineate areas within the elegantly proportioned square.

On either side of the crossing of the centre of the square by Princes Street, some of these these granite blocks have become pedestals in an outdoor gallery, displaying small bronze sculptures that are horizontal  in emphasis, very non-hierarchical, subtle and almost invisible.

As yu walk along, you notice a sort of texture on the top of three of these blocks and going to investigate reveals a series of little delights.


One is a collection of little objects [above] celebrating John Muir, with the new long distance walking trail named for Muir terminating on the Helensburgh waterfront beyond the square.

One [below] is a representation of the half sunk Sugar Boat which lies in the Clyde near the town, its elegant long curve visible from the Helensburgh shore and the surrounding area.


The third [below] carries a chunky, laden campervan that just might make CalMac feel better about its dreadfully misguided ‘Two Eejits’ so-called ‘edgy marketing’ campaign.P1000210

P1000209A note for necessary maintenance is that the inscriptions on the sides of the granite blocks carrying the little sculptures is degrading and is all but illegible in some cases – with the granite itself looking like it its being latched onto by lichens.

A job as good as this one is worth a regular cleaning detail – and redoing the lettering.

Further west along Princes Street, just beyond the square, a plaque has been set into the pavement [top], carrying a frank 1845 public report on the state of the street  – an inventive, fun and place-specific inspiration.

It records:

‘Princes Street, Mr Morris fence dyke quite broken down and foot path in bad repair. Robert Cochranes foot path very uneven and out of repair, Mr McArthurs foot path do do [Ed: ‘ditto]. [Mr Peastons do do. Allan McLean, no sywer or water course along footpath, Miss Henderson do do. Street opposite this property in bad order. Mrs McFarlane, very bad fence to Princes Street, footpath to be dressed off, has no foot path to James Street.’

The names of the four men authoring the report are at the foot of the plaque.45

Helensburgh and Campbeltown have both been very markedly improved by the projects undertaken in the CHORD scheme,

· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

Related Articles & Comments

  • There is a real danger that the Square will deteriorate in short time. We do not maintain our public realm or buildings well. The landscaped areas in the Square are not well looked after.

    When investing public funds in capital projects it is essential that part of these funds be put aside for ongoing maintenance and repair.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

    Graeme McCormick April 6, 2016 7:30 pm Reply
  • It’s also incumbent upon those who design and specify public works to consider the durability of materials and finishes; the brushed stainless steel bins began to look scruffy within days of installation as the combination of hand and finger prints and wind borne salt created rusty staining.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    db April 6, 2016 7:37 pm Reply
    • These are very real responsibilities which, on all counts, require to be accepted and carried out.
      The attractive timber benches also have a design fault in that the junction between the back and the seat retains water after showers. Anyone sitting back n one after a shower would get their clothes wet.
      They need holes drilled into those junctions to allow rain water to drain away promptly.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

      newsroom April 7, 2016 6:38 pm Reply
    • Rumour has it that Police Scotland are, during the hours of darkness, lifting ‘dabs’ from these stainless steel bins to store in their multi million pound Finger Print Picking machine.It is envisaged that the crime statistics will drop drastically and A&BC will be thrilled.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

      Alistair April 7, 2016 8:22 pm Reply
  • Not only are they already looking scruffy, you have to get on your knees to read the already fading text on these mini-monuments, which also provide the biggest obstacle course for the blind in the West of Scotland.

    What is already known locally as ‘the concrete jungle’ will be a complete eyesore in no time if the present level of non-maintenance is maintained..

    Too think we sacrificed a classic and beautiful Victorian town square for this!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

    PBP April 7, 2016 10:04 am Reply
    • Must admit I’ve never heard anyone call it the concrete jungle. Not saying nobody does but I’m not convinced it is so common a definition that it is ‘known locally’ as it.

      I certainly agree that maintenance is important otherwise it will turn out to be a huge waste of capital investment. However I disagree about it replacing a beautiful Victorian square. The old square did have the positive of the fairly sizable green areas and the flower beds but the traffic running through it in four directions was far from beautiful. I much prefer the revised square with less traffic and more of a sense of a relaxation about it. It is a far more pleasant place to be in.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

      Integrity? April 8, 2016 8:24 am Reply
  • And the whole boondoggle ran years and a couple of million over budget.Typical of a local authority who can afford to splosh the dosh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

    Willie April 7, 2016 9:07 pm Reply
  • The Edinburgh Tram might be a good analogy forHrlrnsburgh’s Colquhoun Square and environs project.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

    Willie April 7, 2016 9:14 pm Reply
    • At the end of the day the ‘Edinburgh tram’ will overcome its unbelievably badly mismanaged birth and become an increasingly useful asset to the city, with shouts from Glasgow of ‘we want one too’.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

      Robert Wakeham April 7, 2016 10:27 pm Reply
  • The square has been shortlisted for seven awards. There is no maintenance issue with the text it’s meant to be opaque in the rain and the project was well under budget as it was a fixed terms contract. We are the council haters shame it was a good article.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    Bob April 8, 2016 8:05 pm Reply
  • Not Council haters, Bob, just new Colquhoun Square haters. Helensburgh Civic Centre is a superb example of how to blend old and new; Colquhoun Square is a fine example of how not to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    PBP April 9, 2016 10:02 am Reply
  • Colquhoun Square is indeed nice. It really enhances the town The tragedy of course is that the project ran years over time. Like the Edinburgh Tram this was a huge inconvenience to residents and local businesses alike. But yes, the end result is good in spite of the project execution disaster. And, with a nice new Colquhoun Square it’s nice to see that local MP, Brendan O’Hara is opening a constituency office there to serve that side of the constituency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

    Willie April 9, 2016 10:43 am Reply
  • if it is true there is to be no more planting in the large now completely empty flower beds, and no other maintenance/weeding of the badly planted and scruffy other parts round the square, is it possible to set up a voluntary group to plant bedding and bulbs in these empty spaces?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

    PR April 12, 2016 12:06 pm Reply
    • That’s the spirit.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

      newsroom April 12, 2016 12:25 pm Reply
  • this is a strange site – someone already ‘disliked’ my suggestion it might be nice to replant empty flower beds, and the positive comment of ‘that’s the spirit’ has also attracted a ‘dislike’. And so negativity and apathy are alive and well…….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    PR April 12, 2016 1:39 pm Reply
    • Probably a nutter, a nihilist, an anarchist, or just a rebellious child – that’s the internet for you.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

      Robert Wakeham April 12, 2016 6:28 pm Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *