Shandon in January 1885

Dear blog reader, this is the fourth part of a series looking at the news in Shandon in particular weeks in history. In the week leading up to Thursday 22 January 1885 Reverend Millar gave a lecture in the West Free Church, Helensburgh and there was aquatic entertainment at the Hydro.




The Rev Mr Millar delivered a lecture in the hall of the West Free Church, Helensburgh on Friday evening. He took for his subject ‘Words, their Roots and Blossoms’ which was handled in a masterly manner, and was agreeably interspersed with humorous anecdotes. The lecture was under the auspices of the Literary Society, the Rev Mr Leitch, the president, occupying the chair.


A grand aquatic entertainment took place in the Shandon Hydropathic Baths, in connection with the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association, on Friday evening.

Among those present were Mr J R Cunningham, Mr Stephen Mason, Glasgow, Mr Peter McLeod, and a number of the ladies and gentlemen of the Gareloch. The room was crowded. Mr Priestley, vice-president, was in the chair, and, in opening the proceedings, he said he had been requested to take the chair, but he thought it would have been more consistent, considering the crowded state of the room, to have asked him to take the water.

Most of them were aware that this was the second entertainment of the same kind in connection with the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement association, and the one held last year had given such satisfaction both to the members and the public, and from the kindly notices of the press, our president, the Rev Mr Millar, was determined there should be another. That was no doubt the reason of their meeting that night. He said he had been asked if the last entertainment did any good. He could give that answer now to the gentleman who asked it, and he could say to all of them that a goodly number of the young men belonging to the association could now swim that could not swim before.

Mr President also said if ever he should make the acquaintance and be on friendly terms with any gentleman who should either be in this Parliament or the new one, he should most certainly ask him to support or bring in a bill making swimming compulsory and a part of the education of each child. (Applause).

The programme commenced by various styles of swimming by Messrs Strauss, Hamilton, and Stevenson, of Glasgow, members of the West of Scotland Swimming Club, and their graceful movements met with deserved applause.

Trapeze by Master John Priestley; neatly done.

Exhibition of fast swimming – ten lengths of the baths, by Messrs Williamson and S Priestly, both members of the West of Scotland Swimming Club. Great interest was taken in this race, both competitors having met on several previous occasions in important events. The Shandon representative won by a touch.

Exhibition of plate swimming by Mr G Hamilton; met with a hearty response.

Ornamental entertainment by Messrs Strauss and Stevenson was watched with great interest, and was one of the greatest features of the evening, their beautiful movements meeting with cheer after cheer.

Distance diving, object diving, and plunging, by S Priestley, Williamson and Strauss. Williamson succeeded in bringing to the surface eight objects out of nine, and the cheers of the company. S Priestly dived and swam four lengths underneath the water – a performance that was greeted with great eclat. The plunging and diving of Mr Strauss was greatly admired.

Masters John and Edmund Priestley swimming, diving, and plunging. The movements of the younger were watched with great interest, as he looked so small in the water. Their performance was greatly cheered.

Strauss and Williamson touching and turning, as used in fast swimming, was well appreciated, and deservedly so.

‘The First Swimming Lesson’ was the event of the evening, and kept the audience in a continued roar of laughter. The characters were – Professor Hoodwink, Mr Stevenson; Mr Jones, Mr Hamilton; Mrs Jones, Mr S Priestley; Master Tommy Jones, Mr W Priestley. Professor Hoodwink first entered, and after telling the audience that he had been engaged at Shandon as professor of swimming, at 3s 6d per week, all found, said that he expected a pupil that afternoon, when a loud knock intimated the arrival of Mr Jones. After a hearty greeting, Mr Jones asked the Professor’s fee for lessons in swimming, and was answered 10s for the first two lessons, the last two being free. Mr Jones, in his droll way, said he would take the last two first, and if his Tommy got on well he would see about the other two lessons. Mrs Jones and Master Tommy now entered. Mrs Jones, with the usual umbrella and a tremendous improver, leading her son Tommy, who being naturally afraid of the water required a lot of coaxing with a large scone and toys. The Professor got the belt round Tommy, but it slipped off, and Mrs Jones being anxious about her son, tried to reach him, when she fell into the water head foremost, Mr Jones and the Professor following. The scene that followed was indescribable, and between the screams of Mr, Mrs, and Tommy Jones, and the plaudits of the company, one would have thought that the building was coming down.

Aquatic Football Match – 5 on each side – created great merriment. the match ended in a draw.

Mr Priestley, at the conclusion of the sports, thanked the audience for their attendance, and the West of Scotland members for their evening’s entertainment.

Mr J R Cunningham, of Bloomfield, proposed a vote of thanks to Mr Priestley for the manner in which the entertainment had been carried out, and the great treat they had enjoyed; and the most successful and novel entertainment ever given by the Young Men’s Association was then brought to a close.

Mr Alex Vallance ably supported Mr Priestley in carrying out the proceedings.

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