Birchbank – 6 Montgomerie Terrace

Source of Photos:  1. Birchbank from SW – 09/20 ND. 2. 1910 O/S Survey. Note – Birchbank sits between Craignahuille & The Manse and opposite Mallowdale on Montgomerie Terrace. 3. Year of build (1872) engraved in stonework – 09/20 ND. 4.& 5. Facebook: Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay in Pictures. Birchbank is top left. Note the turret between the largest gables is missing. 6. Birchbank – circa 1850 – provided by Mr & Mrs Taylor (6d). 7. Birchbank SE Aspect circa 1970 – previous owners of 6d.  8. Birchbank SE Aspect ND – 09/20. 9. Pen & Ink drawing by A L Muirhead 1974 showing NE aspect of house – courtesy of Mr & Mrs French (6b). 10. NE Aspect of house ND – 09/20.  11. Sitting Room (6d) – 09/20 ND. 12. Staircase and window (6d) – 09/20 ND. 13. Attic room in the peak of largest gable – 09/20 ND.

Mr Robert & Mr Richard Watson (Note 1) 1869 -1872 Land purchased from the Earl of Eglinton and Winton and Birchbank built.
Mr George Best & Mrs Francis Dorothy MacNair 1872 – Circa 1911 1872 – Laundry Extension etc – Architect John Honeyman (Note 2). Cost £642.
Mr George & Mrs Jeanie Kinnaird Circa 1911 – Circa 1918
Mr Archibald Robertson Circa 1918 – Circa 1923
Miss Euphemia Macilwain Circa 1923 – Late 1930s
Miss M & Mr James Boyd Late 1930s – mid 1950s
UnknownMid 1950s – mid 1960s
Circa 1966 House subdivided (vertically) into 3 (6b – 6d & stable premises into 2 (6a). The latter have since been re-joined.


  1. The Watson family were involved with a significant number of the original Skelmorlie Villas, either by acquiring the land and/or by building the property. More information about the family and these houses can be found by following the link The Watson Family.
  2. Source: Dictionary of Scottish Architects design report – Birchbank, Skelmorlie.
  3. Birchbank was the childhood home of James Herbert MacNair who married Francis McDonald (younger sister of Margaret McDonald who herself was married to Charles Rennie McKintosh). Altogether they made “The Four”.


  • On the 21st October 1869, the Earl of Eglinton and Winton sold 2.7 acres of land to Robert and Richard Watson , on the condition that they built one cottage or villa within 2 years and a further 3 cottages or villas within 4 years, all of 1.5 stories in height and each of not less value than £400. Source: Title Information for 6 Montgomerie Terrace, courtesy of Mr & Mrs Taylor, owners of 6d, Birchbank.
  • Note from author: It is highly likely that the 4 plots referred to above are what are now No. 6 Montgomerie Terrace – Birchbank, No. 8 – The Old Manse (United Presbyterian Church), No. 10 – Craigallion, previously Pearidge and No. 12 – Oakhill. According to the records, the Old Manse was built by one of the Watson brothers (we are not told which brother) and William Watson 1., another brother, was responsible for building both Pearidge, which was to become his own house, and OakhillSources: The North Church Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay – One Hundred Years 1871-1971 and Skelmorlie by Walter Smart, 1868.
  • Although, there is no reference to any of the four houses in the 1871 census, we believe that Birchbank was the first of the four to be built and according to the year carved into the window arch of the turret, it was completed in 1872. Source: 1871 Census and picture 5 at top of page.
  • The first owner of Birchbank was Mr George MacNair and family. Either before or as he moved in, he commissioned, the renowned and local architect John Honeyman, to complete a ‘laundry extension, etc.’, costing £642. There are no drawings to show the extent of this work but the pen and ink drawing, 10. above, together with the photo as it is today, 11. above, suggest the work could have included the end gable and the one-story construction to the right/north of this. The Honeyman job book may provide more detail. Sources: Pictures 10. And 11. above and Dictionary of Scottish Architects – Birchbank, Skelmorlie.
  • Before looking at the house owners, it’s interesting to note, that that Birchbank does not appear to have a steeple on the top of the turret when it was built. See picture 4. above which we believe was taken circa 1920, compared to picture 6. which was taken circa 1950. Source: Pictures 4. – 6. above.
  • Greenfield, Shettleston

    Greenfield, Shettleston. George MacNair’s family home. Source: Lost Glasgow.

    Returning now to our first owner. George Best MacNair was born on 05 May 1835 at Greenfield, Shettleston, Glasgow. He was the son of Colonel James MacNair and Eleanor Stanser. The MacNair family had made their fortune in property, brewing & exploiting the coal reserves on their land over many generations. In 1799, it was estimated that the annual value of coal production in the MacNair’s Shettleston mines was worth £650k annually (in 2020 money). Sources: org/ George MacNair and Lost Glasgow – Greenfield House.

  • We understand that George was rather delicate as a boy, and when about 18 or 19 sailed for Bendigo, Australia, chiefly in the hope that the sea voyage might benefit his health. On the way he was shipwrecked and it was 9 days before he and a few other survivors were rescued; the greater portion of both passengers and crew perished. He gave up his share of drinking water to a young girl who, in spite of his efforts to save her, died from exhaustion. He chewed the lead off the cabin stairs of the wrecked vessel to stave off the feeling of great thirst. He lost one of his lungs but otherwise fully recovered and lived to be over 70. Sources: George MacNair, The MacNair Book-1923 Supplement.
  • In July 1860, when he was 25, George MacNair married Francis Dorothy Dixon, then 26. She was the third daughter of the late Rev. Isaac Dixon, vicar of Garten, Yorkshire and Charlotte (Bagshawe) Dixon. They went on to have eight children Francis Eleanor (1862 -1920), Emily Edith (1863 -1943), Mary Christian (1865 -1934), George Stanser (1867 – 1917), James Herbert (1868 – 1955), Mildred Helen (1871 -1942), Philip Lionel (1872 -1900) and Caroline Gertrude (1876 -1940). Note: the youngest two were born in Skelmorlie. Source: George MacNair.
  • The MacNairs owned Birchbank for around 40 years and whilst George died there in 1910, it was not their only home. We get a better feel for their lifestyle by looking at the censuses. In 1861, they were living with his sister and her children in Milncroft Road, Shettleston. George gave his occupation at the time as ‘fund owner of coal pits’. In later censuses, this changed to Coalmaster, then Shipowner and finally private means.  By 1871, George and Francis were living in Ashton Terrace, Partick with six of their children, aged 1 month through to 9 years old. 1881 saw the family; George, Francis and the eight children, at Boquhan Mansion, Gargunnock, outside of Stirling, with seven servants. In 1891, the family, which consisted of George, Francis and six of the children (not George or James Herbert) were at Birchbank with one visitor and 4 servants. There was no listing for the MacNair’s in the 1901 survey but we do know that in 1895, they were living in Brompton, Torquay. Sources: 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 censuses, – George Best MacNair and 1895 valuation roll.
  • It was often the case that Skelmorlie houses were let for periods when the family were not in residence and Birchbank was no exception. At the time of the 1881 census, Mr Donald McGregor, a shipbuilder and his wife were staying at Birchbank with a visitor, a minister’s wife, her 2 young children and 3 servants. An advert in the Glasgow Herald offers Birchbank to let, furnished, for the summer or longer on 23 March 1883. Sources: 1881 census and Glasgow Herald Classified, 23 March, 1883.
  • In 1909, the year before George MacNair died, the family business collapsed with the wealth accumulated by earlier generations, apparently lost on poor investments in Glasgow’s shipping business. George died at Birchbank in February 1910. Francis died 4 years later at Lenniehall on North Bute in February 1914. Sources: Facebook: Lost Glasgow – Greenfield, death certificate of Francis MacNair and George MacNair.
  • The next owners of Birchbank were George Kinnaird (1869 – 1962), Engineer’s Draughtsman and later Oil Fields Manager and Jeanie Walkingshaw (Hastie) Kinnaird (1872 – Unknown). George’s father was a Master Draper and Jeanie’s, an Inn Keeper, both families came from Glasgow. Sources: 1915 Valuation Roll, marriage and death certificates.
  • The Kinnairds did not stay long at Birchbank. By 1920, the house had changed hands and was owned by Archibald Robertson, Quarrymaster. Archibald Robertson was born in 1853, he married Joanna Gardner Leslie in Glasgow, when he was 61 and she was 42. Like the Kinnairds, the Robertson’s did not stay long at Birchbank and when Archibald died in 1925, he and his wife had already moved and appeared to be living at Craigendarroch on Skelmorlie Castle Road. Source: 1920 & 1925 valuation rolls, marriage and death certificates.
  • The next owner of Birchbank was Miss Euphemia Macilwain who bought the property in circa 1923 and lived there for about 15 years until the late 1930’s. Source: 1925, 1930, 1935 and 1940 valuation rolls.
  • After Miss Macilwain, came a Miss M C Boyd and then her brother (?), James Muirhead Boyd, a hosiery manufacturer, who stayed there until his death in 1952, aged 71. James’s death was notified by his brother William Boyd, also of Birchbank so it is possible that the house stayed in the family’s hands longer than this. Source: 1940 Valuation roll & death certificates.
  • In November 1966, the Feu contract with the Earl of Eglinton and Winton was amended to allow the house to be sub-divided into three separate houses each with separate garden and for the stable premises to be split into two flats. Source: Title Information for 6 Montgomerie Terrace, courtesy of Mr & Mrs Taylor, owners of 6d.
  • Today the house is still split into 3 (6b-d). Birchbank Cottage (6a) which was previously the coach house and stables and was originally converted into two flats has now been re-joined as one house by the current owner.  Source: Ms L Thompson, current owner of 6a, Birchbank.   
  • Also, in 1975, the roof of the most northerly extension of the main house, was replaced with a mansard roof extension (planning consent granted 1974). At the same time the corrugated plastic shelter was removed and an outside store created.  The pen and ink drawing by A L Muirhead dated August 74 (photo 9) and photo 10 show the before and after. Note: A Mr & Mrs Muirhead owned 6b prior to the current owners. Source: Mr & Mrs D French, current owners of 6b.  

Location Map:

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