This is a school project done by my daughter when she was 12 years old. She spent a lot of time researching and going through old title deeds for the hotel.
History of the Lancaster Hotel by Kathleen Ramage
Lancaster Hotel is on the Esplanade next to St. Columba cathedral and from its
front rooms you can look down the Firth of Lorne, almost all the way to Easdale
and across to Lismore, Ardnamurchan and Mull. It is made from sandstone and the
roof is made of slate which came from the slate quarry at Easdale. The Back
buildings which are now staff quarters (originally the Stables) are made of
it was built In 1850 by a Mr. I. Gibson, it was a modest sized house. It
had a large Garden and there was stables at the back for the owners horses. At
this time there were not many other houses near it and Corran Brae, which now
leads to Dunollie housing estate and Park Primary School, did not exist – St
Columba Cathedral was not there either. The house even had another name, Glen
1869 the house was sold to a Mr. Duncan McGregor. I can’t find out much about
him and only know that he lived in the house for nine years before selling it to
the Oban Congregational church in 1878. Under their ownership it was used as a
manse for the reverend Charles Whyte. The church sold the house after only seven
years to a Mr. Albert Wood Esquire Again not much is known about him, but he
must have liked it there because he stayed there for fourteen years. In 1899 Mr.
wood sold the house and it became the Royal Highland Yacht Club and was no
longer known as Glenlyon Lodge.
Royal Highland Yacht Club owned the building for forty years and under their
ownership a few alterations were made. They built the front extension – the
bit that goes towards Oban Bay Hotel – and is now rooms 1,2,3,and 4 on top,
and the resident’s lounge on the bottom. This was done in 1910. Next in 1921,
they added the mock Tudor front – the black and white bits. During the 48
years the building had a colourful history, not least being made into the
Officer’s mess for the R.A.F. during the Second World War. Lord Louis
Mountbatten, Prince Charles’s uncle (who was killed by an I.R.A. bomb) visited
the club and stayed there and even wrote a letter to a friend in the lounge on
the same writing table that is still there. We also have the ship’s bell and
clock and in the bar we still have the brass bell patrons used to get the
attention from the bar staff – it is still used for the same thing. At the
front of the building (above the word Lancaster) there is a plaque showing a
highland warrior with a shield and a sword. This was carved by Major John
Sutherland of Oban as a tribute to another Oban Man, Sergeant James Y. Turnball.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross (after he had died) for the brave things he
did in the First World War (1914-18). The plaque was put up around 1930 and
stayed there until a few years ago when it was decided by my Grandpa to take it
down and preserve it and put a copy in its place. The real one is now in a frame
and is hanging in the reception of the hotel for everybody to see and remember
Sergeant Turnball’s bravery. Before the war Sergeant Turnball worked for the
firm of Mr. Wm Chalmers of Oban.
1947. However, the royal Highland Yacht club sold the building to two sisters,
Margaret and Mary McDonald and the building changed its name again It was the
McDonald sisters who gave the building its present name of the Lancaster Hotel.
The sisters used to run the Lancaster In Glasgow and decided to re-name the
building after the Glasgow hotel. Together they ran the Oban hotel until 1964
when my Granny and Grandpa (John and Sheenac Ramage) bought the hotel from them.
Before settling here Granny and Grandpa had owned the Taynuilt hotel and The
Inshaig Park hotel in Easdale. When they moved here my Auntie Mary was only
seven, my Dad only four, and my Uncle Jim wasn’t even born yet.
One of the first things my Grandparents did was to extend the hotel by building the long wing which goes up Corran Brae and has the rooms 14 to 21 and also build the Cocktail and Lounge bars –this was done in 1966. At this time the front changed – the hedges and the garden were taken away and a new entrance was added and the front car park and the rockery were made too. It was at this time my Dad had his hand and foot prints made in cement. His prints can still be seen behind the plants at the front door, beside the white seat. In 1966 the old stables were converted into the staff quarters and a Granny flat was build for my Dad’s Granny Campbell (my Great-Grandmother) – this is where my Granny and Grandpa live today In 1970 the kitchen was extended and the Laundry added at the back. In 1975 the swimming pool was built and at that time it was the only pool in Oban – The sauna and rooms 24 – 28 were added. In 1983 the Jacuzzi was added to the pool area and all the rooms had private bathrooms added- this was still before my sisters and me were born – my Dad was engaged to my Mum. They were married in 1984 and my Dad and Mum live at the Lancaster. In 1985 the dining room was extended and so was the front entrance. Over the next few years several structural problems were fixed – new beams in the lounge roof, a new roof for the pool, the Lounge bar was changed and the sauna was replaced. My sisters and me also arrived and now three generations of the same family live here. In 1996 my Mum got the pump house for the pool redone and has been adding bits to it ever since, The last thing to be done (happening now) is the solarium roof being fixed and as soon as that is done we will be getting a new Steam Room – which will hopefully be in before Christmas. That is the history of the Lancaster as far as I’ve been able to find out, my Mum and Dad and Grandparents have all helped me to find this information and even dug out the deeds for the building which goes right back to when it was first built. If I had more time I might have been able to read more of the deeds, but some of the writing was funny and the words they used strange, especially in some of the oldest bits. I hope you have found this history as interesting as I did, but the thing I like is that it is not finished yet.
I got a letter from a Mrs.
McGowan on July 24th 2011. It read:-
Dear Mr Ramage - My name's Pam McGowan, and I live in Sydney. My children and I visited Oban in 2008. Before going, I was looking up places to stay, as some of my family's history is in Oban. I read with interest your web site, including the history of the hotel, and then must have filed the print-out away and forgotten about it. Today I just found it! Your web site includes an account of the history of the hotel by your daughter Kathleen. She mentions: "In 1869 the house was sold to a Mr. Duncan McGregor. I can’t find out much about him and only know that he lived in the house for nine years before selling it to the Oban Congregational church in 1878. Under their ownership it was used as a manse for the reverend Charles Whyte." Duncan MacGregor Whyte (1866-1953) was my great grandfather's first cousin. He was an artist of some note, and spent time in Oban and also Australia. His last years were spent painting in a little studio on the isle of Tyree, near Oban. My mother has some beautiful prints of his, and my brother has an original seascape. I'll attach a photo of it. Although he couldn't have bought the house when he was three years old, his father was probably Duncan MacGregor. I don't have the whole family tree with me at the moment. Charles Whyte was my great grandfather, and he was indeed a Congregational Church minister. He moved around a lot, and was at Nairne when his one of his sons, Charles, was born in 1885. This Charles was my grandfather, and the whole family packed up and sailed to Australia when he was three months old. He married and had four children. My mother is the only living child remaining. She's 93 and lives in Adelaide, South Australia. Her name was Dorothy Whyte, and she married Norman McGowan, hence my name. It was very silly of me not to pursue this when I was in Oban. I'd love to have visited your hotel and had a chat! Perhaps you'll still be there when I visit Scotland again some time. My son is travelling the world this year, and might get as far as Scotland. I'd love to see any other earlier photos you might have of the hotel. My mother might like to see them too.
On the 6th September 2011, her son Angus called at the hotel. I gave him a guided tour of the place and showed him the photograph in the cocktail bar with a minister at the original front door - which we now believe to be his great, great, grand father Charles Whyte.
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