Basic Biographical Details
|Name: ||Robert Rennie |
|Designation: ||Architect |
|Born: ||14 February 1906 |
|Died: ||15 March 1969 |
|Bio Notes: ||Robert Rennie was born on 14 February 1906 in Port Bannatyne on the Isle of Bute, the son of Robert Rennie, an officer with the Isle of Bute Constabulary and his wife Agnes Singer Henderson. When he was small his parents relocated to Brodick on the Isle of Arran where he initially attended the local primary school. During a visit to the school in about 1915 the Marchioness of Graham spotted his talent at art. She was so impressed that she wrote to the Principal of Glasgow School of Art asking that a place be reserved for him. She also sent young Robert a china palette and a box of paints. |
For his secondary school education Robert was sent to Hillhead High School, staying in digs in Glasgow during the week and returning home at the weekends. At school he excelled at rugby and played for the Ist XV. He enrolled in continuation classes at Glasgow High School in September 1924.
Although a place had been reserved for him in the School of Art, Robert's father considered that art was an uncertain career and persuaded his son to study architecture. One of his tutors at the School was Jack Coia whose work had a profound influence on Rennie's later work. During his years at the School of Art, he won the Gold Medal for Design. He passed the qualifying exam and was admitted ARIBA on 6 March 1934, proposed by Andrew Graham Henderson, John Keppie and John Watson. During this period he worked in the office of Keppie & Henderson; Henderson reported that he had 'served my firm in a thoroughly satisfactory manner as draughtsman for about three years during which he completed the GSA architecture course.'
Rennie remained with Keppie & Henderson after completing the course at the School of Art. However, due to the recession in the 1930s, Rennie was made redundant, and he went back to live with his parents who had moved to Saltcoats in Ayrshire in 1930. He commenced independent practice working from his parents' home at 104 Argyle Street, Saltcoats. By 1939 when he was a member of the Glasgow Institute of Architects he gave his address as 23 Bradshaw Street, Saltcoats. Later that year he volunteered for military service and served as Captain with the Royal Artillery (279 Field Regiment), which was posted to Burma. He was later promoted to the rank of Major and was mentioned in dispatches.
After the end of hostilities Rennie returned to Saltcoats and built up his practice, working initially on his own from an office at 12A Hamilton Street. He entered a short-lived partnership with Stanley Bramble, trading as Rennie & Bramble and later, probably about 1957, formed a partnership with Andrew Houston Watson as Robert Rennie & Watson.
In 1962 Rennie purchased the practice of Black & Shapley, based at 15 Barr Street, Ardrossan. At first, Rennie kept 15 Barr Street as a satellite office. Two of Black & Shapley's staff stayed on there, Robert Paton, architectural technician, and Mrs Ruby Kidd, secretary. Some time later the Ardrossan office was closed and Bobby Paton and Ruby Kidd moved to the office in Saltcoats (where Rennie already had a staff of about eight to ten).
In those days, the 'Three Towns' of Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenson each had their own Burgh Council. Robert Rennie & Watson was engaged in local authority housing, and had three separate Burgh Councils to deal with. Taking over Black & Shapley meant that Rennie's hand was strengthened in regard to the Ardrossan Burgh Council and that the bulk of that sort of work in the 'Three Towns' area came to him. He concentrated on Ardrossan and Saltcoats, while Drew Watson concentrated on Stevenston. The practice was responsible for a wide range of projects including a number of local authority housing schemes for the councils of Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston, private houses, hotels, shops, offices, small factory buildings and at least six churches.
Rennie died of respiratory failure and chronic bronchitis at Larkfield Hospital, Greenock on 15 March 1969. He was survived by his widow, Helen Paterson Simpson Ainslie, whom he had married on 15 June 1949, and their two daughters. Both Rennie and his wife were cremated at Masonhill Crematorium, Ayr, and their ashes were scattered there. He was also survived by his older sister, Helen ('Nell'). After Rennie's death Angus Starling joined the practice which became Rennie Watson & Starling. The firm moved to larger premises in Arran Place, Ardrossan; it continued to operate until about 1990 when it was wound up.
Rennie Place, Saltcoats, and Rennie Business Units, Saltcoats, were both named after Robert Rennie, an indication of the esteem in which he was held in that town.
Private and Business Addresses
|The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|104, Argyle Road, Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland||Private/business(?)||1934 *||After 1950|| |
|23, Bradshaw Street, Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland||Private/business(?)||1939 *|| || |
|12A, Hamilton Street, Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland||Business||After 1945|| || |
|Carlton/53, Ardrossan Road, Seamill, Ayrshire, Scotland||Private||1949||1969|| |
* earliest date known from documented sources.
Employment and Training
Employees or Pupils
|The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):|
| ||Name||Date from||Date to||Position||Notes|
|Andrew Houston Watson||1949||1954||Apprentice|| |
|Andrew Houston Watson||1956||1961||Assistant|| |
|The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):|
| ||Name||Date proposed||Notes|
|Andrew Graham Henderson||5 March 1934||For Associateship|
|John Keppie||5 March 1934||For Associateship|
|John Watson||5 March 1934||For Associateship|
Buildings and Designs
|The following books contain references to this architect:|
|Post Office Directories|| || || || || |
|RIBA||1939||The RIBA Kalendar 1939-1940|| ||London: Royal Institute of British Architects|| |
|RIBA||1950||The RIBA Kalendar 1950-1951|| ||London: Royal Institute of British Architects|| |
|The following archives hold material relating to this architect:|
| ||Source||Archive Name||Source Catalogue No.||Notes|
|Professor David M Walker personal archive||Professor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material|| ||Information from Rennie's daughter, Avril Rennie, via website. Further research by Iain Paterson.|
|RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert Museum||RIBA Nomination Papers|| ||A no 5403 (combined box 77)|
© All rights reserved. © and courtesy of Avril Rennie