On the 9th October 1908, Fintry Public Hall opened to the public. The building still operates under its current name ‘Menzies Hall’ in dedication to the man who gave it to the village: Sir Walter Menzies.
Sir Walter Menzies was born in 1863 and had carried on his father’s business ‘James Menzies and Co., Tube Works’ in Glasgow. Menzies, however, was keen to be a politician and in 1892 made his first steps in running for parliament.
Menzies unsuccessfully contested Glasgow Central in 1892 as a Liberal candidate. In 1900, he was again unsuccessful as he contested the marginal seat of South Lanarkshire. Not to be deterred, Meznies was successful in the 1906 and 1910 general elections by winning the South Lanarkshire seat with comfortable majorities.
Although his constituency was for South Lanarkshire, Sir Walter Menzies moved to Fintry in 1901 when he purchased Culcreuch Castle from J. C. Dunwater. Menzies was a very popular figure in Fintry and he himself had great affinity for the village.
The Fintry Parish Council minutes give an insight into how Fintry Public Hall came to be. On the 9th November 1907, Walter Menzies had intimated to the Council that it was his intention to “erect a Hall for the use of the inhabitants of Fintry” as a memento of his eldest son coming of age. It was proposed and agreed that the building would erected in a feu owned by the Parish Council between the Endrick River and the Post Office.
The architect who designed Fintry Public Hall was Archibald Fleming. Little is known about Archibald Fleming but he worked closely with Walter Menzies on the project. Impressively, Fleming was credited with designing, inspecting and building the hall!
The Public Hall was to be comprised of a large hall, recreation room, reading room, kitchen and a committee room which could also be used as a library. The plans for the building were submitted in November 1907 and approved in January 1908.
On the 29th September 1908, a meeting of Fintry Parish Council confirmed that the building was ready to be opened to the public on the 9th October 1908. Before handing the building over the Parish Council, Walter Menzies recommend that the Council co-operated with the Library Committee in managing it.
The opening ceremony was covered in the great detail by the Stirling Observer. Just over 320 people attended the event with Walter Menzies inviting “every man, woman and child in the parish of Fintry irrespective of creed or polities, ages or sex”.
Although the building was erected as a memento to his son, Walter Menzies also outlined the other motives for the erection of building. He noted that Fintry had a declined from a population of 1000 people in 1801 to around 300 in 1901. He hoped the erection of the public hall could lead to the erection of a railway station in the village which could boost numbers.
Sir Walter Menzies died in London in 1913 with Culcreuch Castle passing to his widow and his son.