Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Bute Burgh Buildings

Bute council buildings 2006 © Zak

Bute council buildings 2006 © Zak

Having offered a glimpse of the former council buildings on the Isle of Bute the other day, while mentioning the possibility that the town’s bell could face an uncertain end, maybe even as scrap, I thought it only fair to show the bell’s home for the past 174 years, since 1834.

This was the council buildings, which began as the Burgh Buildings in 1832 when the island itself was a constituency, a status it held until 1918, and returned its own MP to Westminster until that year. The Isle of Bute was also the seat of the County of Bute – which included the famous A, B, and C, the islands of Arran, Bute and the Cumbraes – dissolved in the local government reorganisation of 1975, with the area now falling within the remit of Argyll and Bute Council.

The buildings cost some £40,000 when constructed in 1832, and included the county and burgh offices, a jail, and a courthouse.

Now only a retained facade to provide a frontage for modern flats, the building’s official residents gradually migrated to new homes over the past few years, and the Sheriff Court now resides within Eaglesham House on
Mountpleasant Road.

There are some later shots of the retained interior and work in progress in the Housewrecks gallery.

See more of the island’s buildings in Zak’s Bute Buildings gallery.


October 14, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Beware the spider

Black widow spider

Black widow spider

While spiders don’t really bother me, and I don’t mind having them around to deal with the filthy fly – and other pests – over the past few years I have noticed that more and more odd types have been appearing.

What I would refer to as an ordinary house spider seems to have doubled in size in recent years, and looks as if it could make two inches across with its legs straightened out – I may not have a phobia, but I prefer no to see one heading towards me over the duvet first thing in the morning when I open my eyes.

More serious are the increasing numbers of smaller arachnid that I see flitting around. These I don’t like as the tend to be small and black, with coloured patterns on their fat little backs, and although I’ve no idea what they are, they seem to fast movers to, which suggests they’re not particularly friendly or local.

BBC video report

BBC video on UK’s most venomous spider

After the Australians cursed us with “Neighbours, Minogues, and Donovans”, I thought I’d never forgive them, but then one of them said he liked Britain because “You can rummage around in a cellar without expecting a spider to kill you”, and I mellowed. Now it looks as if the ever-growing spectre of world trade in biological materials, and a laissez-faire attitude to the control of such items at the import stage are going to combine to bring about a hazardous future if the country continues to get warmer, and winter get milder.

As we pass the middle of October, in  my garden I have clouds of flying insects descending on me if I go out in the evening, and many trees are sending out new branches with opening buds on their ends – something is changing. While the new prices extort the pound from our pocket in effort to keep warm, and I don’t particularly want to the the fiercely frozen streets we used to have during winter, these cold spells did have the advantage of killing off any of those poisonous visitors that made it over here. Now they can just curl up for the mildly chilly days, and be ready to strike when the sun come out to play.

I think the reports are out of date, and the nasties are here. Having lived in the south of England for a while (before global warming was claimed to be heating things up), the climate down there seems to be ideal for them, and with the lack of a proper cold spell to wipe them out each year, I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t clusters of the things there already, just waiting to join up and give people a real surprise.

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Remains placed in HMS Royal Oak

HMS Royal Oak 1938

HMS Royal Oak 1938

HMS Royal Oak was lost to a surprise torpedo attack by U-47 while moored in supposedly safe anchorage of Scapa Flow on October 14, 1939. The German submarine had been able to exploit a weakness in the defences to the eastern approach, and tidal conditions, to gain access to the anchorage and launch its attack on the ships moored within.

Although 833 lost their lives that night, of 1,234 on board, there had been a dispersal order for much of the fleet, and it was at sea, otherwise there would have been a wealth of targets for the enemy. As it was, in terms of vessels, they claimed only one old vessel, and while this was not a significant loss in itself, the loss of life and damage to morale resulting from the successful attack had numerous implications.

One of these was the creation of the Churchill Barriers, closing the eastern approach and removing the off the possibility of a repeat attack.

Royal Navy divers have placed the ashes of Fernleigh Judge within the wreck of Royal Oak, which is protected as a designated War Grave – meaning no-one may dive there without permission.

Having survived the 1939 attack, Mr Judge had always wanted to return to the islands to pay tribute to his friends, but had been unable to make the journey from his Peterborough home.

Sonogram of the Royal Oak on the seabed.

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Naval, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment


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