Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Rothesay’s West Church set to be a partial survivor

It’s not been that long since I finally decided to give the unfortunate West Church in Rothesay a mention.

After many years of doubt, and not a little controversy with conflicting views, the church is now set to take on an altered appearance to render it safe:

Councillor Robert Macintyre, chair of Bute and Cowal Area Committee, told The Buteman: “The building standards section of the council have been in continual discussions with the structural engineer to establish the absolute minimum of work and most cost-effective way to make the building permanently safe.

“It has been decided that the roof of the main church building must be removed as soon as possible and the remaining walls lowered to a safe height.”

Via Partial demolition for former Rothesay church – The Buteman

I hope the cats that once called it ‘home’ have somewhere to go (of course they do).

It used to be fun watching them, and even thought they were too wary to let strangers near them (although the ladies that looked after them were, of course, tolerated), they would jump up on the car and stare at the occupants…

Maybe they thought we were in some sort of ‘Travelling Zoo’, and were placed there for them to look at!

September 6, 2015 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , | 1 Comment

Any love for the former West Church lying derelict on the Isle of Bute?

Any love for the former West Church in Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute?

It’s one of a number of similar derelicts you can find on the island if you go for a wander, but is the only one I see being picked on in the media.

I’ve known this one for years, as it lies on the edge of once hidden car park. Access was via a narrow gap between two building on the main street, but was made easier when a second access was created using the space left at he front of the church, when it fell out of use.

It was a handy place to park off-street many moons ago when we stayed in a nearby attic flat. In later years it served as a handy place to stop for lunch, being close to the shops for some food (if we had no sandwiches), and a kiosk on the esplanade that sold giant mugs of tea (albeit in a plastic cup) to help wash it down.

Going back to the church, it was taken over by the local stray cats, and they were adopted by the ladies that look after and feed such lost souls, and make sure they see the vet. It used be fun spotting them, but they were generally wary of strangers, so little or no fun playing with them.

But the building has been derelict and abandoned for years now, and concerns are growing over its condition. Some are calling for it to be demolished, while others are trying to find a use for it, or maybe just part of it.

As always, not being there, or being involved, makes it hard to get at the truth.

Are those calling for demolition after the ground for themselves for some reason?

Are those who want it retained just sentimental, and have no idea how safe it is after years of neglect?

And now those who live nearby are claiming nobody is listening to them.

But I doubt that (since we are obviously hearing their story), and suspect more likely a desperate reporter who wants some clickbait for an attention-grabbing headline. Rather than reporting concerns, I suspect leading questions were asked, and that legitimises the application of some ‘artistic licence’ after the writer raises the issue… after prompting those being interviewed.

That said, I do have to be fair and say that there is a tenement block to the immediate right of the church, on the hidden side in the pic below. But I’d still take the view that claiming they are not being listened to is wrong on the neighbour’s part – what they really mean is that they think their voice is the one that should be heard, and those seeking to retain or re-use the church should be ignored. I don’t have a pic to hand, but you can see the building if you look in Street View.

What we are seeing is merely due process being followed, and they don’t seem to like that since they are not being given blanket priority without debate.

Here are the most recent news articles that appeared this month:

Former Rothesay church beyond help, says councillor – The Buteman

Can former Rothesay church really be saved? – The Buteman

‘No-one listening to us’ say West Church neighbours – The Buteman

Decision soon on fate of former Rothesay church – The Buteman

August 23, 2015 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , | 3 Comments

Web site dedicated to Bute at War returns to the Internet

Bute at War

Memorial web site returns

I was really pleased to see a media article which announced the return of a web site which had unfortunately evaporated due to unfortunate circumstances some years ago, and which I therefore thought had been lost forever, which would have been sad.

The site had been created as part of a much wider effort to mark the 60th anniversary of celebrations to mark V-Day on Bute. Considerable material was collected at the time, much of it not generally known, and a book was also published at the same time.

“Bute’s War”, a book by Jess Sandeman, who was a War veteran, former Chief WREN, and a long-time voluntary genealogist at the Bute Museum, was launched early in June 2005 to coincide with the island’s V-Day festivities. I was able to obtain a copy from the author, who ultimately passed away only a few years later, in August 2009.

Bute's War by Jess Sandeman 2005

Bute’s War

Circumstances, changes, and losses in the years following this event eventually saw the site disappear from the web, and my contacts were also lost, so I had no idea what happened to the content – fortunately, the person who actually organised it retained a copy, and the material is now back online.

There is a wealth of local information regarding the part the Isle of Bute played during the war – and it’s now so long since I saw the site I dare not try and summarise, rather just recommend it for a good trawl if you are at all interested in the area and its war time history:

Bute during World War II

See also: New website keeps Bute’s WW2 story alive – The Buteman

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Maritime, military, Naval, World War II | , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s a swan – and family to be (but not mine)

A feature post and pic from Zak’s Bute collection today, and I think it’s a beauty.

For strangers to this phenomenon, I should expand on this by noting the presence of a swan family on Bute, which resides in the area of Rothesay castle, and breeds there every year, with the moat providing a handy and safe water feature for their convenience. However, they do go down to the harbour, and to the sea, and when they do, the town can come to a momentary halt and see parents and cygnets enjoy a police escort. See them in this past feature.

April 17, 2014 Posted by | photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

Local loses the plot while Bute’s MSP pleads for sanity in Rothesay’s crazy window saga

Cat window break

I seem to have found another apparently simple tale that is going to become a long-running saga should it fail to be resolved soon.

I mentioned the already extended tale of woe developing around a simple window upgrade to a Rothesay hotel, which had become complicated due to the inflexibility of those involved due to the listed nature of the building, meaning the owner was being refused permission to replace the old and rotten wooden single glazed windows with more efficient modern double glazing.

This week’s Buteman reports a letter written by one of the island’s residents who is against the hotel owner’s attempt to use the modern windows (which is fair enough) but who has also clearly lost at least some of her marbles, and describes the owner as a ‘thug’:

In a letter published in the new edition of The Buteman, Margaret Booth Homewood also questions the support given to Harry and Hazel Greene, owners of the Bute House Hotel, by the island’s politicians.

Mrs Booth Homewood states in her letter: “I stand resolutely on the conservation side of this argument and am delighted to learn that the people involved are being brought to task for what amounts to blatant architectural vandalism.

“I do have all sympathy and encouragement for anyone wishing to mend an ailing building, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

“I am therefore left to ponder an obvious point that seems to have been overlooked: why our elected representatives are openly supporting illegal, thuggish, and frankly arrogant behaviour by a member of the public!”

Via Rothesay hotel owners accused of ‘architectural vandalism’ – The Buteman

Meanwhile, as if to attempt to inject a note of sanity and calm into the matter, Bute’s MSP has pointed out that many building surrounding the hotel have been refurbished with the windows at the root of this issue, without the problems being suffered by the hotel’s owners:

Bute’s MSP has hit out at the “exceptionally heavy handed treatment” of the owners of a Rothesay hotel over the replacement of windows in their property.

Michael Russell contacted Argyll and Bute Council’s chief executive Sally Loudon after Harry and Hazel Greene were served with a court order stopping the installation of UPVC windows in the Bute House Hotel.

Via MSP backs Rothesay hoteliers in windows row – The Buteman

Mrs Margaret Booth Homewood clearly needs to get out more, and have a look at Rothesay if she considers the replacement of rotten wooden single glazed windows to be ” blatant architectural vandalism“.

Maybe have a walk around the front and look at the near derelict and empty hotels that are literally falling apart – and have been dropping their bits on the footpath and almost killing pedestrians.

Or look at the modernisation carried out on the shops across the road from the slip road to the ferry. I still get sore eyes looking at them even though it is many years since they were refurbished and made look very ‘architecturally vandalised’ compared to their surroundings.

And I remember wandering along Montague Street many years ago, trying to find the ‘old style’ shops with arcade style entrances, where you could walk between two sets of windows filled with goods before you reached the door into the shop. All gone and replaced with modern shop fronts where all you have is a window and door facing onto the street.

And let’s not forget the derelict and abandoned shops and houses that have been gouged out of the streets and lay as wrecks for years, with windows boarded up and roofs falling into the buildings.

Much more “architectural vandalism” has been done all along the streets of Rothesay in the past few decades, much more noticeable and much more damaging than the replacement of windows that look little different from the original, and use different materials.

Time for a reality check, to remember why the windows are being fitted, and consider this is a working building, not a museum.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bute’s window insanity appears set to escalate to the courts

Cat window break

I recently decided it was time to highlight the crazy case of the hotelier who was at odds with Argyle & Bute Council over the requirement that the listed status of the hotel building meant that modern double glazed window units could not legitimately be used to replace the decayed and rotten single glazed wooden original, and that these could effectively only be renewed on a like-for-like basis: Window madness on the Isle of Bute.

In the past few days, it seems that the hoteliers started to replace the rotten windows with modern units, in defiance of regulation – and the result was a letter,  warning that jail could be the result for defying the planning rules that apply to the property:

The owners of a Rothesay hotel have been told by planning officers that they could be sent to prison if they continue to defy planning rules on the replacement of windows in their property.

Harry and Hazel Greene, owners of the Bute House Hotel, decided to press ahead with the installation of double-glazed uPVC windows with turn-and-tilt frames in the property – despite having two planning applications refused by Argyll and Bute Council, and an appeal against refusal dismissed by the Scottish Government.

Work began on replacing the windows on the morning of Wednesday, March 19 – and within an hour the Greenes had received a visit from two of the authority’s planning officers.

The letter stated that:

* if the Greenes or their contractors proceed with the unauthorised operations, the council expects the matter to be reported to the procurator fiscal recommending prosecution, and that if prosecuted and found guilty of an offence the Greenes would receive a criminal record and may be imprisoned or fined;

Via: Jail threat for Rothesay hoteliers in windows row – The Buteman

The hotel owners have

The owners of a Rothesay hotel are pressing ahead with the installation of UPVC windows in their property – despite being warned that they could face prison if they continue to defy planning rules.

Harry and Hazel Greene employed local contractors to install the windows at the Bute House Hotel on Thursday, following their delivery the previous day by a company which then pulled out of the job after being warned the police could be called in.

Via: Rothesay windows row hotelier: I’ve come too far to stop now – The Buteman

The work was caught as it started, by Zak (our brilliant eyes on Bute) – spot the arm in the middle of the window:

We can only wait and see what happens next, and how this matter escalates now that we seem to have a potential offence against which action can be taken.

A day later, The Buteman noted that a court order had been served on the hotel owners, effectively halting all work, and giving them 21 days to lodge an intention to defend the order.

The work to replace the windows – in defiance of the rejection of two planning applications by the council, and the dismissal of an appeal to the Scottish Government against refusal – began on Wednesday, and continued on Thursday despite the issuing of a letter by the council asking the Greenes to cease the unauthorised operations and the serving of a Temporary Stop Notice by an enforcement officer from the authority on Thursday.

Mr Greene told The Buteman on Saturday: “This will stop the work. Serving the order at nearly half past six on a Friday night shows they seriously mean business, because I could have completed the work over the weekend.”

Court order stops work on Rothesay windows row hotel – The Buteman

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , | Leave a comment

Arctic Convoy naval hero leaves Bute for final journey

I was unaware of the presence of one of the recipients of the Arctic Star medal, who lived in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute until 2011, and passed his 100th birthday there.

Commander Ian Hamilton joined the Clyde division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) in August 1932, then served in the Royal Navy from 1936 until 1957.

During World War II, he saw service in the Atlantic, the South Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the battles of Taranto and Matapan, the D-Day landings, and took part in the Arctic Convoys which carried supplies to Russian ports between 1941 and 1945, described by Churchill as “‘the worst journey in the world.’

His Arctic Star medal was presented at Erskine in April 2013 following approval by the Queen of an award to recognise the service of Royal Navy and Merchant Navy personnel. Commander Hamilton’s campaign medals already included the Naval General Service Medal, the 1939-45 Star, the Italy Star, the Africa Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal, the Defence of Malta Medal and the Soviet Union’s Arctic Convoy Medal.

The body of Commander Ian Hamilton, who passed way in the Erskine home for former service personnel at Bishopton in Renfrewshire on February 9 at the age of 103, was piped on board MV Argyle, en route to his funeral at Greenock Crematorium.

Rothesay naval hero dies aged 103 – The Buteman

VIDEO: Lone piper gives Rothesay naval hero a fitting send-off – The Buteman

Seems this is another video source I can’t embed.

Fortunately, Zak was on hand to record the event (and I’m grateful for permission to use the occasional image):

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Maritime, military, Naval, World War II | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Window madness on the Isle of Bute

Cat window breakI seem to have been following this story – and its variants – regarding replacement windows, the council, listing (as in ‘listed building’), planning permission, and appeals for years.

And I have, as a quick search of the archives on this subject goes back to 2008, which probably means it started some time before then, and that is just when it began to hit the media.

At its simplest, the saga revolves around heritage legislation and the need for planning permission to be granted by the council before work can legally be carried out to modify a listed building. This leaves Bute hotel owners (and others) who want to upgrade their properties with uPVC double glazing (or any other modern window type) with a problem, as they can find that listing means they are obliged to replace like with like. In other word, if the building came with single glazed wooden frames, then that is what they must fit if replaced old worn out windows.

The same rules apply to any owners with listed properties, even private home owners.

The situation has become one of stalemate, with the owners reluctant to fit old style wooden frames, as they wish to upgrade their facilities to make the rooms quieter and warmer for their guests, but the council is standing by the rules and refusing planning permission for the newer and more efficient window, despite repeated applications, and even an appeal to the Scottish Government (also rejected).

There seems to be no way forward, even though the owners have the support of their neighbours, and a number of residents in favour of the new windows, the council appears unwilling to compromise.

Now, an online petition has been organised, together with a paper petition being made available in local businesses:

Bute House Hotel

We, the undersigned, disagree with the decision of Argyll and Bute Council to refuse planning permission for the installation of double-glazed UPVC windows at the Bute House Hotel in Rothesay. Following the Scottish Government’s dismissal of an appeal against refusal, we call on Argyll and Bute Council to reconsider its decision and to work without delay towards a solution which will address the urgent need for quality hotel accommodation on Bute, and be of benefit to the economy of the island.

Petition Bute House Hotel

Web site: Bute House Hotel

See also: Petition urges Bute House Hotel rethink – The Buteman

If you visit The Buteman’s web site, and just insert the word ‘windows’ into the Search Box which appears at the top right of their page, then you will be given a listing of the many stories which have appeared in that publication over the past few years.

Bute House Hotel can be seen below, and is the narrow white building on the right, on the corner of Rothesay’s Guildford Square, just inland of the harbour on the left edge of the pic, as captured by Zak’s Photo Galleries at pbase.com during October 2013.

Update

A response from the council appear later, published in The Buteman and available online:

‘We understand planning frustration’, says councillor – The Buteman

Argyll and Bute Council has apparently gone power mad

At the same time, a local builder working on a private home, which is NOT listed and therefore presumably NOT covered by the rules attached to that status:

John Morrison installed the windows in the property at 19 Battery Place last year, but has now been told Argyll and Bute Council will seek to take action against him unless the windows are removed.

Mr Morrison has hit out at council planning officials’ attitude towards conservation in Rothesay, pointing out that permission was retrospectively approved for UPVC windows at a neighbouring C-listed property in Battery Place – even though Mr Morrison’s own building has no listed status at all.

Council threatens Rothesay builder with action over UPVC windows – The Buteman

While the case of the hotel has to be resolved within the scope of the relevant rules and regulations which apply to listing, the action being taken against the owner of a property which does not fall under this category clearly shows that the personnel within Argyll and Bute Council are not competent to discharge the duties for which they are responsible, and need to be subject to some sort of audit and review which holds them accountable for their actions.

February 13, 2014 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bute car sticker spotted

Waddling around George Square at Christmas, I was a little surprised to come across a car displaying one of the old Bute is Beautiful car stickers.

Carrying the phrase Scotland’s Unexplored Isle tells me this is not new, although my sieve of a memory means I can’t make a decent stab at how long ago these were ‘current’, but I think 10 years would not be too far out. I’m sure these phrases were floating around in the years close to 2004, or earlier. Somebody with a better memory might be more accurate.

Note also the Concorde sticker – the driver is someone who appreciates fine things.

Bute car sticker

January 17, 2014 Posted by | photography | , | 2 Comments

Appeal for memories of Rothesay Pavilion

Rothesay Pavilion, overlooking the bay and located at the west end of the town on the Isle of Bute, dates back to 1935, when the local council announced a competition to find a design for a new attraction in the form of a pavilion to occupy the site it had purchased in the town’s Argyle Street. 24 entries were received, and the winner was JA Carrick of J & JA Carrick of Ayr. The building was recognised for its heritage value in 2005, when Historic Scotland upgraded its listing to that of a Category A Listed Building.

Argyll and Bute Council has since worked with The Prince’s Regeneration Trust on the Rothesay Pavilion restoration project, and in 2012, the pavilion benefited from a grant of £500,000 from Historic Scotland’s Building Repair Grants fund, as one of 16 buildings across Scotland which received a share of the available £4,061,535 fund.

Opened on July 1, 1938, the Pavilion sees its 75th anniversary in 2013, and the island’s newspaper, The Buteman,  is planning to publish an article on the building’s history in the next issue of its sister title, Back In The Day. Due to be published just before the anniversary date, the paper has launched an appeal for any readers with memories of working, playing, or dancing in the landmark building:

If you have especially vivid memories of a particular concert or event at the Pavilion, if you have fond (or even not-so-fond!) recollections of working there, or if the building played a big part in any unusual or memorable events in your life, please let us know. You can call our news room on (01700) 502503, or you can get in touch by email by clicking on Craig Borland’s name…

Via Appeal for Rothesay Pavilion memories – Community News – The Buteman

email news@buteman.com

We noted its 70th anniversary in 2008, but nobody was celebrating then, and various problems were causing a decline its use as a venue.

But, in the following years the building’s significance has led to better things, with both grants and plans are appearing to refurbish the building and save it from decay.

Last November, it was announced that this had resulted in the first stage of securing some £2.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and this month saw an announcement  that the project had been given ‘stage one’ development funding of £103,000, to be used to work up a bid for the larger ‘stage two’ award.

See the full gallery of Zak’s pics Pavilion pics over the years at:

Rothesay Pavilion Photo Gallery by Rothesay at pbase.com

May 25, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bute might feature in the BBC’s Coast series

Although it’s only a rumour, it’s being suggested that the Isle of Bute could be seen in the BBC popular ‘Coast’ series:

BUTE could feature in a future series of the BBC’s Coast documentary series, the island’s tourism and marketing group has been told.

The annual general meeting of VisitBute this week heard that the makers of the popular programme had shown an interest in examining the island’s role in the Second World War and in filming Rothesay’s famous Victorian toilets for possible inclusion in a future episode.

Bute in line to feature on ‘Coast’ – Local Headlines – The Buteman

The island played a significant role in the conflict, and its contribution is probably not the most widely known.

Much of the background to Bute’s role can be found here:

Isle of Bute V-Day

The Kyles Hydropathic Hotel at Port Bannatyne was requisitioned to serve as HMS Varbel, where much of the testing and training for Britain’s secret X-Craft was carried out, as was most of the training for Britain’s submariners.

Sadly, the grand hotel was unable to survive the cheap package holiday deals of the 1970s, and was demolished, but can be seen in the memorial picture below (if you cannot read the text, please click on the image to see the original):

Kyles Hydropathic memorial

Kyles Hydropathic memorial © Zak

Further pics of the memorial garden at Port Bannatyne can be seen here, and here.

Although relatively small, Bute also had boatyards which were pressed into service to repair was damaged vessels.

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Naval, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

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