Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Project Bluebird – It Works!

So, the media finally caught up with this one.

I still prefer the local touch from Zak, who must have been up early to get more goodies. If you can’t be there, it must be the next best thing 🙂

I liked this one (click for larger original).

Bluebird First Trial on Loch Fad - Courtesy o Zak

Bluebird First Trial on Loch Fad – Courtesy of Zak

There’s a growing gallery of images.

Bluebird on Bute

With even larger versions being added to the Flickr collection.

And even some video.



Aug 6, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Bluebird goes to Bute

I really have ‘dropped out’ in recent years, and lost touch with lots of projects and stories I used to be up to speed on before most ‘normals’.

It was a case of ‘shock surprise’ last night, and I have to thank Zak’s shared pics of Bute for bringing me up to date with the Bluebird Project. While I’d seen news of the craft’s recovery in the past, and hopes for its future, I simply had no idea how this was progressing, or even if it was progressing.

Zak’z pic catches the marquee prepared to receive Bluebird prior to testing on Loch Fad this week.

The team will carry out low-speed testing there in order to determine the craft’s handling characteristics, before beginning to increase speeds. This is a two-ton hydroplane which has not been on the water for about fifty years, so nobody knows how it will handle. One thing is sure, at speed, things happen quickly.

Click the image for the original.

Bluebird Test Preparation Loch Fad Courtesy Zak

Bluebird Test Preparation Loch Fad Courtesy Zak

Find the full gallery here…

Bluebird on Bute

You can find out more about the project here…

The Bluebird Project

And you know I’m going to tell you that you can get a daily dose of Bute here…

Daily Bute

Aug 2, 2018 Posted by | Maritime, photography, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Can Bute support a 163 room carbuncle hotel?

With so many hotel buildings rotting in the centre of Rothesay, and owners unable to get cash to help repair and preserve the existing infrastructure, I’m tempted to use emotive words such as ‘obscene’ to describe a recent story I spotted which tells of plans underway to present a planning application for a new 163 bed hotel and complex to occupy the existing site of the Isle of Bute Sailing Club and the remains of the old bathing station in the island’s West Bay area.

I can see how the sailing club would be bought by this idea, gaining a shiny new facility to operate from instead of its present ageing home (probably showing its age and I doubt backed by a huge kitty to see to its maintenance or refurbishment), and I can also see that many of those who existing islanders (Brandanes) might refer to by the derogatory ‘Incomers’ would probably like what they see as an ‘eyesore’ removed. But the old place still has historic interest, and served as the island’s NAAFI during World War II. NAAFI refers to the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes, an organisation created by the British government in 1921 to run recreational establishments needed by the British Armed Forces.

As can be seen from the rendering released by the proposers, the new hotel offers no visible connection to any aspect of the island’s history, and is sadly a poor design that looks like little more than a couple of boxes stuck together, and painted a horrible colour.

It’s at times like this I realise that many of the complaints levelled again Glasgow City Council’s planning department are baseless, and made by people who merely hate the council, and have no rational basis for their hate.

I could probably moan and drone on about my dislike for this proposal, but that would be pointless.

Suffice to say I’ll be keeping an eye open for any later stories, to see if this is a genuine effort, or if some sort of conspiracy where someone benefits is uncovered or revealed further down the road.

Via New hotel planned for Rothesay

Anyone who wants to submit comments can email or write to Elevate Planning, 10 Main Street, Castledawson, Northern Ireland, BT45 8AB.

After concluding the consultation on September 29, the company behind this intends to submit a planning application to Argyll and Bute Council.

Proposed Bute Hotel

Proposed Bute Hotel

The  outdoor bathing station was built in 1933, when such things were popular, but only lasted until 1938, when a new enclosed bathing pool was opened on the other side of the bay, and closer to Rothesay.

It seems to have been bought around 1994 by someone who said they planned to open a hotel on the site, and develop flats and other facilities, but nothing ever happened as the buyer apparently suffered a number of mishaps (reported in the local press at the time, if I remember correctly). The main thing I noticed was the appearance of security fencing around the site, a caravan, and no ‘Welcome’ signs placed for anyone who might have wanted to look at the old place.

Then, in January 2016, the media carried stories of those plans being abandoned, and the site of the old bathing station being put up for sale.

I really should get around to the job of digitising my archive, but it’s kind of… biggish.

This was the only pic I could lay hands on quickly, of the old bathing station – in snow!

You can see the fragmenting shore structure which used be a series of steps leading into the sea pool.

The structure to left covers a vestibule which contained a stairway giving access to other levels such as the café.

Hidden by the snow on the ground (actually the roof of the café) are formerly glazed panels (now filled in and blocked) which were skylights for the café below.

This pic actually post-dates the 1994 sale of the station – as may be seen by the classy ‘PRIVATE’ sign sprayed on the structure.

Isle Of Bute Bathing Station

Isle Of Bute Bathing Station

Sep 22, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

Sep 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

Aug 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.

Apr 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.

Apr 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

Mar 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):

Feb 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 during October 2013.


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.

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

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