Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Sailing on the Maid of the Loch gets closer and closer

While I’ve been following the gentle progress of restoring the Maid of the Loch to sailing condition, over the years I’ve learned that media stories which suggest such sailing might be seen within any timescale that could be interpreted as ‘Next year’ are best read lightly.

While another of those has just appeared, given the fate of all those that have gone before, and the amount of work yet to be completed – I think any suggestion that the sound of a paddle steamer slapping its merry way up and down Loch Lomond are best given a rating of ‘Hopeful’ rather than practical.

Far from being construed as a negative thought, that the steamer has arrived at the position it has now reached is a credit to all concerned, and I only wish I had been closer to where the work is being carried out.

The Maid of the Loch has not sailed since 1981 and has been moored at Balloch Pier on Loch Lomond for more than two decades.

Campaigners need to raise another £1m by the summer to release £3.8m from the National Lottery.

If the cash is raised, the steamer could take to the loch again next year.

John Beveridge, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steam Ship Company, said the whole project would cost £5.5m but £4.5m had already been raised, including £3.8m from the lottery fund which will be released if they can find the final £1m.

Via Stars sing the praises of the Maid of the Loch

The steamer ended up being moored at Balloch, but sad to say, much of the interior (anything that could be stolen and sold) disappeared, then current owners The Loch Lomond Steam Ship Company took it over in 1996, and began renovating it. ‘Disappeared’ items were even returned over the years.

Maid of the Loch 2017

Maid of the Loch 2017

Advertisements

January 27, 2018 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Maritime | , , | Leave a comment

Our longest running story – will it ever end?

It’s funny when your interest in a story changes from wondering about whether or not it will succeed, to wondering if it will ever come to an end, why it is taking so long, and where the money it has attracted is going.

I’m not particularly taken by the story of Peter Pan, but I can understand how the story and its author has attracted fans.

I was more interested in the story regarding the saving of a derelict and abandoned mansion which was notable, yet being vandalised, and this dates back to at least 2003, with the first post noting it in here back in 2008.

The trust that owns the house bought for the vast sum of £1.

Back in 2009, I noted the project was priced at £4 million.

Now, we’ve hit 2018, it’s still not finished, and the project is aiming to make an £8 million target.

The local council has already thrown £500,000 into this pot, and is now being encouraged to keep supporting the project.

Support for Peter Pan project in Dumfries recommended

I get the feeling I could go find articles about similar being built from scratch and stocked for less.

A North Uist visitor centre (for a St Kilda viewpoint) is expected to cost somewhere in the region of £1.5 million.

The community of the island of Ulva proposes to buy it for £4.2 million.

This project is possibly progressing so slowly that the money raised is effectively being frittered away just to cover the annual recurring cost of ongoing management, maintenance, and service support, rather than restoring the building (or is it a mere facade-retention game) and opening the centre.

Update

All must be well…

Peter Pan house project funding bid backed

January 16, 2018 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Greenoakhill surprise

I often say that all I have to do is stop walking or visiting somewhere, and things will start to happen there as soon as my back is turned.

Proven true yet again…

I used to walk around Daldowie fairly often, which meant walking along the road past Greenoakhill, a long-established quarry and landfill site. According to (some) locals, the smell from this facility blighted the area and made it unlivable.

Oh wait… I am a local (lifetime) and never smelt a thing I’d have blamed on the landfill. BUT I did smell all the nearby farms, and at muck-spreading time… according to the farmers, if I can smell anything, then there’s something wrong with my nose!

It’s some time since I was here, but the last time I passed I did spot some tiny earth moving machines had arrived at this very corner, and had simply burst through the existing fencing to get onto the land (there was new temporary security fencing in place). But there was no indication of what was going to happen, and work had not really started, so no guessing.

This greeted me today, all done and dusted.

Greenoakhill Hamilton Road

Greenoakhill Hamilton Road

For those who know the area, the Mailcoach lies to the left.

At the time, I was grumpy, as you can just about see the latch on the gate has a padlock fitted (but there is a reason).

Getting in a bit closer, we can identify this new creation.

Greenoakhill Sign

Greenoakhill Sign

A quick review of the location reveals this is the first phase to open on the restored site,with newly planted trees, paths and benches.

Visitors are now invited and welcome to wander through the newly planted woodland overlooking the banks of the River Clyde, spot birds and butterflies, and enjoy being in on the start of an exciting project.

This gate is actually the service and maintenance entrance for the site, hence the lock and lack of public access.

I’ll get back for a proper look as soon as I can, unfortunately I live where this gate would make a most convenient access point, and both of the official public access point lie on routes that double the distance as they mean passing the gates while going towards them, and then having to double back to get to them.

Once I’ve seen it properly for myself, I do a proper post with links, pics, and whatever.

I’ve watched various phases of this recovery being completed over the years, and even lost friends in heated exchanges after pointing out the work, which they claimed was bogus, would never happen, and was some sort of conspiracy organised solely for the benefit of the landfill owner, so that he could pocket the money and leave the land derelict and dead.

Well, it’s nice to be right, but… 😦

January 1, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

Campbeltown Picture House finally reaches restoration goal

One of the (many) things that has irritated me in recent years has been the discovery of Campbeltown Picture House – long after the days I was either able to visit the place at the drop of a hat, or was there on a reasonably regular basis most years.

Still, I was at least able to watch its fight for survival since it was closed, and its supporters were able to work on raising the money to save it, and eventually even restore it to its original glory after a £3.5 million restoration, at least as it was following an earlier refurbishment in 1935.

Described as one of the first purpose-built cinemas in the country (maybe even the first, according to some accounts), it opened in 1913, and was designed by the celebrated cinema designer Albert V Gardner, who studied architecture at The Glasgow School of Art between 1901 and 1905

Gardner embellished Campbeltown Picture House with a blue sky with moving white clouds projected across it, and two plasterwork buildings (known locally as the “wee houses”) on either side of the screen. The effect was to give the auditorium the ambiance of a Mediterranean courtyard.

These special features have been meticulously restored with other elements of the original design such as the art deco lights recreated by contemporary craftspeople.

Few of these atmospheric cinemas now survive with Campbeltown Picture House being the only example left in Scotland and one of only a handful in Europe.

The cinema celebrated its centenary in 2013 but closed a year later while efforts to secure its refurbishment continued.

Via Campbeltown Picture House returned to former glory

Campbeltown Picture House

Campbeltown Picture House

As it’s been so long since I was able to go to Campbeltown, I was also interested to read that:

Two derelict hotels have been reopened, a new golf course built and the town hall and other nearby buildings restored.

A seasonal ferry service to Ardrossan has also been established to provide an alternative to the long road journey to Glasgow.

The hope is that the restored Picture House could help attract more tourists to the area.

The biggest problem I had when I was in the area (to sneak around the then still active RAF Machrihanish) was to stop bursting out laughing if stories about it being Scotland’s Area 51 crossed my mind, with invisible secret aircraft flying around, and an entire underground city hidden below, accessed by giant elevators hidden in the hangars (and Project Aurora was always a favourite of the local conspiracy theorists).

Wonder if it is still down there?

Perhaps now accessed via secret underwater caverns, visited by the UK’s secret nuclear submarine fleet, since the base has been sold off.

November 23, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Inland boatyard found in Westburn

I find some odd things lying around – this time, dead boats in Westburn.

The last time I saw anything like this was in Shettleston, where somebody with a bit of fenced off spare ground stores assorted ruined cars, but on one occasion picked up half-a-dozen or so various small speedboats. Not fast ones, just small craft with cabins, and better than rowing boats. They disappeared after a year or two.

Those boats were ‘Gin Palaces’ compared to the ones I spotted in the back lot of factory in Westburn.

These have definitely seen better days, and aren’t likely to be snapped up by anyone out for a quick bargain.

I actually thought it was just one boat there, but as I walked further along the road and got a better view, realised that two boats had been dumped there.

I doubt these are going to be restored any day soon, or see water – other than rain – again.

Westburn Derelict Boats

Westburn Derelict Boats

July 21, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, photography | , , | 1 Comment

One for the Spitfire fans as another is saved

For such a small aviation museum run by volunteers, the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum punches above its weight, and is an impressive performer.

It’s a long time since I’ve been there, but I have watched its steady progress online.

Slightly irritatingly, I learned that before I made my visit I had regularly spent days within sight of the museum, but did not realise it was there. This was in the days when I used to (try to) fly RC helicopters, and attended annual fly-ins held on the old airfield runway.

Oh well…

The museum’s most recent success is the restoration of a World War II Spitfire that saw service in the Battle of Britain, but crashed during a training flight from Ayr in 1941, killing the Czech pilot.

The plane was finally salvaged from of Loch Doon in 1982, following a four-year search by divers after the museum’s founders commissioned the salvage project in 1977, not long after the museum opened.

This article covers the recovery operation: The Loch Doon Spitfire is Found

Since then, it has taken 35 years of work to restore the aircraft’s bodywork – although an expert (from Yorkshire) was able to restore the fuselage, it seems ill-health prevented further work, but the museum was able to raise fund to buy wings, and allow this part of the work to be completed.

However, there remains much to be done – while the exterior has been largely completed, the interior remains as the next stage of restoration.

Via: Loch Doon Spitfire goes on display in Dumfries

Longer story appeared later: Spitfire recovered from Loch Doon put on display

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540 – Pic via BBC News

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Aviation, military, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

How about talking Rothesay UP rather than DOWN?

Over the years, and I mean in decades, not just single years, one would have to be bordering on delusional or blind not to have seen how Rothesay has become neglected, BUT saying that alone would selectively ignore the simple fact that ALL the towns which enjoyed prosperity as Clyde resorts over the years suffered the same downturn in their fortunes once the cheap package holiday took hold around the 1970s, and Brits deserted their local holiday venues.

It was simply cheaper to jet off abroad than holiday at home. And truth be told that wasn’t really the fault of the Clyde (and other) resort towns, but a consequence of a massive new package holiday industry backed by smart operators and the money to invest in it and make it pay for them. Sell cheap, sell lots, collect a small margin, but collect lots of it.

But there’s been a quiet revolution on the Clyde, and even before I had to give up regular visits to many of the former resort towns, they were being slowly turned around at the start of the millennium, and the process has been continuous.

Too slow for some, I still get the sense of a derogatory tone when some writers just chant the same mantra of doom and gloom as has been heard since the 1970s, but that is unfair.

Change really has to be slow to be effective. Think of the stupid fad diets pushed by ‘celebrities’ – their purpose is to make celebrities rich by having stupid people eat their ‘magic food’. Rapid change in a place is the same. Both leave the buyer unsatisfied, are ineffective, and their only effect is to empty pockets.

Rothesay has seen such a long-term initiative: The Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI)

This 5 year plan concluded in 2016, with numerous sites and buildings throughout the town benefiting.

I’m lucky enough to access to pics of the changes made in the town, but it was tough to pick just a couple to provide a representative ‘Before and After’ example.

In the end, I went for the facade behind the car park on Guildford Square, NOT because of the infilling of the long standing gap site there (that was easy), but for the view either side, where the existing buildings have been retained and restored:

Guildford Square in 2013

Guildford Square in 2013

 

Guildford Square in 2015

Guildford Square in 2015

Don’t get me wrong on this, I’m not saying it’s perfect – I’m the type that would have dearly loved to see the chequered original of ‘Maison Gina’ restored rather than swept away (I even miss the gap, it was an old friend), but… I’m also a realist.

See this gallery for a look at many of those projects while underway:

Zak’s Gallery: Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative

It’s not my place or intent to ‘Name and Shame’, but it can be disappointing/depressing to read some commenters derogatory remarks about how slow this project was (in their opinions) and some even criticised the 5% contribution asked of those who wanted the THI to assist with their property.

Still others may be found who still sneer and call ‘failure’ as they point at the building which may still be referred to as ‘eyesores’, as if the THI was supposed to fix ALL the town’s structural problems.

They won’t be happy…

In fact, they’ll probably be hopping mad, as a new initiative aims to target “prominent buildings on the seafront to ensure as big a visual impact as possible.”

Rothesay is to share in a £6.2 million fund which will help to upgrade the seafront.

The Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) funding which has been announced, will see £500,000 of funding by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) for essential repairs and improvements to buildings on Rothesay’s seafront.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HES, said: “We’ve seen how successful this approach can be in previous schemes across the UK, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results for Rothesay.”

The aim of Rothesay CARS will be to repair prominent buildings on the seafront to ensure as big a visual impact as possible.

 …

CARS specifically targets conservation areas with disadvantages that make it difficult to attract investment in sustainable regeneration.

The scheme assists these areas through channelling funding towards opportunities to enhance sustainable economic growth and help support projects that develop an area’s sense of place.

The scheme is open to Local and National Park Authorities, community groups and other third sector organisations delivering multi-funded projects.

Funding can be utilised for a number of purposes, from priority repairs and small grants to homeowners and retailers, to providing traditional craft training opportunities.

Via ‘The Buteman’: Rothesay seafront to get £500k boost

I really don’t care about the naysayers any more, and just ignore them in passing now, and enjoy the various improvements made to the town and its facilities. They can go wallow in the pit of their own self-imposed misery – the rest of us will move on.

March 12, 2017 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Could the Maid of the Loch sail again in 2018

Predictions that the paddle steamer Maid of the Loch could sail again in 2018 are probably the most realistic I have seen for the historic steamer since restoration began. Ambitious plans gave a number of earlier dates, but without being critical (just practical) I never expected them to be delivered, mainly due to the cost of the project (funded by donations, grants etc) and the huge amount of work required, which all has to be completed to standards set by outside certification bodies.

Thankfully, the volunteers have never given up, and despite the economic climate being less that favourable over the years, neither did the arrival of funds, even if they were slow.

It’s one I’d love to have had a hand it, but time, and the distance, just ruled it out for me when this restoration began.

Of the 2018 sailing date, this was said:

The summer of 2018 could see the last paddle steamer built in Britain sailing once more.

The Maid of the Loch has been out of use for 35 years.

But enthusiasts working towards a multi-million pound restoration of the vessel believe it could be cruising Loch Lomond again.

They are aiming to raise £1.7m by the autumn which, they believe, could release twice as much again in lottery funding.

If the fundraising drive over the spring and summer is successful, that would release £3.8m of heritage lottery cash.

If all goes to plan, the Maid could be sailing by late summer next year.

Via Old Maid prepares for new lease of life

This promotional video from 2015 is described as having been key in securing backing from Heritage Lottery – it’s also a pretty good summary to, with some nice period footage from the Maid’s first life on the loch (probably from about time  I managed a trip, or maybe two, but I can’t remember).

It’s years (think of the word ‘decade’ and add some) since I last walked on the Maid’s deck and wandered down to the engine room and saw the paddles through the handy observation window provided, during a Doors Open Day opportunity.

Not that I would have forgotten that day, but things got more interesting after I parked in Glasgow, only to find my car battery (which had given no advance warning) suddenly decided to die, totally and completely. Let’s just say I had busy hour or two after that, since I was on my own.

February 18, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Poor old Kinloch Castle (it’s on the Isle of Rum)

Although I’ve never had the opportunity to visit (or am likely to), I’ve always like the look of Kinloch Castle.

The open arcade (wrongly referred to as a ‘loggia’ – which has a roof or covering) around the building gives it a wonderful appearance.

Dating from around 1897, wealthy English industrialist George Bullough clearly wanted something just a little better than a hovel – his new retreat included lighting, powered by its own hydro-electric scheme, central heating, double-glazed stained-glass windows, sophisticated showers, and even an early telephone system, plus a (now lost) conservatory with hummingbirds, peaches and grapes, and heated pools in the (walled) garden with… alligators and turtles. That garden also contained 250,000 tons of imported soil.

His father (James) had bought Isle of Rum 1886 for £35,000. Inheriting much of the family fortune he spent £15 million (a 1974 valuation) building the castle, employing some 300 craftsmen, and importing red sandstone quarried in Corrie, Arran.

It was eventually sold to Scottish Natural Heritage in 1957 for around £1 per acre, and featured in the BBC’s ‘Restoration’ series in 2003.

SNH has been paying to maintain the building and contents ever since, but even though it is A-listed, it could be demolished as the bill for repair and maintenance is said to have reached £20 million.

At that, I think I’m unlikely to write anything different from the last alarm call for Kinloch, so you should just read this post from 2013:

Whither Kinloch Castle (and many others)?

Kinloch Castle

<a title="< A > title : null
href : http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2506621&#8243; href=”http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2506621&#8243; data-popupalt-original-title=”null”>Kinloch Castle © Ashley Dace via geograph

Well, maybe there is a further comment, after I read this:

Kinloch Castle “faces demolition” due to repair bill cost

While the “shocked” ‘Kinloch Castle Friends Association ‘ may have their hearts in the right place, they also have to move into the real world.

There is no bottomless pit of funding for public bodies to dip into and ‘magic’ £20 million for a building that does not pay its way, or cannot provide some sort of operational contribution.

It’s all well and good to wave your hands and cry:

“Kinloch Castle is a truly magnificent place to visit and we simply do not accept that it is a write-off. It would be nothing short of a scandal if the castle were to be demolished, a scandalous loss of heritage.”

Or:

“I can’t believe that a heritage body would even consider demolishing such a beautiful, historic and unique building. It would be a huge mistake.”

But if you can’t also bring the funds needed to prevent it:

Earlier attempts to preserve the mansion, which were backed by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, have failed given the lack of public funding available.

Then your position may indeed be morally sound, but sadly practically flawed.

And…

Perhaps another sad aspect we have nowadays is the aspect of liability, and the fear that SNH may find themselves being sued by someone who enters the abandoned and derelict castle one day, and is injured or even killed.

Even thought they may have entered without permission and wilfully ignored ‘NO ENTRY’ and ‘DANGER’ signs, chances are that SNH remain liable simply for leaving the castle there – and that threat is why they dare not simply abandon it and walk away, and warn that demolition is their option if they cannot fund repairs.

February 16, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Plans to save Helensburgh’s Morar House may become reality

While I have to confess to only ever making it to Mackintosh’s famous Hill House in Helensburgh (yet have visited the town hundreds of times), I also have to admit to failing even to notice the house across the road, Morar House, also once known as Drumadoon.

More conventional than its famous neighbour, having last served as a nursing home, it has now been lying derelict for some years, but it now seems there is news of serious plans by developers All Saints Living for refurbishment and internal development of the property.

Obviously, I haven’t seen inside the place (and it not nearby), but I can only guess at the horrors that may have been exercised on it in order to make it compliant with the regulations for a nursing home. There will be a lot of work needed, and that does not take account of the effects of abandonment, and any vandalism that the property may have suffered.

Change of use from nursing homes to dwelling house and office was granted Aug 2000, followed by a number of planning applications:

2013: Full Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent for extension and conversion of Morar House to form 11 flats, 1 mews with the erection of 1 dwellinghouse within the surrounding grounds are under consideration with Argyll and Bute Council ref: 12/02754/PP & 12/02755/LIB.

2014: Listed Building Consent for conversion, part demolition and extension of the former nursing home into 12 flats and 3 dwelling houses has been lodged with Argyll and Bute Council ref: 13/02904/LIB

2016: Listed Building Consent for subdivision, part demolition and conversion to form flats with associated new build is being sought ref: 16/00449/LIB.

Helensburgh Heritage writes that:

These will be explained at a drop-in briefing session hosted by the Chamber on Wednesday February 15 as they need help to give the William Leiper mansion, originally the home of the Hogarth shipping family, a new lease of life.

All Saints Living ask: “Do you have skills to contribute? Are you a builder, roofer, landscape gardener? Have you talent to offer in a new build in the grounds? Interior design perhaps? Plasterer, painter, joiner, builder’s merchant?”

Via Morar House Restoration Plan

Also:

All Saints appeal:

We are seeking local construction subcontractors and suppliers to help deliver our prestigious scheme, MORAR HOUSE, HELENSBURGH.

When: Wednesday 15th February – 15:00 – 19:00

Where: Helensburgh Parish Church Hall, Colquhoun Street G84 8UP.

REFRESHMENTS WILL BE PROVIDED

Come along to the event or for more information, call Susan on 0191 211 4130 option 1 or email info@allsaintsconstruction.co.uk

Morar House Helensburgh

Morar House Helensburgh pic via All Saints web appeal

See also Buildings at Risk Register: Morar House, 17, Colquhoun Street Upper, Helensburgh

February 12, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Finally, birthplace of Peter Pan officially classified as ‘rescued’

I made a mistake 6 years ago, not a bad mistake, but something that did make me think I had made a mistake.

I made my first post about the restoration of Moat Brae House.

Since then, I’ve made a further 6 posts (not including this one) about the house, a derelict Georgian townhouse with garden which is said to have inspired JM Barrie to write Peter Pan.

I’m not even a Peter Pan fan, and was actually attracted by the sad tale of the derelict, yet famous house which dates back at least a further 5 years. Even then, it was in the news for being abandoned and vandalised, with nobody seemingly willing or able to rescue it, and demolition becoming a distinct possibility.

After my first post I started to spot more detailed mentions, and started to write about them, and then began to think I had caught a monster by the tail, as having started to mention it whenever some advance was made in the rescue, I found myself worrying about missing the next one, and having an incomplete story.

However, sense eventually prevailed, and once it had a famous sponsor – Joanna Lumley – I decided to stop worrying and let it run its course until something major happened, and it did:

A campaign spearheaded by actress Joanna Lumley to secure the future of Moat Brae House in Dumfries has announced that £5.3 million is in place to turn it into a centre for children’s literature and storytelling.

The trust behind the initiative has also announced that the new attraction, expected to attract more than 40,000 visitors a year, is due to open in 2018. That is three years later than planned when details a proposed overhaul were first unveiled in 2011, when the project had a £3.5m price tag.

The B-listed building, which was designed by Dumfriesshire architect Walter Newall and dates back to 1823, has been made wind and watertight, and had a new roof installed since being taken over by the trust.

The restoration project, which will get under way 
within the next few months,will see the creation of permanent and temporary exhibitions, a children’s library, education workshops, a cafe and a shop.

Via: ‘Birthplace of Peter Pan’ saved for nation after £5.3m appeal

So, while it’s far from over, the project has moved on from one of rescue to one of eventual completion.

Thank goodness!

Oh well, here we go again…

Now all I have to worry about is spotting news of the opening.

Moat Brae

Moat Brae © Copyright Darrin Antrobus

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: