Time to save Rothesay’s derelict tennis courts

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At a time when the profile of tennis in Scotland has never been higher, on the back of the achievements of Andy and Jamie Murray, Rothesay’s tennis courts at the Meadows lie derelict and unloved.

Sections of the surrounding fencing have been removed for better access, while the red blaes surface is uneven and infested with moss and weeds.

Their present low-level function is to provide parking on days when the Brandanes and Bute Shinty Club are both playing at home or as a handy park for horse boxes on gymkhana days.

The Shinty Club lease the area from Bute Estate and had plans dig out and extend the tennis courts and lay a synthetic surface to create a practice pitch, which could also be used for 5-a-side football, hockey and athletics.

The changing rooms and kiosk would be demolished and replaced by a new-build. This project had to be abandoned, however, due to the leaf-fall from the nearby trees being deemed incompatible with the proposed all-weather surface.

While things might have been very different had the plans for the tennis courts come to fruition, it was only part of the Shinty Clubs vision for the whole Meadows area.

In its issue of 4th June 1993, the Buteman carried a report of a meting of Isle of Bute Sport Council at which it threw its weight firmly behind plans to transform the Meadows into a top class multi-sports facility.

A key part of the plan was to level the hickey pitch on the High Street side of the Lade and convert it to an all-weather area.

Councillor James McMillan thought that there was a very good chance of the District Council coming up with the necessary finance in lieu of its undertaking to restore the Larkhall coup, area as playing fields for the Academy. Sadly the plans did not come to fruition.

Many locals, who now play golf or bowls, or, indeed, whose sporting days are behind them will remember with nostalgia an age when the Meadows courts were the hub of sporting activity on the island on summer evenings, with players struggling to book times on the six courts.

At that time too, it was only one of several opportunities to play tennis on Bute, with courts also at the Kyles Hydro, Ardbeg, Craigmore and St Blane’s Hotel.

Rothesay remains the poor relation in tennis provision in the major towns in Argyll and Bute.

Oban and Helensburgh, for example, both have all-weather, floodlit court complexes, with modern clubhouses, regular venues for national championships.

It seems ironic that while Judy Murray tours the country conducting masterclasses to encourage children to take up the sport and in an age when the Scottish Government frets about obesity in children, getting their sporting kicks from computer games, that the Meadows potential lies unfulfilled.

Meanwhile budding enthusiasts, eager to hone their game, should ignore the Active Scotland website, which advises: “The tennis courts in Scotland are available for members of the local community and visitors to use.”