‘Demolition is needed to transform Rothesay’

The Moat Community Centre - 'a blot on the landscape' according to Professor Walter Humes.
The Moat Community Centre - 'a blot on the landscape' according to Professor Walter Humes.

‘A fair amount of demolition’ is needed, as well as small-scale reconstruction, to transform the appearance of Rothesay, according to a leading Scottish academic.

Walter Humes, a visiting professor of education at the University of Stirling, described the town as Bute’s “one drawback”, and said that “it has a depressing air about it, with a limited range of shops, some boarded up or with ‘closing down’ signs, crumbling tenements and many domestic and commercial properties up for sale (some have been on the market for years)”.

Professor Humes, writing at The Scottish Review (www.scottishreview.net) about a visit to Bute over the September holiday weekend, noted the various applications for funding to improve the town, among them Argyll and Bute Council’s CHORD project, which includes a Townscape Heritage Initiative for Rothesay’s central area and plans for the regeneration of Rothesay Pavilion.

But he added: “All this is admirable but the sheer scale of the problem should not be underestimated.

“The people who are working hard to improve Rothesay have to contend with the legacy of poor planning and ill-judged decisions by politicians and officials over several decades. Many fine Victorian and Edwardian buildings have been subdivided or extended in ways that are neither particularly functional nor aesthetically pleasing.

“Some of the newer buildings are just wholly inappropriate for their setting. For example, an ugly concrete block (1960s I would guess) which houses the library and the community centre is opposite the medieval castle.

“The library contains a fascinating collection of local material, of great interest to historians, and the staff are both knowledgeable and keen to assist inquirers. It is a shame that they have to work in a building that can only be described as a blot on the landscape.

“To reconfigure Rothesay in a way that would transform its appearance would require a fair amount of demolition as well as small-scale projects of reconstruction.”

In his article, Professor Humes says he is “very fond of Bute”, which he describes as “a lovely island, with lots of interesting coastal and inland walks, a fascinating history, and locals who are invariably friendly and helpful”.

He also praises Mount Stuart, highlights the accessibility of the island and says that “if you are lucky with the weather, and seeking relaxation rather than opportunities for late-night clubbing, you are sure to have a pleasant time”.

Prior to his retirement in 2010, Walter Humes held professorships at the Universities of Aberdeen, Strathclyde and West of Scotland.

His publications include work on teacher education, educational leadership and management, history of education and policy studies.