Iain’s tireless work to restore Rothesay’s pride

Iain Gillespie on Battery Place, in front of one of the stretches of railings he paints.
Iain Gillespie on Battery Place, in front of one of the stretches of railings he paints.

A Rothesay man has taken it on himself to repaint several hundred metres of railings on the town’s seafront - for the fifth year running.

And the railings are just one of the projects Iain Gillespie has devoted his time to in recent years in order to restore some pride to his home town.

The 'Rabbit Garden' at the end of Stuart Street bears Iain's name, as he designed the site's layout.

The 'Rabbit Garden' at the end of Stuart Street bears Iain's name, as he designed the site's layout.

Iain (78), a former stage manager in Glasgow and Edinburgh theatres, moved back to the island of his birth in 2004 and now gives a different section of the railings a new blue coat every year.

He paints when the weather is permitting, sometimes going from 6am to 8pm.

Iain started his career as an electrician in Rothesay before moving to the mainland and pursuing a career in stage management, serving 30 years at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh.

He returned to Bute after retiring, and has since become involved in a number of regeneration projects in Rothesay.

Iain told the Buteman: “In 2012 I started off repairing and repainting some of the benches in the town.

“I just do bits and pieces, whatever I can to make the place a wee bit tidier.

“I was born and grew up here, and I remember when the town was heaving. By the Easter weekend every year Rothesay would be pristine.

“The gardens would be trim, the flowers would all be perfect and the Discovery Centre would be looking shiny and new.

“With the demise of the tourism trade here in the 1960s and 70s it’s been a long time since there has been that much pride in the town.”

Stan Gaston is a resident of Battery Place, and thinks Iain should get more assistance.

He told the Buteman: “I have watched Iain paint the railings from my window for the past two years, and this has been a huge project for someone of his years.

“My main bone of contention is the safety factor; I watch small children climb on these railings, so where would we be if the maintenance ceased to continue?”

Argyll and Bute Council supply Iain with paint and brushes, and a spokesperson said: “We are always keen to work with local residents where they have expressed a willingness to get involved with projects that benefit their community.”

Among the other projects Iain has taken on is the ‘Rabbit Garden’ at the end of Stuart Street in Rothesay.

When the row of shops and houses that formerly occupied the space was demolished, the area fell into disrepair.

Along with the council, Iain set about cleaning the area up in 2015, creating a boxed-in garden with varieties of plants and a sculpture of a rabbit carved from a tree trunk – officially named by local children Herbert Hop-a-Lot.