Island View: Bute’s military connections

Bute's military museum in Rothesay is an excellently-maintained resource for information.
Bute's military museum in Rothesay is an excellently-maintained resource for information.

One of the more common strands of anecdotes I hear in conversation with people on Bute (and I hear plenty of anecdotes) is that of the people that used to visit the island in the heyday of the mid-20th Century.

The tourism industry is usually the focus, with Rothesay being a hugely popular holiday destination for families taking day trips ‘doon the watter’ from Glasgow or making longer visits from further afield.

But another big factor making Rothesay the way it was then, and the way it is today, was World War 2, its immediate effects and the long-reaching fallout.

When war was declared in September 1939, the plans all major British cities had for evacuation were put into practice.

According to the informative website bute-at-war.org and Jess Sandeman’s book Bute’s War, more than 800 children plus teachers were evacuated to Rothesay from Glasgow within hours of the declaration, with thousands more to follow over the next few days.

Their first port of call was the Pavilion, where they were given a meal and directed to the houses they would call home for the immediate future.

I wonder how many of the hundreds of children that were removed to this secluded, quiet island from the big city remember their time spent as evacuees, and how many are still here.

Bute had strong ties to the navy too, with its strategic position in the Clyde estuary making it a focal point.

Midget submarines often exercised at Port Bannatyne and at Loch Striven, and many still remember the requisitioned Hydro Hotel.

The Bute Military Museum, Rothesay Museum and the aforementioned website are all excellent resources for anyone interested in looking deeper.