Rothesay’s town bell back on public display

Rothesay's restored town bell was put on display in Montague Street on March 18.
Rothesay's restored town bell was put on display in Montague Street on March 18.

A 182-year-old piece of Rothesay’s civic history has gone on permanent public display in the centre of the town - more than seven years after being saved from the scrapheap.

The town bell, which hung in the old council chambers on the corner of Castle Street and High Street until the building’s demolition in 2008, now stands on a plinth - with the chime removed, to save annoying nearby residents! - in the garden space next door to the local TSB branch in Montague Street.

The bell has been restored by Bute Blacksmiths using money from Argyll and Bute Council’s Provost’s Fund, while the cost of its new plinth was met from the authority’s amenity services budget.

It was removed from the council chambers’ clock tower in 2008, when almost all of the building - its A-listed facade and clock tower apart - was demolished after its sale to local housing association Fyne Homes, who subsequently built flats on the site.

The bell - which hadn’t been seen in public for 132 years until its removal - almost went for scrap after being given to the demolition contractor in return for their taking the bell out of the building free of charge

But the island’s three Argyll and Bute councillors got wind of the situation, and used money from the Rothesay Common Good Fund to buy it back.

Since then it has been kept in storage at Bute Blacksmiths’ yard in the High Street, with work beginning on its restoration after councillors in Bute and Cowal agreed in December 2015 to fund the work.

The bell was installed in 1834 and was re-cast in 1876 by Glasgow founder John G. Wilson, whose name is clearly visible to passers-by in its new home.

Latterly it was only rung following the death of a former Provost of Rothesay; it last tolled in 2006 to mark the funeral of the final holder of the office, Donald MacPhail.