You are the sunshine of my life

VARIETY is the spice of life - that, and 'fun, fun, fun', were the messages of the day last Tuesday as the Variety Club of Scotland brought 1,200 children and their helpers for a traditional 'doon the watter' day out to Rothesay.

A fleet of Variety Club Sunshine Coaches, along with an assortment of other buses, was ferried from Wemyss Bay by Caledonian MacBrayne using MV Saturn on special charter, as well as the normal sailings by the two larger vessels, Bute and Argyle.

The visitors were piped ashore from the ferries and welcomed to the island by suitably attired Rothesay Academy S6 pupils, along with members of the Rotary Club of Rothesay and actor, entertainer and Rothesay resident Johnny Beattie.

A variety of clowns standing at strategic locations in the centre of town directed the sunshine coaches to the Meadows, where a feast of entertainment awaited Rothesay's very special guests.

The Variety Club makes an annual visit to a seaside resort, with this year's visit to Rothesay taking place on the 25th anniversary of the institution of that tradition, and the people and organisations of Bute turned out in force to make sure that their vistors had a day to remember.

Rothesay Academy and Rothesay Primary pupils distributed lucky bags full of goodies donated by local businesses and by Caledonian MacBrayne.

Meanwhile the visitors were spoiled for choice in what to do. Some opted to learn how to be firefighters, as Rothesay's retained firefighters bravely allowed all and sundry to use their high-power fire hose, while Strathclyde Police were there 'mob-handed' - with dogs and their handlers, mountain rescue demonstrations, mounted officers and horses, along with an assortment of bikes, cars and other items of police gear.

Not to be outdone, HM Coastguard provided a helicopter display, as well as practical demonstrations in cliff rescue tecniques.

Tours of the Meadows were given by John McMillan with his magnificent Clydesdale horses and their carriage, by John Watson on a quad bike and trailer, and on ponies by Jan Reid and her team of helpers.

The sound of music boomed out over the Meadows as Radio Clyde presenter Kevin Cameron exhorted the visitors to come on to the Radio Clyde stage and make different animal noises. Even The Buteman's reporter was persuaded to roar like a seal!

Cheeko the clown and Big Dougie joined Kevin on stage to mastermind some more traditional entertainment such as the Hokey Cokey.

We spoke to Margaret Ann from Kilmarnock's Park School, who told us: "I am having a great time and I really love Rothesay. Today has been so much fun and we are all so happy."

Margaret Ann wasn't the only happy child in the Meadows - everywhere we looked there seemed to be a sea of smiling faces, despite the grey and overcast skies.

The Radio Clyde stage was used for a special ceremony at which David White, chairman of the Variety Club of Scotland, presented Caroline, Duncan and Jenna Speirs with a 74,000 cheque for the Calum's Cabin appeal, reported on last week's front page.

The day was organised by Jack Zimmer, convener of the Variety Club of Scotland's 'Variety at Work' committee. Surveying the busy and colourful Meadows scene, Jack told us: "Rothesay is a special place for us - of all the outings we do it is the best.

"We came here for the first time in 1995 and came back in the year 2000 with two thousand children - so for this very special 25th year, we wanted to come back 'doon the watter' to Rothesay.

"Recently a Scot who lived in England, Mr Armstrong, left the Variety Club a large some of money in his will, and when we heard about the Calum's Cabin appeal on Bute, we thought it would be a wonderful idea to offer it to the organisers during our visit and I am pleased that they accepted."

Jack went on to say: "My role with the Variety Club gives me the freedom to do 'my thing' for the kids, and covers such things as Halloween, days out and carol services.

"On December 12 this year we are holding a very special carol service in Sherbrooke St Gilbert's Church in Glasgow's Pollokshields.

"Everyone who has read a lesson at one of our services over the last 25 years has been invited to join us, and afterwards we will be holding a huge party at Hampden Park with the chance to go on to the pitch."

Jack finished by saying that the visit to Rothesay was all about the kids and, judging by the hundreds of happy smiling faces which we saw, he, and everyone else, would have gone home tired but happy.