Rothesay’s built environment - or the less attractive parts of it, at any rate - dominate the Letters to the Editor in the October 10 issue of The Buteman.
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Window of opportunity at West Church
I write to clarify the current position about the West Church building.
I have written on the matter in your columns over the years, but it is only lately that - thankfully! - others have taken up the issue.
There was rather a ‘down’ atmosphere after last Tuesday’s meeting, but there are those among us who are still determined to try to save the steeple and facade. The steeple is such an architectural icon of Rothesay; it is the most prominent single feature of the skyline, and it is unthinkable that we should let it be destroyed.
I can be contacted by telephone on (01700) 504032, while Richard Whitcomb, another determined friend of the steeple, can be contacted by emailing email@example.com.
The present position, clarified by Historic Scotland and Argyll and Bute Council’s planning department, is that the application for permission to demolish the whole building has been withdrawn, which gives us a window of opportunity.
The steeple could be consolidated and retained as a feature of the garden development suggested from ‘Bute in Bloom’ and elsewhere. Some tree planting round the edges could be combined with flowers and shrubs either in the soil or in tubs.
I would suggest that an area be left for a small marquee for outdoor events. It has been suggested that people might give personal and memorial gifts for a garden, and ‘buy a stone’ might be preferred for the facade and steeple. Were the area to be developed as an open space ancillary to the restored Pavilion, might lottery or other funding be available?
At last Monday’s meeting Provost Scoullar kindly offered to arrange future meetings in the Pavilion as necessary. Nil desperandum!
Graeme Allan, 3 The Terrace, Ardbeg
Bute’s major problems have been ignored
I recently returned to Rothesay to visit my parents, and I was appalled to see the state of the town.
In recent Facebook posts, I have made comments regarding the town, and to be honest, I think I should set myself up as a fortune teller when it comes to predictions about priorities in Rothesay. While everyone was busy with petty squabbling over uPVC windows, the major problems have been completely ignored.
The West Church, part of the skyline that identifies the town, is now beyond repair and is to be demolished.
Because they live in a conservation area, my parents are not allowed to paint their house any colour other than the original white, and yet a major landmark has been neglected to the point that it is dangerous and must be torn down.
How long before the old Academy buildings (listed, no less) will be in the same state? How long till the council stops paying for the derelict Royal Hotel to be kept weathertight and actually does something to make a difference?
You want visitors to come to the island, and yet one of the first things you see arriving at the pier is a boarded-up, peeling eyesore clad in scaffolding, the skyline to the right dominated by a rotting concrete edifice with smashed windows, and a church spire sprouting a veritable forest.
If I was a first-time visitor, I would be a one-time-only visitor to a town that is well past its prime and obviously unloved and uncared for.
There was outrage about the new Tesco Express and how it would suck the life out of the town, and outrage about uPVC windows being not traditional, but until the recent revelation that the West Church is only fit for demolition, did anyone really bat an eye at the state of the building?
It has been deteriorating for years, yet no one said a thing till the council sneaked through planning to have it demolished.
There is an elephant in the room, but the islanders are too busy arguing that the paint on the skirting board is scuffed, and it’s the visitors that end up noticing the obvious smell. At some point someone is going to have to take responsibility for the mucking out.
It’s the 21st century, not the 19th. Visitors are no longer happy with draughty sash windows and basic amenities. Expectations are higher than for the working-class holidaymakers who used to swell the town.
Modernise and maintain, or watch the tourists go elsewhere. Fair enough, the walkers and cyclists may not ask for much, but even they have standards.
It would be nice to think that the imminent loss of the West Church will galvanise people into action in order to save other landmarks that make Rothesay so recognisable, and to fight against the people who make these stupid decisions about what islanders can and cannot do to the buildings in their own community before it is too late.
Margaret McKenzie, 1191 Stratford Rd, Hall Green, Birmingham
Glasgow memories of Bute expat
I am a Brandane, and have been living in Glasgow since 1947.
I have no idea what brought this memory back; it relates to when I was a Glasgow Corporation bus driver in the early 1950s, based at Ibrox garage in Helen Street.
Approaching Govan Cross one day, the streets were alive with adults and kids from surrounding tenements, this created situations causing traffic to brake sharply.
Now comes the scary and hilarious part. When the bus pulled up, an avalanche of humanity would dash out from the closes, throw themselves under the wheels of the bus, writhing about in agony. They would then contact Glasgow Corporation, claiming compensation for their ‘injuries’ caused by the accident.
Hope you find my little story amusing.
Alex S. Horn, 144 Drumoyne Road, Glasgow