Classic Bute bird guide republished as eBook

A classic book on Bute’s birds has just been republished as an eBook for use on devices like the Kindle and iPad and also on PCs.

The Birds of the Island of Bute first appeared in 1927 and was written by the then Minister of St. Brendan’s Church, Craigmore, the Rev. John Morell (Jack) McWilliam, who went on to be a founding member and Honorary President of the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club. The book has become a collector’s item and copies sometimes sell for over £100 on the internet.

Also now published as an eBook is the Rev. McWilliam’s 1936 sequel, The Birds of the Firth of Clyde, which again is much sought-after by birdwatchers and book collectors.

Costing just £3.29 each the books can be downloaded from Amazon’s website. The publisher is former Rothesay resident, Roger Ratcliffe, who obtained the permission of the Rev. McWilliam’s family. The proceeds of the eBooks will be donated to the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club.

Says Roger: “I grew up on Bute, and when I started birdwatching at the age of eleven the McWilliam books were essential guides to local birds. I’m delighted to make them available at an affordable price for a new generations of birdwatchers.”

Roger emphasises that because the books were written many decades ago they’re no longer a reliable guide to the distribution of many species. In the case of Bute, some birds have declined while others - notably the Osprey and White-tailed Eagle - have been added to the island’s list of birds.

“Jack McWilliam was quite a character and there are some lovely moments in his books, such as his story of a pure white gull being shot at Port Bannatyne and his hopes, on making inquiries, that he might become the official recorder of a very rare Ivory Gull. His hopes were dashed, however, when he was told that the gull had been eaten.”

The books have interactive bird lists which allow quick access to sections describing each of the 168 Bute birds and the 251 Clyde birds.

One benefit of eBook publishing as opposed to printed books, says Roger, is that digital books are much cheaper. After taking into account over 80 years of inflation The Birds of the Island of Bute, for example, costs only one-third of the price of the original.

The books can be viewed by visiting and purchased from