Island View: Bute’s global connections

Over the centuries Rothesay Harbour has welcomed people from many far-off shores.
Over the centuries Rothesay Harbour has welcomed people from many far-off shores.

It’s often said about big cities like London and New York that they are ‘melting pots’ or, more abstractly, ‘salad bowls’ - places where people of different cultures can live alongside each other and enrich the place they live in, every group contributing something to the local community.

It may seem a bit of a stretch, but I think the melting pot analogy can be applied to Bute too, albeit on a smaller scale.

You’re just as likely to hear an English or Canadian voice as a Scottish one in Rothesay, while the many Italian families that came to the island in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have established themselves firmly in the community.

More recently, the 15 families of Syrian refugees that came to Bute in 2015 were welcomed warmly, and with one Syrian business open already in Rothesay and more rumoured to come the cultural tapestry has some welcome new threads to it.

The Italian connection to Bute is evident in the number of Italian surnames that have become synonymous with the place, the most famous of which is probably the Zavaronis, with their proud heritage of making music as well as ice cream.

Italian Scots can be found all over the country, with censuses putting the numbers of people in Scotland of Italian descent anywhere between 35,000 and 100,000, and Bute makes up its share of that number.

Another big proportion of the immigrant population on the island is those who have come from England, Canada, and myriad other countries to work and retire here, andon the whole they have embraced this slice of island life.

In short, I’m glad Bute is the sort of place that people who move here for whatever reason feel proud to adopt it, and think it’s stronger for it.