Obituary: Lyn Bulloch

Lyn Bulloch, pictured on the day he was Bute Highland Games' chieftain in August 2014. (Pic - Peter Morrison)
Lyn Bulloch, pictured on the day he was Bute Highland Games' chieftain in August 2014. (Pic - Peter Morrison)

An obituary for Lyn Bulloch, who died aged 76 on March 26, 2016, written by his friend and former Rothesay Academy teaching colleague Iain L. MacLeod.

John Lindsay Bulloch was born in Rothesay, Isle of Bute, on March 2, 1940 to Jimmy Bulloch, the local grocer, and his wife Janet.

After his schooling at Rothesay Academy he went on to a four-year diploma course at Glasgow School of Art, specialising in stained glass. A subsequent year at Jordanhill College saw him qualify as a teacher of art and design.

In 1964 he married Marjorie Buchanan, who had enrolled with him in Primary 1 at the Academy and had been in his class throughout. She herself had just graduated from Glasgow University.

After a short spell in Glasgow, while Lyn taught at the John Neilson Institution in Paisley, they returned to Rothesay, with Lyn taking up a post as teacher of art at the Academy. If they were to benefit from the transition from city to island life, it was as nothing to the rewards that the island was to reap from their presence over the following 50 years.

When Lyn Bulloch joined an organisation, he was in for the long haul: “I’ve done my bit” was not in his vocabulary.

Appointed an elder in Trinity Church in 1967, he became organist and choirmaster in 1970 and had completed 46 years in that role at the time of his death.

He served a succession of ministers, striking up special relationships with the Rev Ronnie Samuel and his assistant, the Rev Colin Renwick, now the incumbent at Dunblane Cathedral.

He was a member of Bute Community Council for six years, including three years as chairman.

Another long involvement was with Isle of Bute Housing Association and its successor Fyne Homes, the bodies charged with improving the housing stock in Bute and south Argyll. Fyne Homes’ chief executive, Colin Renfrew, has paid tribute to Lyn’s “fantastic commitment” over a 30 year period.

He became a member of Isle of Bute Housing Association in 1986 and within two years had become its chair, a post he held for five years; he followed that with a four-year stint as convener of finance.

In 1998 he became chair for a second time, by the end of which the body had morphed into Fyne Homes. Finally he served for nine years as convener of finance and staffing, where he took great pride in the Fyne Homes staff he had previously taught at Rothesay Academy. Rather uniquely, he had also taught Colin at the John Neilson, before both moved to Bute.

When daughter Louisa married Pascal Cervoni in 1992, their home in Aix-en-Provence made for a holiday destination in the sun. When the Cervonis moved home to Linlithgow, they began a fascination with Crete, visiting there over 20 times and resisting the pressure from family to spread their wings.

On their first visit they had taken a parcel of smoked salmon as a present for the landlady of their guest house, who came to expect their largesse, greeting them each year with “You breenga da feesh?”

On one such trip their case was the target for thieves. It is surely a reflection on their sartorial tastes that, while the miscreants made off with the smoked salmon and accompanying fillet steak, they left the clothes untouched!

Lyn’s passion for music was second only to his love of family. He looked forward to the weekly musical appreciation classes run by his friend and former colleague Alastair Chisholm, the organist at Millport Cathedral.

He was a trustee, acting chairman, guiding light and an effervescent MC of the Bute Arts Society charity, which brings talented artistes to the island for a series of concerts over the winter. Some of these performers, who have then enjoyed overnight accommodation at the Bullochs, will be much saddened by news of his death.

He was currently chairman of Argyll and Bute Concert Tours, the organising body which sees the musicians give concerts on successive evenings throughout the area.

Perhaps he was the only person to relish the current closure for redevelopment of Rothesay Pavilion. The relocation for safety of its grand piano to his spiritual home of Trinity Church allowed him the opportunity of regular practice sessions and has seen the Bute Arts Society concerts move there. He was a judge at Rothesay Rotary Club’s annual Young Musician of the Year competition and, with Marj, a loyal and enthusiastic member of both the Ballianlay and Island Voices choirs.

His concept of an ideal day out in the city embraced lunch and a real ale at Babbity Bowster’s, before going on to an organ recital at such as Paisley Abbey. His cultural forays and pursuit of musical excellence sometimes saw him at St Giles Cathedral - albeit the real ale was dearer in Edinburgh.

In recent years he took much pleasure from the skilled playing of granddaughter Fiona on piano and grandson Gordon across a range of instruments. You can’t beat the genes! He would have taken immense pleasure in being mentor to Gordon, hoping to embark on a degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Music was with him to his final hours. He had gone to Linlithgow to hear Gordon’s last school concert, and enjoyed his playing at home later, before suffering a fatal stroke overnight.

Although a Trinity man, Lyn had excellent relations with the island’s other churches, the United Church of Bute and St Andrew’s Church, ready to stand in if they had need of an organist in an emergency. He was in demand to accompany the singers at such as Burns Suppers, and many bereaved families had reason to be grateful for his compassion and generosity as he played at family funerals.

He was quietly proud of the achievements of son Gilbert in setting up and directing an organisation to benefit Third World countries by lending them the expertise of Accenture staff in a variety of fields, on a not-for-profit basis. The aim was to aid them in developing their own economies and wean them away from the dependency culture.

Gib’s chalet at Morzine in France was a regular holiday haunt in recent years, enabling them to indulge their love of walking, although snow shoes were a pre-requisite in the winter season.

Bute Highland Games have had Chieftains over the years ranging from royalty, in 1987, to stars from sport, stage and screen. They have all enhanced the annual gathering by their own particular talents and charm.

None, however, have resonated quite with the spectators as did Lyn as he fulfilled the role in 2014, resplendent in his Stuart of Bute kilt. The crowd accepted him as one of their own, and there was a wave of affection as he led the closing march down the High Street.

The perennial star of those marches is drum major Campbell Gillies of Rothesay and District Pipe Band, with his skilled and energetic mace-tossing. Just this once, Campbell was usurped by Chieftain Lyn. Some were so moved that they even threw coins into the collecting trailer!

When approached to be a Depute Lieutenant of Argyll and Bute in 2004, it was explained that the Lieutenancy was looking for “ordinary people”. What was meant was a departure from the previous practice of appointing retired military personnel to the role, to people at the heart of the community.

In his customary self-deprecating way he embraced his label as “ordinary”, but his discharge of the office, which he held till reaching the age barrier of 75 in 2015, was anything but. His knowledge of the island and its people saw him carry out the duties with friendship and flair.

He was well known beyond the shores of Bute. A recent short break to Portavadie Spa and Leisure Centre on Loch Fyne saw him hailed and greeted by acquaintances from Colintraive, Glendaruel and Tighnabruaich, making use of the pools and spa facilities there.

While family and friends give pride of place to his colourful landscape painting on their walls, he resisted all pressure to cash in on his talents by turning out paintings on commercial basis. Perhaps, however, he holds the world record for having painted the Sleeping Warrior most times!

Lyn was a most generous host, with guests enjoying a selection from his wine cellar followed by one, indeed often more, of his excellent Speyside or Islay malts, often a much-needed antidote after wincing at some of his more outrageous puns.

He was a great favourite of young children, who viewed with great relish an invitation to his den, with its plethora of pens, brushes and paints, with Lyn’s kindly hand to guide them. He was a member of the Cronies, looking forward to each meeting with his customary anticipation and enthusiasm.

He had been promoted to Principal Teacher of Art at the Academy in 1972, a position he held for 25 years, before retiring with Marj in 1997. She had joined the History and English departments in 1970, when family duties had eased.

The respect and affection for him as a teacher is reflected in the spate of messages of regret on Facebook from pupils who departed his art classroom some 30 years ago and more.

It was typical of the man and his concern for others that he had arranged that his body go for medical research to a Scottish university. It would be appropriate if, in so doing, knowledge was gained about the causes of the stroke that killed him.

Lyn Bulloch was a vibrant and guiding presence at the heart of so many aspects of his native island. That island will grieve long and hard at his unexpected and sudden passing on Easter Saturday. It will never forget him.