Goodbye and Farewell from the Buteman

Holidaymakers line the prom as steamers tie up at the pier at Rothesay Bute on the Firth of Clyde.
Holidaymakers line the prom as steamers tie up at the pier at Rothesay Bute on the Firth of Clyde.

Times change. People change, and with that so do their habits. There was a golden age of print media when everybody bought a newspaper.

Sadly, that is no longer the case, and if we’re being truthful, it hasn’t been for quite some time.

While some papers in the larger towns have been able to cushion the blow of dwindling sales figures, Bute was always different, in that there were limited options available to us. When there are only so many people living in a particular area, and as technology advances, fewer of those people actually buy a paper, then eventually there comes a point when it is simply no longer financially viable to continue printing. And we have, sadly, now reached that point.

The Buteman has a long and proud history dating back to 1854 when it hand-printed the very first edition from 23 High Street – near to where the Brandane Bar was located.

The first general newspaper for the island, however, was The Rothesay Advertiser and Literary Journal, first published on May 29, 1847 – it was printed in Greenock and lasted only four issues.

Later still, the Rothesay Journal and General Advertiser for the Western Isles, a monthly publication, ran from June 1852 until December 1853 and was published by Rothesay bookseller John Wilson but printed in Glasgow.

The interest from other titles in the area, along with the repeated attempts to start up newspapers on the island, meant the appetite for local news was definitely there.

At least, that’s what a group of young men from the Rothesay Young Men’s Literary Association felt. James McIndoe, John Thom, D. Macbeth, Robert McFie, John Orr and John Gillies were all agreed that there was a need for a newspaper printed and published in Rothesay.

That group of six young men did not last long. Orr was attracted by the Australian gold-fields, Gillies likewise crossed the globe, this time to New Zealand, and Thom died, leaving the trio of McIndoe, Macbeth and McFie to shoulder the burden on their own.

McFie was taught some of the more important aspects of the trade by Glasgow publisher Dr John Blackie at his Villafield printing works, and it was he, as a result of this education, who became The Buteman’s first ever editor.

Using a hand-press capable of 200 impressions every hour it took two days to print enough copies to satisfy local appetite for the new title!

The first issue had four pages, each twenty-two and a half inches by seventeen and a half inches, containing 16 columns of 15 and a half inches in length. It cost two pence per issue.

Sadly, this historical narrative must end here on a final flourish. But, before we go, we thank everyone who has been involved in whatever way with The Buteman over the years.