Painting brothers make a splash in Rothesay

Brothers Iain  (left) and Gordon Gillespie.  Photo by Iain Cochrane.
Brothers Iain (left) and Gordon Gillespie. Photo by Iain Cochrane.

Two brothers from Rothesay spend their retirements sprucing up their town by adding a fresh lick of paint on bus stops, railings, lamp posts, bollards and benches.

For the past four years community heroes Iain (79) and Gordon Gillespie (71) have been painting all over Rothesay. Argyll and Bute Council provide all of the materials, but retired stage manager Iain and former army sergeant and Rothesay head gardener Gordon provide their time completely free of charge.

Iain recalled that through his involvement with Bute Community Council he agreed to use council-provided paint to spruce up the park at Montague Street in 2014, thus beginning his painting crusade.

He said: “I was born and brought up on the island. I lived in Edinburgh for 30 years while working at the King’s Theatre. When I retired in 2004 and came back to the island I was really disgusted by the state of the place compared to how I remembered it growing up.

“The benches in the park were in a terrible state, so the council provided paint and that’s where it started.”

Iain recently finished painting 800 metres of railings on the shore by Battery Place, where he has also been instrumental in having “about 30 benches” replaced.

Iain said he and his brother carry out the voluntary work all year round “depending on the weather” because they love their local community.

He added: “I wouldn’t class ourselves as heroes at all.

“There is a lot of pride and a lack of pride in the community. It seems to be an age thing.

“The older people remember how it was and the younger ones don’t really care. It’s a shame.

“We were both born and bred up here and take a pride in the place. And we are both retired so it’s something to do with our time.

“There are two aspects to it though. When I first started doing the painting the manpower was getting cut all over the country. So I didn’t want to hear of any painters getting paid off because we would do it for free.

“By the same token, when people asked me to paint their fence or do their doors I said ‘no, there are professional painters you can get’. We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.”

As well as being voluntary workmen, it appears the pair also moonlight as tourist guides. Iain said: “A lot of holiday makers stop and ask us what we are doing. So it’s nice. You try to give them some of the history of the place as well.

“We love it. The main thing is if I’m not prepared to do something about the state of the place then I can’t argue with councillors about it. They are behind us all the way. As are the council officials.

“I was lucky enough to get volunteer of the year for Argyll and Bute last year. I was very proud. There are a lot of people who do appreciate what we do. People stop and talk to us and thanks us as well.”

The brothers are also part of Bute in Bloom. Iain added: “We got a grant from For Bute to get new roses and we have planted them. The council said they don’t have the man power so my brother and I did it. As long as it gets done I don’t care who does it really.”