Local resident Ken Colville gave a fascinating talk to the members of the North Bute Literary Society at the group’s meeting last month.
Ken’s topic was George V’s training and career with the navy, his love of yacht racing and especially the story of his visit to Rothesay on Sunday, July 11, 1920.
George, as the second son, was not originally destined to be king. He and his elder brother Albert were educated and trained together, starting at the cadet training ship HMS Britannia when aged 12 and 14. After three years touring the colonies between 1879 – 1881, Albert was sent to Cambridge University and George continued with his successful career in the navy.
This, of course, was disrupted when Albert unexpectedly died in 1892 making George heir to the throne.
George never lost his love of the sea and sailing and used his undoubted talents in yacht racing both before and after he became king in 1910.
The Royal Cutter Yacht Britannia was built on the Clyde at D&W Henderson’s yard at Partick for George’s father and launched in 1893.
This very beautiful 121 feet long vessel very quickly made her mark on the racing scene.
Ken then related the story of the great fleet of ships, including a destroyer, the flagship Queen Elizabeth, battleships, light cruisers, destroyers and submarines which sailed into Rothesay Bay on Saturday, July 10 1920, led by the royal yacht Victoria and Albert.
There was also a flotilla of racing yachts to compete against and accompany the King sailing HMY Britannia in the Royal Northern Regatta. Pleasure boats, including the Glen Sannox with 500 passengers, added to the gaiety of the scene.
Lord Provost James McMillan had been informed in advance that the king would not be going ashore, but after a reception aboard the Victoria and Albert there was a change of plan and the Royal party would visit the castle and Mount Stuart on the Sunday afternoon.
Arrangements were hurriedly put in place – the 1st Rothesay Company of the Boys’ Brigade, the Marquis of Bute, Provost McMillan, members of the town council and harbour trust, Rothesay Pipe Band and worthies including Sir William McEwan and Dr King Hewison were all assembled and the necessary cars were provided by Mr McMillan from his own business.
Ken painted lovely word pictures of the scene with the crowds of excited residents and holidaymakers cheering enthusiastically.
The next day, in poor weather, King George took the helm of HMY Britannia and beat off the competition to win the new trophy which had been presented to the Royal Northern Yacht Club by Rothesay Town Council and Harbour Trust. Ken showed photographs of this silver trophy which is in the shape of a Viking long boat.
Huge crowds again turned out along the Craigmore shore to bid the visitors farewell and all the cars turned around and shone their headlights out to sea. Just two days in the life of Rothesay had been entertainingly described by Ken.
North Bute Literary Society’s meetings take place at 7.30pm at the Baptist Church, King Street, Rothesay, every second Tuesday (next February 13). Annual subscription £15, visitors £3 per meeting.