Clyde Maritime Heritage

World renowned for its marine and maritime connections the River Clyde has been a major part of Scotland's History and Heritage and this has always been mirrored in Rothesay and Bute. As an island, the most important and enduring aspects relate to the provision of ferry services to the mainland and it is particularly fitting that the present day ferry operator, Caledonian MacBrayne, celebrated its 150th anniversary in the same year-2001-as the Royal Burgh of Rothesay celebrates its 600th anniversary of the granting of the Royal Charter thus conveying Royal Burgh status on Rothesay.

The origins of ferries to Bute are obscure and it was only with the coming if steamships in 1814 that the real birth of regular and safe sea transport to Bute developed initially depending solely on rail transport for onward travel through Scotland.

The growth in ownership of private cars since World War II has resulted in a complete shift in emphasis leaving us today with frequent Roll-on /Roll-Off services from Rhubodach to Colintraive and from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay although the latter does retain its rail link to Greenock and Glasgow. Of course it was not only Rothesay that was able to offer links to the mainland. Port Bannatyne, Craigmore and Kilchattan all offered piers for the traveller by steamer. Port Bannatyne and Craigmore mainly offered connection services via Rothesay to traditional mainland termini such as Wemyss Bay, Gourock or Craigendoran probably calling at such long since vanished mainland piers as Toward, Innellan or Kirn. However, Kilchattan Bay services tended to be focused towards more southerly mainland ports such as Largs and Fairlie and also Cumbrae`s piers at Millport and Keppel.

A number of other smaller havens operated at different periods of the island's history and included Kilmichael, Kildavanan, Straad, Dunagoil, Scoulag, Kerrycroy and the already alluded to ferry terminal at Rhubodach.

Commercial activities tend to concentrate on Rothesay and during the great days of the herring in the West of Scotland waters, great fleets of herring boats would land their catches in Rothesay and their legacy lives on in Ritchie's fish smoking business.

Throughout the years Bute has been involved in many military activities most notably the submarine and midget submarine operations during and following World War II and its position as a safe haven led to many convoy casualties limping to its safe shores. The Clyde, of course, is perhaps best known for shipbuilding and once again Bute mirrored this with various ship and boat building operations being carried out but only the one remaining yard at Ardmaleish occasionally still builds small vessels.

Mike Blair
My family has been associated with the island for 57 years. My wife is of McKirdy farming stock, and there are four generations of Blairs on the island at present.

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