Bute Highland Games 2016

August 26, 2016

Before starting to type up this post I have had a read through the words I chose in previous years to describe this wonderful event – this is the eighth time we have visited.  The thing that strikes me instantly is the weather – this is the first year we have been wet! It rained off and on nearly all day, only clearing up in the late afternoon.

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Coats on.

Sadly the pipe bands lose a lot of their spectacle when their colourful tartans are carefully protected from the downpours.  Another sad consequence was that the competition for the hundreds of beautiful Highland dancers had to be moved up to the gym hall at the school for safety – it was too slippy on the dancing platforms.

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But our hardy visitors stuck it out ……

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The competitors stuck it out too, and showed their usual determination and skill in the various competitions.

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From young teenage girls sprinting …

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… to the all age groups starting off on the 10K Road Run.

I did a double take when I heard that we were moving into the 21st century and that the runners were being ‘micro chipped’ for the first time this year.  Instant vision of the local vet being seconded to attend the Games with his little ‘gun’.  Turns out that it was only the runner’s official vest numbers which were to be tagged, allowing everyone to get an accurate personal race time.

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Race officials getting the medals lined up.

We enjoyed very tasty burgers or steak rolls from the Kingarth food tent and were very grateful to have access to the Patrons’ tent for a seat.  While there, our visitors, two Americans and one English (not counting family) were thrilled to meet our friend Len Scoular, Lord Provost of Argyle and Bute, and have a close look at his magnificent chain of office.

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Presented with a special ‘wee dram’.

All the time the dancers, throwers, pipers, wrestlers, etc  were beavering away at winning medals and trophies and sometimes small amounts of money.  Mostly they were just having fun and enjoying something they loved doing.

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Pipe Major’s Competition

The youngest competitor in the Pipe Major’s competition looked so tiny in the middle of the great space of the arena but she was strutting her stuff with great aplomb.  At the same time some bigger girls were throwing their weight about – and trying to toss the caber.

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Wet grass, slippery tree trunk but no disasters.

There is one person who never minds being last – the gentleman from Greenock, who, dressed as a clown, raises large amounts of money for charity as he ambles around the 10K route.

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‘Tommy Frae Greenock’

The weather did improve later in the afternoon and by the time of the Grand March down through Rothesay most of the pipers were able to discard their waterproofs and show a welcome splash of colour.

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This row of beautiful wee girls from one of the local dance schools got a great cheer as they launched into a sequence of ‘pas de bas’  as they swung round the corner.

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You can wait all day for a Pipe Major to come along when all of a sudden you get four in a row.

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Kilsyth Thistle Pipe Band

If your Mummy or Daddy plays in a pipe band there is always the chance that you will get to carry a trophy in the Grand March – They take their proud duties very seriously.

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This is the second of our two local schools of dancing – they are privileged to have a wee boy in their ranks.  We watched some of the dance competition up at the school earlier and saw a couple of teenage boys – handsome, immaculately turned out and twinkle toed.

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The host Pipe Band always comes last in the Grand march – Rothesay and District Pipe Band.

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A fast twirling mace.


Rothesay Raft Race 2016

August 18, 2016

On Sunday we had another of the Island’s fun filled charity events.  No rain at this one but a lot of people got wet anyway.  The Sailing Club organise this race of home made rafts from the beach at Children’s Corner to in front of the Yacht Club.  Nine teams entered on this overcast but warm, calm day.

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There are strict rules about wearing life jackets plus official encouragement of sabotage equipment – flour, eggs and pump action water pistols.

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They’re off.

Teams of more than four adults have a one minute time delay so the hardy folks from Stand Up to Cancer had a bit of catching up to do.

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Ballerinas tentatively tiptoeing through the seaweed. 

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The Co-op being not quite so elegant.

A lot of effort had gone into the building of the rafts, decorating them and creating the costumes.

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A wetsuit, a lifejacket and then a bikini on top.

The sea conditions and the weather were so benign that the safety boat took to zooming very fast through the fleet to create waves.

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Man made waves.

I think it was gravity and balance that did for this team rather than waves.

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They look as though they are chasing after the ferry.

I wonder if any of the paddlers will make the GB Team for the next Olympics.  According to the Buteman report all nine teams finished the course although the last home, with only two oarsmen remaining, took two hours – that’s the kind of grit and determination that wins gold medals (all they would get would be a beer and a beef burger).  A great afternoon’s entertainment.


Bute Agricultural Show 2016

August 12, 2016

Unfortunately the Cattle Show on Wednesday drew the short straw as far as weather was concerned – damp, light drizzle to start and getting wetter as the day progressed.  The previous two weekends had both had good weather which was much appreciated by the hoards of visitors attending ButeFest and the inaugural Bute Noir crime writers event.  If you have time to read a very funny description of the crime ‘scene’ in Rothesay last weekend click here.

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Happy campers enjoying breakfast at UCB

For the three days of ButeFest the cordon bleu chefs at the United Church of Bute cooked bacon and sausage rolls for breakfast – the campers from the field below the church very much appreciated the good food, warm welcome and especially our nice clean toilets!

Rothesay is a very busy place when visitors are involved but  ‘home grown’ events have a place in all Brandanes’ (and incomers like us) hearts too – and one of the most special events is the annual Cattle Show.  I love the mix of people, animals and the feeling of friendly rivalry on the day.  This year the weather was not entirely kind.

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Even some horses had their coats on.

Some hairdos coped with the dampness better than others –

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I liked how these sheep had a banner of their own fields to make them feel at home.

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A fluffy fringe looking a bit damp.

The entrants in the ‘young handlers’ class seemed even younger than usual this year ….

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…. and sometimes resorted to brute force rather than persuasion ….

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There were other uses for wellies apart from keeping your feet dry.

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Every year I try to work out what exactly the judges are looking for when picking the winners in each class but find it impossible, for example the only difference I can see in the three below is a slight variation in size and colour.

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It is even harder with the milking cows – they are all nearly identical, some brown and white, some black and white and all with perfectly straight backs.

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The next photograph shows a very unusual distinctive animal.  I love it but have a small reservation about how much adult ‘support’ this ‘under 6 years’ artist had.

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I find it funny that the donkeys are always held in a pen as far away from the other livestock, especially the horses, as possible.  I’ve been told that the young elegant ponies get very skittered by their equine cousins.

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Looking very innocent.

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Looking elegantly in control.

Inside the marquee some of the most fiercely contested competitions of the day took place  – on this island baking is taken very seriously.  I admire all the mouth watering entries and find it frustrating that they are destroyed after being on open display all day, for food hygiene reasons.  because we are down to only two ‘Rurals’ here now we no longer compete against each other but instead prepare a joint display of our combined talents.

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Ballianlay and Port Bannatyne Rurals on display.

The rain got a bit heavier in the afternoon but that did not deter the hardy dog owners of Bute – as usual there was a large entry for the various classes in the dog show.

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I love how the dog on the right is carefully sitting on his owner’s feet and not on the wet grass.

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My favourite.

The rain started in earnest on Wednesday afternoon and has continued incessantly now for 72 hours – I think I’ll check on that half built ark we have in the basement.


Just a Load of Pretty Pictures

May 23, 2016

Life goes on.  The weather has been mixed – a beautiful ten day spell, some heavy rain and sometimes quite cold.  Hey, it is Spring on the West Coast of Scotland.  During May, VIC 32 drops into Rothesay nearly every week.  We always try to visit and when possible help with the rope catching.  Three weeks ago the Harbour Master allocated them a berth right on the end of the pier, never seen them there before.

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They were allowed to stay here overnight and after the Argyle and the Bute were tied up after the last crossing, the crew and passengers from the VIC 32 were given a guided tour of the bridge and engine room of the ferry.  We heard that the next day when at Garvald Dock  it was the Waverley they were allowed to inspect while she was in dry dock.  Two special experiences for that week’s VIC passengers.

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Some of the SAS walks this spring have been on quite cold overcast evenings but the recent trip to Kilmichael Burial Ground was absolutely gorgeous.

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The West Kyles

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Others Enjoying the Evening Sunshine

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Looking for Relatives

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Arran in the Background

We had a fun filled evening at the Church Centre taking part in a Fund raising Quiz Night – the questions weren’t too hard but lots of good food, wine, excellent company and much laughter.  It was a hot evening and the fire escape door was open for ventilation, I took these photographs from there.

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Looking down over the playing fields to the Bay

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The Oldest Part of the Graveyard and the Stuart Mausoleum


Bute Jazz Festival 2016

May 6, 2016

The May Bank Holiday weekend saw many visitors hopping onto the island for the annual Jazz Festival.  The weather was mixed to say the least.  The golfing duo of our family tried playing Kingarth course on Thursday morning but gave up after one hole when Jane realised she couldn’t actually stand upright never mind swing a club in the freezing gale force wind, sleet and hail showers.  The rain eventually stopped but the cold wind continued all weekend.  With a house full of people, jobs were allocated.

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The G & T production area.

We didn’t really attend the musical events – too much eating, drinking, and laughter.  Of course, we watched the Saturday morning Brolly Parade.  This is the first year without the redoubtable Jenny Brown as Parade Marshall – she sadly passed away a few months ago.  Her son, Paul, and his partner Rosie did the honours in her place.

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Paul and Rosie with the Winner

This tiny tot had thoroughly enjoyed herself during the judging – mostly marching with great confidence around the circle in the opposite direction to everyone else.  After the formalities (every child taking part got a ‘goody bag’) the parade set off through the town.

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Blow that horn, Man, blow that horn.

It is not only the children who are colourful.

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The Jazz Parade attracts visitors and locals alike to Guildford Square so the Rotary Club of Rothesay always take the opportunity to fundraise.  The annual bottle stall this year raised the magnificent sum of over £500, which will go to support good causes on the island,  nationally and internationally.

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On Sunday morning the Jazz Worship Service was held in the United Church of Bute – great to see the church packed.

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In the afternoon the family went for a walk along Ettrick beach – in an eclectic collection of outfits.  Those not wearing wellies  had a choice of methods when it came to crossing streams. Accept a helping hand ….

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…. or try jumping ….

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…. or use a bridge.

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We had to stop here, of course, for a game of Pooh Sticks.  I’m glad my family haven’t grown up yet.  It was a fun filled weekend.  The golfers played 64 (!) holes of golf and now have deposited ‘holiday’ sets of golf clubs in our basement.  This means that they can play even if they have flown up for a quick visit.  The house is empty without all the laughter.

The last two photographs were taken about three weeks ago just as the garden was beginning to notice it is spring. The general consensus locally is that everything is approximately three weeks later than ‘normal’.  I have spent the last two days planting up the tubs but have kept them huddled together just in case they need a fleece blanket some night.  The slate beds at the front are looking absolutely stunning – hard to believe that it is only 14 months since I planted them.

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Happy Birthday Your Majesty

April 24, 2016

…. from the people of Bute.  Like many other folks the length and breadth of Britain a group of us strolled up to the trig point on Scoulag Moor on Thursday evening to light a bonfire in celebration.  The weather was glorious and there were a few natives looking ready to party.

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The bonfire had been constructed earlier in the day by men from the Bute Estate and Rotary members.

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I wasn’t planning to crawl inside, just showing the scale!  The sun was getting lower all the time and a chilly wind was getting up, but about 100 people gathered in this magnificent place – views around 360% and the mountains of Arran glowing in the setting sun.

Our friend, Stewart Shaw, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Bute, was in charge and saw to it that everyone had a drink in hand ready to toast the Queen (donated by the local Co-op).

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We sang the National Anthem and Happy Birthday, Stewart read a message from the Duke of Rothesay (aka Prince Charles) and we drank a toast to Her Majesty.

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It was beginning to get dark and the the sunset was getting wound up to be in competition with the bonfire.

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Finally, Stewart’s wife Fiona did the honours and set the great stack of wood ablaze.  The strong breeze and expert construction soon gave a very satisfying result.

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It was very pleasant standing not quite ‘around’ but more to one side of the fire due to the wind direction, alternating between watching the sunset and gazing into the conflagration – both quite primeval feeling activities.

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It was a lovely sociable occasion.  I learnt that this trig point on Scoulag Moor has been the traditional location of many celebratory bonfires for the Bute family, or for the people of the Island.  There was much discussion about what the last occasion would have been – perhaps the present Marquess of Bute’s fiftieth birthday, his first marriage or even back to his 21st birthday?

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Only a little bit of the grass got burnt.

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It was amazing that even after nearly 8 years living here we are still surprised by new unexpected activities.  This event just felt good on so many different levels.  On the Queen’s official birthday in June a Street Party has been planned for Guildford Square,  like many thousands of others – but it was a privilege to spend time with friends in such a beautiful place last Thursday evening.

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“…rain and a warm welcome are forecast.”

December 6, 2015

These words were part of a headline in the Times last weekend and refer to the Syrian refugees who are coming to live in Rothesay.  Both predictions have come true – we have certainly had a lot of rain, although not as devastating as in Cumbria, and most of the folk in this community are extending the hand of friendship and compassion to the new residents.

There has been quite a strange atmosphere in the town over the past few weeks – mostly fuelled by fear of the unknown, media misinformation, Rothesay rumour, and a little open bigotry (a loud mouthed minority).  I have to say that all of that has been subsumed by the overwhelming attitude of ‘what can we do to help’.  Hundreds of people have between them donated everything we can think of for our Syrian families to set up homes amongst us – clothes, toys, household goods, right down to washing up liquid, hot water bottles and umbrellas.

Someone said to me yesterday that ‘isn’t a shame that the refugees have come in such awful weather – they can’t even see what a beautiful place this is’ and I stop and think what petty grumbles we have.  I am sure our new residents from the refugee camps will be glad of electricity, running water, education and health care and no longer being fearful of a bomb wiping out their loved ones at any minute.  Sadly, I know I will soon forget to count my blessings and return to the perpetual winter moan of rain and ‘disrupted’ ferries.

Two weeks ago we spent a lovely seven days visiting friends and family ‘down south’.  First stop was with an old friend in the beautiful Derbyshire  outskirts of Sheffield and then further south to Bradford on Avon.

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Lots and lots of talking, eating and walking with a dear friend.  After two days we moved on to stay at the Othona Community where my cousin lives and works.  We had never been before and were very impressed by the beauty, calmness and friendliness of the place.

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This is the path along the sea wall – on our right was a huge vista of sea and sky.  It was lovely and sunny with a bitterly cold wind sweeping in from Siberia.  Again we enjoyed two days of talking, eating and walking.

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It was hard to choose which comfy armchair to sink into.  There was a big choice as we were the only guests, with 5 or 6 staff, in a facility that can accommodate 80.  A very large group of folk had left the morning we arrived and a smaller party were expected the day after we left.  I hope to return some time to see (and participate) in this Christian community.