Thursday, 22 May 2008
A trip doon the water
Wemyss Bay Station
Fifty First Timer No.13
Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Rothesay.
Rothesay - one time holiday destination for almost everyone living in the west of Scotland. The town nestles on the eastern shore of the small Isle of Bute in the Clyde Estuary. And I have never been there!
Two of my writing cohorts from our group The Mitchell Sisters agreed to accompany me even thought they are both seasoned Rothesayites. The transport is straightforward. One return ticket covers the train to Weymss Bay, ferry to Rothesay, bus and entrance fee to Mount Stuart house.
The Victorian style station at Weymss Bay is a give away for what is in store. On the island’s grand sea-front, houses big enough for family and servants, tell of rich Glasgow merchants escaping the grime of the city to this gentler shores. Later the working classes cottoned on to this gem in the Clyde and paddle steamers transported hoards ‘doon the water’ to spend the Glasgow Trades fortnight at the seaside.
Sadly this trend died out with the advent of cheap packages to Spain and the town became the tired seaside haunt that is evident up and down the coasts of the UK. But there is work afoot to change that. Building work at the ferry terminal hints at a turning tide for the tired old lady of the Clyde and the town is close enough to Glasgow to be a desirable weekend bolthole.
The Mitchell Sisters
Our destination is >Mount Stuart House, the ancestral home of the present Marquis of Bute, racing driver Johnny Dumfries.
I had heard that a Mark Neville exhibition is being staged there and was keen to see his latest project. Mark Neville is the photographer who took photos of working class people in Port Glasgow, a depressed shipbuilding town and gifted each resident exclusive copies of the resultant coffee table book.
The Mount Stuart exhibition focuses on the rural, agricultural classes and with the use of different lighting techniques he captures stunning images of these hard working folk which is evocative of Russian portraits.
The guided tour of Mount Stuart House lasts an hour. Two memorable sights from that visit are the black calcified marble on the stairs, where fossilised sea creatures are captured for eternity and the discovery of more striking photos; a quick trip to the toilets reveals a hidden set of photos taken during the Great War when the house was used as a Naval Hospital. The setting for the hospital is grand and unique but the suffering is captured in the wounded sailor’s eyes.
Mount Stuart Gardens