1902 Encyclopedia > Bute (island), Scotland

Bute (island), Scotland

BUTE, the most important of the several islands in the Firth of Clyde which constitute the county of the same name, is situated about 18 miles west of Greenock, and 40 by water from Glasgow. It is about 15 miles in length, extending from the picturesque " Kyles"—the narrow winding strait which separates the island on the north from the district of Cowal-—to the Sound of Bute, about 8 miles in width, which separates it on the south from Arran. In breadth the island is unequal, from the deep indentations, on both sides, of its numerous bays, but it averages from 3 to 5 miles, having on the east the Cumbraes 5 miles and the Ayrshire coast 8 miles off, and on the west Inch-marnoch (with an area of 675 acres) close at hand, and Ardrishaig, the highway to the Hebrides, within little more than two hours' sail of Eothesay.

The island has an area of 31,161 acres, two-thirds of which are arable, the remainder consisting of hill-pasture, plantings, moors, and sheets of water. Of the latter there are six. The largest, Loch Fad, 3 miles from Rothesay, is nearly 3 miles in length and about ^ mile in breadth. From this copious source the Rothesay cotton-spinning mill, the first establishment of the sort erected in Scotland, derived by gravitation its propelling power. The mill continued in active operation, giving employment to some hundreds of people, until a few years ago, when, from the machinery having become antiquated and other causes, it ceased to be remunerative, and was closed. There are still two factories in the neighbourhood, with more modern machinery, for the weaving of cloth, but they are driven by steam-power. Loch Fad has a peculiar interest attach-ing to it, from having, on its western bank, the cottage built in 1827 by Edmund Kean, the great tragedian, who there found it " glorious through the loopholes of retreat to peep on such a world." The cottage, after Kean's death, fell into the hands of Mr J. B. Neilson, the ingeni-ous inventor of " the hot-blast," and is now the property of Lord Bute. Notwithstanding the change of hands, the drawing-room is still retained precisely as Kean left it. Loch Ascog, within two miles of Eothesay, is less than Loch Fad, but quite as useful. It covers an area of 72 acres, and supplies the inhabitants of Eothesay with excellent water for domestic purposes. Quien Loch covers 54 acres, Greenan Loch 12, Loch Dhu 9, and Lochantarb 5 acres. The climate of Bute is mild, genial, and healthful, and is likened, not unfrequently, to that of Devonshire or of Mont-pellier. The mountains of Argyll and the peaks of Arran breaking the clouds as they pass from the Western Ocean, less rain falls on Bute than on any other part of the west coast; and the sea-breeze, generally blowing from the west and south, keeps the air cool in summer, and prevents snow from remaining or frost from continuing long in winter. The soil of Bute, for the most part light and gravelly, produces, under skilful treatment, excellent crops, particularly of potatoes, which, being readily disposed of by the acre whde growing, are conveyed in barrels day by day to the Glasgow market. The farmers are a respect-able class of men, intelligent, able-bodied, and long-lived. Coal has been found in the island, but of inferior quality and doubtful quantity. Supplies of this indispensable mineral are therefore brought from the fields of Ayrshire and Lanarkshire. Native limestone has been burned and used, but of late years it has given way almost entirely to Irish lime, which is extensively imported for building and manuring purposes. Of soft red sandstone, slate, and whinstone there is no lack, but they are chiefly used in the building of dykes and the gables and back walls of tene-ments, white sandstone and slates being largely imported for the front elevations and roofing of the better class of houses, which are now rapidly increasing in number. At Kilchattan there is an abundance of superior clay, and a thriving brick and tile work. Granite of a grey complexion, susceptible of a high polish, is also found at Kilchattan.

The islands of Bute and Inchmarnoch, excepting the small estates of Ascog and Ardbeg, the burgh lands, and one or two trifling holdings adjoining the town, belong to the marquis of Bute, whose favourite seat, Mount Stuart, is four miles from Eothesay on the eastern shore. The house, for which a much better site, commanding a view all round the island, might have been found, was begun in 1719 by the second earl, and finished after his death, in 1723, by Lady Bute, a daughter of the first duke of Argyll. It is a plain unpretentious mansion of moderate dimensions, recently much improved internally by the present marquis.

To the geologist, Bute offers little attraction as compared with Arran ; yet the masses of conglomerate on the beach and forming the bold cliffs at Craigmore ; the dykes of trap which crop up strikingly through the red sandstone and conglomerate at Ascog, and which may be traced shore-ward towards Bogany Point and across the island to Ettrick Bay; and the vitrified forts at Dunnagoil (Garroch-head) and Island-bui (Kyles),—whether the' result of volcanic action or only of beacon fires is doubtful,— will not be found unworthy of his notice. To the anti-quary and the student of mediaeval history Bute offers ample scope. The Druidical monuments, and the barrows, cairns, and cists are numerous throughout the island, as are also the remains of ancient chapels. For an account of Eothesay Castle and its deeply interesting historical associations, see EOTHESAY. Another object of interest is St Blane's chapel, picturesquely situated in a sheltered nook in the parish of Kingarth. It is believed to have been founded in the reign of Malcolm Canmore, towards the close of the 11th century, on the site of a much older edifice. This seems not improbable, as St Blane, who is said to have been a nephew of St Cattan, lived in the latter half of the 6th century. At all events, the names of both saints have been perpetuated in connection with the chapel and the neighbouring bay of Kilchattan. In the year 1204, Walter, Steward of Scotland, anxious " for the souls of kings David and Malcolm, and the souls of his own father and mother," as well as for " the salvation of himself and heirs," granted a charter conveying St Blane's, with all its valuable belongings in Bute, " to the monastery at Paisley, and the monks serving God therein." Time out of mind the chapel has been a ruin, surrounded by numerous graves of the forgotten dead; and having passed long ago from the custody of the church, it again belongs, with the lands attached to it, to a Stuart, Lord Bute.

There are still extant and habitable several old mansions in Bute, one or two of which may be pointed out. The most considerable is Karnes Castle, three miles north-west of Eothesay. It stands in an extensive well-wooded park opposite the fine bay of the same name. It was long the residence of the Bannatyne family, a member of which, Lord Bannatyne, a judge of the Court of Session, projected the Highland Society in 1784, and founded the village of Port-Bannatyne, an abode of hardy fishermen, and now also a flourishing watering-place. Karnes estate and castle are now the property of Lord Bute. Ascog House, about three miles from Eothesay in the opposite direction coastwise, is another old mansion in the Scottish baronial style. Standing on a richly-wooded height, it. commands extensive views of the firth, and whether regarded from the road or the water contributes largely to enhance the beauty of perhaps the finest landscape in the island. The estate of Ascog belonged at one time to a branch of the Bute family. In 1815 it was purchased by the late Mr Robert Thorn, C.E., of the Eothesay spinning-mill, who acquired celebrity by successfully engineering the introduction of water to the town of Greenock.

The island is divided into four parishes,—Eothesay, New Eothesay, Kingarth, and North Bute.

Eothesay, with its population of 7760 souls, has two Established churches, with a Gaelic chapel, two Free churches, with a Gaelic chapel, one United Presbyterian church, and three chapels _— Episcopalian, Baptist, and Roman Catholic ; while at Kingarth there are two churches, Established and Free ; at Ascog one, a Free church ; and in North Bute an Established and a Free church. The school accommodation is likewise ample, both in town and country.

Touching the origin of the name of Bute, there is con-siderable doubt. It has been written Both, Bote, Boot, and Botis, and may thus ue derived from " Both," which is the Irish for" a cell," St Brendan, an Irish abbot, having, it is said, caused a cell to be erected in the island in the 6th century ; or it may have been derived from the old British words " Ey Budh," or the Gaelic words " Ey Bhiod," signifying the " island of corn," or " island of food," from its fertility as compared with the neighbouring islands and Highland districts. Although now all but obsolete, Gaelic was formerly the current language spoken. The Butemen in fighting times were called Brandanes, a distinction which they prized; and the numerous small landed proprietors, in virtue of a charter granted them in 1506 by James IV., took the title of baron, which became hereditary in their families. The title is now all but extinct, the lands which conferred it having passed by purchase from time to time, with one or two trifling exceptions, into possession of the Bute family. _ The descendants of the Brandanes were among the earliest to take part in the volunteer move-ment, by furnishing a couple of batteries to Lord Lome's battalion of Argyll and Bute Artillery Volunteers, as well as a company to the Renfrewshire Rifles.

Great improvements have been recently made and are now (1876) in progress in Bute. The renovation, all but completed, of the grand old castle, and the formation of the esplanades of Bothesay,—together with the erection of an aquarium, and of an iron pier, where the accom- modation was wanted, at the entrance to the bay, will tend, with other appreciated advantages, to give the island and shores of Bute a higher place than ever among the attractions of the Clyde. (E. H.)

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries