Memories of Island Life

The church, who was also responsible for registering births, deaths and marriages, before the Education authority took over, provided the schooling in former days.

When the Free Kirk built the building now used as the Port Bannatyne Village Hall there was a school in Stuart St. below the hall. I knew men who were educated there. This school was a paying establishment but a man I knew who attended it told me he got his teaching free in return for services. He lit the fire in the morning and cleaned the school. Another boy I knew got his teaching free in return for providing peats to fuel the fire.

The lesser hall, after being a school, was the meeting place for 'The Wee Frees' and 'The Ancient Order of the Foresters' and after the first world war ended it was used as a venue for running many grand social nights but the building deteriorated and was demolished. The other school was Bannatyne Mains which was then called 'the barracks'. There was a road starting at Ardentigh, going along the back of the house through Mount Park and below Kames Terrace. It continued through the bottom of the fields until coming out at the Castle Brae. One of the Headmasters was a Mr. Lyon who was a relative of George Lyons, the M.S.P.

The reason the area was called the barracks was because, in those days, a landowner had to produce men-at-arms when requested by the Crown. These volunteers trained there and became The Bute Mountain Battery.

During the French Revolution cannons were placed all along the Battery Shore in Rothesay. This was to repel any invasion. After these cannons were removed many were used for bollards on the quay walls.

When I went to school in 1919 in Port Bannatyne education lasted from the age of five years to Fourteen years of age. The Headmaster was Mr. Matthews and the teacher was Miss Robinson. About 1920 things changed and when children reached ten years of age they were transferred to either Rothesay Public School or Rothesay Academy depending on whether you could afford to pay fees.

Croc an raer Church

Croc an raer Church was built around 1826. The marquis of Bute had to buy the lands of Kames because at that time they did not own the land. The Bute Pew was the front of the balcony and the Communion table was placed down the center of the pews. It was a thriving church and eventually required to expand. St Ninians church was then built in Port Bannatyne and the congregation of the existing church gave very generously towards the cost of the new building. My Grandfather told me that he built a rowing gig made of yellow pine with grating. It was offered as a raffle prize to the owners of the large yachts, which moored in the Port bay, and it brought in a good sum of money.

My Grandmother, who was brought up at Ettrick Smiddy sang in the choir with the two Miss Morrisons who were excellent singers and were Grand Aunts of the singer Peter Morrison, so it must have run in the family.

Alas, the beautiful old church is a ruin and the centre communion table was taken away to Perth, and the church bell was sold to a scrap merchant who also removed the slates from the roof. The beautiful stained glass window remains broken but still in place. There were Gaelic services and the last minister to require the Gaelic was Rev.Peter Dewar who baptized me.

The old mill

The old mill was originally a flax mill propelled by a water wheel and the man who ran it was a Mr.Carswell who stayed in a house called 'The TreeHouse' This house was where the iron gate is at Ettrickdale. When American cotton came into Britain many of the old flax mills ceased to function. The mill then became a Sawmill run by Habby Halliday. When he died that was the end of the mill. His son stayed on there for some years sharing with the Keith family.

During the time it was a flax mill the dam for the water was in the field at the back and they steeped the flax there . They also steeped flax at Ardmaleish in the old swimming pool When flax is steeping it goes black and the local name was the Black Dubs and the gate at the burn was called the Black Gate. This pool then became the Lobster Hatchery, run by Lady Margaret, the Marquis's sister.

The other house I remember was the Kames Castle Lodge which about 125 years old. The original lodge was up the Castle Brae opposite the farm where there is an iron gate in the wall. It was known as ' Inkwell Lodge'. The old road went down by the gardener's cottage.

More reminiscences

Before the tramcars ran all the way to Ettrick Bay they stopped at Govandale, in Port Bannatyne. Passengers alighted there and then boarded Wagonettes which waited to take passengers to Ettrick Bay, Kirkmichael and Rhuboadach. The Crawford's were a notable family who ran these Wagonettes and also built The Crown Hotel. Eva Crawford carried on running the hotel after the tram link to Ettrick Bay was established.

By Alastair Mcmillan
Born in Port Bannatyne in 1914

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