Memories of Port Bannatyne

My own Father was a Postman but he had not wished for that job but had hoped to go to sea on the White Ensign, Laidlaw ships. My grandfather Colin however recommended that he take this job because it had paid holidays and a pension, something very unusual in these days. The unfortunate thing was that he died before he could ever receive his pension.

The Port Bannatyne School

I went to 'The Port' School at the age of five and then on to Public School in High St., Rothesay where I spent the next two years. This was the intermediate period before you were sent to The High School. Yes there was streaming in those days too.


My earliest memory if of the shops in Port Bannatyne was pressing my face close to the Baker's window to see the steaming Hot Pies which I clearly remember were delicious. The thing which brings this to mind was that there was always a big cat called Spunkie sitting alongside the pies. The owners of this lovely shop were called Welsh.

The Village now has only two shops but there were nearly thirty shops at one time. There were about three Grocers plus a fourth at the foot of the Hydro brae that catered for the visitors to The Kyles Hydro. This shop had a license and, since the Hydro did not have one, they used this shop.

There was a Post Office run by the ladies of the Curry family, Lizzie and Jean, a Chip Shop and an Ironmongers, Chemist, hairdressers, 2 dairies, a Home Bakery and believe it or not a Tailor's Shop. The Tailor was Hugh Kay Orr who was a very gifted man.

There was a lovely Butcher's which belonged to Mr Hugh Lamont who passed it on the his Brother-in-law Mr. Jackie Mc Phie who was a Farmer at Lower Ettrick Farm before he took over the Butcher's shop.

Sea Wall at Port Bannatyne

The Sea Wall in Port Bannatyne was built by the Father of the Curry Girls who ran the Post Office. They called him “Stormy Jake”. He was a Stone Mason but earned his name in his own way. This was in the days when the sea came up to the roadside. There are still relatives of Stormy Jake in Port Bannatyne.

Garden Plots

At the back of Port there was plots of land in the area where the Council houses are now, which were used by the men returning from the war. The families rented these areas to grow vegetables to supplement the meager income they would get at that time. A house was not considered to be much good if it did not have a bit of ground to use this way and the only other answer was to take up a plot of land where you could grow Rhubarb, Potatoes and Vegetables for Soup which was the mainstay of the diet in these days.

Slaughter House

There was a Slaughter House or Abattoir at the end of Castle Street. The meat sold in the Butcher's in these days was all island meat. It tasted so much better than now.

Travelling People

The Gypsies came every year to work on the Island at any work they could manage to pickup. These people often originated from the Highland Clearances. Many went abroad but there were those who had to stay to look after ageing relatives and they moved about picking up casual work anywhere they could find it. Sometimes they would play the bagpipes and they used to camp along at the end of the Village on the Garrison Rd. (Now an official walkway.)

There was an old couple came here and they unfortunately had a fire in their tent and the man was badly burned. When it came time for him to be discharged from the Hospital a kindly farmer offered to give them the shelter of his barn until he was well enough to go back under canvas. Someone berated the Farmer and said, "Have you not got enough to do without taking in Tinkers?” The reply was, "They could have been Mary and Joseph."

Clyde Maritime

In the Bute Slip Docks we built beautiful Yachts. Sis, Eight and Twelve Meter Cruisers. Sir Thomas Coats of the Thread Mills gave them the order for eight boats, There were 'Saffle,' 'Helen' and the Six Meter 'Volga.' She was red. The Six-meter 'Verona' and the 'Forsa.' That gave a lot of work to the men and when these boats were completed the men often went on journeys as members of the crew because they were paid off from the Yard when the work was done. These men enjoyed sailing and it was much easier work than the hard slog of the Boat building.

Fishing Boats

The Fishing Boats were always present. Loch Striven was full of Herring and the German buyers came over looking for fish. There are many stories told of these 'Klondykers.' Many a time they would not be as lucky as the local men and one time the late Peter Luke told me that one, one night, they had not had much luck but, at the bread of day, just off Ardmaleish Point they suddenly spotted Herring and shot the nets. They got 250 baskets. Just then they met Germans who were still empty. They looked at our catch, examined a sample, and asked if they would take twelve Shillings a basket. Peter said, "That was a Godsend."

An Apprentice only got 12 Shillings for a week's work. Boats came from Tarbert, Girvan, Campbelltown and from The Maidens. I was speaking to men from Eyemouth once when on a visit there. They were well acquainted with Bute and came to the Herring Fishing around the Clyde shores.

Campbell Leitch
I was born 22-7-1921 and lived in Port Bannatyne for the past 80 years and, as I relate this, I am sitting in my home overlooking Kames Bay and to the entrance to Loch Striven. The scene changes every day yet remains the same beautiful bay.

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