Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/County of Bute

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BUTE, County of, is composed of three groups of islands which lie in the Firth of Clyde, betwixt the coasts of Ayrshire on the east, and Argyllshire on the north and west, viz., Bute, from which the county takes its name, with Inchmarnoch, a mile to westward ; the two Cumbraes, less than a mile apart ; and Arran, with the Holy Isle and Pladda islet, separated from each other by about a mile ; the groups themselves being divided by channels from five to eight or ten miles in width. The area of the county is about 225 square miles. Before the application of steam to navigation and the introduction of the railway system, the voyage from Glasgow to Bute, Cumbrae, or Arran was always tedious and disagreeable, and sometimes fraught with peril, being performed in small and generally open sail-boats, often occupying days, and occasionally even weeks ; now, by rail and steamer, the several islands can be reached in an hour and a half or two hours from Glasgow. In consequence of those facilities, and their acknowledged salubrity of climate, beauty and sub limity of scenery, and scientific and historic interest, the chief islands of Buteshire have for years attracted increas ing numbers of tourists, artists, and men of science from all parts of the world. Buteshire, with the exception of some half-dozen small estates, is in the hands of four great proprietors. Arran, Holy Isle, and Pladda belong to the duke of Hamilton, and Bute and Inchmarnoch to the noble marquis who derives his title from the former. The Larger Cumbrae is the property of the earl of Glasgow and Lord Bute; and the Lesser Cumbrae, with its single farm, belongs to the earl of Eglinton. The proprietors of Bute and the Larger Cumbrae, whose residences are respectively Mount Stuart, a few miles from Rothesay, and the Garrison, a handsome marine villa in the heart of Mill- port, have given every encouragement to feuing and to all public improvements ; consequently the beautiful water ing-places in their vicinity have grown rapidly in population and importance. The census of 1871 gives the resident population of Buteshire at 16,977, 7623 males and 9354 females. Of these 10,094 were in Bute, 5259 in Arran, and 1624 in the Cumbraes. Since then the numbers are known to have largely increased, and in summer the popula tion must be vastly greater. The electoral roll, which grows of course with the growth of the better class of feuars and householders, numbers at present 1150 voters. Prior to 1832 Buteshire, alternately with Caithness-shire, sent a member to Parliament, Rothesay enjoying at the same time the privilege of sharing a representative with Ayr, Campbelton, Inveraray, and Irvine. On the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832, Rothesay was merged in the county, which since then has had a member to itself. Buteshire and Renfrewshire form one sheriffdom, with a sheriff-substitute resident in Rothesay, where are also situated the county buildings, including the court-house, prison, and public offices. The circuit courts are held at Inveraray.

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- oiarnoch (with an area of 675 acres) close at hand, and Ardrishaig, the highway to the Hebrides, within little more than two hours sail of Rothesay.

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 -

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 Rothesay 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 (Kylcs),- 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 medieval 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 Rothesay Castle and its deeply interesting historical associations, see Rothesay. 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 Canmorc, towards the close of the llth century, on the site of a much older edifice. This seems not improbable, as St Blane, who is &aid 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 ar.d 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 attacheel 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 cut. The most considerable is Kamcs Castle, three miles north-west of Rothesay. 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. lvalues estate and castle are now the property of Lord Bute. Ascog House, about three miles from Rothesay 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 lanelscape 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 Rothesay spinning- mill, who acquired celebrity by successfully engineering the introduction of water to the town of Greenock.

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

Rothesay, 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 arc two clmrclies, 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 be 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 (187G) in progress in Bute. The renovation, all but completed, of the grand old castle, and the formation of the esplanades of Rothcsay, 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.

(r. h.)