Isle of Bute: Captain Charles Riley

We had been visiting the area around Loch Lomond for a few days and so reached the Isle of Bute via the short ferry trip from Colintraive to Rhubodach on the northern tip of Bute, rather than the more popular 35-minute crossing to Rothesay.  This crossing is so short it is over almost before you’ve realised the crew have cast off.  Keen to explore the island, we parked by the attractive Rhubodach ferry terminal and watched the boat going back and forth and the black guillemots and eider ducks.

The Isle of Bute has a 30-mile long way-marked footpath around it called The West Island Way and from Rhubodach we followed a section of this trail to Balnakeilly Bay and beyond into pretty woodland.  It was spring and the forest was full of sweet-smelling bluebells, primroses and celandines and pungent wild garlic.  At the ruins of the deserted village of Balnakeilly a path through pine trees took us to a World War Two bunker, used to coordinate decoy lights and fires designed to draw enemy bombers away from Glasgow.  Today this is a great viewpoint over the Kyles of Bute towards the Scottish mainland; below us were the Burnt Islands and the colourfully named Buttock Point.

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At this viewpoint I found a memorial bench to Captain Charles Riley.  I don’t usually include benches on this blog that have no dates on the plaque but there was something about this memorial bench that caught my eye and my heart and I decided to make an exception.  Given the dedication on the bench from Val, his loving wife, ‘May You Sail The Seas And Wait For Me Until We Meet Again,’ I wonder if I can assume that Captain Charles Riley was a sailor or a fisherman.

Searching for more detail to Captain Charles Riley’s story I found that the name isn’t as unusual as you might think.  I don’t think this bench is in memory of the Captain Charles Riley I found information about who was one of the early settlers in Saline County in America.  Born in Ireland, he died in 1900 and went to sea as a young man and was one of the sailors on the ‘Brother Jonathan’, the first steamship to sail around South America.  The newspaper reported he had a life of ‘Shipwrecks, Battles and Rebel Prisons Prior to His Settlement in Saline County 30 Years Ago.’

Another Captain Charles Riley that doesn’t fit the bill is referred to at RAF Changi in 1946 and 1947.  He was a pilot rather than a sailor and a Group Captain and is described thus, ‘The Station was commanded by a Group Captain Charles Riley, by most accounts a rather difficult man, and fortunately I only came across him twice, and never to speak to.  He was short, dapper, and a pilot who doubtless held several decorations. As usual, he had a Spitfire for personal use …’  Was the author really correct in saying that a Group Captain would have personal use of a Spitfire?

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To the Captain Charles Riley, May You Sail The Seas And Wait For Me Until We Meet Again, Your loving wife Val

I have been unable to add to the story of the Isle of Bute’s Captain Charles Riley but I feel sure it is an interesting one and I always hope that someone out there will share more. Once again my interest in a memorial bench sent me on an interesting journey through history as well as giving me a chance to sit and enjoy a wonderful view.

The Cobbler: Tam McAulay 1946 – 2006

It was a fine spring day when we climbed up The Cobbler, the distinctive and popular Arrochar mountain that reaches 884 m high.  The Cobbler is a wonderful hill that is full of character and charm and you can read more here.  Thousands of people must walk by this memorial bench every year and read the fading inscription to Tam McAulay.  The bench is generously placed on the steep zig-zags on the route up the mountain and is the perfect place to stop and sit and admire the fantastic view over Loch Long.


The view from the path up The Cobbler

Tam McAulay gave his time to the Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team and was a member of The Creagh Dhu Mountaineering Club.  A keen mountaineer and climber, the warm obituary on UK Climbing’s website talks about a man who will be missed by family and friends and was not only, ‘Remembered for his wit and humour,’ but was also an agile climber and, ‘Devoted his time to photography, poetry, playing the accordion, literature, and local history. ‘  He had also competed in cycling time trials in his youth.  Tam McAulay worked at the Esso Oil Terminal on the River Clyde and retired to Arrochar.



His obituary says, ‘Tam McAulay died on Wednesday 20 September 2006 whilst on a walking holiday on the Isle of Rhum. During a river crossing with a companion from Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team, Tam was swept over a waterfall.  Members of Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team and Ian Nicolson, a fellow Creagh Dhu Mountaineering Club member, recovered his body on Sunday 01 October 2006.’

Lochranza: Paul Johnstone 1956 – 2016

The ruined castle on its grassy promontory and the steep slopes of the mountains make Lochranza one of the most spectacularly sited villages on Arran.  The sheltered valley follows the river down to the sea where seals and waders can be spotted.  Walk around the coast and you will find a collection of memorial benches.  The weather was as good as it gets when we were there and we saw Arran at its best.

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Looking across to Lochranza village

This memorial bench is placed perfectly to give anyone who chooses to rest on its slats a wonderful view across the loch to the village of Lochranza.  The bench remembers Paul Johnstone who died at the young age of 63 or 64.  The inscription says that he is, ‘Forever in our hearts’ and ‘Loved and remembered everyday.’

Paul Lochranza (1)

Treasured memories of Paul Johnstone 1956 – 2016 Forever in our hearts you will stay Loved and remembered everyday



Lochranza: Joyce C. Orr 3rd April 2013

Lochranza Castle is superbly set on a grassy spit of land that juts out in to the sea loch.  The castle was rebuilt in the 16th century but there are remnants of the original castle from a few hundred years earlier.  Legend has it that Robert the Bruce landed at Lochranza in 1306 from Ireland at the start of his claim to the Scottish throne and it is known that his grandson came to own the castle in 1371 when he became King Robert II of Scotland, who used it primarily as a hunting lodge.   In the 15th century it was used as a base for James IV and later it was occupied by James VI and Cromwell’s troops.

Joyce Lochranza (2)

Lochranza, in the north of the Isle of Arran, was the place I loved most on our trip to the Isle of Arran and it is not surprising that other people love it so much.  This beautifully positioned bench is dedicated to the memory of Joyce C Orr.  Sitting on the bench you are overlooking a stunning view and I could sit here for a long time watching the birds, the boats and the sea.

Joyce Lochranza (1)

THIS BENCH IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF Joyce C. Orr Died 3rd April 2013 A Loving and Much Loved wife to Gavin, Mum to Alison and Nana to Stuart and Christopher “SHE LOVED THIS PLACE”

Joyce C Orr lived nearby in Ayr, on the mainland of Scotland and just a short ferry trip from the Isle of Arran.  Joyce C Orr had been treated in Ayrshire Hospice and was a member of the St Columba Church in Ayr and Joyce C Orr and her family are remembered in notices from the church.  On Saturday 21 September 2013 a concert was held at Ayrshire Hospice in memory of Joyce Orr, with music by Cantanti, a local vocal ensemble.

Lochranza: Eddie Warren 1919 – 1994

We were bowled over by the Scottish island of Arran and one of our favourite places on the island was Lochranza, a peaceful village on the north coast of the island.  The village has a great campsite, a ruined castle, a ferry terminal, red deer that wander over the golf course and even its own whisky distillery.  We stayed here a few days and while we were there took the bus to Sannox and walked back along the craggy coast, climbing over the boulders that tumble down to the sea and following the lovely grassy paths with views to the mainland and Bute.  This isn’t a walk to be hurried and we savoured every moment.


Looking over the water at Lochranza to the village and the ferry terminal

Coming around the coast in to the shelter of the loch, the village of Lochranza came in to sight.  Along this stretch of coastline I was amazed by the cluster of memorial benches there were to sit on and rest while enjoying the panoramic views.  The number of benches without doubt demonstrate how popular this area is with many people.



The plaque on this shiny green bench to Eddie Warren tells a short story about the man it remembers.  I don’t know if Eddie Warren painted on canvas or walls and doors but I feel sure that he was happy in whichever was his chosen trade as he sang as he painted.  The plaque also tells visitors that Eddie Warren had some happy times at Lochranza and I can certainly relate to that.

Kildonan: Margaret and James Potts

The village of Kildonan lies on the south coast of the island of Arran in Scotland.  Kildonan has a long and beautiful beach and on a clear day if you look out to sea you will spot the island of Pladda (from the Norse for flat isle) and the more prominent Ailsa Crag.  The houses of the village are strung out along the coast, as is often the way in Scotland.

It was a murky day when we arrived in Kildonan.  Undaunted we took a stroll around the village and found this handsome memorial bench not far from where the coastguard lookout once was.  The coastguard station closed in 1981 but the old coastguard house still stands.  On a clear day the bench has spectacular views.  We stayed at the campsite and the following morning we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine and could enjoy that view with our breakfast.


There is a view over the bay at Kildonan in better weather

In the Arran Banner I found out a little bit more about James Potts from his grandchildren.  The paper’s Where’s Archie feature had a photograph of the black Labrador, Archie, next to this bench and it was quickly recognised.  One grandchild told the paper, ‘James (wee Jimmy as he was known) was the senior coastguard at Kildonan until he retired to Whiting Bay in 1975.  The Hagan and Kinloch grandchildren had the bench made at Kiscadale Forge in 1994 and it was designed by their grandson David Hagan.’  Another responded, ‘I was sat on it [this memorial bench] when we were up for a long weekend last week.  It’s dedicated to my grandparents Meg and Jimmy Potts who lived up the road at the Coastguard Station for 20 years.’



Kiscadale Forge, that created this unusual and lovely bench, is based on Arran.  The design includes the letters J and M for Margaret and James and gives the bench a moving and personal touch.