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13 October 2001

More faults come up to the surface
GENEROUS to a fault, local man Martin Rea decided not to sue Riverside Leisure Centre following his near death experience at the facility when it opened more than a year ago.
But now, having noticed that members of the public are still finding fault with the attraction, he has chosen to speak out and tell his story exclusively to the “Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard.”
He said: “I used to use the gym every day prior to the facility becoming part of the Riverside complex, and was in fact the first member of the Riverside, as my number was 001– I even had the full package. Yet, every time I went to use the health suite, I never found all three things to be working and to this day I understand that the jacuzzi still does not work!
“I used to have to ask the pool attendants to come through to re-set the steam room, because the button outside that members of the public were supposed to use did not work.”
Mr Rea continued: “On one occasion I noticed that the jacuzzi was actually turned on and working, so I decided that as I was paying for this facility, I would finally get some benefit from it and in I got.
“It had been partially roped off, but I took this to be, like in so many other places, a sort of queuing facility or even a decorative feature, and I began to relax and enjoy my long-awaited stint in the jacuzzi.
“Within minutes the manager came rushing down and told me to get out of the jacuzzi immediately and that I shouldn’t be in it because they were testing it. I did as I was told, but was left flabbergasted as to why there was no note up explaining this, and I also could not understand why they were even testing a facility that involved chemicals while the Riverside was open to the public!”
He explained: “I left the Riverside and went back to work, but about an hour and a half later I couldn’t breathe properly and I went back to the pool and spoke to the management there, who informed me that it could not possibly have been the jacuzzi. Yet, the shorts that I had been wearing in the jacuzzi had by now gone from a very definite black to a very pale grey colour.
“My breathing was now worsening and my wife had to rush me to hospital, jumping red lights, the works. By the time we arrived, I was practically unconscious, as my lungs had closed down.
“A member of the Riverside management came up to see me, to see if I was okay, and appeared to be genuinely concerned. Yet, when I went to see the management of Riverside some time after the incident to discuss the matter with them, another member of the management team informed me that if I didn’t like it, I could have my money back!”
Mr Rea’s symptoms lasted for more than two months, including shortness of breath and claustrophobia.
He said: “I did return to the facility, but have not been for some time and I have been informed by other members of the public that the flume is only open for one hour at a time, because the build-up of fumes at the top is so dangerous. If this is the case, I certainly hope the management rectify it ASAP!”
Mr Rea added: “It is a shame that the senior management cannot take a leaf out of the cap of their helpful employees, who are great with their customers, but are hindered by the fact that they have no decent management. The bad management at the pool infuriates me!”
It has also been brought to the Observer’s attention that workmen have been carrying out work at the side of the pool with electrical drills while people are in the water swimming and one man has stated that he left the pool early, because he feared for his safety.
Argyll and Bute Council chose not to respond to the points raised in this story.


Sold down the river
DUNOON looks to have missed the boat again, as Caledonian MacBrayne reveal a million pound plus venture to benefit its Rothesay to Wemyss Bay route.
The company has submitted a plan for funding to the Scottish Executive for two new ferries for this route, which would also mean that much-needed work would be carried out on Rothesay Pier.
But the Dunoon to Gourock route is to be left with the same old ferries, which have been dubbed as past their best, and a pier that desperately needs attention.
News of the planned vessels emerged when CalMac announced its annual results.
The company’s Public Affairs Manager Hugh Dan MacLennan said: “There are no plans for new ferries for the Dunoon to Gourock route, as there is no money available and there is also uncertainty surrounding the route and the future of the company. When all of our routes go out to tender, we cannot guarantee that we will beat all competitors for them, but we like to think that we will.
“The plan for the Rothesay to Wemyss Bay route is for two vessels capable of carrying 62 vehicles each.
“It would be lovely to be able to have new ferries for all routes, as the existing ones are beyond their useful working life and are expensive to run.”
He added: “The general uncertainty about the route and the ferries makes it difficult to secure anything, in particular the future of the piers, especially as we don’t even own them.”
The report had previously been returned to the company by the Scottish Executive for some adjustments, but has already been re-submitted.
Presently, there are four ferries covering both the service from Dunoon to Gourock and the run from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay. The vessels Juno, Jupiter and Saturn carry 40 cars each, while the Pioneer holds 33.
In the same week as the company’s application is revealed, Duncan Hamilton MSP, Shadow Minister for the Highlands and Islands, commented on the publication of a Transport Committee report into the future of the ferry services operated by CalMac.
He said: “This report is the confirmation of what we have been saying for many months and I commend the cross-party committee for supporting these concerns.
“First, the report repeats the necessity of the Cal Mac routes being tendered as one unified whole to avoid ‘cherry picking.’ That is an important area of agreement and the Government must remain firm on this position.
“Secondly, the vexed question of fare levels is addressed and there is no doubt that sooner or later the Government is going to have to explain to people why the fare levels are so high.
“We know that the research into the economic benefits of reducing fares in the Highlands and Islands has been done, and at a time of real hardship in these communities, radical action on fare restructuring would be an obvious place to start in terms of kick starting the economy.”
He continued: “Thirdly, the fears expressed by many communities about what happens if a private operator wins the tender for an island route and then goes out of business or fails to maintain the route are re-affirmed in this report. The need for the Government to give unequivocal assurances on the secure status of these routes is an urgent priority and so far these assurances have not been given.”
Mr Hamilton added: “Finally, the potential disruption for Cal Mac employees is a matter of real concern, as many of them are based in West Coast communities where alternative employment is not easy to find. There needs to be a great deal more action on pension rights, TUPE regulations and employment protection before this tender process is much older.
“Taken together, these measures represent a fairly damning critique of Government inaction to date. From the start this process has been flawed and has alienated many of the communities served by Cal Mac. It is now a matter of the utmost importance that the Minister answer all of the points raised in this report if we are to have any confidence in her stewardship of these negotiations.”


Government failure = local chaos
GOVERNMENT failure could lead to emergency procedures being implemented by Argyll and Bute Council.
The Government has admitted that it has failed to prepare for new European laws to protect the ozone layer, which could force local authorities to find sites to stockpile unwanted fridges and freezers.
New rules on removing ozone-destroying gases from appliances come into force on January 1 2002, but the Government has only just realised that it will have to spend millions to provide new facilities to deal with them safely!
A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council said: “We are going to work closely with Shanks Argyll and Bute and the Scottish Executive in planning the future disposal of CFCs and insulating foam from fridges and freezers.
“The council has removed CFCs from approximately 200 fridges and freezers during the past year, but like all other Scottish councils, does not currently remove foam.”
The admission follows the publication of a Friends of the Earth survey earlier this year, which showed that most authorities are not even meeting the current requirements to recover the ozone-depleting gases contained within the cooling systems of fridges and freezers, let alone prepared for the new rules which will mean gases must also be moved from the foam insulation.
Following the survey the Scottish Executive initially tried to blame local authorities, but has now accepted responsibility and is desperately trying to contact local authorities, electrical retailers, second-hand goods retailers and waste metal recyclers in an attempt to gauge the size of the problem.
Friends of the Earth Head of Research, Dr. Richard Dixon, said: “As we predicted, the Government has suddenly realised that it has done nothing to prepare for the new rules that are coming into force in just three months.
“We now face the ridiculous prospect of a Scottish fridge mountain or shiploads of fridges making their way to the continent, all because the Government ignored European laws approved a year ago and known about for much longer.
“Those councils currently failing to meet the current requirements should be ashamed of themselves!”
Councillor Robin Banks said: “The council is very aware of the need to put in place arrangements for removing and disposing of these ozone depleting substances,
“At the moment, fridges and freezers received at our waste disposal sites, which are managed by Shanks, will have gas removed from them. We are aware that the new European regulations will come into force in January 2002 and we are talking with Shanks and the Scottish Executive about meeting that requirement.”
He continued: “The problem is that at the moment there is nowhere in the UK that can extract ozone depleting gases from foam, and until such time as such a plant is established, our only choice is to stockpile the fridges and freezers safely.”
Local MSP George Lyon has stated that both the council and the Scottish Executive need to put their heads together and redouble their efforts to find a solution.


Something to crow about
THANK you for bringing attention to my plight. It is certainly no way to treat a visitor to these shores. I came here some 20,000 years ago from up north, courtesy of a glacier. A cool experience.
The closest I have since come to moving was when Hunter’s Quay was bombed, but that is a story for another time. I have always enjoyed a fair bit of fame as evidenced by the following extract from “The Dunoon Visitor” by E. & R. Inglis, a sadly missed publication —
“The ‘Jim Crow’ a shaped stone on the foreshore between Kirn and Hunter’s Quay. Controversy ranges around the name. Some say it recalls a coloured minstrel, others a boy whose father owned a nearby mansion, while a third claim it is the name of a shark.
This paper inclines to the view that the stone is in appearance, very like a Jackdaw, the smallest bird of the crow family and that the name originates from the poem ‘Jim Crow, the Jackdaw of Rheims’.”
I will deal with the suggestions as to how I got my name in turn.
A Coloured Minstrel – In America in 1828, building on the popularity of earlier successful troupes, Thomas Dartmouth ‘Daddy’ Rice was a white man who blacked up and created a caricature of a crippled plantation slave. He toured many American cities with increasingly large audiences. One of his songs ended with the chorus:
“Weel about and turn about and do jis so,
Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow.”
He took his act to London in 1836. Jim Crow was by this time an established minstrel show character. This character gave the name to the Jim Crow Laws – statutes passed by the Southern States Legislative in the late 1800s.
These were effectively the means whereby racial discrimination was allowed to take place until the declaration that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional in 1954. This was the start of the Civil Rights movement and the beginning of the end for the Jim Crow Laws.
Like ‘Daddy’ Rice I have always given a rock solid performance for my public but I am black affrontit with any suggestion of racial prejudice on my part.
The Boy – The late and fondly remembered Josephine Bennett who, like her father before her, was a dedicated local historian was of the opinion that the name was derived from the owner of the builders’ yard which used to be opposite me. He was called Jim Crow. The boy could have been a chip off that old block but certainly not this one.
The Shark – Whilst I have seen countless sharks in my time, I have not yet met any sharing my name. I think there is something fishy about this suggestion!
The Jackdaw – ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’ to give it its proper title, by Thomas Ingoldsbody, the pseudonym of Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845) who was ordained a minister in 1813, is a parody of a medieval legend.
It tells the story of a Jackdaw which steals the Cardinal’s ring whereupon a curse is placed on the unknown thief. The Jackdaw subsequently becomes ill and repents returning the ring. The curse is lifted and in a state of piety the Jackdaw lives for many years. This rather long poem (162 lines!) ends with:
“It is the custom, at Rome, new names to bestow,
So they canonised him by the name of Jim Crow”.
This is probably just another flight of fancy.
You will see from my favourite picture taken 100 years ago that my proper title is The Jim Crow. It would be appreciated if I could be restored to my former status.
I will, of course, still be around long after those who recently decorated me. Now that’s something to crow about!
Local painter and decorator Douglas Forbes has offered to clean-up and re-paint Jim Crow and is just waiting for the go-ahead from Argyll and Bute Council.


The Kilfinan egg
DURING the war years, Sheena Simpson lived with her parents, Jean and Adam Campbell at the Kilfinan Hotel in the little parish of Kilfinan, near Tighnabruaich.
She now lives in Canada with her family, but reminisces about a VIP guest who arrived at the hotel in February, 1942.
‘It was early in the month and her mother had just had a visit from a Major Harrap and another officer informing her that the hotel was to be commandeered for about a week to 10 days, while a combined operations exercise took place.
She was also told that, on the final days of the exercise, they would be receiving, for breakfast, a VIP guest with his equerry.
Mother almost fainted. She was so sure it was going to be King George. “Only royalty have equerry’s,” she gasped. To which I replied: “No, mother, I think it will be Lord Louis Mountbatten.”
This made sense to me, as it was to be a combined operations exercise and Mountbatten was the top man.
There was quite a buzz in the hotel that week, with MPs guarding the doors and lots of saluting and stamping of feet every time an officer went past. It was like something out of a British movie.
Lord Mountbatten arrived in a jeep type vehicle and wore regular naval uniform, whereas most of the other officers were in battle dress with warm sheepskin jerkins on. The weather that February was very cold.
Other VIPs that met at the Hotel on that final day of the exercise with Mountbatten were General Alexander, General Festing, Air Marshall Harris, and also the war minister at that time, Sir James Grigg.
The Hotel didn’t need too much preparation for our visitors, but the dining room was rearranged to accommodate everyone for the final breakfast.
There were two sittings; first the lesser ranking officials and then approximately 20 top brass.
I was very impressed with the concern and courtesy shown to mother and myself by the big wigs. We were provided with help for serving from General Festings’ servant and he was just super at his job.
The hotel had been issued with extra rations so we were able to make bacon and eggs for everyone, much to Lord Mount- batten’s delight.
Later on that afternoon, Mountbatten and his equerry came back on their own, looking for a very quick cup of tea.
As the kettle was going to take too long to boil, Lord Mountbatten decided to have small ginger ale instead. This I got from the bar, but mother was getting in a flap having this very handsome, charming, courteous man in naval uniform, with all the gold braid of an admiral, actually in her kitchen. It was all getting too much for her.
Mountbatten’s equerry asked how much was owed for the ginger ale. Mother laughed and coyly said: “Oh nothing, nothing at all.”
To me, all of 17 years, this seemed unfair and I piped up politely, I think: “It’s thrupence ha’penny.” This said, Mountbatten’s aide produced the exact change.
At this point they asked if we had any eggs left they could buy – there was only one!
The egg was produced, this time no charge, and was carried away by Lord Mountbatten in his leather-gloved hand.
All this constitutes a picture which is clearly etched on my memory and I often wonder if the Kilfinan Hotel egg made it back whole to the destroyer anchored out on Loch Fyne.
We were all worn out by the end of the week and every thing seemed so quiet. Later that year was the raid on Dieppe with Mountbatten in charge. I wondered if that week’s exercise had all been part of the training.’
Why was Kilfinan Hotel used for such a VIP gathering? Maybe because it was out of the way yet at the heart of the combined operations training area and not far from the loch. Many VIPs visited Argyll during that period to watch training methods being used.
With a combined operations training centre at Inveraray, specialising in amphibious assault techniques, and an army base at Ardlamont, Loch Fyne, over a quarter of a million service men and women spent time training in and around the area during the early to mid 40s.
Many of them have made the trip back to Argyll over the years in memory of the men and women who lost their lives in the fighting.