So we decided to take a detour and stay one night in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. I was curious. My Dad had spent some time there mostly at the end of the war in 1946. I remembered him speaking about Cyclops. That’s the ship of that name, the mother ship that parented her baby submarines. The crews of which would spend a more comfortable time sleeping aboard her when in port; enjoying better food, movies etc. For some reason that name stuck in my head – CYCLOPS. In mythology, a one eyed giant? He made up scary tales about this Cyclops bloke that made an interesting bed-time story! Anyway, I found myself splitting off from the family in search of the local museum, I felt there must be some information there. It was closed!
I wandered about the streets, realising that all traces of the Royal Navy’s influence on this place had now gone but at least it gave me the chance to imagine what a bleak and distant outpost this must have been for submariners. My Dad had married at the end of the war and he now had a daughter, my big sister. There would be little to do for a sailor on a run ashore here in winter. Apart from the movies and pubs there was the weather; the rain, the endless rain.
Just then my wife and boys appeared. She informed me she had been in an antique shop and entered into conversation with the proprietor who was a local historian. She told him the reason for our brief visit and that I was in possession of medals, photographs and various documents pertaining to that period. He said he would like to have a chat and see them.
We spoke for a while about all sorts, and he gave me an image of what life may well have been like for a sailor ashore in this place; something I also had first-hand experience of being an ex-matelot. We wandered about the old shop and he even showed us around the back. I asked him what the shop had been before he took over – A photographers came the reply; it had been so since the late 1800`s.
Having a selfie is taken for granted these days but back then if you wanted to send a photo of yourself to your nearest and dearest you would have to go to a photographers Rothesay only had one!
I looked at the photo of my Dad again with an investigative eye. He was in his mid-twenties and wearing a sea jersey (black front). That meant he was back in the UK because the last two years of the war he was in the Far East dressed in whites. I looked at the proprietor and asked him what the shop had been called. “J T Tannock”, he replied. I turned over the photo and scrutinised the back and the faded photographers stamp just making out the letters, ……NNOCK and underneath ….GUL STREET and ….ESAY. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and yep. I felt something. Just a coincidence of course.
We departed the next day and while driving North for our next ferry, I imaged the old hull of HMS Cyclops moored there in the bay belching smoke. In 1946 she would have loomed out of her grey surroundings being an iconic landmark and a temporary home to my Father. Now gone – forever.