Background To The Issues

It is expensive both to build and maintain a pier. Records from the 1920s and 1930s show that revenue, mainly from Pier Dues, was outstripped by the cost of repairs. By 1945, at the end of a war when many military vessels used it, there was growing concern that running and maintenance costs might lead to its enforced closure. In 1946 the Estate let it be known that the last authorised repair for which it was responsible had been made: prelude to a local campaign for the transfer of steamer services to nearby Auchenlochan on the grounds that most of the freight already arrived there. However, subsequent investigation revealed that its condition was rather poorer than Tighnabruaich’s. Also, the case for Tighnabruaich was backed by evidence from steamer skippers who claimed categorically that Tighnabruaich enjoyed a much more sheltered position, especially in winter, than Auchenlochan.

In the 1950s some public funding began. For nine years Argyll County Council paid an annual subsidy of up to £250 and from 1960 there was an additional £200 paid directly to the Pier Master. Thereafter, it was frequently alleged that the Council failed in its duty by a reluctance to pay for necessary works. However, in the 1990s alone almost £60,000 was spent, mostly on timber repairs.

Despite such efforts the condition of the pier deteriorated. In a sense, when built it was “over engineered” with long-lived timbers, mainly greenheart, well able to withstand hard blows. That was emphasised by a recent survey authorised by the Pier Association. Even so, a number of piles have rotted, just above the low water mark. Also, “capping” in 1996, or rather covering the footings of piles with concrete, has proved to be only a short term expedient. For whereas previously a knock by a steamer was absorbed by a relatively flexible structure, now because it is more rigid, there is a tendency to put strain on the main timbers and cross members. Weathering of the decking had been combated by the Council by a partial plywood covering which, however, proved slippery and quite dangerous. In addition, the hand railing posed a safety hazard as its rotten timbers had been neither renewed nor painted. All in all, and in view of declining use, the cost of the pier’s essential maintenance began to outrun the Council’s willingness to foot the bill. It was that background which suggested that imminent closure was inevitable. The local Community Council sought some way of preventing the pier’s demise and with it the loss of a port of call for the Waverley, not to mention a facility for visiting yachts, fishermen and those who simply like to appreciate what should be a village asset.

It was apparent to the Kilfinan Community Council in 1999 that without some strenuous local efforts Tighnabruaich Pier would almost certainly follow into dereliction other similar structures. Accordingly, a separate Association was established and with the blessing of the Local Authority a formal Partnership Agreement was concluded that Autumn between Argyll & Bute Council and a newly formed Tighnabruaich Pier Association. Over the next two years local fund raising, centred mainly on summer events on the pier, built up both a respectable bank balance and also a fund of good will. What has actually been achieved is described elsewhere on this Website.

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