On the curious trail of man in the bathtub

Man in the bathtub, a curious sight out on rocks in Loch Melfort. Photo Corey Lambell

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A man sat in a bathtub out on Loch Melfort is a puzzling sight, writes Kathie Griffths

Could it be the curious work of sculptor Antony Gormley famed for his life-size figures staring out to sea?

No not likely, although he does have a cast-iron one fairly nearby looking out over the Kilbrannan Sound to Arran from the rocks below Saddell Castle in Kintyre.

This is not one of his – man in the bathtub’s maker is closer to home I feel.

If you walk along the beach at the front of Loch Melfort Hotel, cross the rocks to the right and head to the natural pier, that is where you will get your best view unless you have a drone, are passing on a paddleboard, kayak or similar and can get closer-up to the skerries where bathtub man sits enjoying a soak.

Holidaymaker Corey Lambell from Perth was on a paddleboard when he encountered the mysterious man in the cast iron tub bolted to a rock.

How did it get out there?

‘According to locals he’s only recently appeared. He’s also visible from the Arduaine Gardens viewpoint at low tide,’ said Corey who took a photo before leaving the stone bather to his peace and quiet.

A quest to find out just why bathtub man is there, drew blanks until a travel writer’s blog turned up.

Ruaridh Litster-Campbell and his concrete self sharing the bath
Ruaridh and dad Mike Campbell who had a hand in shifting the art installation from their farm into the water

The blogger at  myveggietravels.com says the quirky installation was put in place by a previous employee of Loch Melfort Hotel, who still lives nearby.  Apparently the sculpture is his double.

Calum Ross, proprietor of Loch Melfort Hotel, came up trumps naming Ruaridh Litster-Campbell from Arduaine as our man.

As for finding our man in the bathtub, Mr Ross said: ‘You’d need binoculars to see him from our decking but he’s been the focus of much attention.

‘Lots of kayakers and paddleboarders are going out there to get a close-up,’ he said.

When The Oban Times tracked Ruaridh down on his family’s farm, the 23-year-old was happy to chat about the lockdown installation that he got his dad Mike to help shift from yard to water.

‘I’d rather keep a bit of mystery as to how we physically got it there,’ said Ruaridh, a self-taught painter, jewellery-maker and sculptor who left Glasgow to be with family during the pandemic.

‘We had an old bath kicking round and I’d been a joking for a while about doing something with it out on the loch so lockdown was a good excuse to actually do it,’ he added.

And it is true the concrete man does have Ruaridh’s face – as well as his hands and feet which were specially cast but too expensive to do the whole body so the rest of him is improvised with filled in chicken wire.

It took less than a day for the man in the bathtub to be first spotted. High tides cover him completely, and your best chance to get a sighting is when the tides are less than one metre.

As to how long he will stay out out there depends on how he copes with the rain, wind and other brash elements. ‘Let’s see if he survives his first winter,’ said Ruaridh.