SOME predicted there would be fanfares, others forecast tears but, in

the end, the last US nuclear submarine slid out of the Holy Loch at the

weekend almost unnoticed.

A clutch of wellwishers waved to the USS Will Rogers from the shore,

joined by a handful of anti-nuclear protesters who whooped in delight as

the 130-metre-long vessel broke free from her mother ship, the USS Simon

Lake, bound for Connecticut and, ultimately, the scrapyard. She was

chased symbolically out of the loch by a small inflatable dinghy manned

by three grinning CND protestors.

The submarine is the last of the US Navy Poseidon class to leave the

Holy Loch base which will close on June 1 next year after 30 years in

operation. The move has been prompted by new long-range technology and

the end of the Cold War.

Squadron 14 Commander Captain Ron Gumbert saluted his departing

colleagues from a media-bearing tug and said, on the whole, the

Americans would be sorry to leave the area.

''Most of us leave with great reluctance. We have had a very good

relationship with the people of Dunoon and the Cowal peninsula.''

Captain Gumbert said the base would close completely in June and, as

far as he was aware, would not be used in the future. Some

environmentalists have predicted the loch will be kept on as a naval

lay-by, effectively destroying any plans for tourist and leisure


The February announcement that the 3600 Americans were pulling out was

seen as the kiss of death for Dunoon and the other Cowal communities.

Locals, enterprise officials and the Americans, however, say that

sentiment underestimates the will of the residents. The news may have

knocked the star-spangled stuffing out of the peninsula but it will come

back fighting.

''I promise you, the tumbleweed will not roll down the main street,''

said Mr Ian McRae, chief executive of the Cowal Enterprise Trust, which

has secured a total of #12m worth of Scottish Office funding to shore up

the local economy.

''In my opinion the Scottish Office announcement gives the locals the

feeling that something is being done and something is going to be done.

'' We've all had this gutted feeling since the announcement that they

were pulling out, largely because over the last 30 years we have become

very dependent on the American input into the economy.''

Captain Gumbert said there was no doubt their departure would hurt the

area economically, but said he is confident the locals can counteract

it. ''I have no fears for Dunoon.''

Others are not so confident that all will be well.

Sitting in his taxi on the quayside as the submarine left, Mr Robert

Lamont said he will probably have to give up the trade and try and make

a living some other way. His car is one of 145 cabs which have

flourished on American business.

''I'll just have to do gardening and just try and keep it going,'' he

said, as a US Serviceman settled into the back seat. ''It's very, very