Main Crossings Eriskay Tender
Eriskay Tender
Eriskay - Supply Vessel
Crossing Time:
Few Minuets
Last Ship:

1950c - 1960c:
 Terminal Facilities:  
Eriskay (Period): Wooden Pier.

Supply Vessel: Facilities for loading / unloading ranged from doors cut into the side of larger vessels where goods could be 'passed' onto waiting vessels, to Hydraulic cranes and steam winched mounted on the vessel.

 Route History:  
It is believed there was only ever one boat supplied to Eriskay, mainly for the purpose of cargo lightering and transfer to the Island pier from the cargo 'steamer' arriving from Glasgow, - usually either Lochearn, Lochmor, or on occasions, Lochbroom, Loch Seaforth or Claymore, acting as relief vessels if the others were away undergoing annual refit and dry-docking.

The following account kindly recalled by islander Angus MacKinnon sheds some light into her role there...

I am 99% sure that she never carried a name or registration number, on our Island she was simply known by everyone as 'the red launch'. I recall she was very heavy carvel build, of the order of perhaps 32-34 feet in length, possibly around 10 feet beam and drawing around 3 feet aft when light. I recall she had a fair-sized Kelvin engine with a big flywheel, I would guess for these times around the 24 BHP, and almost certainly the 'J' type.

I understand these craft were supplied by David MacBrayne to a few of those smaller island communities where the cargo could not, in these times, be landed at a pier, e.g. Eriskay, Coll, Tiree, etc.

And now the difficult part - when did this craft arrive and when did she leave? I really haven't a clue, but I can remember her when I was still going to school up there in the early 1950s, and I guess she would remain there until the advent of RO-RO ferries to the Outer Isles, and the arrival of the Ludag-Haun vehicular ferry.

She was operated by the late Eriskay ferryman, John Mac Isaac, who had the contract for the mails with his own boat (26 ft clinker-built Saint Joseph) as well as the MacBrayne cargo boat coming from the Clyde. He would recruit two or three men on 'boat day' and, after the boat - usually either Lochearn or Lochmor - dropped anchor in the Sound of Eriskay, between the Island of Calvay and the Uist shore (and just a matter of two hundred yards from the spot where the whisky-galore ship S.S. Politician ran ashore in February 1941) they would conduct two or three shuttle runs between the anchored vessel and the Island pier, transferring the 'stores' from ship to shore.

These stores included foodstuffs of all sorts including bread loaves from the Glasgow bakeries that were already by that time blue-moulded around the edges, sugar, tea, Camp coffee, tins of condensed milk, cigarettes, wellington boots, biscuits, sweets, lemonade, sou'westers and oilies, rope, crockery, pails, nails, fencing, seed, flour, and many other commodities.

These goods were lowered down from the 'boat' (she was never referred to as a ship for some reason) in rope nets with the accompanying squeal and screech of blocks and winches to the waiting arms below that swung it inboard and down into the 'hold', where the slings and net were let go for hauling back up and a repeat exercise. While the next laod was being prepared those on the 'red launch' far below busied themselves stowing the cargo into the corners for even load distribution.

For wee fellah's like myself the dream was to be selected for this vital work in the first instance, then, sometimes with the hand of providence lending assistance, not unlike a Maradonna stroke, the 'accidental' bursting open of a carton containing perchance lots of Abernethy biscuits, and another particularly sweet one called 'Nice'!

I would at a guess put the period when we had the red launch at something around very early 1950s through until about the time I went to Malta - 1968.

All material on this site Ships of CalMac 2001 - 2017, unless otherwise stated.
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