Ships of the Fleet
The new Outer Isles vessel was built to replace a older era of fleet members and
free up the IONA for further network enhancements.
As was clearly visible, she was a larger enhanced version of her half sister the
1974 built PIONEER. Designed and destined for the long haul routes from Oban,
she was well suited to her company and passenger needs. With four decks of
accommodation including saloons, bars and cabins for 32 passengers, CLAYMORE was
certainly a vast improvement on her predecessors. A 36 ton hoist and room
for 50 or so cars, she was a new era in lifeline services for the marine
motorway CalMac was introducing. After leaving her builders in Leith she
underwent trails as required and passed them with flying colours.
After arriving at her base in Oban at the end of December 1978, she replaced the
IONA on the 3rd of January 1979 to take up the Oban - 'Barra / Boisdale' route.
This roster also included calls at Tobermory on the way out with the aid of a ferry and Coll / Tiree on alternative days.
As built ,with white side ramp tips
Arriving at Castlebay
Arriving at Mallaig while on relief
Although not drive through as such, (unlike the IONA) in terms that she did not
possess a bow visor, she helped initiated a car revolution to the islands, using
her hoist at Barra and her stern ramp at Oban she quickly built up a reliable
reputation that was to see a explosion of services from the mainland to the
Isles. She was however required to give extra sailings on Sundays to cope with
the demands of army and commercial traffic to South Uist. She was also one of
the last ships in the fleet to make the call at Lochaline on the Morvern
coastline, a duty that had been the norm for the outer isles vessels for
generations. Roads and public transport using them was becoming a more viable
option and the call there only lasted for her first season when the COLUMBA was
serving Coll and Tiree and she could concentrate on the long haul routes.
At Oban linkspan with Pioneer
In her busy career with the company she hasn't had much time to call at other
ports around the network. Some of her deviations from her normal duties include
the Craignure and Colonsay roster from Oban. In 1981 she assisted the HEBRIDES
when she ran into difficulties at Lochmaddy and in 1983 she ventured to Islay
for the IONA's livestock run. Until her withdrawal from the outer isles route,
she called at Tobermory pier on the northeast coast of Mull for passenger and
cargo traffic in the winter sailings. She in fact was the ship that opened the
new pier to allow ships of her size to call there - and she was nearly the last
to visit it, leaving that to the LORD OF THE ISLES who took her role after her.
For such a hazardous route she was only ever involved in few accidents which
gives significant credit to her masters and crew. One such event saw her running
into rocks at the entrance to Lochboisdale harbour while trying to avoid two
fishing boats on the 5th February 1982. 27 passengers and 24 crew got off safely
in the ships lifeboats, divers investigated the damage to the hull and managed
to secure her alongside the pier and offload her cargo of cars and lorries. A
tug was standing-by to tow her to the Clyde for repairs. IONA covered her for
the three months she was out of service.
In 1986 she sustained significant bow damage in a collision and had to go to the
Clyde for repairs. The Glen Sannox was despatched to the Western Isles to fill a
gap in vessel availability. This presented a significant problem for CalMac as
the Glen Sannox was due to perform the annual Govan Shipbuilders charter. The
solution was novel and unique, if rather costly. Claymore's damaged upper bow
was cut away and a flat plate was welded across the gap. It was painted black
and had a large yellow CalMac lion painted on it to make it look a bit less odd.
In this condition Claymore operated her first ever passenger sailings on the
Clyde - the Govan charter. As her certificate was much less than that of the
Sannox, the Jupiter had also to be rostered to the charter. The picture at the
bottom of the page shows Claymore with flat bow, approaching Renfrew on the
upriver return sailing.
With the building of the purpose built LORD OF THE ISLES in 1989, CLAYMORE was
displaced from her loyal services to the Outer Isles. Being such a versatile and
useful ship CalMac were keen to find some work for her so she ventured south to
Islay and become dedicated ferry taking over from her now 'swap mate' IONA.
Displaced again in the Summers of 1994 -
1996 saw her serve on a new service linking Ardrossan
with Douglas on the Isle of Mann. Unfortunately this only lasted three
summers and she was put up for sale.
At Oban pier with Isle of Mull
In Sea Containers livery in Campbeltown
In 1997 the CLAYMORE was sold to Sea Containers for a seasonal service between
Campbeltown, on the southern most point of Mull of Kintyre, to Ballycastle
(Antrim) under the flag of the Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company...
...Following her sail to Sea Containers, the agreement was that she be made
available to CalMac for winter relief's. She was berthed at Campbeltown during
the closed season of the Ballycastle service and was chartered to CalMac as and
when necessary. In winter 1998-9 she was employed on the Islay service, the
Tiree/Outer Isles service and from 13-19 May 1999 on the Mallaig-Armadale
service. She was in A&ASP Co (Argyle and Antrim Steam Packet Company) livery
at that time...
Back on brief charter to CalMac in A&ASP livery
At Scrabster with Hebridean Isles
...When the Ballycastle route ended after only a short period, she was found new
work by Pentland Ferries and joined former fleet mate IONA at Caithness to serve
the northern Orkney Islands and yet another chapter in her faithful life
A SoC Reporter noted CLAYMORE a few weeks ago when she was in dry dock at
Aberdeen: 'She looked great. Andrew Banks' Pentland Ferries have looked after
the ship well. Certainly she is much improved from her languish at the Victoria
Dock in Liverpool when she looked very forlorn. Andrew Banks has not only brought the ship back up to her class condition, but
he has added a pretty smart fast rescue boat and impressive davit in order to
bring her back up to Class IIa certification.'
Sadly, since the time the above report was written the CLAYMORE seems to have
suffered a bit of neglect. In May 2007 she looked to be in a very poor
condition, going rusty, flaky paintwork and one of the two main lounges closed
to the public.
Pentland Ferries have apparently got a use for the CLAYMORE for winter coverage
on Orkney after which time they will be reviewing deployment. Hopefully her
career will continue to be long and prosperous...
Arriving at Gill's Bay
Leaving for St Margaret's Hope
From my point of view CLAYMORE, like her half sister is and was a very
aesthetically pleasing ship (despite her current condition) well adapted to her duties, another well made choice
by the company that gave them many years faithful service.
Text thanks to SoC
Above: Soldiering on, Claymore, with some bow
damage from a previous event, navigates the Clyde on charter along with
fleet mate Juno.
Left: Claymore's unfortunate grounding was
captured by a army photographer.