Main The Fleet Ships of the Fleet Claymore (III) History

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.

Picture: CALMAC
As built ,with white side ramp tips
Picture: Ian McCrorie
Arriving at Castlebay
Picture: Lawrence MacDuff
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

Andy McConnell
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...

PICTURE: Robin McInnes - Tuesday May 18th, 1999
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 begins...
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...
Picture: SoC Crew
Arriving at Gill's Bay
Picture: SoC Crew
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 Crew (C)

Picture: Stuart Cameron

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.

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