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

This beautiful ship was launched at Denny's of Dumbarton on 10th March 1955, in accordance with the mail contract of 1952 – in her accommodation and facilities representing a huge advance on the LOCHEARN of 1930, which she would replace on the Inner Isles Mail.

With a gross tonnage of 1,024 the new CLAYMORE was the second largest ship in the fleet and her name revived that of the celebrated single-screw steamer of 1881, which sailed for almost half a century on the Glasgow-Stornoway route and which many consider the loveliest vessel the Company ever built.

The new CLAYMORE was herself a very attractive ship by the standards of our day – raked stem and cruiser stern and elegant, faintly Art Deco lines – and the only aesthetic flaw was her “smoke-dispelling” funnel, which had two large and hideous grilles and a very shallow top. She had a nicely raked light steel tripod mast above the bridge and a light mainmast aft. Near the bow a strong Samson post supported her 7 ˝ ton derrick, with the cargo hold forward. CLAYMORE had three lifeboats, two starboard and one on the port side – one being motor-driven.

She also enjoyed the latest navigational aids of the day – radar, Decca Navigator position-plotter, echo-sounder and wireless-telegraphy. Indeed, technologically, CLAYMORE had only three drawbacks – two were serious and one would shorten her career by many years. At 12 ˝ knots (though she did manage 13.73 knots on trial) she was decidedly slow and this would make her unpopular, especially when relieving on the long Stornoway route. She was also a two-class ship, the last the Company would build. Much worse, she was a beautifully built and fitted traditional mailboat in what was already the age of the car ferry – three hoist-loading ships already sailed for the CSP on the Clyde and the noted GLEN SANNOX would appear in 1957. CLAYMORE would be an interesting antique before her tenth birthday.

Certainly, though, no one could fault her superb passenger accommodation. On the promenade deck she had a first-class observation lounge and bar; a second-class open lounge; two first class de-luxe staterooms and a hospital room. On the main deck there were the dining saloons – first and second class, divided by a sliding partition on the middleline of the ship; and four first-class two-berth staterooms. These public rooms were splendidly finished; they included such features as beautiful marquetry panels by a Swedish artist, portraying West Highland scenery and wildlife. The MacBrayne Highlander appeared not only on her bows – in colour – as a quasi-figurehead, but was engraved on the glass of the dining-saloon doors. The influence of Norwegian coastal liners was apparent in such detail.

On the lower deck were eight first-class single and five first-class two-berth cubicles and there were also seven second-class two-berth cubicles, partitioned and fitted with doors and making this area of CLAYMORE a veritable warren.

She could in fact provide sleeping accommodation for 56 passengers – initially carrying 494 in all – and this was a big improvement on the 22 who could sleep on LOCHEARN. CLAYMORE could also carry about eleven cars, 100 tons of cargo and 26 head of cattle.

In all she was certainly a ship fit to bear such a proud name – and was, incidentally, the first major vessel built for the Company since its retrieval in 1928 that did not receive a name beginning with “Loch”!

CLAYMORE spent almost her entire career on the Inner Isles Mail – serving Tobermory, Coll, Tiree, Castlebay and Lochboisdale from Oban three days per week in each direction. On certain summer afternoons she also ran on short excursions from Oban; during her first summer, for instance, to the Isles of the Sea on Thursdays and to Salen (Mull) on Saturdays, which was largely a car-carrying service – the principal Mull vessel being still, incredibly, the LOCHINVAR of 1908. During 1965 CLAYMORE also gave Oban-Fort William excursions on Tuesdays, Colonsay trips on Thursdays and Tobermory on Saturdays – LOCHNEVIS being largely engaged backing up LOCHIEL on the Islay service. CLAYMORE was also, until the arrival of the 1964 car ferries, the regular relief for LOCH SEAFORTH at Stornoway.

Like the cargo-boats and most small craft, CLAYMORE remained registered to David MacBrayne Ltd in 1973 and never adopted the CalMac funnel. By the end of 1971, though, she was already a much-loved anachronism. The LOCH SEAFORTH replaced her on the Inner Isles Mail in the spring of 1972 – though rather older, she could carry more cars and it was as bleak and simple as that.

Only the wreck of LOCH SEAFORTH in March 1973 prolonged the survival of CLAYMORE and, in fact, for the last two or three years of her career she was largely laid up, especially after IONA (VII) was freed from the Stornoway run and could be based at Oban. CLAYMORE spent the summer of 1974 largely serving Coll, Tiree and Colonsay and indeed was laid up for over a year at Greenock until October 1975, when she was dusted down and emerged for her last, brief spell of west coast service.

CLAYMORE made her last passenger sailing for the Company, from Colonsay to Oban, on 7th November 1975, and returned to Greenock, being declared redundant shortly afterwards. In April 1976 she was sold to Canopus Shipping of Piraeus, and left Scotland on 10th May under her new name, CITY OF ANDROS, to join her ex-CSP consort CITY OF PIRAEUS – sometime MAID OF ARGYLL (1953). When the former CLAYMORE took up service in Greece her name had been changed again, to CITY OF HYDRA.

She became well-known on day-cruises to Hydra, Aegina and Poros fron Flisvos Marina, in the service of Cycladic Cruises, painted silver all over and almost unrecognisable after substantial rebuild - complete with swimming pool and dramatically flared bows. But MacBrayne's last mailboat was withdrawn around 1993 and was laid up for the next few years at Eleusis. On 24th November 2000 she sank at her moorings and will almost certainly be scrapped.
 
A magnificent CLAYMORE used to adorn the windows of the “Scottish Travel Centre” the STG maintained at Buchanan Street Bus Station in Glasgow. Latterly this model was displayed aboard a new CLAYMORE, the car ferry of 1978. The 1955 favourite also had a brief moment of cinematic glory; she can be seen, in all her newness and charm and in glorious Technicolor, berthing at Castlebay in the comedy Rockets Galore of 1955.

Text thanks to John MacLeod (C)

PICTURE: Tom McGratten
The Claymore model


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