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By 1968, despite the best endeavours of the four side-loading CSP ferries at Kyleakin, summer traffic to Skye had reached such a pitch that long queues, inordinate delay and irate travellers were once again the order of the day. 140,000 vehicles and 426,000 passengers piled up at Kyle of Lochalsh that year and, at its close – with the formation of the Scottish Transport Group – the Company announced long-term plans for the service. A proposal to build a road-bridge had been rejected – for now – and it was now rightly seen as essential that the ferry service be massively expanded. It was agreed that new large end-loading slipways be built by the local authorities and the CSP would order two large double-ended ferries for the passage, carrying 28 cars each.

But additional capacity was required immediately and in January 1969 the Company placed a contract with the Ailsa yard at Troon for a third nine-car side-loading ferryboat, of similar design to the new PORTREE and CORUISK but including saloon accommodation for fifty passengers. She was duly built at a cost of £44,000 and the CORUISK was
launched on 26th June 1969, taking up service at Kyleakin in July and so increasing the Skye fleet to five vessels. She was the second of her name in the Company and at the Skye station; an earlier CORUISK, a motor-launch built in 1947 as SILVER GRID, could carry forty passengers and was acquired for Kyleakin in 1950. She served for just four years and was laid up after the commissioning of the 1954 BROADFORD, being sold in 1955 to a Broadford hotel owner and subsequently being destroyed in a fire.

The new large Skye ferries were duly ordered in the spring of 1969 and works were confidently begun by the respective County Councils in constructing new slipways at Kyle and Kyleakin, delivery of the new craft being promised in twelve months. In fact they were seriously delayed and the summer of 1970 became a protracted Kyleakin nightmare, for in the course of the new harbour works the side-loading slip at Kyleakin had been half-covered by a new causeway and one of the two Kyle slips was blocked by the new end-loading terminal. There was accordingly only one side-loading berth left operational at either port and, with the loss of PORTREE for conversion to the Kyles of Bute station from February 1970, delays to traffic were appalling. In May, in a desperate bid to reduce the inordinate queues, a (temporary) 24-hour summer service began at Kyleakin.

The new KYLEAKIN finally arrived in mid August and the new LOCHALSH at the end of March 1971. BROADFORD headed south to join PORTREE at Rhubodach in like bow-loading blessedness, and the new CORUISK lay forlornly at Skye with her 1960 turntable sister KYLEAKIN II (renamed early spring 1970) as back-up and relief.

But the last of the Kyleakin side-loaders had already herself been identified for bow-loading deployment on the Clyde and in the autumn of 1971 it was announced that, suitably modified, she would start a new frequent ferry service to Cumbrae, sailing from Largs on a short passage to Balloch Bay. In September 1971 CORUISK duly sailed back to Troon for conversion and work began on new slipways two months later, at Largs and at a spot almost directly opposite on Cumbrae by the old Tattie Pier.

CORUISK took up her new duties on 11th March 1972, from Largs to what was now grandly called “Cumbrae Slip” and despite opposition from Millport Town Council, whose successful lobbying forced the Company to retain a seasonal Largs-Millport passenger service for many more years. The remodelled ex-Skye ferry could carry as many as eight or nine cars though in practice it was too cumbersome often to load more than six; unfortunately her passenger saloon had been extended somewhat forward of the steering-positions and this made her look distinctly odd.


At Largs in 1974

A consequence of the new service was that the authorities could finally close Fairlie Pier. (Its buildings were shortly afterwards destroyed by fire.) Such was the success of the new crossing that CORUISK's limited capacity proved inadequate and in July she was joined by KYLEAKIN II, now likewise converted to bowloading and renamed LARGS. In subsequent years they were frequently supported by one of the new Small Island Class ferries – most usually KILBRANNAN – and a 3-ship shuttle service could operate at the busiest periods. But bow-loading was not ideal on a station with such heavy commuter traffic and the former Skye ferries were rather prone to breakdown. With a certain sense of deja-vu, a large purpose-built double-ended ferry was ordered from Troon in 1976 and the new ISLE OF CUMBRAE, a smaller edition of KYLEAKIN and LOCHALSH, assumed the Cumbrae crossing in April 1977.

The CORUISK was once more redundant. Initially she and LARGS lay around the eponymous port as, once again, spare and relief, but CORUISK quickly found a wider role as general spare bow-loading capacity for CalMac, and relieved widely round the network for the rest of her career. She accordingly served, as events dictated, from Colintraive to Rhubodach Oban to Lismore etc.

But she was most associated with two West Highland routes in her final relief capacity – the service to Scalpay and as winter back-up on the crossing for which she was built, at Kyleakin. Scalpay saw her first burst of service furth of Clyde since 1971; she relieved the KILBRANNAN in April 1978, and became regular relief subsequently. Though not particularly popular with the Scalpay crew, because of her relative lack of power and manoeuvrability, CORUISK had her heroic moments; on a wild spring day in 1984 she was deliberately beached at Tarbert to off-load an ambulance (and its casualty) in a mercy-dash for treatment at Stornoway.

In November that year, stationed at Kyleakin, she sailed to Pabbay – off Broadford – to offload hay and collect some sheep; later that winter, she did some Raasay-Sconser runs. In July 1979, CORUISK relieved the LOCHNELL at Mingary (but did not prove a big hit with the folk of Kilchoan) and April 1980 saw her first stint at Lismore.

She spent less and less time in service as the years passed; in the high summer of 1983, for instance, CORUISK lay at Stornoway for over a month, and late in March 1984 an engine-failure – combined with unusually low tides – greatly embarrassed at her at Scalpay, when a fishing-boat had to take her place for most of Monday 24th. With the demise of LARGS in November 1983 she was restored to the role of summer back-up on the Cumbrae service, but returned to Kyle in her usual winter-relief capacity the following winter, where she caused some excitement on 19th February 1986 by springing a leak at her berth; firemen were summoned to pump her out.

She was still only seventeen years old, but the wee bowloader was now quite surplus to requirements with the commissioning of the LOCH-class quartet later in 1986. CORUISK was accordingly placed on the sale list and on 2nd and 3rd September that year was liberated from East India Harbour lay-up at Greenock to run trials for prospective purchasers. She was duly bought by Euroyachts Ltd. of Glasgow and handed over on Tuesday 9th September, sailing for the Gareloch. In 1987 she was sold on to a new owner in Penzance.

Text thanks to John MacLeod (C)


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