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Main The Fleet Ships of the Fleet Glen Sannox History

GLEN SANNOX was the first purpose-built car ferry for the Isle of Arran and a mere sixty years late; the first motor-car, a “primitive four-seater Panhard and Levassor” was born to the island by PS JUPITER (I) on 15th May 1897. The island was (and remains) a major holiday destination and two twentieth century turbine steamers, both built expressly for Arran service – the second GLEN SANNOX (1925) and MARCHIONESS OF GRAHAM (1936) – were deliberately planned with sufficient open deck space for the shipping of cars. (The first GLEN SANNOX, by the way – built in 1892 for the Glasgow & South Western Railway Co.'s Arran service- was, at an amazing 20 ¼ knots on her trials, the fastest Clyde paddle steamer ever constructed, and one of the loveliest.)

In post-war conditions the pressure of vehicle traffic was already evidently beyond the traditional combination of an obliging tide and two springy planks, and even the “ABC” car ferries, pressed as they were on the Upper Clyde, could not be spared for a timetabled Arran service, even if their austere passenger accommodation had been up to it. Accordingly, early in 1955, the CSP management at Gourock were granted permission to order a fourth passenger and vehicular ferry – a larger and much improved version of the 1954 vessels and designed specifically for assorted duties at Arran.
The result was a ship which many still think was the finest car ferry the Company has ever built and which would enjoy a career remarkable for its versatility and its length: GLEN SANNOX served the company of over 32 years, a record for a major CalMac car ferry which may never be beaten. Her construction – the contract finally went to Ailsa of Troon – marked another and perhaps rather sad turning point in CalMac history: GLEN SANNOX was the last new vessel for Clyde & West Highland services which steam propulsion (specifically, steam turbines) was seriously considered. The CSP would in 1961 build, for the Stranraer to Larne service which fell under their orbit at that time, the turbine-driven CALEDONIAN PRINCESS, now languishing in sordid retirement as a Newcastle nightclub.

PICTURE: John Hall
As originally appeared with crane but in CSP livery


Instead the Caley stuck sensibly by internal-combustion engines, which had proved so reliable in the MAIDs and “ABC” ferries, and the new GLEN SANNOX, duly built for £468,000, was launched at Troon on Tuesday 30th April 1957, by Mrs James Ness: he was General Manager of British Railways, Scottish Region. The completion of the new ferry was rather delayed by a shipyard strike but she was, happily, ready for the high summer season. GLEN SANNOX ran trials on Thursday 27th June and her big Sulzer diesels achieved the remarkably high speed of just over eighteen knots. On a special VIP cruise the following day, GLEN SANNOX met the 1930 turbine DUCHESS OF MONTROSE in Rothesay Bay and, as they were both heading for Gourock, there was a very brief race in which GLEN SANNOX soon forged ahead. (In the circumstances, and in the knowledge that the DUCHESS OF MONTROSE had attained 20.71 knots at her trials, it is probable that her master judged it impolitic to embarrass the new ferry with invited guests aboard.)

GLEN SANNOX first tasted service on Greenock Fair Saturday, 29th June 1957, sailing from Gourock that morning to take all traffic offering for the 10.10 sailing from Ardrossan to Brodick. Upon her arrival at the island pier, the new ship was welcomed by Lady Jean Forde, who cut the traditional tape and welcomed off the first car. The ARRAN stood by, in case of breakdown or mishap; she did assume the main roster when the new ferry was delayed by hoist trouble. Later GLEN SANNOX returned to Gourock and spent a few more days receiving finishing touches while MARCHIONESS OF GRAHAM *with a little help from the 1937 paddler JUPITER) toiled heroically on the new Arran car ferry timetable. GLEN SANNOX finally assumed those duties on the evening of Friday 5th July.

So wistfully is GLEN SANNOX now remembered – a rounded, comfortable-looking ship with wooden decks and a big fat funnel, compared to the boxy floating garages of the modern CalMac fleet – that it is difficult to credit how many eyebrows she raised in 1957. All that superstructure forward, sighed critics, made her look unbalanced and weird; it was all the more accentuated because the main deck at her stern was open to the elements with neither cargo-hold, crew accommodation, or Samson posts – just a very obvious 7-ton crane behind the equally obvious hoist and side-ramps. She was a car ferry, she looked like a car ferry, she behaved like a car ferry, she would prove to be a very good car ferry and the only failure in her generally distinguished career was that ludicrous period when she spent three summers in denial of her defining purpose.

In fact the GLEN SANNOX showed real CSP inspiration; not a quality which generally defined the Caley, a much less imaginative and practical outfit than David MacBrayne Ltd
in the Fifties and Sixties. For a start, she was big – too big, sneered critics; but events entirely vindicated the design, with capacity for over fifty cars and able comfortably to accommodate over a thousand passengers. Her greater beam, and main-deck headroom, made her much better suited for buses and big lorries than the original car carriers though the crane, though once or twice vindicated (such as the day she freighted a vast motor-launch) was in practice very seldom used.

Like the ABC ferries, GLEN SANNOX had a bar below the car deck. Behind this lay the crew cabins. On her upper deck there were spacious facilities; a combined tea-room and bar aft, seating sixty, with a lounge forward that could seat 218. Between lounge and tea-room was the attractive entrance hall, with the Caley lion emblazoned on the linoleum. (The symbol was also fitted to her bows, and its return was welcome after a dreary decade of State control and the Orwellian greyness of “BR Marine”.) There was open and semi-enclosed deck space aft for passengers on this upper deck; there was much more on her promenade deck, with an abundance of wooden sparred seats – on this deck, too, was her tripod mainmast and her very handsome, modern funnel.

She bore only two lifeboats on her promenade deck, despite her considerable capacity;by special negotiation with the Board of Trade, she made up for additional boats with 42 inflatable liferafts: these saved space and could be launched a good deal faster. Forward on the promenade deck was a spacious observation lounge. Above was her bridge, with brass engineroom telegraphs – bridge-control of engines had to await the advent of MacBrayne's IONA, in 1970 – and the clubhouse behind the bridge contained her officers' quarters. There was also one extraordinary feature which would not be tolerated in our egalitarian age – a special room for the exclusive use of Arran landlords, the house of Montrose.

Her diesel machinery was formidable. Internal-combustion engines had proved their worth on the ships build between 1953 and 1954, but there was not sufficiently powerful British Polar units for the Arran behemoth and at length GLEN SANNOX was fitted with two Sulzer “M” engines, built in Switzerland. Each was an 8 cylinder 23-stroke type of 2200 BHP at 360 rpm and as a result GLEN SANNOX was just as powerful, and almost as fast, as the two Caley DUCHESSes. She was designed for a mean speed of 17 ½ knots; on trials she recorded 18.002 knots with something left in reserve. Her normal service speed, though, seldom exceeded fifteen knots; the extra margin was good to have with conditions demanded a burst of power.

GLEN SANNOX as built had a bow-rudder; this was essential for the Arran vessel and powered bow-thrust units were still a very expensive novelty. Her hoist was hydraulically powered and, by dint of its tougher machinery and her greater beam, the new ferry could carry much heavier loads than the pioneer car-ferries. The lift had, however, one serious failing; it was very slow, especially when fully laden. This was the only serious flaw in the big, stately and well-designed new ferry and her profile, widely criticised at the time as “top-heavy” - one fellow even damned her as a “gable end”! - now looks wistfully traditional.

Her looks were much enhanced by the painting of an additional white line around her hull; it was felt that the gap between the main (vehicle) and upper decks of the new car ferries gave too much an expanse of black, and the ABC ferries were similarly adorned. In fact GLEN SANNOX's appearance would change so often throughout her career – between three changes of livery by 1970, the arrival of a stern ramp, the loss of her crane, the remodelling of her side-ramps, her big 1976 refit for cruise duties and several more changes of livery even in the 1980s, it is very easy to date a photograph.
PICTURE: James Pottinger
Looking impressive passing Arran with additional white lines


The slow hoist apart, GLEN SANNOX proved a great success and the people of Arran quickly took her to their hearts; she remained a popular relief on the run to the end of her life. She was fast, spacious and comfortable and a great improvement on the ABC car ferries. Inevitably, with a new ship, there was a casualty: the commissioning of GLEN SANNOX finally allowed the company to dispose of KILDONAN, the glorified 1933 puffer which – originally ARRAN – had been renamed in favour of the car ferry. The last of the Clyde and Campbeltown Shipping Co. Ltd fleet – absorbed by the BTC in 1952 – she was withdrawn immediately when GLEN SANNOX entered service and in 1958 was broken up at Port Glasgow.

The 1936 turbine MARCHIONESS OF GRAHAM, built primarily for the Ardrossan-Arran service, lasted only one more season. She was withdrawn at the end of excursion duties in 1958 and ended up as a diesel-powered Greek cruise ship, so remodelled she was beyond recognition. She survived
till 1981 and was finally scrapped. But the saddest victim of the new car ferry was the handsome 1937 paddler JUPITER. Converted to oil-burning only in 1956, she was mothballed at the end of the 1957 season and was finally sold in May 1960 after dismal lay-up in Greenock's Albert Harbour. This fine ship was scrapped at Dublin in 1961, still only 24 years old.

The other consequence of her commissioning was a recasting for the freight and vehicle arrangements for Cumbrae. GLEN SANNOX was too big for regular calls to Millport Old Pier and, in fact, no photograph survives of any of her rare visits there. So the CSP management inaugurated a new, fourth “general purpose” service, with a spare car ferry – usually the ARRAN – running a thrice-weekly car ferry service, through spring and summer, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from Wemyss Bay to Millport.

GLEN SANNOX worked hard. Traditionally, the Arran steamer was Arran-based and offered two return trips daily. GLEN SANNOX lay overnight on the mainland – usually at Fairlie, which was a railway-owned pier and thus free from the preposterous Dock Labour Scheme – and offered four, with Ardrossan as the principal mainland port. This made life much easier for anyone who wanted to visit Arran for the day. And, of course, she was of huge benefit to the motorist: by the end of 1957 – barely six months in service – the new ship had borne twice as many cars to Arran (and that on her own) as had the entire CSP fleet through the whole of 1956.

The slowness of her hoist was, of course, only an issue in conditions of heavy traffic and very low tides and in her early years it was only on peak summer Saturdays that GLEN SANNOX was really embarrassed, often sailing well into the night to clear the backlog of vehicles and carry out all her rostered sailings. Through the first decade she enjoyed Saturday assistance, at least, for passengers, by the Ayr excursion steamer, PS CALEDONIA (1934).

In 1964 the GLEN SANNOX became the first CSP ship to receive a lion on her lum – specially made and off appropriate size; the standard model that was issued thereafter often appeared as a mere red blob on less fortunate steramers – and in 1965 was the first to adopt the new Caley colour-scheme, with its curious “monastral” blue for the hull, etc. In that year however, CALEDONIA was moved up the Firth to new duties from her new base (Craigendoran) and GLEN SANNOX was on her own even on the most frantic Fair Saturday, as car traffic continued remorselessly to increase.

By the time the Scottish Transport Group took control in 1969, the state of Arran's car ferry service was the most urgent Clyde priority. The STG sensibly throttled a ridiculous mid60s CSP plan for building yet more hoistloaders – two new vessels of very similar design and capacity to GLEN SANNOX – and pressed ahead urgently to convert the Arran service to drive-through operation; rather less wisely, they bought second-hand tonnage for the purpose. In fairness to the CSP management, there was no serious prospect of the Clyde resorts (and their timid local government) gaily spending the bast sums necessary for end-loading facilities; the Company culture, too, was so much one of many pretty well interchangeable ships able to operate from almost any conventional pier that hoist-loading had a certain simple charm.

Linkspans and other necessary infrastructure were finally installed at Ardrossan and Brodick early in 1970; that winter, during her overhaul, GLEN SANNOX was fitted with a stern ramp and duly offered end-loading at Brodick from midMay. She was not, however, to make first use of the Ardrossan terminal, for a new, small and uncertain CALEDONIA took over the Arran service on the evening of Friday 29th May.

The following day, Saturday 30th May, GLEN SANNOX assumed the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay run, giving seven return sailings. She was at first bedevilled by high tide difficulties at Rothesay harbour, for the town's pier is notoriously low in the water. A special wooden car-ramp had been built on the quay early in the year – GLEN SANNOX had popped up to test it on Sabbath 8th March, and could duly sideload sans hoist at high water – but there proved to be real difficulty disembarking passengers and a special gangway platform had to be built that summer. She needed regular assistance, besides, from COWAL or BUTE as their rosters permitted.

She was really rather too big for the Bute service, but spent two seasons serving Rothesay, relieving CALEDONIA in October/November 1970 at her old haunts. In November 1971, though, GLEN SANNOX was redeployed on the Gourock-Dunoon crossing. Gourock, unlike Wemyss Bay, now boasted a linkspan and her timekeeping greatly improved. In the winter of 1971-72, GLEN SANNOX enjoyed considerably remodelling. The white elephant of a crane was finally removed – with all other superstructure aft of her hoist – and she was fitted with new, longer side-ramps of solid and complicated appearance. She also shed her bow-rudder for a much more effective bow-thrust compartment, now de rigeur for a large car ferry. By the time she returned to service, Dunoon Pier now boasted a side-loading linkspan and GLEN SANNOX could offer an excellent service (with the rebuilt MAID OF Cumbrae as her 15-car “pup”) until the purpose-built JUPITER replaced her in March 1974.

It was the SANNOX's third burst of redundancy, but she promptly reinvented herself as a West Highland steamer, and spent the 1974 season as Oban-Craignure car ferry – the Mull vessel. By now she was increasingly bothered with mechanical trouble and spent much of her time at Mull sailing at reduced speed – one, and sometimes even two, cylinders on one engine inoperative. The real problem was that her particular type of Sulzer engine was obsolete and it was impossible to obtain spares. Short-term respite had been won by the time she returned to the Clyde – GLEN SANNOX's bothersome engine was fitted with a piston manufactured especially for her.

PICTURE: Stuart Cameron
Berthed at Oban's Railway Pier

Back on her home waters, she spent two years on the Ardyne contract word, ferrying hoardes of men to the McAlpine oil-rig yard from Wemyss Bay: GLEN SANNOX was the only available vessel with sufficient passenger capacity. Big and attractive as she was, it was an oddly rootless existence and it seemed curious that such a well-built ship had not really settled into any permanent role since displaced from Arran.

In 1976, though, the Scottish Transport Group decided that she was the ideal ship to assume the mantle of Clyde cruising; CalMac's last sea-going steamship QUEEN MARY was too old, too exotic and above all too expensive to retain in commission. Rather dated as she was, GLEN SANNOX was the obvious replacement: she had spacious accommodation, plenty of open deck space, all the economy of diesel and was sufficiently versatile car ferry to earn her keep in winter. It was not even a particularly new idea; this possible role for GLEN SANNOX had been knocking around since 1970. She had already been chartered for private cruises even in the late Sixties.

Accordingly the GLEN SANNOX was despatched from Gourock on Friday 29th October 1976 to Aberdeen shipbuilders Hall, Russell & Co. for a massive refit. The most urgent task was re-engining.Wichmann diesels had proved a great success on the new SUILVEN, placed on the Stornoway crossing in August 1974. Two of these Norwegian-built units were duly installed on GLEN SANNOX as she lay at Aberdeen, but her pair of engines -outwardly very similar to those on SUILVEN – were uprated to deliver more power. Rated for a maximum of 2333 BHP each at 415 rpm, they were of 7-cylinder 2 stroke turbo-charged type, and physically much smaller than her original Sulzers.

The Sulzers, too, had been direct-reversing engines, a concept now obsolete. In order to save the consisderable cost of fitting GLEN SANNOX with new propellors as well as everything else, she was equipped instead with a splendid gearbox -this granted astern running of the propellors while her Wichmann engines continued to run ahead; in addition, her original propellors continued to run at 360 rpm, even when the Wichmanns were at full power on 415.

And that was just the machinery. Her passenger spaces were thoroughly gutted. The tearoom was converted into the “Tartan Bar” - just as bad as it sounds – and her original bar, in the bowels below the car deck, became a self-service cafeteria. A “teabar”, too, was installed in her forward lounge. New seating was fitted everywhere and there was massive redecoration. It was all a great deal of work and it was over four months - 2nd March 1977 – before GLEN SANNOX returned to the Clyde.

In fact she would not assume Clyde cruising for another year: QUEEN MARY won a season's reprieve as CalMac needed GLEN SANNOX back on the Rothesay run, which was being converted to linkspan operation and for which a new ferry (SATURN) was being built. So GLEN SANNOX took up the Bute ferry roster and duly inaugurated these new facilities in May and June of 1977. With hoiost-loading now history on the Clyde, it was a far easier task – for, in terms of passenger numbers, it had become and remains CalMac's busiest service – and GLEN SANNOX required assistance only on Saturdays, with the elderly COWAL wilting into retirement at the end of May, though in the winter conditions she encountered on subsequent off-season Rothesay relief her very exposed berth at Wemyss Bay could be impossible to quit in a southerly gale.

She spent much of the 1977-78 winter, however, on the Mull station and proved so popular that the island's community council petitioned for her to be permanently stationed as the island ferry. CalMac, however, had committed themselves to maintaining a Clyde cruising programme and that winter's overhaul saw GLEN SANNOX further adapted for such duties. Two white lines were painted round her hull – greatly improving her looks; the bulwarks aft of her hoist were built up, and fitted with big windows, and two doors were cut in the after end of her promenade-deck to serve portrable airport-style steps down to the vehicle deck. After yet more ferry duties, GLEN SANNOX finally launched her Clyde excursion with a celebratory VIP Round Bute cruise. There followed a week of special charters, etc., before GLEN SANNOX assumed a carefully planned programme.

She offered full down-the-water sails from Glasgow to the Kyles of Bute on Sundays; Monday to Friday, she was based at Gourock, offering a Tighnabruaich excursion on Mondays, Loch Goil on Tuesdays, Arran on Wednesdays and Round Bute on Thursdays. Assorted outings were tried on Fridays and on Saturdays she hung up the “Kiss Me Quick” hat to operate as a dull old car ferry again, usually on Rothesay, recovering some evening gaiety with a non-return positioning cruise to Glasgow. The early winters saw GLEN SANNOX employed on general Clyde relief and, for the most part, as the Mull ferry, a service from which CALEDONIA's grossly inadequate winter passenger certificate precluded her use.

It is just possible GLEN SANNOX might have become a successful Clyde excursion steamers, granted clement weather and the absence of any more romantic competition. In fact the summers of 1978, 1979 and 1980 were awful and, even when the sun smiled, her performance was barely satisfactory against records for the late, lamented 1933 turbine steamer. The fundamental problem was that nothing – not gay umbrellas on the vehicle deck; not acres of bunting and the band of the Royal Marines – could disguise GLEN SANNOX's primary function, as a side and stern-loading car ferry – and there was, of course, formidable opposition, the paddle-steamer WAVERLEY. The only unqualified success was the rival of day cruises to Campbeltown, on Tuesdays, in the 1979 schedule. Bad marketing – CalMac advertising reached its nadir around 1980 – provided the killer punch. It was always naïve to assume that a diesel car ferry, even with plastic picnic tables and plastic sun-umbrellas, had any chance of whipping a shrewdly publicised and much-loved paddle-steamer.

Glasgow was dropped from the 1980 timetable, due to poor passenger figures, and Cambeltown became destination for Monday's cruise: Tighnabruaich was shifted to Tuesdays, and on peak Fridays and every Saturday afternoon through the summer of 1980 the GLEN SANNOX had to go and help out the besieged CLANSMAN at Brodick.
 

By season's end CalMac confronted a loss of £232,000 on Clyde cruising for 1980 and the scale of the failure could no longer be denied. 1981 saw, instead, a programme of short “inter-resort” excursions, with GLEN SANNOX serving as Gourock-Dunoon ferry of a morning and evening and providing Brosdick and Rothesay relief of a Saturday, whizzing around on weekday afternoons between Rothesay, Largs, Brodick and Tighnabruaich. She also saw much wider West Highland service that June/July, when both HEBRIDES and CLAYMORE (1979) were for some weeks out of commission – GLEN SANNOX had already relieved on the Islay run, early in 1981, and now assumed the COLUMBA's varied duties from Oban, sailing to Tobermory, Coll, Tiree, Colonsay and Iona. A ferry door was actually cut in one of her side-ramps for the Iona landing, but in the event the flit-boat operation was beyond her and instead she offered a nip into Loch Buie on the way home from the non-landing cruise.
PICTURE: Stuart Cameron
At Ardrossan (right) with Lady of Mann while
covering for Clansman

Early in 1982 it was decided to spare the respect car ferry further humiliation and it was announced that CalMac had abandoned the Clyde cruising programme – and that on top of the abandonment of Loch Lomond. A Strathclyde Regional Council spokesman, reflecting bitterly on how the local authority had for some years left WAVERLEY without succour as Strathclyde bankrolled CalMac excursion endeavours, said, “It is very luck that a few people had confidence in the WAVERLEY because otherwise we would have no sailing on the Clyde.”

There was a report in Ship's Monthly that GLEN SANNOX “was to be transferred to the Western Isles as a replacement for the HEBRIDES which is to be sold,” but this proved to be unfounded; GLEN SANNOX never sailed to any of the Outer Hebrides, or even to Skye, and her infamous hoist would have caused untold problems on the Uig triangle. In any event, despite all the other improvements carried out on GLEN SANNOX through the decades, she was never fitted with stabilisers and could be lively in exposed conditions.

It is much more likely that the Company planned to redeploy COLUMBA on that service, with GLEN SANNOX assuming her Oban timetable; the option finally discounted because of the need for Clyde back-up in high summer. If anything befell CLANSMAN – and a great deal was going wrong with that clapped-out ferry by the early Eighties – none of the “streakers” could service Arran and GLEN SANNOX was really the only suitable alternative.

GLEN SANNOX duly spent her final summers as Clyde spare vessel, lying every summer in Greenock's East India harbour with a skeleton crew ready to leap into activity whenever pressing need materialised. Indeed, it transpired rather often; she spent the whole of July 1982, and some more time beside, in full-time service to Rothesay; and three solid weeks in high summer1983 replacing the senescent CLANSMAN at Brodick. 1984 saw another week at Arran with three long spells on the Islay station and even 1985 saw her in bursts of summer service for stretches of a few days, both at Islay and on the Clyde. Ironically, that summer the Company did revive some Clyde cruising – with a view to establishiong some sort of abiding userfulness for the little KEPPEL, facing imminent redundancy at Millport – and the first Tighnabruaich excursion was performed by GLEN SANNOX.

PICTURE: Stuart Cameron
Spending one of her last seasons
leaving Ardrossan for Arran


But she was no longer forced to pretend to be a pleasure-boat and as if to emphasise the fact her extra, rather bonnie white lines were painted out at overhaul (unusually, in Govan) in October 1982. With the demise of MAID OF THE LOCH she was, after all, now the oldest major ship in the fleet and perhaps expected to lead a suitablty sober existence. GLEN SANNOX eventually donned the vast white “Caledonian MacBrayne” lettering in June 1985, in common with most CalMac vessels. It did not enhance her appearance.

And she remained a very busy ship in winter; she was frequently based at Oban for seven months at a stretch, on a combined roster to Mull and Colonsay, all the longer as CALEDONIA became increasingly an embarrassment and the COLUMBA's hoist-loading service increasingly unacceptable. It was on one of those occasions that GLEN SANNOX took a Colonsay run – two and a half hours' sail from Oban – which is still trotted out as a reminder of the economic realities for CalMac in Hebridean winter; fully crewed and guzzling diesel, GLEN SANNOX made for Colonsay on her timetabled run with no cars, no lorries, not bicycles, no vehicle of any kind and not a single passenger – bearing nothing but fourteen copies of the Oban Times.

The Mull folk never stopped loving GLEN SANNOX and never stopped trying to acquire her as their permanent ferry; at the time, though, she was the only ship of the fleet which combined both ample car and passenger capacity with the necessary facilities to provide emergency service on any route on the Clyde and Inner Hebrides. CalMac could not spare a ship of such versatility for dedicated service to one route.

By 1988, though, GLEN SANNOX was nearing the end of her useful life; she would never passed muster under modern MCA safety requirements and had increasing difficulty with the huge, heavy vehicles now allowed on British roads. Her fuel economy and crew accommodation were well behibd contemporary standards and in any event CalMac planned completely to recast its operations from Oban, with a view to allowing the reduction of the fleet by one large unit – even with the commissioning of two new vessels, ISLE OF MULL (1988) and LORD OF THE ISLES (1989). COLUMBA and GLEN SANNOX would be redundant and CLAYMORE would “cascade” to the Islay station, releasing IONA for the Mallaig to Armadale crossing and allowing PIONEER to adopt GLEN SANNOX's role as year-round spare vessel.

PICTURE:
Entering Oban Bay beneath a glorious sunset 

In fact GLEN SANNOX was quite busy through the first half of 1989, undertaking a succession of cruises and helping out on assorted routes as required. She spent three weeks on the Islay station, from 17th February – latterly sailing from Oban while a linkspan was built at Kennacraig – and then a week in Mull, hibernating at Greenock before emerging briefly to assist at Brodick. There followed a month in more formal relief of the ISLE OF ARRAN and then another burst at Islay. Her excursions included a Gourock-Campbeltown cruise, on Saturday 8th April, with calls at Dunoon, Wemyss Bay, Largs and Brodick. Her annual charter for a Govan Shipbuilders cruise, from Govan to Rothesay, was on Saturday 19th June 1989 and proved to be her last job for the company.

Her sale to Greek owners had been reported on18th April; this fell through, but a new deal was brokered to Arab interests and she was formally handed over on Monday 24th July, being renamed KNOOZ and registered in Panama. Earlier that month her lions were removed and her Company lettering painted out. She left the James Watt Dock for the last time on Wednesday 9th August 1989, dropped her pilot at the Tail o' the Bank and sailed for Piraeus under her own power.

At Perama, the former GLEN SANNOX was massively rebuilt for further service – seemingly on the busy Red Sea Muslim pilgrim-trade – and subsequently sailed under various names: NADIA, AL MARWAH and AL BASMALAH. This much-loved Clyde and West Highland ferry appears finally to have been laid up, being scrapped in the summer of 2000.

PICTURE: (C) Craig Newman
Her sad final fate as the wreck of Al Basmalah


SoC Update 2012: As of 2010 it appears that the former GLEN SANNOX is still clinging onto existence in the Red Sea, she can be found on Google Earth imagery from that period at the following coordinates: 20.8805953049, 39.3557390498 (Use Google Earth or Google Maps search to enter given position and make sure satellite view is enabled).

Text thanks to John MacLeod (C)


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