Ships of the Fleet
In May 1955 David MacBrayne Ltd acquired the motor fishing vessel, IRENE JULIA,
to provide a new service between Kyle of Lochalsh and the Applecross peninsula,
thus relieving LOCH SEAFORTH from the necessity of a regular Applecross call on
her inward journey from Kyle. At that time the only road to Applecross and
district was the very high and winding Bealach na Ba from Kishorn, no less
challenging a drive then than now, and very vulnerable to winter snow. (A
coastal road from Shieldaig was finally completed in 1972.)
Originally built in 1945 – as the boringly named MFV 1003 – IRENE JULIA actually
began life not as a fishing smack but as a little tender for use at the many
wartime naval locations and bases. 850 of these vessels were constructed. She
became IRENE JULIA in 1946 and then enjoyed a fishing career, though her
ownership has not been traced.
For MacBraynes service she was put to Greenock for substantial refit; her crew
quarters were converted into passenger accommodation, and her substantial
fish-holds into a cargo hold. Renamed LOCH TOSCAIG in May 1956, she took up the
Applecross service that month – sailing in fact to the picturesque little bay of
Toscaig village – and in summertime she also gave morning cruises from Kyle of
Lochalsh to Loch Duich, Loch Carron, Loch Kishorn, Loch Toscaig, Broadford bay
and the Narrows of Raasay.
Originally in standard MacBrayne black, her hull was painted light blue in
1960; dark blue in 1963. The following year saw the transfer of LOCH TOSCAIG to
the Lismore run as she made a straight swap with LOCHNELL. She also relieved
regularly on the Tobermory-Mingarry service. At her 1971 overhaul the painters
carelessly dubbed her LOCH TOSCAIG – GLASGOW on both bow and stern! In 1972,
more successfully, a white line was painted around the top of her hull and in
1973 – while COLUMBA was heavily occupied with cattle runs – she made a novel
sailing on passenger service from Oban to Craignure.
With Blue Hull at Loch Toscaig
1974 saw LOCH TOSCAIG afflicted with serious engine trouble and she was relieved
at Lismore, first by the new bow-loading car ferry MORVERN and then her slightly
larger sister-ship BRUERNISH. While not officially rostered to provide a car
ferry service from Oban to Lismore, the “Island Class” vessels proved such a hit
with their ability to land vehicles on a suitable stretch of beach
that poor LOCH TOSCAIG emerged from overhaul to find herself quite unwanted, and
she was simply laid up.
She was sold in November 1975 to Mr Gerrard of London and was later used to give
fishing trips from Gourock. On 29th December 1978 LOCH TOSCAIG was blown from
her Gourock moorings and sank. Though she was raised and beached, she was not
repaired and quickly became a total wreck, finally demolished in September 1986.
Text thanks to John
MacLeod (C) Picture: Postcard (Neil King Collection)
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