Main The Fleet Ships of the Fleet Loch Toscaig History

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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