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Main The Fleet Ships of the Fleet Lochnevis (I) History

LOCHNEVIS (I) was the second – and, indeed, last diesel-electric ship built for MacBraynes – though not the last built for a parent-company of Calonian MacBrayne Ltd,; the LNER's Craigendoran diesel-electric paddler, TALISMAN, was built in 1935, acquired by the BTC upon nationalisation in 1948 and retired in 1966 as the CSP's Millport vessel. In general lines and engineering LOCHNEVIS closely resembled the LOCHFYNE, and had the same rather cluttered decks; but she bore only one funnel and was significantly smaller. Though it was briefly proposed she inherit the original engines of the LOCHFYNE, this was not done.

She was, besides, a typical MacBrayne “mailboat”, complete with hold and derrick and LOCHNEVIS would spend most of her career on the Mallaig-Kyle-Portree service, including a ferry call at Kylerhea and a brief stop at Raasay – the Skye Mail run. It was a daytime service and she was not fitted out with sleeping berths. She was, in fact, really the successor to the venerable paddle-steamer GLENCOE of 1846.

Named and launched by Lady Read – wife of Sir Alexander Read – at Dumbarton, on 15th May 1934, LOCHNEVIS ran trials on 28th June and attained her designed full speed of 15 knots – though her propelling motors were placed in a separate compartment from her diesel plant – the first class smoking room and bar were between them - and further aft than on LOCHFYNE. These could be controlled eiother from her bridge or engine-room as required.

The latest recruit cost £45,999. and LOCHNEVIS was guaranteed to be “upkeep-free” for twelve months. Enthusiasts were not, unlike LOCHFYNE, granted a view of the machinery, but it did signficantly reduce noise in the passenger compartments. Her builders had worked hard, though, largely to eliminate the tiresome vibration that plagued LOCHFYNE, and this was achieved by mounting the bed-plates of her diesel machinery on specially designed springs.

Her accomodation was of a very high standard, for two classes and including lounges, dining rooms, smoke rooms and plenty of covered deck space.

She assumed the Portree service later in the 1934 season and from 1935 also gave highly popular cruises to such beauty spots as Gairloch, Loch Torridon, and Loch Scavaig on Skye with its splendid views of the Cuillin.

She spent the first three months of 1940 on the Ardrishaig mail service, from Wemyss Bay rather than Gourock on account of the Cloch anti-submarine boom and in MacBrayne's rather hideous wartime livery – black funnels, black hull and “horizon yellow” superstructure. That December she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and spent the next three years as HMS LOCHNEVIS an a dedicated minelayer. She was decommissioned in February 1944 as she was deemed too small, but only returned to MacBrayne service in June – and, again, on the Ardrishaig mails. She would relieve there again in December 1945 but though restored to the Portree route the Loch Scavaig cruises were assumed, post-war, by the Outer Isles ship LOCHMOR.

LOCHNEVIS was a most reliable and popular vessel and an excellent seaboat. In 1946 she acquired a third lifeboat for her Class II certificate; in 1952, a mainmast. `11956 saw her re-engined with Mirrlees National diesels and she also gained two inflatable rubber dinghies. Minor alterations in June 1956 included installation of a flush hatch over her cargo hold, which permitted thereafter the carriage of nine cars (loaded laboriously by crane and slings) rather than six.

The trouble was that the Portree service itself was becoming obsolete; cars, freight and even passengers increasingly chose access to Skye by road and the more and more popular Kyleakin car ferry – developed by the LMS from the late Twenties and a West Highland outpost for the CSP after 1945. By the end of the decade MacBraynes had begun rapidly to downgrade the Portree run with smaller and smakller ships and in 1959 LOCHNEVIS was transferred to Oban, replacing the LOCHFYNE in supporting role to the KING GEORGE V – the LOCHFYNE herself taking up the Ardrishaig run in succession to the veteran 1912 turbine SAINT COLUMBA.
 
LOCHNEVIS did spend her summer Saturdays in 1959 on the Portree service, but after that ventured north only for relief. In 1960 she saw further slight modification; her shelterdeck was plated in and portholes added. Through 1965 she became the Islay mailboat to allow the LOCHIEL to give a dedicated car ferry service, but in 1966 this role for LOCHNEVIS was rather reduced and she maintained a part-schedule of Oban excursions between these Islay jaunts. She also relieved, sometimes for lengthy periods, on the Gourock-Tarbert-Ardrishaig run.

Picture: Stuart Cameron
At Port Askaig with the Paps of Jura behind


The huge success of the pioneer hoist-loading car ferry COLUMBA, which became the Mull vessel from 1964, rapidly squeezed LOCHNEVIS out of MacBrayne usefulness and her passenger figures shrank to leave her most vulnerable to STF rationalisation. She gave her last “Six Lochs” cruise on 25th September 1969 and her her final sailing – last in a programme of autumn livestock runs – on 16th October. LOCHNEVIS then retired to the East India Harbour at Greenock and was advertised for sail.

Sold to Firma A C Slooten of Wormer, Holland, LOCHNEVIS left the Clyde under her own power on 23rd March 1970 and reached Holyhead on the 25th, reaching Ijmuiden on the 27th. She never saw further service and was scrapped in 1974 – a sad end for a well-loved and versatile workhorse once memorably described as “MacBraynes' shifting spanner.”

Text thanks to John MacLeod (C)


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