Main The Fleet Ships of the Fleet Ulva History

This little ship became the very last of the rather cute MacBrayne “red boats” and would, remarkably, set the post-war record for company service, surviving almost into the twenty-first century.

She was ordered by David MacBrayne Ltd. To replace the little SOAY, which had dismally sunk in the winter of 1955-56, and in 1956 joined the fleet of small craft at Iona and Staffa . At the latter isle she tendered merely to passengers from KING GEORGE V, until landing at Staffa ceased in 1964 – the path to the famous Fingal's Cave was blocked by a rock-fall.

Originally varnished, ULVA was later painted red like the rest of the other little boats in the fleet. She survived at Iona even in 1979, remaining at the station as back up to MORVERN, but in September 1980 was transferred to Eigg to serve as flitboat in succession to the rather old KILDONAN, acquired by CalMac in 1975 but built as long ago as 1923.

ULVA was re-engined in 1983 and by the end of the century was the last of the MacBrayne “red boats”. “Because of her small size and limited duties,” noted the West Highland Steamer Club newsletter of April 2001, “ULVA was often overlooked by many as being part of the fleet. This was also true of CalMac themselves at times when her name was missed out of published fleet lists! This sadly obscured the fact that she was the veteran of the fleet...”

By early 2000 her deteriorating hull finally forced the Company into building her replacement, and ULVA made her last tendering run at Eigg on Wednesday 20th December. The following day her brash replacement LAIG BAY arrived from her builders and, under tow by LOCH LINNHE, ULVA left Eigg on Friday 22nd and was later berthed at Tobermory, awaiting sail. Her sail to a Fort William owner was reported in March 2001, and he appears to have been interested only in ripping out her engine; ULVA was apparently broken up on Tobermory beach. It was an unceremonious, rather sad end for a doughty little survivor which was not only the last of her class but the very last vessel formally to be operated by David MacBrayne Ltd.

PICTURE: Neil King
ULVA ferrying out to LOCHMOR from Eigg, 1988.

Text thanks to John MacLeod (C) Picture: Neil King (C)

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