To the south west of the Island of Mull lies Iona, this small holy Isle, inhabited for many years by monks in the priory has never had a pier to bring the small population and increasing amounts of tourists to the Island until recently.
Before this, a flotilla of small ‘red boats’ served the island link from Mull or passing Steamers. CalMac has operated these tender services since 1933 and until June 1979 was operated by five of the small ‘red boats’, this eventually dwindled with the population to three then finally one with one in relief.
This service stopped when the steamers ceased to call and the Mull connection was started by a Island Class vessel, now it is operated by the Loch Buie, not many people would imagine she would be so successful here! Iona now has her fair share of visitors who enjoy an escape from the fast lane on this beautiful island.
Before the Loch Class moved into the frequent sailings from Tobermory to Mingary, this service too was operated by one of the ‘red boats’. At the time when the ferryboat took over in 1981 the service was considered uneconomical to run and CalMac had applied in April of the year before for its withdrawal. They only managed to get it down to summer only. After many tries to shrink or withdraw the service, the local authorities kept the service open and even managed to increase the sailings through funding. This resulted in the withdrawal of the wee ‘red boat’ and the start of the redundant Island Class ferry COLL in 1985.
'Red boats' also relieved at Lismore (until 1974); Toscaig (until MacBraynes got rid of it in the late Sixties) and Mingary. Flitboats did duty at Eigg, too, in the CalMac era.