Kyles Ferries - crossing to Scalpay


On 16 December 1997 Scalpay's oldest resident, 103 year old Mrs Kirsty Morrison, became the first person since the ice age to cross the 300 metre wide Sound of Scalpay without using a boat. Mrs Morrison was in the first of a convoy of cars to cross the £6.4m Scalpay Bridge. In the eyes of some this fixed connection between Scalpay and Harris ended Scalpay's separate existence as an island. This section shows the flotilla of boats that served the island previous to the bridge.

The turntable principle: Scalpay (I) at Kyles Scalpay, Harris, July 1969

Scalpay (I) ex Maid Of Glencoe (II) at the Scalpay slip in July 1969

The largest vessel ever to serve at Scalpay, Scalpay (II) is shown here at the island's slipway in 1972. In a major refit at Shandon in October 1971 for the Scalpay service - in the course of which she was renamed and formally transferred to David MacBrayne Ltd - angled ends were cut into her ramps to suit the somewhat narrow slipways, and this is clearly shown in the photograph.

The Company's last turntable ferry is here shown at Tarbert, where the Scalpay vessel generally repaired every second Wednesday for refuelling. The Island was relieved each October for overhaul in Stornoway by an ex-Ballachulish ferry, Glen Mallie, from Kylerhea. Scalpay (II), displaced from the run in January 1977 by the Morvern, was never transferred to the ownership of Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd and so was, in fact, the last car ferry in the David MacBrayne fleet.

Morvern took over the Scalpay service on 13th January 1977. As she was unable to use the original slipways - built for side-loading craft - she ran an auxiliary route between a temporary end-loading ramp beside the original Scalpay slip to another slipway installed at the end of the Old Fishing Pier in Tarbert. The run took about twenty minutes. New end-loading slipways were meanwhile built atop the old jetties and Morvern is photographed above at Scalpay as the new terminal neared completion. A few days later she was replaced by the Kilbrannan and never, in fact, returned to Scalpay.

The temporary slip at Scalpay remained in use by local fishermen and was later refurbished by Edmund Nuttall Ltd - the company constructing the Scalpay bridge between 1995 and 1997 - for their landing-craft to unload materials. In certain weather conditions the Scalpay ferry occasionally ran to Tarbert, using the Old Fishing Pier slipway and a new emergency slip in Scalpay's North Harbour.

From 1986 the new Tarbert linkspan could be used for such rare sorties and the 1977 slip slid quickly into disrepair.

Text thanks to SoC Crew.

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