Main The Company Company History (Timeline)

An Outlined History of Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd


First Clyde steamer, PS COMET, sailed from Glasgow to Greenock

1814 Birth of David MacBrayne
1819 PS COMET commenced sailing to West Highlands
1841 Glasgow-Greenock railway opened
1851 David Hutcheson & Co. Formed to operate steamers between Glasgow and the Highlands
1861 The SS FINGAL is acquired for the Stornoway run – the first screw ship in the company's history. She sails for only four months before being sold for blockade-running to the American Confederacy
1866 Opening of railhead at Princes Pier (subsidiary of the Glasgow & South Western Railway Co.)
1879 David Hutcheson & Co. renamed David MacBrayne
1889 Formation of the Caledonian Steam Packet Co. and the opening of the Gourock route; CSP created by Caledonian Railway Co. to circumvent the law which at that time forbade railway concerns from operating passenger shipping
1891 G&SWR obtained Parliamentary powers to run steamers
1901 KING EDWARD, the first turbine-powered passenger steamer anywhere in the world, appears on the Clyde. She will later be acquired by the CSP and sail on until 1952
1906 David MacBrayne became a Limited Company as David MacBrayne retires
1907 David MacBrayne dies on 26th January at the age of 92. The little twin-screw COMET, acquired second-hand for the Ballachulish-Kinlochleven run, is the first motor-propelled MacBrayne ship.
1908 Start of polling arrangement between CSP Co. and G&SWR
1923 CSP Co. and GSWR amalgamated under the control of LMS Railway; North British steamers pass to control of LNER
1928 Formation of David MacBrayne (1928) Ltd as the family sells out, unable to make business pay in post-war conditions; the new company is under joint control of LMS Railway and Coast Lines Ltd and, then and since, has required public subsidy for most West Highland services
1931 The latest of several new motor-vessels for MacBraynes, LOCH FYNE, takes up service. She is the first diesel-electric ship in the fleet and is shown at the Broomielaw in June alongside a company veteran. That legendary MacBrayne paddle-steamer, GLENCOE, is shortly withdrawn and broken up. Built for service to Stornoway by Sir James Matheson before passing to David Hutcheson & Co., she is 85 years old
1934 Restoration of the name David MacBrayne Ltd
1935 Takeover of Williamson-Buchanan Steamers by CSP/LMS; Turbine Steamers Ltd are acquired by MacBraynes, who also take over the little LMS passenger and vehicle ferries on the Kyleakin crossing to Skye. WEE CUMBRAE is built for the CSP by Denny's Dumbarton – the CSP's first motor-propelled ship
1945 In January the CSP are put in charge of the Kyleakin ferry
1948 The railways are nationalised. The LMS and LNER Clyde fleets are amalgamated under the British Transport Commission, who also acquire the 50% LMS Railway holding in David MacBrayne Ltd
1954 On 4th January the ARRAN, the first major car ferry in either fleet, begins her career on the Gourock-Dunoon service
1957 By this time the name of the Caledonian Steam Packet Co. is revived and presides over all railway controlled vessels in Scotland
1964 By special Parliamentary arrangement three major car ferries have been built for David MacBrayne Ltd and the first, HEBRIDES, takes up service on the new Uig-Tarbert-Lochmaddy service in April. They are officially owned by the Secretary of State for Scotland, registered at Leith and chartered to MacBraynes.
1967 A 1961-built Thames passenger ferry, ROSE, is acquired by the CSP for the Largs-Millport service. Renamed KEPPEL, this little ship will survive in the fleet until 1993 and is the first boat in either company of Voith-Schneider propulsion
1969 On 1st January the newly created Scottish Transport Group takes charge of all state-owned bus, haulage and passenger shipping operations in Scotland – including the entire CSP fleet and a 50% interest in David MacBrayne Ltd. On 14th July STG buy out Coast Lines Ltd's interest in MacBraynes and so is in entire charge of CSP and MacBrayne fleets and services
1970 The new IONA takes up there Gourock-Dunoon station in May – chartered to the CSP but built for MacBraynes. She is the first drive-through RO/RO ferry in either fleet and in fact will be the last “laid down” for the company until the ISLE OF ARRAN. That August the new KYLEAKIN takes up service to Skye and is the first double-ended ferry in the fleet. These new ferries are rather successful. The Company's first and last hovercraft – HM2-011 – is not, and is firmly retired in 1971 after only two seasons on the Dunoon station
1973 The Caledonian Steam Packet Co. Ltd is renamed Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd with responsibility for all excursion steamers and every car ferry service save that to Scalpay, Harris. David MacBrayne Ltd retains control only of subsidy-essential passenger and cargo services and ownership of one small vehicle ferry, five conventional ships and several small craft. Ownership of every other vessel is transferred to Caledonian MacBrayne Holdings Ltd – except the three 1964 ferries, ownership of which is transferred from the Secretary of State to David MacBrayne Ltd; they are then solemnly chartered to CalMac. At season's end the company's last sea-going paddle-steamer, WAVERLEY, is withdrawn. She is later sold for £1 to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society
1974 KING GEORGE V, the last passenger steamer in the West Highlands, is withdrawn in September
1975 The CLAYMORE of 1955, the last traditional MacBrayne “mailboat”, is finally withdrawn
1976 The LOCH CARRON of 1951, operating the last MacBrayne cargo service, from Glasgow to Stornoway, retires in November
1977 In January the SCALPAY, the last turntable ferry in the fleet, is withdrawn. That autumn the QUEEN MARY, the Clyde's last turbine steamer, finally retires
1979 The pioneer car ferry ARRAN is withdrawn that autumn. The MORVERN (1973) inaugurates a new car ferry service to Iona and islanders are at last delivered “from the age of the coracle”

David MacBrayne Ltd is reduced to a paper company – the huge hike in oi9l prices has put paid to hopes of a subsidy-free CalMac – and Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd assumes ownership and operation of the entire fleet

1981 The MAID OF THE LOCH, last steamship in the fleet, is withdrawn that autumn. The GLEN SANNOX, which has provided increasingly forlorn Clyde cruises since the spring of 1978 in succession to QUEEN MARY, concludes for the season and in early 1982 it is confirmed she will not resume a summer cruise schedule
1985 The new HEBRIDEAN ISLES, launched on the River Ouse in Yorkshire, is the company's first vessel built in England, the first to be launched sideways and the first to be launched by royalty (HRH The Duchess of Kent)
1988 The COLUMBA, the last purely hoist-loading vehicle ferry, is withdrawn and sold
1989 The Scottish Transport Group is broken up. The bus and haulage elements are sold to the private sector and Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd alone survives, in direct ownership of the Secretary of State for Scotland with a public Board. The GLEN SANNOX of 1957 is finally withdrawn; her record as the longest-serving car ferry in the fleet is still unsurpassed
1993 The Government commissions another study in the hope of engineering the privatisation of CalMac. This is subsequently proven to be impossible
1994 With the completion of linkspans at Mallaig and Armadale, the last hoist-loading car ferry service is history
1995 Opening of the Skye Bridge and the end of the Kyleakin ferry
2000 Having seen off repeated efforts to force its privatisation, Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd survive triumphantly as the last great nationalised industry in captivity, having steadily cut their need of subsidy in real terms for almost twenty years. A daughter concern, NorthLink, is created to operate passenger services to Orkney and Shetland – and wins the tender
2001 A new history, by Iain McCrorie, Royal Road to the Isles, celebrates 150 years of West Highland operations – in the course of which no Hutcheson/MacBraynes/CSP/CalMac passenger has ever been lost by shipwreck

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