Eriskay - Supply Vessel
Crossing Time: Few Minuets
1950c - 1960c:
Eriskay (Period): Wooden Pier.
Supply Vessel: Facilities
for loading / unloading ranged from doors cut into the side of larger
vessels where goods could be 'passed' onto waiting vessels, to Hydraulic
cranes and steam winched mounted on the vessel.
It is believed there was only ever one
boat supplied to Eriskay, mainly for the purpose of cargo lightering and
transfer to the Island pier from the cargo 'steamer' arriving from
Glasgow, - usually either Lochearn,
Lochmor, or on occasions, Lochbroom,
Loch Seaforth or
Claymore, acting as relief vessels if the others were away
undergoing annual refit and dry-docking.
The following account kindly recalled by islander Angus MacKinnon sheds
some light into her role there...
I am 99% sure that she never carried a name or registration number, on our
Island she was simply known by everyone as 'the red launch'. I recall she
was very heavy carvel build, of the order of perhaps 32-34 feet in length,
possibly around 10 feet beam and drawing around 3 feet aft when light. I
recall she had a fair-sized Kelvin engine with a big flywheel, I would
guess for these times around the 24 BHP, and almost certainly the 'J'
I understand these craft were supplied by David MacBrayne to a few of
those smaller island communities where the cargo could not, in these
times, be landed at a pier, e.g. Eriskay, Coll, Tiree, etc.
And now the difficult part - when did this craft arrive and when did she
leave? I really haven't a clue, but I can remember her when I was still
going to school up there in the early 1950s, and I guess she would remain
there until the advent of RO-RO ferries to the Outer Isles, and the
arrival of the Ludag-Haun vehicular ferry.
She was operated by the late Eriskay ferryman, John Mac Isaac, who had the
contract for the mails with his own boat (26 ft clinker-built Saint
Joseph) as well as the MacBrayne cargo boat coming from the Clyde. He
would recruit two or three men on 'boat day' and, after the boat - usually
either Lochearn or Lochmor - dropped anchor in the Sound of Eriskay,
between the Island of Calvay and the Uist shore (and just a matter of two
hundred yards from the spot where the whisky-galore ship S.S. Politician
ran ashore in February 1941) they would conduct two or three shuttle runs
between the anchored vessel and the Island pier, transferring the 'stores'
from ship to shore.
These stores included foodstuffs of all sorts including bread loaves from
the Glasgow bakeries that were already by that time blue-moulded around
the edges, sugar, tea, Camp coffee, tins of condensed milk, cigarettes,
wellington boots, biscuits, sweets, lemonade, sou'westers and oilies, rope, crockery, pails, nails, fencing, seed, flour, and
many other commodities.
These goods were lowered down from the 'boat' (she was never referred to
as a ship for some reason) in rope nets with the accompanying squeal and
screech of blocks and winches to the waiting arms below that swung it
inboard and down into the 'hold', where the slings and net were let go for
hauling back up and a repeat exercise. While the next laod was being
prepared those on the 'red launch' far below busied themselves stowing the
cargo into the corners for even load distribution.
For wee fellah's like myself the dream was to be selected for this vital
work in the first instance, then, sometimes with the hand of providence
lending assistance, not unlike a Maradonna stroke, the 'accidental'
bursting open of a carton containing perchance lots of Abernethy biscuits,
and another particularly sweet one called 'Nice'!
I would at a guess put the period when we had the
red launch at something around very early 1950s through until about the
time I went to Malta - 1968.
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