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The Sinking of Loch Seaforth

In 1947, MacBraynes’ new mail ship Loch Seaforth commenced service on the Mallaig – Kyle and Stornoway service. The company had her built by Denny of Dumbarton as part of the 1938 mail contract which significantly improved travel in the Western Isles...

She remained a faithful servant on this route for a quarter of a century, until replaced by the car ferry Iona, who inaugurated a ro-ro car ferry service to Lewis. Loch Seaforth moved to the Inner isles mail run from Oban, replacing Claymore who was also built at Dennys. During her lifetime, Loch Seaforth had a couple of minor incidents that could have been a lot worse. She ran aground on Longay Island on 22 October 1971 but damage to the ship was not too serious. However, on March 23 she ran aground on Cleit Rock in the Sound of Gunna (this being the water that separates Coll and Tiree). After evacuating the passengers, she was refloated and taken to Scarinish Pier at Tiree. Attempts were made to pump the water out of her hull, but a bulkhead collapsed and she was soon further underwater than before. There was another major problem in that she blocked the pier to other vessels, which meant sailings to Tiree were severely restricted. The laid up Claymore was returned to service to cover for the sunken Loch Seaforth, and the ferryboat Iona was used to land passengers at Tiree. Loch Seaforth was finally lifted by a giant floating crane onto a beach on Tiree, where she was repaired enough to be towed to Troon for demolition. She was gradually taken apart, and sadly, the once fine vessel was no-more.

Another interesting little snippet about her grounding off Tiree in March 1973 was that John Whittle, the CalMac General Manager, and Moris Little (CalMac's Chairman) were both on board her at the time! They had been in Lochboisdale meeting with Council officials about purchasing the pier there, but the meeting took considerably less time than anticipated, so they had decided to sail back that night instead of flying home the following day.
The fact that the "bosses" were on board made the papers the following day when a journalist from the 'Daily Express' got hold of this story. None of the others managed to find this out!

Text: Adam Hiles, John Newth

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