Monday, September 13, 2010

Clansman & Hebrides

I meant to finish off the story of the Hebridean Princess by mentioning the fate of the Columba's two sister ships, the Clansman and the Hebrides.

The Clansman was originally posted to the summer only Mallaig to Armadale (Skye) ferry service. These were light duties for such an imposing vessel (although latterly she also gave some sailings to Lochboisdale (South Uist) and Castlebay (Barra)) but her strategic role in MacBrayne's fleet was as back-up to her two sisters on their "lifeline" services to Mull and the Outer Hebrides. In winter 1972, the Clansman was lengthened and converted to a drive-through ferry for the new Ullapool to Stornoway car ferry service which opened in 1973. She was replaced on this route by the Suilven in September 1974 and in summer 1975, the Clansman was on the Oban to Craignure (Mull) service. From 1976 to 1983, she was the summer car ferry between Ardrossan and Brodick (Arran) while in winter, she generally relieved other members of the Calmac fleet during their overhaul.

The Clansman was never particularly successful after her alteration to ro-ro as her engines were not upgraded to cope with her increased tonnage and in September 1983, at less than 20 years old, she was offered for sale by Calmac. She was bought in 1984 by a company called Torbay Seaways who wanted to open a car ferry service between Torquay and the Channel Islands. Unfortunately, they couldn't get planning permission for the necessary vehicle loading linkspan (ramp) so the Clansman was sold later the same year to a Maltese company and renamed Tamira for a service between Malta and its satellite island of Gozo.

   The Clansman in Valetta, Malta, in the mid-80s. Picture credit Fakta om Fartyg

But she was soon sold on again for service across the Red Sea (the fate of many British ferries although some luckier ones end up in the Aegean sailing to the Greek islands) renamed Al Hussein and then Al Rasheed. She was last recorded in Lloyd's Register in 1994-95 and in 2002 was lying abandoned off the coast of Sudan - she can still be seen on Google Earth at co-ordinates 19 22' 35.87"N, 37 18' 56.11"E

The Hebrides spent her entire career with MacBrayne's/Calmac year round on the "Uig Triangle" service between Uig on Skye and Tarbert (Harris) and Lochmaddy (North Uist) until she was sold in 1985 in anticipation of that route being upgraded to ro-ro the following year. The Hebrides was acquired by Torbay Seaways, the same company which had bought the Clansman: not having managed to secure a ro-ro linkspan, the Hebrides' hoist loading method of embarking vehicles off the pier would do as second best.

Renamed Devoniun, she sailed quite successfully to the Channel Islands in the late 80s before being laid up at Ipswich in 1990. Three years later, in 1993, she was sailing across the Adriatic from Italy to Albania named Illyria but by the end of the 90s was laid up once again, this time at Eleusina near Athens in Greece.

Picture credit Fakta om Fartyg 

The Illyria ex Devoniun ex Hebrides is also still visible on Google Earth at co-ordinates 38 2.577' N, 23 31.496' E

The give away is the two white dots on either side near the bow which are the two "telephone box" type control positions for the vehicle loading hoist. Though still visible, that's old GE imagery dated in June 2003 and only just caught the ship as she was very soon after towed away to Aliaga in Turkey (some reports say India) for breaking up, apparently in a fire damaged condition.

On a more cheerful note, Calmac to this day have two sister ships in their fleet called Clansman and Hebrides built in 1998 and 2001 respectively. The Clansman sails from Oban to Castlebay (Barra) and Lochboisdale (South Uist) while the Hebrides follows in her ancestor's footsteps on the route from Uig to Tarbert and Lochmaddy. In the picture below I took in 2003, the Hebridean Princess (ex Columba of 1964) is vacating Castlebay pier to allow the 1998 Clansman in - 30 years earlier, it would have been the other ship having to move to let the Columba in!



  1. Great series on the Columba and her sisters.

    I was on the pier at Lochaline on the Columba’s first day of service and sailed on her quite a few times during her years on the Oban, Craignure, Lochaline route, and even got a trip to the bridge although I don’t really remember it.

    The picture of me on the pier that you have used I dated as September 64 which was an educated guess although looking at it again it does seem very busy for September and I am wearing shorts and a tee-shirt so perhaps it was closer to her first ever sailing.

    I lost track of what happened to her from the early 70’s onwards apart from my last unplanned sailing on her in August 1976 when I missed the bus from Tobermory to Craignure and the sailing to Oban on the Caledonia but caught a sailing later in the day from Tobermory and was pleased when the Columba turned up. It was worth missing the bus for that! From what you have said about her use at that time she probably returning from Coll.

    It was good to find out what has happened to her over the years and spot her occasionally on the Oban webcams or the one at the Castlebay Hotel It is a shame her two sisters did not have such a happy ending.

  2. Dear Neil,
    I have really enjoyed reading the information. I wonder if you have any detail about Columba when she was an RMS Royal Mail Ship. Thank you

    1. Thanks for your interest Barry. There is more about the Columba here (which despite the title of the article is more about the Columba during her time 1964-88 with MacBraynes/Calmac than as Heb Princess).

  3. I was on the Hebrides sailing from Jersey to Torquay during the 1987 hurricane.Scary!!