|Craignure Pier by Alan Wright|
In the case of Mull, however, the pre-steamship crossing was even shorter than to Craignure: it ran to Grass Point at the mouth of Loch Don and so desperate were they to avoid the horrors of travel by sailing boat that the island of Kerrera was used as a stepping stone between Mull and Oban.
|Note "Craiganune [sic] Kirk at top left where the present ferry terminus is: John Thomson's Atlas of Scotland 1832 from National Libraries of Scotland|
|Photo credit mikeh789|
|Photo credit Hector MacQueen|
|Photo credit mikeh789|
I couldn't find any closer up a photo of the remains of the pier than the one below. At the back of the bay, you can see the retaining wall carrying the approach road out to the pier (the horizontal white line) but the pier itself has gone. If you click the photo to go large, you can see the houses at Grass Point on the opposite shore above the tree on the right:-
|Picture credit Cthonus|
© Copyright Eileen Henderson and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Of course, having landed on Kerrera, you still had to cross from that island to the mainland. As far as I know, that crossing was historically at the same point it's at today (not the ferry from Oban to the marina at Ardentraive, the one further down the Sound of Kerrera pictured below):-
|Picture credit tingod|
"We bade adieu to Lochbuy [Lochbuie], and to our very kind conductor, Sir Allan M'Lean [22nd chief of the Macleans of Duart], on the shore of Mull, and then got into the ferry-boat, the bottom of which was strewed with branches of trees or bushes, upon which we sat. We had a good day and a fine passage, and in the evening landed at Oban where we found a tolerable inn."
To get a fuller flavour of the Mull ferry in centuries gone by, read the account of a passage across the comparable crossing from Orkney to the mainland in Charles Lesingham-Smith's "Excursions through the Highlands and Isles of Scotland in 1835 and 1836". You can read this on Google Books and the account of the passage starts on page 238.
|"The ferry at Skarfskerry" - mainland terminus of the Orkney ferry in 1815 by William Daniell|
According to Jo Currie's "Mull - the Island and its People" (p.224), the Dukes of Argyll held the monopoly of transporting cattle from Mull to the mainland in the 18th century and members of a family called Gregorson were hereditary ferrymen at Grass Point. That probably just means several generations of Gregorsons leased Auchnacraig Farm from the Dukes and operated the ferry as an adjunct to it. I'm also just guessing as I type this that the name "Grass Point" is due to the fact there was grazing for the cattle before they embarked on the boats. And it's possibly no coincidence that, as the cattle trade would have involved contact with people speaking English (as opposed to Gaelic), hence the English name but I'm just guessing about that. Anyway, perhaps a boat similar to the one below (an early 20th century vessel employed at Kyle of Lochalsh for Skye) was part of the Grass Point fleet. Presumably it would have been towed across by a boat powered by oars:-
I don't know exactly when the Grass Point ferry ceased operating. The Ordnance Survey 25 inch scale map surveyed in 1871 shows it to be still in operation so perhaps it continued right up until the arrival of the railway at Oban in 1880 and the institution of MacBrayne's mail steamer service to Tobermory the following year.
|OS 25 inch scale map, 1871|
|PS Carabinier - scan from Duckworth & Langmuir's "West Highland Steamers", 2nd ed. 1950. Photo credited to McIsaac & Riddle|