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Loch Awe

Commercial Boats on Loch Awe

These pages are sponsored by Ardanaiseig Hotel.

This section is reprinted with permission from the 1990 (fourth) edition of Clyde River and other Steamers by C.L.D. Duckworth and G.E. Langmuir (Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd., 4-10 Darnley Street, Glasgow G41 2SD, Tel: 0141 429 1234), pp. 162-165.

An update has been provided by Averil  Watson of Dalmally. The photographs have been supplied by the Kennedy Collection (Ian Kennedy, Glasgow). The Loch Awe Community Website Association is grateful to all concerned.

S.S. Eva
This smaller steamer built at Kelvindock, Maryhill, in 1861, is understood to have been the first on Loch Awe. She was advertised for sale within the Argyll Arms Hotel, Inveraray in October, 1862.

S.S. Queen of the Lake
This steamer, built in 1863, passed into the ownership of Messrs. Hutcheson by the early seventies. She carried on their service alone till 1876, when Lochawe was acquired, and after withdrawal was beached some distance south of Ford Pier, where she lay derelict for many years. The remains of her keel and stem can still be seen there when the level of the loch is exceptionally low.

S.S. Lochawe
This vessel made her appearance on the loch in 1876. Owned by Messrs. Hutcheson, she had a saloon amidships on the main deck with dining saloon below; and the machinery consisting of a pair of cylinders (simple) exhausting to atmosphere was situated aft.

Lochawe plied originally from Ford to Pass of Brander from which the journey to Oban was completed by horse-drawn coach; but from 1880 Loch Awe Pier become the Northern terminus, and passengers travelled onwards to Oban by the Callendar & Oban Railway. There was a thus a through route from the south via Ardrishaig and Ford to Oban and the north, even before the railway was opened to Oban. During the First World War she was laid up, and in 1925 was scrapped.

S.S. Kilchurn Castle
Mr. Thomas Cameron of Port Sonachan Hotel appears to have been the next owner of steamers on Loch Awe, of which he had three, with their headquarters at Port Sonachan. They had the somewhat unusual funnel colouring of white with a blue band and a black top. The first, named as above, entered service on 21st May 1883, and in a guide book of the next year was shown as running in connexion with the Glen Nant tour. She was probably broken up some time after 1895.

S.S. Sonachan
This was a very small steam launch, used locally at Port Sonachan.

T.S.S. Caledonia
Built by Messrs. Bow, McLachlan & Company, this steamer was erected in the builders yard at Paisley then taken to pieces and sent by rail to Loch Awe where she was re-assembled. Her trials were run on Saturday 15th June 1895. Caledonia had a spacious promenade deck nearly the full length, and saloons fore and aft upholstered in a tasteful manner. The machinery consisted of two sets of compound surface-condensing engines, steam being supplied by one horizontal marine return-tube boiler.

In March 1918, Caledonia was sold for service in Belgium, it being the intention to take her to that country to lengthen her. She was accordingly dismantled at Port Sonachan, and the sections were conveyed by the barge Ben Cruachan to Lochawe Pier, the boiler being plugged and towed behind the barge. The lengthening scheme, however, did not materialise and she was broken up by her purchasers.

S.S. Margery
The cargo steamers on Loch Awe (locally known as barges) were run by various owners from time to time. The first, named as above, was built from wood and is thought to have originally been owned by Messrs. MacFarlane, Timber Merchants, Loch Long. She was later purchased by Mr. James West, Merchant, Loch Awe, and on his decease was sold to Mr. Thomas Dow, carrying his funnel colouring of brown. She remained till 1901.

S.S. Eagle
This puffer was built in 1881 at Leith for Mr. Campbell Muir of Innistrynich. She was taken by sea to Bonawe, then by road up the Pass of Brander. Built of Iron and screw propelled, she had one mast, provided with a derrick, and had her machinery aft. By her original owner, Eagle was sold to Messrs. H. & D. McCowan, Oban, who advertised her 1902 to sail from the Railway Pier for Ford every Monday and Friday, receiving and discharging goods at all intermediate piers. In winter her southern terminus was Eredine, calls being made at New York and Portinsherrich. She was sold to Mr. Dow, passing in 1921 to Mr. David Wilson, and in 1929 to Mr. Sheriffs. Sold in 1935 for scrapping she sank in the early part of the next year, while laid up at Lochawe Pier. For some years afterwards her mast could be seen a short distance west of the pier.

S.S. Alder
This was a yacht and estate boat, belonging to the owner of the Ardbrecknish, often used for towing barges loaded with timber from the local sawmills.

S.S. Ben Cruachan/ M.V. Glenorchy
This was the successor to Margery, built by Messrs. Rodger of Port Glasgow, at Loch Awe. She was owned by Mr. Dow, by whom she was sold to Mr. Wilson in 1921. She was then fitted with a motor engine in place of her original steam machinery, and was renamed Glenorchy. Along with Eagle she was sold to Mr. Sheriffs in 1929, and was withdrawn in 1935. She was the last cargo vessel to ply for public trade on the loch.

S.S. Countess of Breadalbane (I)
Mr. Duncan Fraser of Lochawe Hotel entered the field of steamboat ownership in 1882, with this single screw steamer, which had saloons fore and aft, somewhat similar in general design to Lady of the Lake built in the same year for service on Loch Tay.

S.S. Countess of Breadalbane at Ford Pier    

In common with all other steamers on Scottish fresh water lochs, she took her boiler feed-water directly from the loch on which she sailed. The Lochawe service was suspended in 1914 and was not reinstated until 1922, when the ship was sold to The Caledonian Steam Packet Co. Ltd. She served that company for 14 years, and was broken up in 1936.

S.S. Mona
This was a wooden steam launch with a small cabin forward, and was used for short pleasure trips from Loch Awe Pier to Falls of Cruachan, Pass of Brander, round the islands, etc. and for towing boats for fishing. She was owned by Mr. Duncan Fraser, and was broken up 1900.

S.S. Growley (I)
To take the place of Mona, this steam launch was purchased by Mr. Fraser about 1900. She had been built by Scott’s Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd. Greenock, and had been used by Mr. Scott for private sailings from Eredine, his loch side residence. Later she was used by Mr. G. S. Hartley of Hayfield, by whom she was sold to Mr. Fraser for passenger traffic. Occasionally she was used for the towage of non-propelled barges, in a similar way to Alder, and was sold in 1936.

M.V. Growley (II)
Built in 1936, this small motor launch came from Cockenzie and was the successor to the first vessel of the same name. It is understood that she was taken over by the admiralty in 1939-40, and was wrecked near Inveraray.

In 1936 also there appeared a notable addition to the Loch Awe fleet, viz. the second Countess of Breadalbane, built for the Caledonian Steam Packet Company.

The cargo motor boat Coileach Coille was on the loch after the Second World War, engaged in the transport of timber for the Forestry Commission; and two small motor launches, Glen Strae and Glen Orchy were used for short trips from Lochawe Hotel. After the transfer of Countess of Breadalbane to the Clyde, there was placed on the loch in June 1952, a small motor launch named Lady of Lorn, owned by Mr J H Lynn of Dalmally, who, however, after having taken over the Darthula II concentrated on the Loch Etive sailings. Lady of Lorn then returned to the Clyde as Kempock Lad in the ferry fleet of Messrs. Ritchie Bros., operating between Gourock and Kilcreggan.

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