Life at the end of the road

January 2, 2019

Getting longer and colder :-)

Filed under: Avon Searider, daily doings, food — Tags: , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 8:56 pm

Well, it was virtually alcohol free last night, just the one glass of ‘19 crimes’ before retiring to bed with ‘Doenitz’s final gamble’ the inshore U boat campaign of 1944-45. I’ve been looking into the fate of the Norwegian Steamship Inger Toft and U 722 both of which lie off Skye, a result of said campaign and its retribution by the Allies.

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We had hoped to take a trip of to a reef at the mouth of Loch Torridon today, though we knew it was only slightly better of a slim chance of being suitable. The wrecks we’d planned to visit all lie in shallow water and that good hash of north wind on New Years Day had left a big heavy swell.


Our intended sites are not really ‘much to write home about’ both the SS Viscount and SS Sheila being well smashed up in the shallows but the Sheila was of particular interest because she served Raasay for many years on her way from Kyle to Stornoway. Not only that was was wrecked on New Years Day in 1927,

In 1927 it was reported that the steamer ‘Sheila’, which belonged to David MacBrayne Ltd. and had a gross tonnage of 256 and a net of 97 tonnes, previously referred to, was abandoned during a trip between Stornoway and Kyle of Lochalsh during a heavy north-easterly gale.[1] It had grounded near Cuaig, Applecross at four o’clock in the morning on 1 January 1927. The passengers and mail were landed safely whilst the crew remained on board the flooded and badly damaged vessel (Highland News, 8 January 1927). The ‘Sheila’ had left Stornoway in the early hours of Saturday morning and at around six o’clock the passengers were alarmed by a crash as the vessel ran ashore. It was reported that nothing could be done in the darkness, and that the crew waited for daylight as the vessel was leaking. When morning broke they found that the vessel was fast on a beach strewn with boulders, whilst beyond the shore the land rose steeply to a height of 50 feet. On looking seaward it was found they had just missed a chain of partially submerged rocks. The newspaper report continues describing how given the steamer lay at an angle of 48 degrees, the port lifeboat was launched and the half dozen passengers with some of the crew and mails were put into her. The passengers were landed while the crew stood by the vessel to see what they could do to get her afloat. The passengers made their way to the nearest habitation which proved to be the farmhouse of Reaulay, Arrian, tenanted by Mr Michael Macrae, who made them welcome until four o’clock the following day when a relief steamer, the ‘Plover’, arrived from Gairloch and took them to Kyle of Lochalsh from where the passengers continued their journey by train. It was noted that during their stay at the farmhouse, the passengers were unable to communicate with the outside world as the nearest post office was fifteen miles away.

The steamship Sheila was launched Saturday, 30/01/1904 at A & J Inglis Pointhouse Glasgow and completed in 1904. She was wrecked when the vessel ran ashore in darkness in Cuaig Bay just south of the mouth of Loch Torridon, 1 January 1927.

The image top left would be Sheila at Kyle and it was from here that she left on New Years Eve 1919 laden with returning heroes bound for Stornoway and home. There wasn’t room for all the soldiers and sailors so another boat was chartered, ordered, asked or whatever, perhaps she was going to Stornoway anyway but the once luxury yacht Iolaire ‘picked up the slack’ and 284 men boarded the small vessel.

Sheila with her experienced crew made light work of what was after all her regular run, It did not end well for those aboard the Iolaire within sight of home she ran onto a reef near Stornoway harbour taking over 200 people with her. The tales of heroism and grief are the stuff of legend but the whole episode was rarely spoken about, almost hushed up in fact. Few people would have even heard of this tragedy outside the Islands until recently. Thankfully, rightly, that has now changed 

Strangely enough the Sheila was wrecked 18 years to the day afterwards, thankfully with no loss of life, so was the FV Northern Venture just a couple of miles north west of Sheila, on NYE 1993 Smile I remember her well Smile

So, having got up, looked out the window and seen waves breaking on a deceptively calm sea (not to mention frost)


I decided to give Sheila and the Viscount a miss and head for a more sheltered spot on Rona.

Funnily enough, there used to be a wreck there too, the MV Balmoral sunk in August of 1991and was Portree Lifeboat’s first ‘shout’. She went down very quickly but all the crew were saved and the vessel raised shortly afterwards.

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That’ll be our bag of clams on the sounder being hauled off the seabed, after our dip we had a run through Kyle Rona by the Heather Isle, and Shamrock Isle, both of which had hunners of seals on them. There was also a sea eagle being pestered by seagulls, obviously not very photogenic from a wee moving boat but spectacular nonetheless.

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Had we not been so late in the day we’d have nipped into Big Harbour to see Bill and Lorraine but by all accounts they had plenty of other ‘first footers’ Smile

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We traded some scallops for a couple of nice cooked crabs and that’s it really.

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