The waters around Islay are the final resting place of hundreds of vessels from the earliest to modern times, from which the names of the Otranto, Tuscania, Exmouth and Wyre Majestic are probably most familiar and their stories well known. Every single one of these tragedies have their own story to tell of how things went so wrong that their ship was stranded on the sometimes treacherous coastline of Islay and occasionally (many) lives were lost.
When Arra Fletcher called me and gave me the email address of Peter Moir, one of the authors of the book Argyll Shipwrecks, I didn't really know what to expect at the time. I knew I had seen Peter's book before in a bookshop in Tarbert and had a brief look at it. After I contacted Peter we exchanged some emails and both Peter and Ian Crawford gave me permission to work on a new page for the Islayinfo website allowing me to use some of the information from their book, which Peter sent to me a few weeks ago including a disc with pictures.
Argyll Shipwrecks was first published in 1994 and the authors did three to four years of research both below and above water and many times, when on Islay, they received help from Gus Newman who ran the Islay Dive Centre in Port Ellen. The book covers four areas in Argyll; Kintyre and Gigha, Islay, Jura - Firth of Lorne and Oban and a section for Mull, Coll and Tiree. The Islay section alone consists of 54 pages describing in great detail a total of 40 shipwrecks around the island, their locations, the ships details and the present status of the wrecks complimented with maps and many (black and white) pictures.
The new Islay Shipwrecks page, a brief compilation of the Islay section, consists of an introduction, a map with the names and locations of the shipwrecks, many pictures of the ships and the dives Peter and Ian made and three fascinating stories about the strandings of the Wyre Majestic, Otranto and Veni. The stories are very well written, they read like an exciting novell and to give you an idea what to expect you can find one of these fascinating stories about the Cormoran below: Continue reading.....
The trawler Cormoran was returning from the west coast fishing grounds to her homeport of Fleetwood. Around 5:45 am on the morning of Monday 18th January, 1926 they reached Kilchiaran Bay on the west coast of Islay intending to try a few more casts before finally setting off for home. The weather was very dark with a slight haze and there was a heavy swell when, without warning, there was a sudden bump followed at short intervals by a series of other bumps before the vessel came to an abrupt stop. The crew knew instantly that they had run aground and a quick inspection showed that they were making water fast. It was decided to abandon ship immediately. Five of the crew and the captain started to get out the ship's boat but, before they could assemble the whole crew, the trawler took a lurch to port followed by a larger, alarming lurch to starboard almost turning turtle in the process. This second lurch threw the lifeboat and the men working at it, except the captain, into the sea. The remaining five crewmen had to jump from their swaying ship onto a rock and scramble to the shore. They spent the night, cold and injured, huddled beneath two blankets they had been able to salvage from the wreck, before morning broke, and they spotted smoke rising from a nearby house. As they walked towards it they met the local postman. He took them to a farmhouse where they were given hot drinks and food to revive them.
The men ashore thought they had lost their shipmates who had been thrown overboard but thankfully, later in the week, news came through from Tiree that they had landed safely there after three days adrift in the ship's boat. They later learned that the five men had been thrown into the sea but had managed to clamber aboard the lifeboat which had also been thrown clear and luckily was afloat upright beside them. Unfortunately the captain had not escaped from the ship and was apparently killed when the boiler blew up. The plight of the men in the boat had been grim as there was no plug in the boat and it had continually filled with water. They had to use their boots to bail the water out and to improvise rowlocks to make the oars useable. They had no food, no water, no shelter, no dry clothing and the strong ofshore currents were sweeping them further out to sea. They managed to rig up a makeshift sail from an oar and a piece of tarpaulin but had little control over their craft a they drifted north. Luckily, three days later, they were washed ashore, completely exhausted, frost-bitten and hungry but alive, on the island of Tiree.
The Islay Shipwrecks page has three more of these fascinating stories as well as many pictures and information on how to get yourself a copy of this highly recommended book. Click here to access this fascinating new page.