Thursday, July 28, 2022

The MV Valonia

This, sadly, is the best picture I could come up with (from one of the early Beam magazines) of the MV Valonia, which served in Irish Lights from 1950. This diesel-engined motor vessel was purchased from Trinity House as a replacement for the Nabro, which had served as relief vessel for lighthouses on the Cork and Kerry coasts. Captain J. Oscar O'Hehir, formally Captain of the Granuaile  (the first one), was chosen to be her first skipper. 

Other skippers during her ten-year tenure included Captain J. Coma, Captain Dermot E. Cormack, tragically drowned at Castletownbere in 1954, the exotically-named Captain Plato Harrison and Captain Herbert Greenlee.

Four years before the Valonia was sold to David MacBrayne, the Hebridean ferry company, a mysterious incident occurred on board the vessel, in September 1958. The story was related in the Irish Lights staff magazine, date unknown. The first nine words of the report, in particular, made my hair stand on end.

I am still trying to figure out how the captain signed himself, "the late Plato Harrison"

Irish Examiner June 29th 1960

The following potted history of the Valonia can be found on the Ships of Caledonian MacBrayne website, written by John MacLeod

Almost the last and most desperate of the ad hoc wooden wonders acquired second-hand by David MacBrayne Ltd. began her career as VALONIA, in 1947. Built as a pilot cutter in the English Channel for the Corporation of Trinity House, London, Valonia served largely around the Isle of Wight and, as Channel traffic grew, became too small. She was in 1951 sold to the Commissioners of Irish Lights, Dublin, who deployed her on similar duties and, in 1961, sold her again to MacBraynes.

The Company had the little ship refitted by Timbacraft Ltd. of Shandon for the passenger, mail and light cargo service from Portree to Raasay and Kyle. (On delivery they quickly abandoned thoughts of deploying her on the Small Isles run, for which she was not really suitable.) LOCH EYNORT, as she was renamed, entered service in 1962 and, free of the burden of runs to Mallaig, was able to offer morning cruises from Kyle.

In fact, LOCH EYNORT did very little for the Company in the decade as a unit of the fleet. In the summer of 1965 she did not sail at all – apart from a brief period on relief duty – and spent most of the time on the Gareloch. Plans were prepared for major reconstruction of her passenger accommodation, but never carried out. In early 1970, while CLANSMAN was absent on CSP charter to the Firth of Clyde, LOCH EYNORT was used to provide a basic Mallaig-Armadale service, with LOCH SEAFIORTH giving one supporting run daily with vehicles. She also tendered to KING GEORGE V when that proud ship visited Mallaig, on HIDB charter, on 22nd May.

By the end of November 1970 LOCH EYNORT was again laid up at Shandon, like a useless summer butterfly, and scarcely sailed again for MacBraynes. She was sold in October 1971 to Francis Kirk of Newbury, Berkshire – later Brixham – for use in film work and as a private yacht, named SKELLIG.

At Oban

At Armadale

1 comment:

  1. At last found something about skellig.I sailed with her to Cyprus in 1980.she was striped to a bait hull before leaving the UK.