Our ships

1799 – c1810
Wooden Sloop, 49 x 18 x 8 feet
59 Registered Tons
1799: Built at Elie, Fife for the Board
1810c: Sold to unknown Leith owners, name unchanged
1814: Owners now Archibald Young, Alexander Crombie & Robert Cox, Leith, name unchanged
1823: Broken Up.

In the year 1806, a great number of vessels were taken by our cruisers (Royal Navy?) upon the coasts of Holland, Denmark and Norway, many of which were carried into Leith to be sold. One of these, a Prussian, which happened to be captured while fishing on Dogger Bank was purchased for Bell Rock service. She was called Tonge Gerrit but afterwards renamed PHAROS 11. This ship was fitted as a Lightship and anchored 1.5 nm NW (with some difficulty) off the Bell Rock during construction. After lying off for some weeks to test moorings, PHAROS II first exhibited a light on the evening of 15th September 1807.

1807 – 1820
Wooden Sloop, 58 x 18 x 10 feet
81 Registered Tons
1807: Built at Leith for the Northern Lighthouse Board
1820: Sold to Alexander Houston of Clarkington, Haddingtonshire, name unchanged
1823: Lost.

1807 – 1817

Ship Smeaton

Wooden Sloop, 55 x 10 x (unknown) feet
42 Registered Tons
1807: Built at Leith and employed in the construction of the Bell Rock Lighthouse as a stone carrier and tender
1817: Sold – no further details.

1808 – Not known

Ship Sir Joseph Banks

Wooden Sloop
42 Registered Tons
1807: Built at Arbroath, purchased on stocks and employed assisting SMEATON in the construction of the Bell Rock Lighthouse.
1808: In service – no further details.

1809 – Not known
Sailing Vessel, 56 x 10 x (unknown) feet
46 Registered Tons
1808: Built at Kirkcaldy
1809: Purchased to assist SMEATON in construction of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, name unchanged. No further details.

1816 – 1842
Wooden Sloop, 45 x 14 x 8 feet
38 Registered Tons
1816: Built by Morton at Leith for the Commissioners and based at Leith as tender to Bell Rock Lighthouse.
1842: Sold to Archy MacQueen of Broadford, Skye, registered at Inverness, name unchanged
1858: Sold to James Finlay & John McGregor, Lochalsh, name unchanged
1859: Wrecked in Sound of Mull.
(*(II) was a lightship)

1820 – 1846
Wooden Schooner; 66 x 21 x 11 feet
107 Registered Tons
1820: Built by Robert Davey, Topsham for the Board and based at Leith
1846: Sold to John Crabbie, Leith, name unchanged
1850: Sold to Thomas Mackie, Leith, name unchanged
1852: Sold to D R MacGregor, Leith, name unchanged
1859: Sold to Thomas Reddie, Charlestown, Fife, name unchanged
1863: Lost at sea.

1839 – 1847
Wooden Paddle Steamer, 87.3 x 17.5 x 9.5 feet
129 Gross Tons; 48 Net Tons
1839: Built by Robert Menzies & Sons, Leith and based at Hynish, Tiree in connection with the construction of the lighthouse on Skerryvore.
1847: Sold to Liverpool Steam Tug Co, Liverpool, name unchanged.
1850: Sold to John Houghton, Liverpool, name unchanged
1851: Sold to William M Jackson, Liverpool, name unchanged
1853: Sold to John Barnet, Liverpool and reduced to a brigantine, 215 reg, name unchanged
1860: Lost.

Wooden Smack, 58 x 16 x 9 feet
71 Registered Tons
1841: Built by Robert Steele & Co, Rue End Yard, Greenock and based at Leith as tender to the Bell Rock Lighthouse
1852: Sold to William Hay, Lerwick as fishing vessel, name unchanged
1866: Owners now George H B Hay, Arthur J Hay & William Irvine
1883: Owners now George H B Hay & Arthur J Hay
1896: Sold to Danish owners – no further details available.

1843 – 1852
Wooden Sloop; 39 x 13 x 7 feet
24 Registered Tons
1842: Built by Thomas White, Cowes, Isle of Wight for Thomas & John White, Cowes
1843: Purchased, name unchanged
1852: Sold to John H Baikie, Kirkwall, re-rigged as dandy, name unchanged
1871: John H Baikie declared bankrupt and sold to John Hewison, Kirkwall, name unchanged
1871: Sold to James Seatter of Westray, re-rigged as a schooner, name unchanged
1883: Broken up at Westray, Orkney Islands


Ship Pharos IV
Iron paddle steamer, 143.2 x 21.7 x 14.8 feet
270 Gross Tons 186 Net Tons
1846: Built by Wm Fairbairn & Son, Millwall Works, London, and based at Leith
1861: Sold to Aberdeen, Grimsby & Hull Steam Packet Co, name unchanged
1863: Title of owners became Aberdeen & Hull Steam Navigation Co
1863: Sold to Aberdeen, Tyne & Hamburg Steam Navigation Co Ltd, Aberdeen, name unchanged
1864: Lengthened to 171.6 feet, tonnage now 328g 243n
1866: Transferred to Aberdeen, Newcastle & Hull Steam Co Ltd, Aberdeen
1877: Sold to Thomas Williamson, Barrow and broken up

1848 – 1851
JANET Wooden Sloop, 38 x 10 x 5 feet
16 Registered Tons
1841: Launched but not apparently registered.
1845: Rebuilt by Denny & Rankin, Victoria Yard, Dumbarton for Robert Mitchell, Leith, name unchanged
1848: Purchased, name unchanged
1851: Sold to John McLean of Kylerhea, registered at Inverness, name unchanged
1874: Sold to John McLachlan of Kilfinnan, name unchanged
1881: Sold to Peter McIntyre of Rothesay, name unchanged
1881: Broken up

1852 – 1867
Wooden Sloop/Schooner, 48 x 12 x 7 feet
32 Registered tons
1852: Built by Robert Menzies & Sons Leith
1867: Sold to David Watson of Ardour, Mull, name unchanged
1870: Transferred to John C Watson of Ardour, name unchanged
1876: Now registered at Montego Bay, Jamaica
1879: Wrecked

1854 – 1874

Ship Pharos V

Iron Paddle, 186.0 x 29.9 x 14.8 feet
524 Gross Tons, 464 Net Tons
Compound, 2-cyl by builders, 120hp
1854: Built by Tod & McGregor, Meadowside Yard at River Kelvin, Glasgow, Ship No 74 and based at Leith
1874: Sold to George A Key, Kinghorn but retained registered Leith
1875: Renamed VALETTA prior to conversion to sailing barque, registered tonnage 464
1876: Sold to James W Robertson, Dundee, name unchanged
1880: Sold to Thomas Law & Co, Glasgow, name unchanged
1887: Sank after collision with the Glasgow steam tug FLYING SERPANT (260/86) off the Tuskar Rock, Ireland, while on passage from Point de Galle, Ceylon to Liverpool with a general cargo.

Wooden Sloop, 50 x 16 x 8 feet
29 Registered Tons
1867: Built by Archibald McMillan, Church Yard, No 140 Dumbarton. Launched 11th April 1867 and employed as tender to Skerryvore Lighthouse, registered at Glasgow
1875: Sold to Edward Whiteway, Glasgow, name unchanged
1876: Sold to Thomas Stove, Lerwick, converted to a dandy, name unchanged
1880: Sold to Duncan MacKenzie of Skye, name unchanged
1893: Broken up.

1867 – 1898
Wooden smack, 39 x 12 x 6 feet
15 Registered Tons
1867: Built by Alexander Hall & Co, Aberdeen (255) and employed as a tender at Lerwick
1898: Sold to Angus Mathieson of Glasgow, name unchanged
1899: Sold to Thomas McShamrock of Portrush, Co. Antrim, name unchanged
1899: Sold to John A Henitton of Londonderry, name unchanged
1901: Sold to John Johnstone of Kindrum Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, name unchanged
1917: Broken Up.

1868 – 1876
Iron Paddle, 125.5 x 18.0 x 9.8 feet
149 Gross Tons, 34 Net Tons
Lever, 2-cyl by R & W Hawthorn, 75 hp, rebuilt as twin-screw steamer 1893, compound, 4 -cyl by R Dunlop & Bell, Liverpool, 130hp, tonnage now 167gross 76 net.
1868: Built by Wigham, Richardson & Co, Newcastle (50) and employed in the construction of the Dhuheartach lighthouse
1876: Sold to W H Crocker of Fleetwood, name unchanged
1884: Sold to H Hall, Fleetwood, name unchanged
1886: Sold to S Auberstin, Cardiff, name unchanged
1887: Sold to S Lord, Fleetwood, name unchanged
1887: Sold to Christopher Furness, West Hartlepool, name unchanged
1890: Sold to Direct Acting Jet Propulsion Co Ltd, West Hartlepool, name unchanged
1894: Sold to John Wigham & Thomas Colling, Sunderland, name unchanged
1895: Sold to Thomas Maughan, Sunderland and renamed STARTFORTH
1896: Sold to Skinningrove Iron Co, Middlesbourgh, name unchanged
1900: Sold to Archibald Stewart, Glasgow, name unchanged
1905: Title of owners became Forth Steam Ship Co (Buchan & Hogg Managers)
1908: Purchased by Buchan & Hogg whilst lying at Port Glasgow
1914: Laid Up at Alloa
1915: Sold to Weymouth Diving & Towing Co Ltd, Weymouth, name unchanged
1917: Sold to Samuel W Oakley of London, name unchanged
1921: Sold to Edward T Murphy of London, name unchanged
1921: Sold to E Parker of London, name unchanged
1921: Sold to Woodruff & Co Ltd of London, name unchanged
1922: Sold to Thomas E Hill of Birkenhead, name unchanged
1923: Sold to Southampton Shipping Metal & Shingle Co Ltd, name unchanged
1924: Broken up in Holland.

1869 – 1881
Iron Paddle Steamer, 129.8 x 19.4 x 10.7 feet
181 Gross Tons, 86 net Tons
Lever, 2-cyl by builders, 70hp
1865: Built by Hepple & Co, North Shields for Joseph Ostens, North Shields
1869: Purchased, name unchanged , registered at Greenock, and based at Oban
1881: Broke from moorings in Erraid Sound, Mull, driven ashore and became a total loss.

1874 – 1911

Ship Pharos VI
Iron Twin-Funnelled Paddle, 204.5 x 26.7 x 15.3 feet
574 Gross Tons, 241 Net Tons
Compound, 2-cyl by builders, 353 hp, new compound, 2-cyl diagonal fitted by Gourlay Bros & Co, Dundee, 1898, 252hp
1874: Built by R Napier & Sons, Glasgow (329). Launched 2nd February 1874
1911: Sold to Samuel Galbraith of Glasgow, name unchanged
1911: Sailed from Granton for Glasgow for overhaul prior to sale to Brazil. Sale not completed and used as an accommodation vessel on the River Clyde
1915: Royal Navy accommodation vessel at Loch Ewe, West Scotland
1919: Sold to the Admiralty, name unchanged
1920: Sold to Burntisland Shipbuilding Co for use as accommodation vessel at Burntisland during construction of the new yard and renamed FAIROSE
1923: Broken up at Grangemouth by G & W Brunton


Ship Signal
Steel Paddle steamer, 160.1 x 25.1 x 11.6 feet
345 Gross Tons, 174 Net Tons
Compound, 2 cyl by builders, 181nhp
1883: Built by Caird & Co, Westburn Yard, Greenock (233) and based at Oban, registered at Greenock
1895: Wrecked on Mull of Kintyre while on passage from Greenock to Oban on 28th September.

1892 – 1931
Steel Twin-Screw Steamer,175.4 x 26.4 x 13.8 feet
459 Gross Tons; 207 Net Tons
Triple expansion, 6-cyl by builders, 177nhp
1892: Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Glasgow (367) and based at Stromness
1931: To release name for new vessel, renamed ORPHIR
1931: Sold to William Marshall of Glasgow for conversion to salvage, name unchanged
1933: Sold to James M Stewart of Glasgow, name unchanged
1939: Sold to P Svolakis & Co, Colon, Panama, and renamed SOPHIA S
1940: Ran ashore at Constantsa, Romania resulting in damage to the engine
1941: Arrived at Haifa for repairs
1941: Sailed for Port Said
1940: Moved to Alexandria
1940: Hired at Alexandria by Ministry of War Transport
1941: Owners convicted of offences against immigration laws at Haifa and vessel forfeited to Palestinian Government
1941: Requisitioned by British Government
1941: Renamed DARIEN II and employed sailing between ports in Eastern Mediterranean out of Piraeus
1945: Requisitioned by the Ministry of War Transport, London and placed under management of Ellerman’s Wilson Line Ltd of Hull, name unchanged
1948: Purchased by Ministry of Transport (Ellerman Wilson Lines Ltd, manager) from now Palestinian owners, name unchanged, and employed on sailings between Port Said, Famagusta, Malta, Tripoli and Tobruk
1948: Laid up at Port Said
1949: Sailed from Port Said for Piraeus
1949: Whilst at Trobruk, detained due to corrosion to bottom plate
1950: Arrived at Port Said and laid-up
1951: Sold to Italian Shipbreakers
1951: Arrived at Spezia for breaking up.

The Mitchell Library in Glasgow has the plans for the vessel.

1896 – 1940
Steel Twin-Screw Steamer, 175 x 28.1 x 13.8 feet
Triple, 6cyl by builders, 166nhp
1896: Built by Gourlay Bros & Co. Dundee (171) and based at Oban
1939: To release name for new vessel renamed ASCOG
1940: Broken up by Clayton & Davie Ltd, Dunston-on-Tyne

1899 – 1938

Ship May I
Steel Twin-Screw Steamer; 116 x 22.2 x11.7 feet
242 Gross Tons, 96 Net Tons
Compound, 4-cyl by builders, 76nhp
1899: Built by Hawthorns & Co Ltd, Leith (77) and based at Granton
1937: To release name for new vessel renamed DUNDRENAN
1937: Sold to P & W McLellan for £1,000 and broken up at Bo’ness

1909 – 1955
Official Number: 125500 Call Sign MDCT

Ship Pharos VII
Steel Twin-Screw Steamer, 206.4 x 31.2 x 15 feet
921 Gross Tons, 393 Net Tons
Triple, 6-cyl by builders, 142 nhp
1909: Built by Wm Beardmore & Co Ltd, Glasgow (496)
1955: To release name for new vessel, renamed AVONTOUN
1955: Arrived at Charlestown, Fife for breaking up by Shipbreaking Industries Ltd.

1930 – 1965
Official Number: 161823 Call Sign GFMD

Ship Pole Star II
Steel Twin Screw Steamer, 195.7 x 31.1 x 14.5 feet
750 Gross Tons, 328 Net Tons
Triple-expansion, 6 cyl by builders, 215nhp
1930: Built by Wm Beardmore & Co Ltd, Glasgow (663). Last ship to be built at the Dalmuir Yard
1950: Converted to burn oil fuel
1961: To release name for new vessel, renamed MAY IV, base transferred to Granton
1965: Sold to P & W MacLellan Ltd, Glasgow for breaking up.

1937 – 1962
Official Number: 164372 Call Sign GZYS

Steel Twin-Screw Motorship,147.5 x 29.2 x 12.1 feet
491 Gross Tons; 149 Net Tons
Oil engines (2), 2SCSA, each 5-cyl by British Auxiliaries Ltd Glasgow
1937: Built by A & J Inglis Ltd, Glasgow (991P) and based at Granton
1961: To release name for POLE STAR II renamed MAY III
1962: Laid up at Leith pending disposal
1963: Sold to William J Sutton, London for gas/oil search operations and renamed SURVEYOR
1966: Sold to Overseas & General Brokerage & Finance Co Ltd, London, name unchanged
1969: Sold to Shackleton Aviation Ltd, London, name unchanged
1969: Sold to Gardline Shipping Ltd, London, name unchanged
1977: Sold to P & W McLellan Ltd and broken up at Bo’ness

The Mitchell Library in Glasgow has GA plans for the vessel.

1939 – 1972

Steel Twin-Screw Motorship, 202.5 x 35.2 x 13.4 feet
844 Gross Tons, 306 Net Tons
Oil engines (2), 2SCSA, each 8-cyl by British Auxiliaries Ltd, Glasgow
1939: Built by Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Dundee, and based at Oban
1964: Transferred to Granton
1974: Sold to Cosag Marine Services Ltd of Great Yarmouth and renamed SPERUS
1982: Sold to Hydrosphere Ltd of London, name unchanged
1984: Sold to Sunderland to Liguria Maritime Ltd of Sittingbourne, Kent on authority of Admiralty Marshal, name unchanged
1985: Broken up on River Medway

1952 – unknown

Ship Berneray

1952: Built by William Weatherhead of Cockenzie, on the lines of an MFV, used as a relief Tender to the Barra Head Lighthouse.

Later replaced by helicopter relief, Bernera was further deployed as a work vessel during the construction of a permanent unattended lighthouse on the Vee Skerries rock. She was eventually sold out of service as being surplus to requirements, converted to a yacht and renamed Berneray.

1955 – 1988

Ship Pharos VIII

Steel Twin Screw Motorship, 256.9 x 39.4 x 12.6 feet
1712 Gross Tons, 592 Net Tons
Oil engines (2), 2SCSA, each 7-Cyl by British Polar Engines Ltd, Glasgow
1955: Built by Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Dundee (507) and based at Granton
1963: Damaged by fire whilst in drydock at Troon
1988: Sold to Windjammer Cruises, Freeport, Bahamas for service as a cruise ship for 80 passengers and mother ship to a flotilla of yachts and renamed ORIENT EXPRESS
1988: Sold to Amazing Grace SA (R.G Garza Inc, managers), Panama and renamed AMAZING GRACE (94 passengers)
1994: Sold to Shower Holding Inc (International Maritime Resources Inc, managers), Malebo
2000: Owners now International Maritime Resources Ltd, registered at Port of Spain. Still in service.

1961 – 1993

Ship Pole Star III
Steel Twin-Screw Motorshp, 236.3 x 40.3 x 12.7 feet
1328 Gross Tons; 396 Net Tons
Oil engines (2), 2SCSA, each 6-Cyl, by British Polar Engines Ltd, Glasgow
1961: Built by Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Dundee, and based at Stromness
1993: Sold to Barefoot Rogue S.A. (International Marine Resources Inc, managers), San Lorenzo, Hohduras and renamed ROGUE
1995: Whilst lying at Port of Spain undergoing conversion, suffered severe damage during hurricane
1997: Sold to Jean Baptiste, Belize, name unchanged
1998: Whilst being pulled up on a slipway at Port of Spain, the rails of the cradle buckled and collapsed
2002: Believe still stranded on the slipway

1964 – 2000

Ship Fingal
Steel Twin Screw Motorship, 238.9 x 40.3 x 18.5 feet
1342 Gross Tons
Oil Engines (2) 2SCSA each 6-Cyl British Polar Engines Ltd, Glasgow
1964: Built by Blythswood Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Glasgow. The last ship to be built by Yard on 8 August 1963 and based at Oban
1994: Transferred to Stromness
2000: Sold to Tamahine Investments Ltd of Hong Kong, registered London and renamed WINDSOR CASTLE
2014: Purchased by The Royal Yacht Britannia to be converted into a 25 bedroom luxury hotel and renamed FINGAL in 2016.

1993 – 8th September 2006

Steel Twin-Screw Diesel Electric, Length O A 79.58m Beam 14.0m, Draught 4.0m
1986 Gross Registered Tonnage
Diesel-electric, through two conventional main propelled aft and gill-jet bow thrusters, Service Speed 12 kts, 20 tonne crane,200 square metre Buoy Working Deck, Helicopter Deck
1993: Built by Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd, Port Glasgow, based in Oban
Sold 8th September 2006 to Byron Marine Ltd to work in the Falkland Islands, South Atlantic as a fishery patrol and logistic support vessel.

2000 – still in service

Ship Pole Star
Diesel-electric power, through two azimuthing thrusters and two tunnel bow-thrusters. Length O.A. 51.5m, Beam 12.0m, Draught 3.2m
1174 Gross Registered Tonnage, Service Speed 12 kts, 12-tonne crane, 200 square metre buoy working deck, dynamic positioning
2000: Built by Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd, Port Glasgow. Based in Oban.

2007 – still in service

Ship Pharos X
Length O.A 84.25m, Design Draught Moulded 4.25m
Gross Tonnage: 3672 tonnes, Service Speed 12.5 knots, Buoy Crane Capacity 30 tonnes. Dynamic positioning, large aft working deck, integrated bridge management system, forward helicopter flight deck, hydrographic surveying, wreck finding.
2007: Built by Gdanska Stocznia “Remontowa” im. J. Pilsudskiego S.A. Based in Oban.

North Carr Lightship

The North Carr Rock is situated at the turning point for vessels entering the Forth coming from the north and bound for the Tay or further north coming from the south, and before being marked was responsible for numerous casualties. After representations had been made to the Commissioners by the Shipmasters and Officers Protection Association of Scotland, the Dundee Harbour Trustees, and others, consideration was given to marking the rock by means of a lighthouse at Fife Ness, by establishing a light on the North Carr itself (abandoned owing to the expense involved in laying a suitable foundation on the friable rock), and by means of a Lightvessel. Preference was given for a Lightvessel to be placed one mile due east of the rock, approximately ten and half miles from Bell Rock and seven miles from the Isle of May in which position it would do away with the need for the low light at Isle of May.

Pending the building of a new Lightship, Trinity House offered to supply the Commissioners with one of their Lightships on loan with an experienced officer on board for a time. This offer was accepted and the Lightvessel was towed from Blackwall, near London, by a tug and placed in position on 7 June 1887, on which date the light from the low tower at Isle of May was discontinued. The crew consisted of Master, Mate and nine seamen of whom one officer and six seamen were always on board. The Master received £115.10.7d per annum with uniform; the Mate £97.0.7d per annum with uniform and the seamen £69.6.8d per annum with uniform. It was a condition of their employment that the officers and crew resided in Crail, and when ashore to occupy themselves in a store, which had been built there for coke, provisions etc (the coke which was delivered to Crail Store at 27/- per ton was required to drive fog signal machinery on the Lightvessel). It was a further duty for the officer and three crew members ashore to man the Attending Boat, which sailed weekly for the Isle of May and fortnightly to the North Carr. To help this arrangement Alex Watson, Isle of May Boatman, was appointed Mate of the North Carr Lightvessel; Mr John Kirkpatrick, Boatswain, “Pharos” was appointed Master.

The Trinity House Lightship was replaced in July 1889 by a timber vessel, the hull of which was built by Alex Stephen & Sons, Dundee. It was 103 feet in length, 23ft 6ins broad and had tonnage of 255. Five years later in 1894 it was decided to service the North Carr Lightvessel and Isle of May from Granton and that only a Signalman would be required at Crail. (The Coastguard Boatman, Crail, was appointed Signalman at £8 per annum). This decision was not well received in Crail and on 27 August 1894 the Provost submitted a letter transmitting a memorial from a large number of inhabitants of Crail against the proposed transfer of the Shore Station to Granton. Mr H T Anstruther MP supported the protest and the Secretary for Scotland wrote to the Commissioners on 28 August 1894 asking for the Commissioners’ views on the matter. All were assured that it was in the best interests of the Northern Lighthouse Board as well as economy and had the Board of Trade’s sanction.

The original attending boat had been replaced on 6 June 1888 by the Steam Launch “May” – built by Messrs Hawthorn & Co Ltd, Leith for £510 for which a special berth had been obtained in Crail. On transfer to Granton she continued in operation until May 1899 when she was sold for £150. The SS ” May” took over with the officer and crew on shore from the Lightship forming part of the crew when she made ordinary gas, buoy and relief work. The officers alternately acted as Mate of the “May” for which they received an extra 1/- per day all the year round. In 1902, when the Bell Rock light was being altered, these duties were increased to include all necessary trips to the Rock.

The wooden vessel (sold subsequently to Mr H Hinks, Appledore, North Devon for £275) was replaced on 3 April 1933 by the present vessel which is iron below water line and steel above and which created quite a stir in Edinburgh on account of her fog horn being tested while lying at a point ¾ mile outside Granton in the Firth of Forth.

As the fog horn had a range of approximately 10 miles, north Edinburgh could hear it loud and clear and the complaints to the Office, newspapers and Police were numerous – particularly as it was being sounded in clear weather.

“Hundreds of city dwellers have had no sleep over three consecutive nights”

“The most flagrant individual breach of the peace is as nothing compared with the ceaseless boom and consequent suffering of the past three nights”

“Firth of Forth torment”

“An Edinburgh grievance which has left rankling memories in the selection of Granton for the fog horn test” were typical of statements made and written at the time.

Historical notes

The ship was built by A & J Inglis Ltd, Pointhouse Shipyard, Glasgow, is 101ft in length and 25ft in breadth and 250 tons in weight; her hull and superstructure are painted red and the name North Carr is painted on both sides of the hull. It has been suggested that the wooden lightship should be replaced by a lighted buoy and automatic fog gun but the suggestion has been dismissed on account of their being considered too weak in power and range to be effective for such an important situation.

Since taking up her position the lightvessel, has done yeoman service sharing with the Abertay Lightship the distinction of being one of the only two such vessels in Scottish Waters. During the war her place was taken by an automatic lightbuoy while she herself did duty at a point between the Mull of Kintyre and the Mull of Galloway. With one notable exception her only absences have been for routine overhaul every third year.

She has no motive power of her own, so has to be towed whenever she is required to move. This means, of course, more space available for the generators and other installations with which she does her job. Her engine-room, for instance, is given over to three Diesel Generators and three Diesel Air-Compressors together with large fuel storage tanks and containers or “receivers” for compressed air – all catering for the requirements of the light and fog signal. The chain locker is another distinctive department, housing two spare cables, as well as the “slack” left over from the one now in use. The links of this are studded and made of metal 15/8 inches thick. The anchor weighs 3 tons; two spare anchors, of 30cwt apiece, are also carried.

Up on the deck, the dominating feature is the lighthouse tower, surmounted by its lightning conductor 40 feet above the sea. At one time a fixed white beacon was shown. But now, from sunset to sunrise, the signal is two flashes in quick succession every half minute – a beam of half a million candlepower visible for over ten miles. The source is a 1,000 watt electric bulb, magnified by the usual prismatic lenses which are rotated around it by a small electric motor. In the event of a power breakdown, a paraffin lamp can be substituted, while the lenses can be turned manually. Naturally enough, the whole system has got to remain vertical, despite any movement of the ship in rough weather, from stem to stern or from port to starboard. This problem is solved on the pendulum principle, the lamp and its adjuncts swinging on a set of gimbals, with a weight attached below.

The fog signal, with it two blasts every minute and a half, can be turned to any point of the compass, and is very similar to its counterparts on dry land. But it does have a special enemy to contend with – marine growths, which must be prevented from growing near the all-important sea-water injection valves. Here the remedy lies in a pressure boiler, which blows out hot steam and keeps the passage clear.

Sea-life also presents another kind of difficulty, for limpets and barnacles take up residence in prolific number on the ship’s bottom. To deal with this as far as they can, the crew make use of an elephantine back-scraper, like an out-size garden hoe. But even in spite of these exertions, about six tons of barnacles have to be dislodged when the vessel comes into port for her periodic overhauls.

The only regular visitor is the lighthouse tender from Granton, which arrives every fortnight with mail, stores, rations, newspapers and reliefs. The lightship crew consists of eleven men:- 1 Senior Master, 1 Assistant Master, 3 Senior Enginemen, 3 Assistant Enginemen and 3 Seamen, of whom 1 Master, 2 Senior Enginemen, 2 Assistant Enginemen and 2 Seamen are on board at the one time. The two Masters spent alternatively two weeks afloat and two weeks ashore and the other members of the crew spent, in rotation, a month afloat with two weeks ashore.

The occasion referred to earlier, on which she moved off station, took place on 8 December 1959, during a severe gale when the Lightship broke adrift from her moorings and the Broughty Ferry Lifeboat, Mona, which went to her assistance, capsized and was lost with all hands. The Lightship managed to anchor about 900 yards off the rocky shore at Kingsbarns, near St Andrews and the crew was taken off by two Bristol Sycamore helicopters from Leuchars on 9 December, after an attempt to tow the Lightship had failed. The rescue was made in extremely adverse conditions. A full gale was blowing and the Lightship was rolling and pitching heavily. To assist in the rescue operations the crew cut away the 40ft aftermast, which allowed the helicopters to fly as low as 5ft above the lantern and pick up members of the crew from the chart house roof. The Lightvessel was eventually taken in tow by the Admiralty tug “Earner” on 11 December, repaired at Leith and put back on station on 16 March 1960.

May 1976
The North Carr Lightvessel was sold to the North East Fife District Council in July 1976 and was used as a floating museum based in Anstruther harbour.

Jan 2002
The North Carr Lightvessel is now based in Victoria Dock, Dundee and is used by the Maritime Volunteer Service (MVS) as a base for Unit meetings and training.

Sept 2010
Just £1 saves the last lightship from scrapyard – but now £½m is needed

On 10 September 2010, the Scotsman newspaper reported –

SCOTLAND’S last surviving lightship has been saved from the scrapyard for the princely sum of £1. The maritime charity which has become the new owner of the North Carr Lightship, currently rusting in a dock on the banks of the River Tay, now faces the daunting task of raising the £500,000 needed to restore the vessel and transforming the ship into a viable visitor attraction on the city’s waterfront.

The lightship, built on the Clyde in 1933, was stationed off the notorious North Carr rocks, a mile and half from Fife Ness, until 1975, a crucial part of the life saving network operated by the Northern Lighthouse Board.

But 51 years ago the lightship was at the centre of one of Scotland’s worst lifeboat tragedies, when all eight crew members of the Broughty Ferry lifeboat drowned after their boat capsized in raging seas while going to aid the North Carr, adrift in a severe gale after breaking free from its moorings off St Andrews Bay. The six men on board the North Carr were later winched to safety by an RAF helicopter.

After being decommissioned, the lightship was briefly used as a floating museum in Anstruther before being towed to Dundee ten years ago.

Fears were raised last year that the North Carr was destined for the scrapyard after the English-based Maritime Volunteer Service (MVS), which had inherited it put it up for sale. But it has now been confirmed that MVS has sold the lightship for only £1 to Taymara, a Dundee-based maritime charity also involved in rehabilitating young people with drug and alcohol problems. The charity plans to turn the 250-ton vessel into floating exhibition, conference and function venue.

Bob Richmond, a Taymara trustee, said local volunteers had spent £55,000 five years ago repainting the superstructure of the vessel, but were left dumbfounded last August when MVS put the boat up for sale.

He said: “The local people who had worked on the boat were so annoyed that we resigned and formed our own charity, Taymara. We put in a bid to buy the vessel but I understand it has taken until now to establish clean titles to the North Carr. And now we have established ownership, we can press ahead with our plans to restore and modernise the boat.

“There has been no maintenance done for about 12 months, so she is looking a bit shabby. But it’s really just surface rust.

“Our first task will be stop any further deterioration.

“But a vessel like that takes a great deal of money to maintain and she has to become viable in her own right. But we believe £500,000 is the maximum that will be required for what will be a long-term project.” In the meantime, Taymara plans to use the boat as its headquarters.

Mr Richmond added: “There seems to be a great affection for the vessel locally … she saved countless lives in her time.” A spokesman for MVS said: “We’re not a vessel preservation society.