- 12 Nov 2016
...or the Siren o' Stornoway.
Episode 7 of “Highlanders behaving badly” (or “If you’re going to tell a story, tell a story) heads on this occasion to the wild and woolly west.
This is the MV Suilven at Stornoway slip in 1983. The picture here is used to educate CalMac skippers on health and safety matters, particularly those matters concerning safe berthing.
On the 18th of July 1983 the Suilven was making good time and on schedule approaching Stornoway. Unsuspecting passengers including the Tolsta Gaelic choir having taken gold at the Whisky Olympics (Mod) in Oban, were finishing the last of their CalMac macaroni and whisky whilst preparing to disembark.
At the helm, skipper Donald Iain MacLeod was engaged in scanning the ships path, for basking sharks, when his binoculars fell upon the sight of Maghread MacKinnon (Miss Stornoway 1983) sunning her shapely knees behind a rock on a secluded bay opposite the port. So distracted was the skipper, that he failed to see the slip looming at 32 knots. All too late, Donald Iain saw the impending disaster. He alerted the engine room to apply full reverse thrust. Unfortunately Donnie “spanners” Johnson, the chief engineer was overly engrossed in a 1970 dog eared copy of Mayfair to hear the master’s desperate request.
As can be seen in the picture, The Suilven hit the slip at full chat curling the bow skywards. The resulting damage put the stricken vessel out of commission for 3 months whilst specialists from Hebridean coachworks knocked out the dent.
Donald Iain MacLeod had his Skipper’s licence revoked and his binoculars confiscated. Although not fully to blame for the incident, Donnie’s magazine was burned and scuddy mags were banned from engine rooms on all CalMac vessels. Donald Iain was summarily demoted and retired, a broken man in 1997 having been unable to make it beyond toilet cleaner on the Claonaig- Lochranza ro-ro. Maghread had a grandstand view of Murdo MacKay, Seonaid MacVarish and Hamish MacLennan of the Tolsta Gaelic Choir being thrown into the icy waters as they had decided to arrive in style singing “the Mingulay boat song” from the open deck. It is unclear whether it was the macaroni or the copious amounts of whisky that insulated them from the Atlantic chill but when picked up by the Stornoway lifeboat, they seemed unperturbed, drying off with a quick rendition of “Brochan Lom” as they were escorted into the Clachan, prior to their open topped bus victory parade in Tolsta.