The Pibroch - Some history snipets

© Brian Climie

The history of PIBROCH began 1957, she was the second diesel puffer operating on the west coast. Her first task was to carry grain to Islay on behalf of Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd, Glasgow.
After being sold to Glenlight Shipping she worked as a supply vessel for the US Navy at Holy Loch until the mid-eighties.

Read the following articles to get an impression of her working life.

Clyde Puffers - The Two Pibrochs

Excerpt from an article in Model Magazine Feb. 2003 by Jim Pottinger


The humble appearance of the Cumbrae Lass loaded with garbage from the US Submarine base in the Holy Loch belies her former ancestry as the Pibroch (I), a carrier of the priceless 'water of life' from the distillery at Islay.

Mackie brothers, owner of the White Horse Distillery of Lagavulin commissioned the Pibroch from Scotts of Bowling in 1923, and served them and their successors, Scottish Malt Distillers, for over 34 years, carrying coal and barley to the island and whiskey out- seen here in the Crinan Canal, her immaculate appearance with grained wheelhouse, white line around the bulwarks and proud White Horse weathercock at the masthead contrasting her with her more workaday sisters. She was replaced by a motor vessel 1957, and was renamed Texa on being sold to Duncan McCorqudale of Troon later to McNeil of Greenock in the sand trade, taking the name Cumbrae Lass when bought by Burkes of Greenock.

The tiller can clearly he seen on the rudder head and the steering chains going down the side of the wheelhouse. She often carried torpedoes from the Torpedo Factory at Fort Matilda to Arrochar, and in contrast garbage from the American base at the Holy Loch as seen in the photo. She was broken up by Arnott Young at Dalmuir in 1965, a respectable 42 years of age.

In complete contrast the Pibroch (II), built by Scott of Bowling, and 87 ft 4 in long, was the second diesel 'puffer' on the west coast. In big ship style sported a raised poop and davit for lifeboat, and was also fitted with steel hatchcovers, it being said that these reduced the amount of 'evaporation' formerly experienced from the barrelled whiskey under traditional board and canvas hatchcovers!

The introduction of larger coasters and ro-ro ferries put paid to her traditional trade, and she was sold. A recent photo of her in June 2000 Sea Breezes magazine shows her in fairly dilapidated state at Derryinver in Co. Galway.


The Last of the Puffers

From Ship's Monthly Jan. 1984 by David R. Stearne

Enthusiasts for the famed and fabled Clyde Puffers, which have plied their trade in the waters of the Clyde and the West Coast of Scotland for decades, will undoubtedly be saddened to hear of the fate of Pibroch, last of a breed of such little vessels.

Owned and operated by the Glenlight Shipping Ltd, the Pibroch has been operating for the last couple of years as the supply tender to the United States Navy, running supplies between Greenock and the Holy Loch, to the American Submarine Depot Ship, USS Hunly. Under the mastership of John McLean, the availability of suitable cargoes for Pibroch, with her summer deadweight cargo tonnage of 160 tons, became harder and harder to find and when the contract came to ferry supplies to the American sailors it was the answer to the owner's difficulties in securing a future for her.

Sadly, however, the relationship was not to be a permanent one and as the everchanging needs of the United States Navy put greater pressure on Pibroch it became uneconomical for her to continue. Greater cargo space was required in making fewer but larger trips and Pibroch was withdrawn from service.

Gladly for the owners, a larger vessel, the Dawnlight, was available to carry on with the contract. At nearly twice the size of Pibroch she is managing to fulfil the needs of the USS Hunly, and her master, Duncan MacDonald, is being assisted by John McLean with his greater experience of the trade gained from his time as master of Pibroch.

As for Pibroch, she has been lying up at Glasgow's Yorkhill Quay, forlornly boarded up against vandalism during the six weeks trial period given to Dawnlight until, in the words of Marine Superintendent Captain Munro, "she will be put up for disposal".

Whilst lovers of the Clyde Puffers will be sad to see her go, the owners, of course, cannot afford such romantic notions and the decision for disposal has been forced upon them by the sheer economics of a ship with no cargoes. Built in 1957 at Scott & Sons (Shipbuilders), Bowling, Glasgow, she was the second puffer to have the name Pibroch. The first Pibroch had been built in 1923, also by Scotts of Bowling, for the Mackie Bros, of the White Horse Distillery of Lagavulin, Islay. She served them and their successors, Scottish Malt Distillers for 34 years and was a familiar sight on her weekly voyages to Islay. She was replaced by the motor vessel in 1957, was sold and renamed Texa. She later became Cumbrae Lass which name she retained until she was broken up in 1967.

The present Pibroch was built for the Distillers Company Ltd and she was also involved in the weekly run to the Islay Distilleries. She was acquired by the Glenlight Shipping Company in 1976 and for the first three years she was carrying out general cargo duties on the West Coast of Scotland. She took on the duties of tender to the US Navy in 1979 and has operated for them until her recent withdrawal.

Although there have been no firm offers for the vessel at the time of writing, it is hoped that she may be able to carry on a life afloat, albeit as a private boat or perhaps even a museum piece. The owners have no plans at present to build a third Pibroch and regrettably it would seem that this marks the end of one of the very few remaining Clyde Puffers still afloat.

Lovers of the finer details are advised that she is 151 grt, 70 nrt, she has a length of 87 feet and breadth of 20 feet. Her hold capacity for grain is 82 cu ft and bale 79 cu ft. She has a load draught of 9ft 6ins and light draught of 6ft 6ins She is capable of 10 knots.