The steel steam trawler Barle was launched from the Selby yard of Cochrane and Sons Ltd (Yard No 596) on 14th March 1914. She measured 135.2′ x 23.5′ x 12.2′ and her tonnage was 283 gross tons, 120 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by Amos and Smith Ltd., Hull delivering 87 registered horse power. Built for G W and H B Jeffs of Grimsby she was requisitioned by the Admiralty for war service as minesweeper 1862 in September 1915. She survived the war and was returned to her owners who sold her to St Malo Steam Fishing Co Ltd of Grimsby in Septmeber 1921. Further ownership changes followed before she was acquired by her final owners, Boston Deep Sea Fishing Co Ltd., Fleetwood in November 1935.
The graphic story of the loss off the trawler Barle only came to light when the 10 crew arrived back at their home port aboard the trawler Collena. The Barle had been fishing off the west coast of Islay on Wednesday 1st April 1936 when she encountered thick fog. After hauling her nets aboard her skipper plotted a slow careful course probing through the thick fog in an attempt to reach safety. Unfortunately, as they approached the entrance to Port Ellen they ran aground approximately one mile south east of the Mull of Oa on Sgeirean Buidhe.
The Barle was badly holed and quickly became waterlogged which in turn extinguished the boiler fire resulting in a total loss of power. The wireless became useless so they then fired rockets to try to attract attention but to no avail. They were left with little alternative and eventually abandoned ship fearing the vessel would founder. Through the darkness and fog it was impossible to accurately assess their position so they stayed near their ship and it was not until daylight the following day that they found they were only a few boat lengths from the shoreline beneath 300 foot towering cliffs.
As the light improved the crew scrambled ashore and started the difficult climb up the cliffs on near vertical sheep tracks but they eventually reached the top safely. After a further two mile walk they finally reached a farm where they were given food and warm drinks. They were able to dry their clothes and soon felt much better, so much so that, after a few hours they retraced their steps to the cliff top where they were able to attract the attention of another of the fishing fleet, the steam trawler Collena, which they boarded to be taken home to Fleetwood.
The wreck of the Barle lies below the prominent headland of Sgeirean Buidhe. A small rock islet lies no more than 20 metres south of the point and the wreck lies between this rock and the point in a deep gulley. The dive her in up to 10 metres is very picturesque and pleasant in good conditions but would become quite dangerous in a significant swell. The wreck lies in position 55 34.890’N, 006 18.822’W (GPS) and in an area of strong tides and swells but can be safely dived in calm conditions at slack water.
We would like to thank Lloyd’s Register Foundation – Heritage & Education Centre for allowing us to reproduce documents from their archive in this article.