The iron steamship Anlaby was launched from the yard of the Oswald Shipbuilding Co Ltd., Pallion on 18th June 1870. She measured 231.0′ x 31.5′ x 17.3′ and weighed 1110 gross t ons, 717 net tons. Her compound steam engine by Oswald’s delivered 100 nhp.
After loading a cargo of coal for Danzig the steamship Anlaby was brought into Leith roads at 2pm on Thursday 21st August, 1873 to load her bunker coal. Then, at noon on the 23rd she weighed anchor and set off for her destination under the command of Captain Thomas Martin with a crew of 22 hands aboard. The visibility was limited but not seen as dangerous as she steamed away from Leith with a Trinity pilot at the wheel. The pilot disembarked two hours later off Inchkeith and the crew settled down for their voyage. By now the visibility was deteriorating and Captain Martin proceeded at a slow speed feeling his way through the thick fog although for some time he failed to sound the depth to verify his position. As his concern increased he finally ordered depth sounding to begin but soon after, as 6pm approached, the lookout shouted that there was a vessel ahead but the sighting turned out to be a rock lying just off May Island. The captain ordered engines full astern but it was too late. The Anlaby ran hard aground on the west side of the island. A kedge anchor was laid out and with this in place a number of attempts to pull her off with engines full astern failed. The pumps were started but by midnight it was clear the water was gaining and the captain ordered the crew into the ship’s boats and, while he and three of the crew remained aboard, the remainder of his crew made it safely ashore just after 12:30am. The captain and the remaining three crewmen were forced to abandon ship around 2:30am and also made it safely ashore. The ship had run aground at high tide and, with the falling tide, the ship began to work heavily on the rocks so that, by the next morning, she had slipped down at the stern and began to break up in the swell.
An inspection the following morning revealed a large hole six inches wide and five or six feet long in her starboard side. Over the next few days a salvage team arrived on site and made various attempts to refloat her but it was quickly obvious that the ship was going to break up and that raising her in tact was impossible. She became a total wreck. At the subsequent enquiry the captain was found to be at fault due to his failure to take adequate steps to verify his ship’s position in the bad visibility. His certificate was suspended for six months.
The wreck of the Anlaby lies in approximate position 56° 11.312’N, 002° 33.791’W (WGS84) some 100 metres north of the landing point of the west side of May Island. The well broken wreckage which is mainly the hull and cross members lies on a boulder slope between 5 and 20 metres. The iron propeller lies at the deepest point of the wreckage.