The iron steamship Ardandhu was launched from the Port Glasgow yard of Henry Murray and Co Ltd (Yard No 94) on 15th December 1879. She measured 235.9′ x 31.1′ x 17.0′ and her tonnage was 1148 gross tons, 752 net tons. She was powered by a 2 cylinder steam engine by William King and Co Ltd, Glasgow delivering 98 registered horse power. She was ordered by the Ardan Steamship Co Ltd., Glasgow and operated on routes around the UK and to Europe.
She had her first brush with disaster in January of 1881 when she was holed in a collision with the State Line steamship State of Indiana in fog while lying anchored near Bowling on the River Clyde. She sank almost immediately on the south side of the narrow channel but was to survive this mishap as she was successfully raised a few days later. She was not to be so lucky the second time!
On 9th September 1891, nearly ten years after this first misadventure the Ardandhu sailed from the port of Riga, bound for Fleetwood, with a cargo of railway sleepers. Captain James Smith and his eighteen crew sailed her uneventfully across the North Sea, round the north of Scotland and by the 16th took her south through the Minch, passing Ushinish Light, South Uist shortly after midnight. The weather became stormy and the visibility very poor in the heavy drizzling rain as she pounded through a west south westerly gale. Despite her engines pushing her at full power her headway was reduced from her normal top speed of eight knots to nearer six as she rolled and crashed through heavy seas. However there was no concern among her crew as the various watches steered her on her south west by south course towards Tiree.
Around 5:15am on the 17th, with the storm abating, the mate called the captain to the bridge as the visibility had closed in and by then was very poor indeed. The captain did not take charge of his ship but returned below and, while the lead line was made ready, the Ardandhu continued at full speed. He returned to the bridge around 7:30am and, shortly after, rocks were sighted half a mile from the port bow. The captain ordered the helm to port and his vessel, responding immediately, turned to starboard away from the danger. No sooner was this manoeuvre completed than another group of rocks were spotted off the starboard bow and, although another order to put the helm to port was given, she ran aground, at full speed, with a shuddering crash.
Captain Smith ordered engines full astern but she was stuck fast. The deck cargo was jettisoned to lighten the ship but, in the meantime, an inspection below decks revealed holes on the port side of the engine room with water in both fore and aft holds. The ship had run aground on the Hough Skerries which lie off the west side Tiree. Islanders from Tiree came out to the stranded ship and took off the crew leaving their ship settling into the water on the exposed reef. She became a total wreck. Captain Smith’s certificate was suspended for six months at the subsequent enquiry after he was found to blame for the loss of his ship due to careless navigation. We have assigned and approximate position of 56° 31.421’N, 007° 01.733’W for this wreck, which is not based on any site investigation, the position lies on the north side of the Hough Skerries reef.