The steel motor trawler Ben Heilem was launched from the Aberdeen yard of John Lewis and Sons Ltd (Yard No 319) in 12th October 1961. She measured 139.4′ x 26.1′ x 13.3′ and her tonnage was 372 gross tons, 129 net tons. She was powered by a 4SA 7 cylinder diesel engine by Mirlees, Bickerton and Day L delivering 854 brake horse power.
Built for Richard Irvin and Sons Ltd., Aberdeen she was the third Aberdeen based trawler to bear the name. The first, launched in 1912, was lost in wartime action off Berwick in October 1917. The second, launched in 1919, survived war service in both World Wars and was eventually scrapped in 1960. The third vessel under the name was also to meet a violent end.
On 28th January 1978 the Ben Heilem was fishing of the west coast of Harris when she was caught in a violent storm. Her skipper Bill Legge decided to run for shelter in West Loch Tarbert. As the trawler reached the coastline she grounded on a reef near Hushinish and began to fill through the damaged hull. Legge took the difficult but pragmatic decision to run his vessel ashore to save the men aboard. He drove her ashore on the sandy beach south of Hushinish Point allowing his crew to scramble safely ashore. He probably believed that the vessel would be successfully refloated at a later date but, unfortunately, before any salvage could be attempted she slipped back off the beach and sank in deep water. In February 1978 she was reported sitting upright close to the shore with her mast protruding above the surface. However only a week later she was reported lying on her starboard side badly damaged by pounding westerly surf and she was finally abandoned as a total wreck in March.
Her position of loss was reported at the as 57° 58.877’N, 007° 06.059’W. It is not known if any wreckage remains at or near this position.