Launched from the yard of Thomas Seath in Rutherglen on 23rd May, 1894 for Thomas Briggs of Sunderland the small coastal steamship Ready measured 85.0′ x 17.6′ x 8.4′ and weiaghed 103 gross tons, 41 net tons. She had a two cyilnder compound steam engine built by Kincaid and Co Ltd. of Greenock. Her owner sold the ship to Charles Pile of London only eight months later who, within six months, sold her to Peraud et Compagnie of Nantes. Her new French owners rebuilt the ship extending her length to 101.6′ x 17.5′ x 8.4 and her tonnage to 154 gross tons, 64 net tons. They renamed her Marche Droit. In 1902 she was acquired by Edwin Qualtrough who renamed her Glenmay under the ownership of the Steamship Glenmay Co Ltd of Peel, Isle of Man. Further multiple ownership changes then ensued until the Ramset Steamship Co Ltd renamed her Ben May. In 1938 she was acquired by her final owner William Trohear of Dundrum County Down.
The Ben May was under his ownership when she foundered off the Galloway coast on the afternoon of 14th November, 1938. Before the vessel sank the captain and the four crew were able to get away in a small boat. The skipper was Captain C McBurney and members of the crew were Andrew McKibbin, mate, Thomas Campbell, chief engineer, Samuel Malcolmson, second engineer and John Sloan, ship’s boy – all from Northern Ireland.
The Ben May was bound for Dundrum, County Down with a cargo of coal from Workington, Cumberland. About two o’clock in the morning when the vessel was about fifteen miles north of the Isle of Man she sprang a leak. Efforts to check the inrush of water were of little avail and the skipper sent up twelve distress signals but none were seen. They hove to for several hours then decided to make for the Wigtownshire coast. When the Ben May was about two miles from the Mull of Galloway the water was rising so quickly that the skipper decided to leave the ship. By this time the fires were out and the engine room was full of water. The crew boarded the ship’s boat and soon afterwards the Ben May went under. The lighthousekeeper at the Mull and the coastguard sent a message to Drummore. A motor boat set out from the harbour there and reached the crewmen taking the small boat in tow to Drummore and reaching the harbour about six o’clock that evening. The crew were taken care of by the secretary of the local Shipwrecked Mariners Assocation and after being provided with food were taken to Stranraer where they boarded the Larne steamer to return home earlier today.
The wreck of the Ben May lies in East Tarbet Bay in position 54°39.005’N, 004°51.568’W (WGS84). The site is sheltered and the seabed depth is only 20 metres. The well broken wreckage makes a safe reasonably interesting dive on a sandy seabed.