The Caitloch was built by R. Duncan & Sons of Port Glasgow for T O Hunter & Company of Greenock in 1874. She was a barque rigged sailing vessel of 1264 net tons and her iron hull had dimensions of 235.0′ x 37.0′ x 21.8’.
In February 1891, while in Hamburg harbour, she capsized and sank after sitting down on the anchor of the barque Dunnerdale. She was successfully raised and repaired and subsequently sold to C A Banck & Company of Helsingborg, Sweden.
On 13th February, 1895 she was inward bound to the Clyde from Falmouth and Java with a cargo of sugar for the Glebe refinery in Greenock. On reaching the approaches to the Clyde she was taken in tow by the Clyde Shipping Company tug Flying Eagle. This was the usual method of manoeuvering a large sailing ship in the waters around Arran, Cumbrae and Bute. Despite this precaution, at around 9:30pm that evening, the Caitloch stranded on Torrylin beach, south Arran in a strong south westerly wind. The Flying Eagle struck a reef, snapping off her funnel and severely damaging her hull and was left with her stern high and dry on the rocks and clear of the water. The Caitloch was quickly holed as she was bumped against the rocky shore and soon filled with water, leaving her decks awash in the rough seas.
The lifeboats from both the Flying Eagle and the Caitloch herself were quickly lowered into the pounding waves in an attempt to reach safety. The crew of the Flying Eagle reached the shore but the crew of the Caitloch decided to weather the storm in the lee of their wrecked ship and land in daylight after seeing their first lifeboat washed ashore and smashed to pieces on the rocks. They spent a long, cold night continually drenched by the huge waves crashing over the Caitloch but landed safely in the morning. Although most were suffering from exposure as they landed, for once, no one was killed or seriously injured in the incident on either of the two vessels involved.
The Clyde Shipping Company sent a salvage team to review the position on both wrecks over the next week and the Flying Eagle was successfully refloated on 21 February and taken to Blackwood & Gordon’s yard in Port Glasgow for repair. As for the Caitloch, although her sails and fittings were recovered by the crew within a week of her wrecking, the wreck and fittings were advertised for public sale in Glasgow to be held on 22 March.
The wreck and all rights were purchased by a well known west coast salvage diver, James Gush of Greenock, at a cost of £170. A later sale notice lists an extensive list of materials recovered from the wreck for sale on 30 April.
The Caitloch and her valuable cargo of 1800 tons or 7289 baskets of sugar were jointly valued at £25,000. However, as soon as the sea got into the holds the sugar started to dissolve and after a week there was no cargo and therefore no value to recover other than the twisted remains of the Caitloch.
A Board of Trade inquiry took place on 12 & 13 March in Greenock regarding the grounding of the Flying Eagle. As the Caitloch was under tow by the Flying Eagle, the master of the tug, Jabez Williamson was responsible for the safe navigation of both vessels. In this instance the Court did not deal with his masters certificate, although the Court did conclude that the cause of the stranding lay with the master of the tug not making enough allowance for a strong ebb tide and a easterly wind, which coupled with poor visibility meant they could not establish their position………and the rest is history!