The iron paddlesteamer Chevalier was launched from the Govan yard of James and George Thomson (Yard No 7) on 28th March 1853. She measured 170.0′ x 22.5′ x 11.5′ and her tonnage was 329 gross tons, 199 net tons. She was powered by a steam engine by J and G Thomson delivering 180 net horse power. She was built for David Hutchison and Co Ltd., Glasgow and operated on the west Scotland routes. But her career was to be a short one.
Her loss in the Sound of Jura on a calm clear night on the 24th November, 1854 started a storm of protest and indignation in the newspapers of the day. Only months earlier the paddlesteamers Myrtle and Eclipse had been lost in similarly good weather. The newspapers called for severe penalties for the men in charge of the vessels. In the case of the Chevalier the authorities seemed to agree, as the mate Simpson who had been in charge of the ship when she went aground, was taken into custody at Inveraray jail.
The Chevalier had been en route from Greenock for Portree, Lochinver and Stornaway and had rounded the Mull of Kintyre safely before heading north up the Sound of Jura. Captain Rankine had retired below and left the mate in charge for this leg of the voyage. Around 4am on the morning of the 24th a light was sighted ahead. It would appear that the crew mistook the light for the light of another ship because they took no evasive action and shortly after ran hard aground on a rock called Skerrie Eirn or Iron Rock. The light was in fact the beacon on the rock and should have warned the lookouts aboard the Chevalier and the mate on the bridge to steer clear. The ship was stuck fast and immediately began to fill with water from the forward compartments.
Quickly one of the boats was lowered and, with a few passengers aboard, headed for Port Askaig to raise the alarm. The majority of the crew stayed aboard the stranded steamer hoping that she might be pulled off. The tug Conqueror steamed to her aid but, when the Conqueror was at Crinan refuelling, a storm arose and the Chevalier began to break apart. The situation for the men aboard could have been quite serious but luckily the steamer Islay came by and picked them up. The crew were indeed very lucky as the Islay did not normally pass down the Sound of Jura but had taken the route inside Jura to avoid the heavy weather off the west coast.
The Chevalier became a total wreck. It is not absolutely certain where the ship went on the rocks as the name of the location involved in somewhat vague in the newspaper reports of the time. Iron Rock ( or Sgeir Maoile ) is listed in the old West Coast Pilot as lying 1 and 9/10ths of a mile bearing 099 degrees from Lowlandman’s Bay. This would make it the rock Skervuile on modern charts. The authors are of the opinion that this is the location of the wreck of the Chevalier. This is supported by the discovery of scattered broken pottery and a small section of keel and hull plate in the shallow gully on the north west side of the reef in position 55° 52.499’N, 005° 49.844’W in shallow water from 2 – 5 metres. It is also known that two ‘old style’ portholes were found in shallow water on the north side of the rock some years ago.