This vessel was launched as VIC 63, and part of the UK’s WW2 shipbuilding programme, to be managed by the Ministry of War Transport. These vessels were small rear engined steam lighters and based on the successful design of the Clyde puffer. Although around twenty foot longer than a standard puffer, with increased capacity, the nomenclature stood for ‘victualling inshore craft’ and they serviced large naval vessels while at anchor. After the war, most were sold on to private and commercial interests, which would eventually happen to VIC 63.
Built by Isaac Pimblot & Son at Northwich in Manchester (Yard No.667) she was one of ten such vessels launched by this yard between 1944 and 1947. VIC 63 was launched in February 1946 and her dimensions were 80.5’ x 20.0’ x 8.2’ and tonnage was 147 gross and 52 net. She was powered by a 2 cylinder compound steam engine supplied by Elliott & Garrood of Beccles. The vessels official number was 168898.
Sometime in 1947 her management transferred to the Admiralty and this situation remained until she was sold in 1956 to Alexander McNeil of Greenock who renamed the vessel Colonsay **.
The Colonsay was lost at Castlebay, Barra on 10 January 1960 during a storm, fortunately all crew landed safely ashore. She had recently off loaded a cargo and departed Castlebay on 9 January having to return later that evening in worsening weather. Unable to moor alongside Castlebay pier as the MacBraynes ferry Claymore had recently arrived, she anchored up south west of the pier. Overnight, at the peak of the storm her anchors began to drag and, with the Barra lifeboat standing by, she was slowly pushed towards the rocky shore north of Rubha Glas at the west side of Castlebay. As they neared the shore the crew abandoned ship in their small boat. The Colonsay eventually went ashore and by the early afternoon had turned on her side, and by evening had sunk below the surface with only her mast showing. The vessel was written off as a constructive total loss.
The wreck of the Colonsay lies on the west side of Castlebay just south of the entrance to Bach Beag in position 56° 56.983’N, 007° 30.052’W. The intact hull is oriented 080/260 with bow pointing south east. Seabed depths are around 8 metres and the wrecks rises around 5 metres above seabed. The wreck has been the subject of salvage by a number of parties, the hull structure still remains in shape.
** This was the second McNeil vessel to bear the name Colonsay, the first was lost in Loch Striven in 1949 and was previously the Clyde puffer Dorothy, official number 110990.