The Cormoran (FD67) was launched in December 1908 from the yard of Mackie and Thomson, Glasgow (Yard No 384). She was a steel hulled steam trawler of 228 gt., and her dimensions were 120.8′ x 21.5′ x 11.6’. Her owner was George Hindle of Wilpshire near Blackburn, Lancashire.
The trawler was returning from the west coast fishing grounds to her home port of Fleetwood under the command of skipper John Buckley with a crew of ten men aboard. Around 5:45 am on the morning of Monday 18th January, 1926 they reached Kilchiaran Bay on the west coast of Islay intending to try a few more casts before finally setting off for home. The weather was very dark with a slight haze and there was a heavy swell when, without warning, there was a sudden bump followed at short intervals by a series of other bumps before the vessel came to an abrupt stop. The crew knew instantly that they had run aground and a quick inspection showed that they were making water fast. It was decided to abandon ship immediately. Five of the men and the captain started to get out the ship’s boat but, before they could assemble the whole crew, the trawler took a lurch to port followed by a larger, alarming lurch to starboard almost turning turtle in the process. This second lurch threw the lifeboat and the men working at it, except the captain, into the sea. The remaining five crewmen had to jump from their swaying ship onto a rock and scramble to the shore. They spent the night, cold and injured, huddled beneath two blankets they had been able to salvage from the wreck, before morning broke and they spotted smoke rising from a nearby house. As they walked towards it they met the local postman. He took them to a farmhouse where they were given hot drinks and food to revive them.
The men ashore thought they had lost their shipmates who had been thrown overboard but thankfully, later in the week, news came through from Tiree that they had landed safely there after three days adrift in the ship’s boat. They later learned that the five men had been thrown into the sea but had managed to clamber aboard the lifeboat which had also been thrown clear and luckily was afloat upright beside them. Unfortunately the captain had not escaped from the ship and was apparently killed when the boiler blew up. The plight of the men in the boat had been grim as there was no plug in the boat and it had continually filled with water. They had to use their boots to bail the water out and to improvise rowlocks to make the oars useable. They had no food, no water, no shelter, no dry clothing and the strong offshore currents were sweeping them further out to sea. They managed to rig up a makeshift sail from an oar and a piece of tarpaulin but had little control over their craft as they drifted north. Luckily, three days later, they were washed ashore, completely exhausted, frost bitten and hungry but alive, on the island of Tiree.
The Wreck Today
The wreck site of the Cormoran lies among the rocks on the south side of the entrance to Kilchiaran Bay in position 55°44.983’N, 006°28.616’W (GPS). At low tide there is wreckage visible above water, high and dry among the rocks. The remains of the boiler are also visible protruding from the water close to the shore. This visible wreckage fixes the approximate position but the main concentration lies slightly further south west as shown on the chartlet and pictures.
She has been well salvaged and little recognisable remains but there are still fairly substantial amounts of wreckage lying in 4 to 6 metres among the rocks. Due to the shallow nature of the site the wreckage is heavily overgrown with long fronds of kelp which makes this a snorkel rather a dive. It maybe worthwhile looking for wreckage on the outside of the reef where more depth can be achieved. Only potential hazard on this site is swell which could often make the wreck undiveable.