The iron paddle steamer Cygnet was launched from the Port Glasgow yard of John Reid and Company on 7 April 1848. She measured 77.5’ x 14.5’ x 10.0’ and her tonnage was 101 gross tons, 62 net. She was powered by a single cylinder steam engine manufactured by J & G Thomson of Govan.
Her first owner was the Glasgow & Liverpool Shipping Company, ownership transferred to David Hutcheson in 1851 and thence to David MacBrayne as part of his West Highland fleet and remained in his ownership until her loss.
On 18th September 1882 the Cygnet departed Tobermory bound for coastal settlements and islands along the north west coast of Scotland delivering essentials and uplifting cargos for Oban and onward shipment. The following day she called at the small hamlet of Roshven on the southern shore of Loch Ailort, where Captain McLachlan employed a local pilot to guide them on the next part of their journey to the head the loch at Kinlochailort.
All went well as they navigated between the small islands to the east of Roshven, but an unmarked reef lying central to the shipping channel was missed by the pilot and the Cygnet ran aground on the reef, later rolling off into deeper water, all the crew and passengers were landed safely at Roshven. The Cygnet was to remain where she sank with only part of her masts and deckhouse visible at low tide.
The wreck remained where it sank until it was raised in the summer of 1883 and towed inshore and beached at high water in Camas na Gualainn. We have not been able to establish if further salvage of the wreck took place, although it would seem probable that all or part of the machinery would have been removed for reuse or scrap. There are remains on the foreshore in Camas na Gualainn between the high and low water mark that consist of plating, frame sections and gunnel radiused to the vessels deck profile, but no sign of any machinery or boiler. The remains lie in position 56° 50.643’N 005° 44.086’W within a radius of 15-20 metres.
In October 1883 the Admiralty issued a Notice to Mariners regarding the reef in Loch Ailort following a survey by the crew of HMS Jackal. The reef was later fitted with a metal beacon in 1892, which appeared on marine charts and land based maps, the beacon was not visible during our visit in September 2023. The centre of the reef appears to be located in position 56° 50.862’N 005° 43.772’W.