The iron steamship Falcon (ON.28482) was built by Archibald Denny of Dumbarton (Yard No 20), and launched on Friday, 6th April 1860. Her compound steam engine was constructed by Tulloch & Denny and produced around 100hp. Built as a cargo passenger steamship to the order of MacConnell & Laird, Glasgow she weighed in at 389 grt, and 264 nrt. Her dimensions were 174.4’ x 24.1’ x 13.35’.
The steamship Falcon should have left Glasgow for Londonderry at mid-day on Friday 4th January 1867 but owing to thick fog on the river she was detained overnight, the following day she proceeded to Greenock where she arrived around lunchtime. After loading a cargo of sugar she departed Greenock around 12.30pm. She had onboard 23 crew and around 40 passengers , the latter figure was never fully confirmed.
The passage was uneventful until early afternoon when the wind picked up from the south-east and steadily built in strength. By early evening in pitch dark the vessel was engulfed in hurricane force winds with frequent heavy snow showers. Weather conditions worsened further and Captain Hudson decided to steer for the west coast of Kintyre to ride out the storm. However, this course was to set them on a fatal route. Land was eventually sighted but they were too close to avoid running ground at the bow and remaining fast. It was about 2am on Sunday morning. She had stranded on a promontory below Innean Beithe, named Rubha a’ Mharaiche, approximately 2.5 miles north of the Mull lighthouse.
The crew immediately attempted to launch the boats but the first to reach the water was immediately inundated with sea water but did manage to remain afloat. The remaining three boats were partially lowered in preparation for an emergency disembarkation if needed. Shortly after, the ship floated off the rocks and began to settle by the stern as she drifted out to sea. The captain, who had remained on the bridge throughout, made his way down to the deck and ordered everyone to abandon ship but it appears the passengers were reluctant to do this until it was too late. Captain Hudson and two of his crew managed to scramble aboard the semi-submerged lifeboat just before the ship went down taking all of the passengers and the remaining crewmen with her. The three seamen drifted before the wind through the night and finally made landfall near Kildalton, Islay the following morning.
The Wreck Today
The wreck of the Falcon lies in position 55°23.967’N, 005°50.025’W (GPS), in general seabed depths of 40-41 metres. The wreck is oriented generally 308°/128° with bow to the shore, the central section of engine and boiler rises a maximum of 3.5 metres above the surrounding wreckage.
The wreck lies in an area of strong tidal movement on both flood and ebb, which means it can only be dived at slack water which we believe form experience is between 2hrs 20min to 1hr 20min before high and low water at Greenock, neap tides will also increase the period of slack. It is recommended that the Admiralty Tidal Stream Atlas is consulted when planning diving operations.
This is a very picturesque wreck site, visibility is generally excellent, and the wreckage is inhabited by a colourful and varied selection of sealife. Considering its exposed location, the wreck still retains its general hull outline with ribs and hull plating sticking above seabed level between 0.5 and 1.5m. The boiler and engine are very much intact, linked by a large diameter steam pipe. As can be seen form the video, the wreck has formed a manmade reef for all species of fish, crustaceans and invertebrates and makes for a very pleasant dive. In 2012 the wreck was positively identified by divers who recovered the ship’s bell and maker’s plate.