The Hersilia was built by Ramage & Ferguson at their yard in Leith (Yard No.134) and launched on 11 March 1895. At 330gt. she was a sizeable vessel of 171.0′ x 24.1′ x 13.7′ and was powered by a 93 nhp triple expansion steam engine. She had been built for the Reverend John Hutchison of Leith, before being acquired by Sir Walpole Greenwell in 1902. In the early months of World War One the vessel was requisitioned by the Admiralty for use as a naval auxiliary patrol vessel and armed with 2 @ 6pdr deck guns.
Hersilia left Stornoway 12:15am 6th January 1916 bound for the Isle of Ornsay in Sleat Sound where the steamship Rondo had run aground with her cargo of coal. Her Royal Naval Reserve crew was commanded by Lieutenant Commander Hugh Henry McLean RNR. Lieutenant Frank Randall Carter RNR was the Navigating Officer. Course set at S ¼ W to pass east of South Rona Light and through the Inner Sound. The night was very dark with rain squalls and a gale force wind blowing from the south west.
At 2:30am South Rona Light was spotted dead ahead and Lieutenant Carter, who was in charge on the bridge at the time, ordered a course change to S ¼ E. At 3:00am Rhu Rhe Light was observed at an estimated distance of nine miles and although South Rona Light was also still visible it appears no cross bearing was taken to calculate their exact position. By this time Commander McLean had returned to the bridge and was informed of the previous course deviation. The course was re-adjusted to the original S ¼ W and speed maintained. By 4:00am South Rona Light was bearing SSW and Trodday Light was also visible but again, no cross bearing was taken. Carter was relieved as Officer of the Watch by Sub-Lieutenant Henry Fosbrooke. At 4:15am Fosbrooke took a four point bearing to attempt to establish the exact position of the ship and, with this information, McLean ordered a further course change to S by W ½ W. Forty minutes later, without warning, Hersilia crashed onto rocks in a position that was reported as between Rudha ona Fearna and Rudha Chuaig. The crew all managed to escape safely onto the shore line.
At the subsequent enquiry and court martials held that the loss of the Hersilia was entirely due to the negligent navigation of the steam yacht by Commander McLean and his Navigating Officer Lieutenant Carter.
The exact location of the loss was never accurately recorded and remained unknown until a project to document sites of historic interest was launched in 2013. The project Scottish Atlantic Maritime Past: Heritage, Investigation, Research and Education (SAMPHIRE) embarked on underwater searches at various west coast locations after interviews with local fishermen and scallop divers who had identified wreckage locations. One such location was explored at the above noted position where divers had discovered the remains on a steamship including a large boiler on the south side of Eilean Chuaig off Loch Torridon. It has not been established that the wreckage at this position is definitely Hersilia and with a number of other unidentified wrecks in the area the conclusion is still in doubt. However the nature of the wreckage, the location and assessment of the other wrecks lead the project team to conclude that this wreckage is likely to be Hersilia.