HMS Lively was built for the Royal Navy at the Sheerness Dockyard and was launched on 10th December 1870. The wooden paddlesteamer measured 220.0′ x 28.0′ and weighed 985 gross tons. She was fitted with two 20 pounder deck guns and joined the Channel Squadron where she was employed as a dispatch vessel.
Her final voyage started harmlessly enough as she departed from Ness in Lewis with Lord Napier and six other Royal Commissioners of the Crofting Commission aboard accompanied by five members of the press assigned to cover the visit to the islands. They had visited the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis were heading to Stornoway for a further meeting the next day. At 6:30 pm on the evening of 6th June, 1883 she set out on the voyage which was expected to take around three hours. The night was fine although there was a fair swell building from the south easterly breeze blowing across the Minch making the first half of the voyage a little unpleasant. On the bridge Commander Parr, an experienced skipper in the Hebrides area, had Captain McDonald of Tobermory aboard as a local pilot. Parr had a crew of seventy five men under his command. Lively was steaming at 10 knots and they steered a course that was hugging the east coast of the islands to minimise their voyage time.
As the voyage proceeded the sea calmed and the evening was pleasant as they steamed down the east coast of the Eye Peninsula. Now within 4 miles of their destination many of the crew were relaxing in the forecastle and Mr Parr and the Commissioners were dining in the saloon when, without warning, the ship ran aground with a jolt and loud rasping sound. Everyone aboard rushed on deck fearing that the ship might be in imminent danger of foundering but it was obvious from their position that the were in no immediate danger. However attempts to pull the vessel off the rocks using her engines failed. From the position close to shore it was clear that they had stranded on Chicken Rock, a small outcrop of rocks close to the southerly tip of the Eye Peninsula.
A number of vessels which had been fishing nearby pulled up to the stranded ship with offers of assistance. The Glasgow steamer Mary Ann also answered Lively’s signals and moved in to provide further aid if needed. Commander Parr ordered the ship’s carpenter below to inspect the damage. The man quickly returned to the bridge and told Parr that, despite the ebbing tide, water was filling the spaces in the lower decks so the order to abandon ship was given and quickly the Commissioners, the members of the press and then the seventy seven crewmen of the Lively were safely transferred by steam launch to the Mary Ann. As the tide ebbed Lively settled with her keel as far back as the paddle box jammed on the rocks and her stern section underwater and smashed. A large rock had penetrated the hull midships and she was lying with a heavy 45 degree list to starboard. The Admiralty sent HMS Jackal and two other vessels to render assistance but it was clear that HMS Lively was lost and would become a total wreck. Some stores and a few of her fixtures and fittings were recovered before she was abandoned to her fate
The Wreck Today
The scattered wreckage of the Lively lies on the east side of Chicken Rock in position 59°10.610’N, 06°15.467’W in depths up to 15 metres. She was subject to some salvage of non ferrous material in the 1970’s so little of the wreckage is recognisable although divers in the 1970’s and 1980’s reported her paddlewheels visible in depths less than 10 metres.