The small steel steamship Leven was built for the Dumbarton Steamboat Company by Scott & Sons of Bowling (Yard No 118) and launched on 4 November 1895. Designed for use as a ferry and cargo vessel her steel hull measured 80.0’ x 20.0’ x 7.5’. The small 2 cylinder compound steam engine was supplied by Ross & Duncan of Glasgow which drove a single propellor. This vessels official number was 105966.
The Dumbarton Steamboat Company went into liquidation and ceased trading in 1901. The Leven was put up for sale and was purchased by Andrew Glendinning the owner of the Island of Eigg. She had only served her new owner for a few months when she ran aground on Cath Sgeir, a reef off the Isle of Gigha on the 7 September 1901 during a severe gale. At the time of the stranding the Leven had been en route Glasgow to Skye with a cargo of building materials that included cement, fence posts and iron girders.
The crew which comprised Captain Samuel McLerie of Dunoon and four others were able to launch their lifeboat, but such was the weather they were driven north west and landed safely on Jura. The crew returned to Gigha the following day, at this stage there was still hope she could be refloated.
Unfortunately we have been unable to trace any further information as to the final days of the Leven. During research for Argyll Shipwrecks we met with Donald Fairgray from Campbeltown who had recovered brass letters from around Cath Sgeir and these were an L, E and N. We dived the wreck site with Donald but were unable to trace any substantial remains of the Leven.
In recent years, following further research and armed with mixed gas rebreathers we were able to find and dive the wreck of the Leven, which we identified by general layout, remaining cargo and vessel dimensions. With this information we are able to conclude that the Leven must have slipped off the reef in a southerly gale and foundered in deep water. The wreck lies around 500 metres north west of Cath Sgeir. As for the letters, we believe that these may have been attached to a deck housing or some bridge structure which became detached from the rest of the wreck when it slipped off the reef.
The Wreck Today
The wreck of the Leven lies in position 55° 39.838’N 005° 47.721’W and is on a sloping seabed of 30°. Lying on the SW side of a large rock feature the wreck can be quite difficult to find, a good echo sounder is essential. The bow points south east (towards Cath Sgeir) and is the shallowest end of wreck in 48-49 metres. The wreck is intact and on average rises around 1 metre above seabed level. The highest part of her wreck is the engine that projects a further 1 metre above deck level. The stern is further down the sandy slope in 52-53 metres and some wreckage extends down to 55-56 metres. The shallowest part on top of wreck is around 46-47 metres. In summary, the wreck is a stern engined steamship around 27-28 metres long, with a beam of around 6 metres.