The steel cargo steamship Bay Fisher was launched by the Dublin Dockyard Company in October 1904 for her new owners James Fisher & Son of Barrow in Furness. Her dimensions were 168.7′ x 25.8′ x 10.4’ with tonnage of 478gross/195net. The vessel was powered by a 2 cylinder compound steam engine supplied by Renfrew Brothers of Irvine. Fisher’s sold the vessel to a London based company in 1917 and it was re-named Madame Alice. The vessels official number was 114228.
Fishers’s also owned a vessel called the Sound Fisher built in 1894, the general arrangement and dimensions were virtually identical for both vessels so the picture below of the Causway (ex Sound Fisher) will give you a good idea of what she looked like.
As with many vessels lost during the wars, there are few details of the sinking of the Madame Alice in the records available. She was lost on the 16th February, 1918 on a voyage from Fleetwood to Stornaway with a cargo of empty barrels and seventeen crew aboard. She was sunk in a collision near Oban with the steam yacht Iolaire, which was on Admiralty duty at the time. The crew of the Madame Alice made it safely to the shore. The Iolaire, whilst badly damaged, survived the collision but was tragically lost less than a year later, when she ran aground on the Beasts of Holm near Stornaway with the loss of over two hundred lives.
The Wreck Today
The wreck of the Madame Alice lies in 40 – 42 metres in the Firth of Lorne approximately a mile offshore from Ganavan Sands in position 56° 27.233’N, 005° 29.483’W (GPS). She sits almost upright with a slight list to starboard on a muddy seabed with her bow heading south west.
The wreck is still fairly intact although the superstructure in the bridge area is beginning to fall inwards on itself and the stern is smashed and disappears into the seabed. This is presumably the result of the collision that caused the loss of the vessel as the rest of the hull appears to be in tact. The stern is covered extensively by fishing nets and so great care must be taken, particularly as the muddy seabed and the silt that covers the wreckage, deposited by the tides rushing through the Falls of Lora from Loch Etive, quickly reduces visibility as the diver swims past. Forward of the bridge the large single hold is well filled with silt. Huge seapens cover the seabed around the wreck but otherwise the wreck itself is not covered with the same profusion of encrusting life that would normally be associated with such a wreck. Apart from the depth and the fishing nets their are no great hazards on this dive but clearly it is not for the inexperienced diver. She lies more or less on the route of the Lismore ferry from Oban so watch out for it but otherwise surface traffic in the area is reasonably light.