The Margaret Niven was an iron steam lighter of 42tons gross built at Port Glasgow and launched in 1866. She was of standard dimensions to pass the locks in the Forth & Clyde canal at 63.2’ x 16.5’x 6.3’.
On Friday 21 August 1907 she ran aground on a rock known locally as the ‘Bald Heid’ north east of Barmore Island, Loch Fyne and remained fast. She was carrying a cargo of road granite from nearby Crarae Quarry for Glasgow. The crew of 3 were able to get ashore safely in the ship’s boat but the casualty was perched on the rock with bow submerged and stern high and dry.
Assistance was immediately offered by the Paisley owned steam yacht Hecate and her crew who tried to pull the lighter off with the aid of a motor launch, but the weight of her cargo proved too great. A further attempt was made the following day after part of her cargo had been jettisoned, which also proved to be unsuccessful and resulted in her slipping off the rock and sinking in 6 fathoms.
The vessel was owned by Smith & Glendinning of Gourock who agreed to the sale of the wreck on 3 August. Her sale was concluded on 10 September and ownership transferred to Glasgow salvor McLean & Co., for £14. As the wreck still lies off the ‘Bald Heid’, it can only be concluded that further attempts were unsuccessful.
The Wreck Today
The wreck lies on a shingle and mud seabed 50 metres ENE of the rock (aka Sgeir Mhaola Cinn) in position 55°53.693’N 05°24.396’W. The rock itself is marked by a rather fragile looking metal pole. It is a small wreck lying on a shallow sloping seabed in depths of 24 to 28 metres (HW).
The hull, with the stern and its cast propeller facing due north, is still basically intact and the single boiler stands proud of the deck level making it the most obvious item aboard. Otherwise, the cargo of road chips partially fills the rest of the hull. There is some additional scattered wreckage on the seabed.
The wreck can be located using an echo sounder but, if this is not available could probably be fairly easily found by descending the steep face of the rock itself and swimming along the 26 metre contour. The site is fairly sheltered except from the north and the east and is only subject to minimal tidal flow.