The steel steam trawler A. Spence McDonald was launched from the Footdee yard of Hall Russell and Co Ltd (Yard No 485) on 31st January 1911. She measured 115.2′ x 22.1′ x 11.9′ and her tonnage was 195 gross tons, 76 net tons. She w as powered by a triple expansion steam engine by Hall Russell delivering 78 registered horse power.
Built for Richard Irvin and Sons Ltd of Aberdeen she was requisitioned fro Admiralty service as a minesweeper at the start of World War One. After the war she was sold to the Gamecock Steam Trawling Co Ltd and registered in Scarborough SH148. In 1930 she was purchased by Thomas H Scales of Edinburgh who changed her name to May Island and registered her in Leith LH194.
On 14th February 1936 the May Island departed from Granton harbour under the command of her usual skipper James Carvit. He had a crew of nine men aboard and was heading for the Icelandic fishing grounds. She disappeared en route in a violent strom with the loss of all of her crew and initially her fate was a mystery. However, on 18th February wreckage of a vessel was reported coming ashore at Lamba Ness, Norwick, Unst. Among the wreckage was a lifebuoy with the name ‘May Island’ and the trawler’s fate was apparent. Clearly the vessel had wrecked near this headland with the loss of everyone aboard. As people from the shore searched for survivors they spotted the ship’s mast protruding slightly above the surface of the boiling sea close to the edge of the rocks. On February 26th when the weather finally abated salvage agents who had arrived in the island were able to inspect the wreck which they reported lying on her starboard side at an angle of forty five degrees in 15 metres of water seventy yards from the shoreline. It was immediately obvious that successful salvage would be impossible.
The remaining wreckage of the May Island is reported by divers in approximate position 60° 48.862’N, 000° 45.715’W. The wreckage is well broken although the boiler is still visible as the largest surviving piece of the wreck.