The Princess Royal was an iron hulled paddlesteamer launched from the yard of Tod & MacGregor, Glasgow (Yard No.29) in November 1840 and completed in early 1841. Her dimensions were 194.6’ x 28.6’ x 16.8’, her tonnage was 447 gross, and official number 3070. Her owners were the Glasgow & Liverpool Steam Packet Company, with managers M. Langlands.
The Princess Royal ran aground in fog on Craig Laggan Rocks, two miles south of Corsewall Point around 3:30am on Wednesday 28th May, 1856. The 140 passengers who were travelling from Liverpool to Greenock and 32 crew were safely landed on a beach under the supervision of her master, Captain McChlery.
The survivors did not have to wait long to be rescued as a passing steamer, the Herald, en route to Greenock, came inshore and took them on board.
The Princess Royal had recently undergone a complete refit, including the installation of a new boiler, at a cost of £6,000. Her owners were therefore anxious to get salvage operations underway as soon as possible, while the weather remained favourable. A salvage team left Greenock later the same day and subsequently succeeded in removing most of her valuable general cargo which was landed at Stranraer. Goods recovered from the wreck were put up for auction in Glasgow on 20 August.
Efforts to refloat the Princess Royal herself were less successful. Her hull was badly damaged and, during bad weather in following weeks. In late July she broke in two and was declared a total wreck, although her machinery remained in shallow water and the wreck was put up for sale on 28 July. It is not known the success of any further salvage attempts.
The Privy Council for Trade ordered an inquiry into the loss of the Princess Royal which was held in Stranraer in June 1856. The outcome of the inquiry before four JP’s and a nautical assessor, exonerated Captain McChlery and his certificate was returned to him at the end of proceedings. However, it appears the Privy Council were not of the same opinion and questioned the outcome, in particular the fact that the master was running his vessel at 14 knots in thick fog close to land, did not take any lead soundings (perhaps because the vessel was travelling too fast) and relied on the ships compass that had only recently been adjusted but not tested on open water. Captain McChlery retained his certificate but on the insistence of the Privy Council he had to cover the costs of his defence.
The remains of the Princess Royal, which include parts of the paddle box frames, lie on the east side of Craig Laggan Rocks (Ebbstone) in position 54° 58.607’N, 005°11.277’W (GPS), between 4 and 10 metres. The rocks are marked to the south west by a prominent cylindrical concrete beacon, north of Dally Bay. Good boat cover is essential around this area due to strong tidal streams around the rocks, this is a slack water dive. The seabed around the reef is covered in thick kelp in the shallows, the remains of the steamship Baron Glamis are also close by.