The Raith was a small iron hulled coastal steamer registered at Wick and owned by Thomas Black of Corporation Square, Belfast. She was first launched on 31 October 1856 by Messrs. John Scott & Sons of Greenock and had the dimensions of 72.8’ x 15.2’ x 7.5’. The vessel was sloop rigged and was powered by a small steam engine of 15hp. Her tonnage was 23 net and 52 gross. Her official number was 14681.
The Raith was lost in the Kilbrannan Sound on 17th September 1898. She had been recently purchased by a Belfast shipowner for £230, who had spent a further £500 overhauling the vessel.
The Raith left Ardrossan for Belfast on 14th September but was beached at Lochranza on 15th to carry out an inspection and cleaning of her hull and rudder. Once complete she proceeded on her journey on 16th under the command of James McMaster with a crew of 3. She had a small cargo aboard for Belfast which consisted of 30 tons clay, 1 ton of salt and 150 empty fish boxes.
The weather that night was very poor with strong winds and rain. All proceeded well and the Raith travelled south down the Sound until just after midnight when water was discovered in the engineroom. The donkey pump was immediately started but the level continued to rise until the master order the boiler fire to be extinguished. Captain McMaster remained aboard but ordered the remainder of the crew to abandon ship and standby in the ships boat where they remained for over an hour. Unable to stem the flow, Captain McMaster reluctantly abandoned ship shortly before it foundered off the north west coast of Arran.
At a later Board of trade inquiry both Captain McMaster and the mate alleged the engineer was drunk and unable to work the pumps. However the court found that the pair did not make enough effort to trace the leak and were both found at fault, with Captain McMaster being ordered to pay costs of £10. The Raith had foundered in deep water and as such no attempt was made to recover, she was insured for £400.
The authors are of the view that the small wreck located in position 55° 43.781’N, 005° 22.484’W is the Raith. The wreck lies in 68 metres rising no more than a metre above the mud seabed, the hull is oriented 035°/215° and the sonar footprint is around 20-25 metres long.