Eric Schofield’s visits to Gigha over the past 50 years have enabled him to document a ticketing curiosity in MacBrayne history.
The ticket featured here is the type that for many years was the standard style, albeit in various colours, issued by David MacBrayne Ltd, with embarkation and disembarkation points represented by port numbers on the face of the ticket, the port number coding being listed on the reverse.
In time, as MacBrayne’s routes were incorporated into the amalgamated Caledonian MacBrayne setup, ports and their respective numbers were omitted or changed on the coding list as routes were abandoned or new routes introduced. This ticket is an example — where the journey indicated, from Kennacraig to the island of Gigha and return, could prove somewhat misleading to future historians if taken at face value, as the journey undertaken was in fact from Tayinloan to Gigha. This was not a mistake but purely a case of expediency.
The Tayinloan to Ardminish (Gigha) crossing had operated as the principal passenger ferry service for many years but, council funded, was never part of the MacBrayne empire. David MacBrayne Ltd did serve the island of Gigha as part of their service to Jura, Islay and Colonsay, calls being made at the pier near the south end of the island by the Port Ellen-bound steamer.
It should also be noted that, although not a timetabled call, the Jura and Port Askaig-bound steamer would, on occasion, stop off the north end of Gigha to land one or two passengers by flit boat. Whether this was a favour for weel-kent locals or not I was never too sure.
After the amalgamation of the MacBrayne and Caledonian Steam Packet Company operations and the subsequent drive to modernise ferry operations by providing car-carrying point-to-point services, CalMac introduced early in 1979 a car ferry service by MV Bruernish from Kennacraig to Gigha, a concrete slipway having been constructed at Ardminish close to the passenger ferry jetty.
It was mid November 1980 before construction of a suitable slipway at Tayinloan was completed, thus allowing a much improved and more regular link to the mainland for Gigha residents. As far as I am aware Tayinloan was never given a separate port coding number.
In due course the MacBrayne-style tickets were replaced by computer linked/printed tickets, with embarkation and disembarkation ports printed on the face of the ticket.
It is perhaps appropriate to take this opportunity to record changes to the MacBrayne port coding list between earlier days and the 1984 ticket shown above.
The omitted numbers 1-7 were respectively Gourock, Dunoon, Innellan, Rothesay, Tighnabruaich, Tarbert and Ardrishaig (the old ‘Royal Route’ Clyde sailing). No.9 was Jura (Craighouse), 42 was Inverness, 43 Appin, 44 Fort William, 45 Acharacle, 46 Glenfinnan and 47 Kylerhea. The re-allocation of port code numbers meant that No.8 was changed from Tarbert West Loch to Kennacraig, 18 from Salen to Fishnish, 24 from Loch Scavaig to Fionnphort, 35 Portree to Sconser, 39 Rodel to Ullapool and 41 Toscaig to Kyleakin.
No.11 Port Askaig was omitted when dropped from the STG/CalMac service from late 1972 until October 1979, but the blank ticket stock seems to have continued in use thereafter.
The accompanying photographs, in addition to those of MV Bruernish on the 1984 journey covered by the ticket, provide a brief look at the changing face of the ferry services to Gigha over the last half century. MV Lochiel is a print, the source and date of which I have no knowledge.
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Published on 8 February 2020