All tickets please (16)

Bruernish in West Loch Tarbert, heading for Gigha on 19 April 1980

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.

Bruernish at Ardminish Slip, Gigha, on 2 June 1984

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.

Lochiel leaving Gigha Pier, bound for Port Ellen, in the mid 1960s

Arran arriving at Gigha Pier from Port Ellen on 12 June 1972

The council-funded passenger ferry Cara Lass (left) at Gigha Jetty on 11 June 1972

View from Pioneer on her approach to Gigha Pier on 10 June 1978

Bruernish and Iona at Kennacraig on 19 April 1980

Bruernish at Ardminish Slip, Gigha, on 2 June 1984

Bruernish unloading cars at Tayinloan Slip on 2 June 1984

Rhum lying at a buoy off Gigha Pier on 4 October 1992, shortly after being replaced by Loch Ranza

Loch Ranza at Ardminish Jetty, Gigha, on 6 May 2010

Isle of Arran on passage from Kennacraig to Islay on 6 May 2010 — seen from Gigha, long since bypassed by big ferries

Dolphins at play off Ardminish, captured on the occasion of the CRSC Cowal/Kintyre Hopper on 4 May 2014

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ALL TICKETS PLEASE — the series so far:
Excursion to Ardrishaig with return journey up-river to Glasgow
Helensburgh to Holy Loch Cruise
Ardgour to Nether Lochaber (Corran)
Princes Dock to Ardrishaig and back via the Millport Illuminations
Campbeltown to Craigendoran
Campbeltown to Red Bay
Arran Embarkation Tickets and Brodick/Craigendoran single
Tobermory to Drimnin
Gourock/Kilcreggan return
The Short Sea Route and Larne/Islandmagee ferry
Up-river to view QE2 before launch
Glenfiddich pub menu (holiday trip to Denmark)
Midsummer amendments at Oban
Oban to Oban via Craignure, Lochaline and Corran
Cairnryan to Belfast with Stena Line
●     ●     ●     ●     ●     ●     ●     ●

Published on 8 February 2020