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Last Goodbye for Council Ferries

18 August 2003

Two Comhairle nan Eilean Siar ferries, each chalking up over two decades of lifeline services to Island communities, have now left their Island homes for pastures new under different owners.

Eilean Na H-Oige and Eilean Bhearnaraigh have had a long and illustrious history serving a generation of passengers in the Western Isles, providing invaluable links for their rural destinations.

The "Eilean Bhearnaraigh"  leaving eriskay
The "Eilean Bhearnaraigh" leaving Eriskay

Eilean Na H-Oige was the first RoRo vehicular ferry provided by the Comhairle, coming into operation in 1980 on the Eriskay to Ludaig service until the opening of the Eriskay Causeway in July 2001. The vessel was then laid-up until she began operating as the first vehicular ferry service across the Sound of Barra, from Ceann a Gharaidh to Aird Mhor, in March 2002, where she was the primary vessel on this route until April 2003, when a Caledonian MacBrayne vessel took over.

Eilean Na H-Oige left Eriskay for the last time yesterday (14th August) for Bere Island, Co Cork, where she will be owned by Bere Island Ferries. On arrival at Bere Island she will immediately be changed to the Bere Island colours of red and used to act as a liberty boat for an American naval ship which is visiting the area to coincide with the reopening of a renovated Martello tower. The vessel will then operate as a ferry between Bere Island and nearby Castletownbere.

Eilean Bhearnaraigh came into service in 1982 to provide the first vehicular link between Berneray and Otternish, North Uist, where she served until the 1998 opening of the Berneray Causeway. She was then used as a relief vessel for Eilean Na H-Oige during annual docking and continued to make annual livestock runs to Boreray in the Sound of Harris, transferring livestock for the Berneray crofters. After her annual docking in 2002 she remained in Eriskay and served as the secondary vessel for the Sound of Barra service.

The vessel is due to leave Eriskay on Saturday 16th August for Papa Stronsay in Orkney. She has been purchased, incidentally, by monks - the Transalpine Redemptorists Inc - to provide a link and transport goods and materials for the building of Golgotha monastery.

Both Eilean Na H-Oige and Eilean Bhearnaraigh will continue to provide their essential services in their new, and very different, roles further afield. Their past passengers will no doubt wish them every success.

Nigel Scott
Communications Officer
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Tel: 01851 822622 (Work)
Tel: 01851 706412 (Home)
Tel: 07884 236103 (Mobile)

Ag Obair Còmhla Airson Nan Eilean - Working Together For The Western Isles