OUR latest maritime heritage story, by Roy Pedersen, looks at the history of the third Glen Sannox ferry and its journeys to Arran.

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IN my most recent previous article I noted the growing demand for carrying cars to and from Arran.

Three new “A B C” vehicle ferries had been introduced on Clyde services in 1954, one of which, usually MV Arran made infrequent runs to Brodick, backed up by the cargo steamer Kildonnan.

It became clear very quickly that such provision was wholly inadequate to cater for the Arran vehicular traffic and in response, it was announced in April 1955, that a large vehicle-carrying ferry was to be built for the Caledonian Steam Packet Company’s Arran service.

The new ship was built by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company of Troon and at her launch on April 30, 1957, she was named Glen Sannox, the third of that illustrious name.

She entered service on the Arran run on July 5, in time for the summer peak. 244 feet in length, by 44 feet beam, she had a capacity for 1,100 passengers and 50 cars.

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Powered by two 2,200 bhp (1,740 kW) Sulzer Winterthur 8 cylinder oil engines, these gave her the goodly turn of speed of 18 knots.

By the fashion of the time, her appearance was unusual and rather rakish, with built up passenger accommodation well forward on two levels, a single tripod mast, squat conical funnel amidships and an open deck aft, equipped with a crane for handling cargo.

Forward of the crane was a hydraulic lift to enable vehicles to access the vehicle deck at any state of the tide.

Her passenger accommodation was fairly spacious, but, compared with the Firth’s more traditional steamers then still prevalent, in my opinion rather utilitarian.

Besides the main lounge furnished with bus-type benches, there was a dining saloon/tea room and a bar, the latter, naturally, being off-bounds to me during my youthful peregrinations.

Her first 14 years were spent on the Brodick station sailing from either Ardrossan or Fairlie in summer and Fairlie exclusively in winter.

There is no doubt that Glen Sannox presented a step change in providing vehicular capacity.

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Experience, however, soon revealed two limitations in the design. Firstly, there was virtually no demand to carry loose freight in the traditional manner.

General freight now moved on wheels, such that the crane was little used.

The second issue was that the business of loading and discharging vehicles by the lift was time-consuming such that at busy times Glen Sannox was liable to run behind schedule.

In 1969, the Caledonian Steam Packet Co. was taken over by the Scottish Transport Group, by which time the Arran service was again under pressure.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The Arran ferryThe Arran ferry

Within a year, linkspans were installed at Ardrossan and Brodick, Glen Sannox was replaced on the route on May 27, 1970 by an end-loading, drive-through ro-ro (roll on roll off) vehicle ferry Stena Baltica, renamed Caledonia, purchased second-hand from the Stena Line of Gothenburg.

This innovation enables much faster loading and discharge of vehicles and as ro-ro was being extended to other routes, Glen Sannox had a stern ramp added.

The crane and all superstructure aft was removed and other modifications made. She was then employed on a variety of other routes.

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On January 1, 1973 a merger took place between the CSPCo and David MacBrayne under the new name Caledonian MacBrayne, commonly known as CalMac.

Around this time Glen Sannox was employed on the Gourock – Dunoon service and from June that year she faced competition from new entrant, Western Ferries, who had placed two economical Scandinavian style drive through ferries on the parallel, but shorter, McInroy’s Point to Hunter’s Quay passage.

The contrast in operating styles was stark.

The Western Ferries’ ships each had a crew compliment of four as compared with Glen Sannox’s 27 such that their operating cost was about a fifth that of the CalMac operation.

In the long run Western Ferries predominated, and nowadays carries as much vehicular traffic on that one route as all of CalMac’s Clyde services combined.

Glen Sannox moved to more productive duties on the west coast of Scotland, including providing cruises between 1977 and 1982.

It was on a memorable cruise to Campbeltown with steamer-loving cronies that I last sailed on that versatile ship.

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She had served on the firth for over 32 years, but in July 1989, she was sold to Arab interests, renamed Knooz and was completely rebuilt for service on the Red Sea pilgrim-trade under various names, Nadia, Al Marwah and Al Basmalah 1.

She met her end by running aground on a reef south of Jeddah in 2000.

As for the Ardrossan-Brodick service, Caledonia, ex Stena Baltica soon proved too small, and was followed by a lengthened and heightened Clansman, then between 1984 and 1993 by new-build Isle Of Arran, to be replaced in turn by the larger and current incumbent Caledonian Isles.

In 2012, Isle Of Arran returned in summer to supplement Caledonian Isles on the Arran service, including from 2013 a connection to Campbeltown.

Sadly, in these recent distracted years the Arran service has been plagued by unreliability, while the cost of the intended new (fourth) Glen Sannox, launched on November 21, 2017 has reached eye-watering levels and her completion, already years late, is by no means certain.

In comparison, the simpler heyday of the third Glen Sannox seems like a golden age.