It may have signalled the end of an era, but the departure of the MV Muirneag passed quietly as she slipped out of Stornoway harbour yesterday (Thursday, October 3rd) at 10am for the last time.
For nearly ten years the CalMac freight ferry sailed back and forth between Ullapool and Stornoway bringing both people and supplies to the Western Isles.
Built as the ‘MV Mercandain Carrier’ in 1979 for Denmark’s Merc-Scandia KS, the vessel was sold to P&O Irish Sea in 1985 to undertake the Belfast to Ardrossan service, undergoing a £1million refit and renamed ‘Belard’.
In 1993 she was replaced and sold to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, operating a variety of charters, until in 1998 the vessel changed ownership again when sold to Aabrenaa Rederi A/S and carrying out service in Norway and the Baltic.
She returned to UK waters in 2001, chartered for the Aberdeen to Lerwick and then Ipswich to Ostend services.
In 2002 the boat was purchased by Harrisons of Glasgow and entered a long-term charter to Caledonian MacBrayne ferry operators.
And her island duties were reflected in the vessel’s new name – MV Muirneag – the Gaelic name for a Lewis mountain and of a 1903 Zulu herring drifter from Stornoway, the last herring drifter to be worked by sails alone.
Now embarking on her next service, the MV Muirneag has been sold to Turkish owners for £600,000. And she left port yesterday, on passage to Turkey with a crew of Turkish and Polish seamen aboard.