Spirited end for the Monaco

The Monaco is currently being dismantled, section by section.
The Monaco is currently being dismantled, section by section.

Legal tussles may have left the Monaco decaying in Stornoway Harbour for 12 years but a new future is brewing for the former cruise boat.

Currently being dismantled in situ at the harbour it is not yet the end of the road for the vessel which inadvertently became part of the town’s maritime history.

Oak from the Monaco is being saved from the scrapheap and will be used to make casks to age Hebridean Scotch .

“It’s a good ending to a sad tale,” said Marko Tayburn, of Abhainn Dearg Distillery, in Uig.

Marko, who also runs Highland Metal Recycling, the company dismantling the vessel, continued: “We’ll get as many barrels out of the Monaco as we can. We’re trying to salvage as much of the boat as possible.”

He predicts about 60% of the material will be recycled. The timber from the vessel will be sent to Speyside Cooperage in Craigellachie to be made into barrels, the first of which will be ready for the distillery by the end of this year.

Once the barrels are complete they will be used to age what is expected to be a very unique whisky. Not only will it have been aged in casks made from the infamous boat, but it is also expected to made out of barley grown locally.

This year Abhainn Dearg Distillery harvested the first crop of barley to have been grown on Lewis for whisky production. Enough for 5,000 bottles of Scotch was produced at Melbost Farm just outside of Stornoway.

“We’ll do something special with the casks,” continued Marko. “It will be a few years before people start drinking Stornoway Monaco. “I’m open to suggestions for the name,” he added.

It was in September 2002 when the Monaco set sail for Stornoway, on what was to be her last voyage.

The details are recorded in the Court of Session ruling that finally brought a close a decade of litigation.

According to the court papers the Monaco was bought by Murdo Donald Macdonald for £75,000 from Robert and Elizabeth Pollock. However on the journey from Oban to Stornoway the new owners discovered a problem with the engine.

It was ten years later before the Court of Session overturned a decision by the sheriff principal and restored the initial ruling of the Oban sheriff, calling on Robert and Elizabeth Pollock to pay back the cost of the boat to Murdo Donald Macdonald.

During this time the Monaco stayed put at the central part of Cromwell Street Quay.

In September 2012 she was towed to the end of the Quay, and described by the port authority as “determined to be a wreck”. She later sank at high tide. It is from the precarious position that she is now being recycled - section by section.

“The powers that be were worried it would sink on the way round to Goat Island,” explained Marko.

The complexity of the operation is added to by the changing tides. It is expected to be several more months before the job is finished.

However, it is perhaps fitting that the reluctant Stornoway landmark is undergoing such a dramatic deconstruction, and continuing to draw the attention of passers-by.