The particular quality and amount of Tay sand has been linked to a tsunami which struck the east central Scotland some 7000 years ago. Caused by the sudden collapse of one wall of the Norwegian Trench midway between Scotland & Norway, a tidal wave some 100 metres high, swept 30 miles inland depositing a layer of sand in some areas. Evidence for this remarkable event centres on the pebble free deposits of sand found locally of up to nine metres in depth with exactly the same particle sizes throughout the deposits. The contention being that only a massive single geological action could be responsible for such deposits which, had they been laid down over a longer period of time, would contain sand particles of varying sizes.
No vessel was ever built specifically for dredging sand in the Tay. The earliest days would have seen barges being poled along the river and sand brought on board by bucket or wheelbarrow as the barges laid on sand banks over the low water. Before the building of riverside berths in the Tay, these barges were also used to lighten ships too deep drafted to enter the docks.
It is reported that “Skippers had half a dozen harnesses to chose from” on sand banks and crews discharged their own cargoes and “.. had to use different harnesses depending upon the height of tide”. Discharging during lower tides shorter chains took the grab closer to the derrick head and when loading the chain between derrick head and the grab’s collar was longer.
Commonly driven by a steam winch, the usual grab was of the chandelier variety which was opened by virtue of a catch on the grab making contact with a square frame suspended from the derrick. Luffing the derrick was a problem and could be speeded up by using the warping ends on the winch. In the case of some vessels, an additional winch was added with a luffing line to one side of the vessel only, which meant that dredging and unloading could only take place on the side of the vessel to which the luffing line was rigged.
On some ships, in an attempt to grade the cargo, an inverted ‘V’ shaped wire mesh screen was fitted over the hold, which allowed a certain amount of screening allowing sand to fall into the cargo hold with any oversized material [oversized stone, peats and saturated woods being reportedly most commonly found when loading sharp sand] unable to pass though the mesh before being rejected overboard. The principle of passing dredged material over a screen mesh in order to separate different sizes of aggregate is found on all aggregate dredgers to this day. Additionally, it was common practice for all cargoes to be passed through some form of shore side screening plant. The saturated cargo would be drained via a cofferdam in the bottom of the hold which was fitted with matting to allow the water but not the sand to pass through which otherwise would quickly block the stripping / bilge pump. . Another disadvantage was that it was normal practice to exhaust the winch steam to atmosphere, which had detrimental effects on elderly Scotch boilers. Loading by grab was a slow process often taking a full tide to load, whereas suction dredging was more economic as it only took a couple of hours to load a cargo and the agitation of the aggregate being loaded, created by passing it though an impellor and over a screen deck, assisted the washing and grading of the cargo.
All of the John Dutch dredgers and very many of the others in the Tay trade were coal fired steam ships which loaded and discharged by grab. On occasion, ships could turn on the tide at Perth, a practice called a “double dunt” by the skippers.
Many of the Tay sand boats, being old coasters, were fitted with hatch boards which were often not put in place. In 1892 this practice reportedly contributed to the fate of the Inchgarvie.
As with all areas around the UK dredged for aggregates, in the days before position fixing equipment such as radar, Decca Navigators and GPS the trade was dependent upon the knowledge of the dredger captains to know where the different grades of sand and gravel could be found. With only a compass to assist them, they would use transit bearings of shore objects and the knowledge of local tidal effects to position the ship over the required quality of aggregate.
Experienced captains could tell the sharpness of the sand “ as soon as the grab broke the surface. If the water ran away quickly from the grab it was a sign that the sand was sharp, if it trickled slowly, it was soft”. The easily found soft sand found on the likes of the Middle Bank took a much shorter time to load than the difficult to locate sharp sand “ which tended to be in small pockets rather than large banks”.. It is not known whether the fact that “the fast flowing Tay means a man lying in his bunk can hear the gravel rolling down the river” was ever used by captains to find a good cargo!
In the early 1940’s the Tay’s trade saw the processing of dredged aggregates take a significant step forward when a Parker Plant was erected in Perth’s Upper Harbour which graded aggregates in four sizes [ pea gravel, ½ inch, ¾ inch & 1 inch] with large stones being crushed and sharp sand washed clean.
The Dundee Sand & Lighterage Company [DS&L] was formed in the 19th Century having for a time traded as the Dundee Sand, Lighterage and Coasting Company Limited which company was wound up voluntarily at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the company on 15th June 1900. DS & L was acquired by the Tay Sand Company in 1939 which changed its name to Tay Sand Co Ltd. in the same year.
Starting with William Dutch in the 1840’s, four generations of the Dutch family were engaged in marine trades on the Tay including shipbuilding, pleasure boat hire and the sand and gravel trade. William’s grandson John Dutch [1872-1939] added “& Son” to his company name when his son Ian [1937-] was born. It was under Ian’s stewardship that the company obtained a licence to lift 40,000tons of sand from west of the Tay Bridge and a further 150,000 tons to the seaward of it with royalties payable of 3d per ton.
The Dundee Courier and Argus reported that the Will o The Wisp departed Dundee on Saturday 22nd December 1888. A year later, on Thursday 19th December 1889 The Glasgow Herald reported that “the steam lighter Will o’ The Wisp, with sand, grounded in the tidal harbour of Dundee at low water and remained fast, and it is now entirely submerged” It is not confirmed that she was ever a sand dredger but she most certainly was a steam lighter working the Tay with sand cargoes. It is likely she survived her 1889 sinking and that she was broken up before WWl.
John Dutch & Son Ltd was sold to Earnbank Sand & Gravel Ltd [D& R Taylor (Contractors) Ltd] in 1963 who soon after scrapped their steam driven dredgers.
The Perth Museum exhibits a “carved stone ball found on the bed of the Tay during dredging in 1841” but it is not clear as to whether this was during maintenance or aggregate dredging.
The River Tay’s aggregate dredging trade included the extraction of some gravel from around the mouth of the Earn but it was principally the river’s sand which was in great demand for construction, filtration, golf course bunkers and at some less obvious destinations such as Egypt and water purification plants in the Persian Gulf.
Douglas G. Neilson, son and nephew of the original owners of the Tay Sand Company Limited, believes that the origins of the Tay’s sand trade are most probably lost in the history of the many small lighters and 'puffers' trading on the river decades ago. These craft were engaged in moving farm produce, fertilisers, building materials and the like whilst, from time to time, lying over low water on a sand or gravel bank so as to manually load 20 or 30 tons of marine aggregates. Also, at the end of the 19th century, as well as the more established harbours of Dundee, Perth, Tayport and Newburgh, a number of small piers were to be found at places such as Inchyra, Kingoodie, Port Allen, Powgarvie and Balmerino giving access to the surrounding environs.
The Inchgarvie was a Port Glasgow built steam lighter being an early style of puffer. The first record of her on the Tay was when, on 31 May 1889 it was reported “ In Cupar Sheriff Court before Sheriff Henderson- Mr George Dunn, fish merchant of Newburgh and Mr John McVean, game dealer of Perth craved his Lordship for interdict against Mr John Todd, master of the steamer Inchgarvie. The pursuers are tenants of salmon fishings in the River Tay , belonging to the Earl of Zetalnd and they craved an interdict against the defender removing sand off the banks in the River Tay…….the defence submitted that the pursuers had no title to sue , that the defender had removed sand on several occasions from Eppie’s Taes bank [ On the south side of the Tay, midway between Dundee & Newbugh]….and that no damage having been made out, the action should be dismissed… mention was made of a Court of Session decision made in January 1868 which held that the shifting banks of the Tay were not the property of Lord Zetland. “After a somewhat lengthened debate the Sheriff intimated that he would allow a week for the pursuer to amend his summons,, and that if it was not done by next Court day the action would be dismissed” As no further report of the case was found, it must be assumed that this case supported and indeed encouraged a sand dredging trade which was to continue and flourish before it ended 100 years later.
On 29th June 1892, the Inchgarvie foundered “in the Tay near Dundee” with a cargo of sand on board. At that time she was classed as a steam lighter owned by a Captain Matthew Murray. She was carrying two “passengers”, John Tye and Robert Mowat who “took to a boat but it sank and they were drowned. The crew were saved” Shortly after the tragedy there was a “Grand Concert & Round Trip” arranged in memory of Robert Mowat on board the pleasure steamer Princess of Wales which gave round trips from Dundee to Newbugh. The Inchgarvie was to sink on three more occasions: - April 19th 1893 alongside at Dundee, December 24th 1894, in the Tay opposite Birkhill and on 3rd September 1915, alongside in King William Dock. The 1893 sinking was reportedly caused by her settling in the mud fully loaded at low water which did not release her on the rising tide. All ended happily however as it was reported “In the course of the morning the cargo was discharged from the sunken vessel, which floated at Noon.”
Princess of Wales
Her 1894 sinking was due to heavy weather and was headlined in the local press as an “ Exciting adventure”. Loaded with sand anchored below Flisk on the Fife side of the river the crew were unable to raise the anchor when the weather deteriorated. “Fearing the water would get into the hold the hatches were put on”. In the event, “The small boat was launched but they did not get to shore without an exciting experience” the crew having “scrambled ashore …drenched and in an exhausted state”.
There is no account of her last sinking in 1915 save that “…..she sank during the night” and that “The work of raising her commenced during the course of last night when the tide was suitable” Perhaps she had stuck in the mud again.
In September 1894, when “employed by the Railway Company to convey stone to be discharged at the piers of the Tay Bridge” a sequence of events resulted in “the masts of the lighter crashed against the girders and were broken. The crew cut away the rigging and this eased her….the damage done to her will; amount to over £30”. It may be assumed that the stones “…to be discharged at the piers of the Tay Bridge” were to reinforce the piers of the second Tay Rail bridge which had been completed in 1883. 100 years later ARC Marine’s Arco Axe would carry out a similar task when she discharged sea dredged aggregate directly into a caisson of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge on the River Thames.
The Inchgarvie waslaid up in the eastern tongue of Earl Grey Dock from 1929 until unexpectedly being sent to West Graving Dock for repair in December 1935“..prior to re-entering the sand trade from the River Earn” This was because the larger vessels of Dundee Sand & Lighterage Co. found it often difficult to operate in the Earn during some states of the tide. At the age of at least 69 the old lady finally arrived in Dundee to be broken up in April 1937.
Neilson’s thoughts are born out by the photograph dated 1888 and published in Dundee’s Evening Telegraph in 1962 showing the ss Bob and Harry and her near sister ship the ss Storm King both of which grab dredged cargoes of sand in the Tay and which the article labelled “predecessors of the 1960’s sand boats”. Reportedly broken up before WWl, where they were both built, at Mushroom-on-Tyne both these vessels had steam engines and were used to lighten jute laden vessels too deep draughted to enter Dundee, being a business which ended with the completion of the riverside deepwater wharfs in 1926.
Bob and Harry & Storm King predecessors of present day sand boats. Photo taken in 1888
NOTE: The first phase of deepwater wharfs saw the opening of the EasternWharf in 1905 and that of another wharf to the west, nearer the entrance of the wet docks, in 1915. However, due to the pressures of WW1 and lack of finances, it was not until 1926 that KingGeorgeVWharf was completed.
It is possible that there was a vessel named Lady of the Lake engaged in the sand trade, at least part time, but the author has been unable to identify which of a few which traded on the Tay of that name it was. The most likely is the 1877 puffer Lady of the Lake built by Scott’s of Bowling with a length of 20mtrs which was increased to 24.4 metres in 1900. She’s pictured on page 15 of Dan McDonald’s “The Clyde Puffer”. [There was also a fishing boat of the name which was lost with all hands in the Tay on May 17th 1895 and a steamer giving excursions from Killin Pier in the early 1890’s. This last was probably the 1861 built 104gt Lady of the Lake which came from the yard of the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Ltd. at Blackwall. OR Brought by train from Ayr and assembled on the loch side near Kenmore?]
Registered in Perth on 11th June 1900 by DS&L the Port Glasgow steam puffer Inchgarvie had previously, on Christmas Day 1894, foundered off Flisk Point, Birkhill when heavy seas burst her engine room door. The crew abandoned ship and made the shore within ten minutes in the ship’s dinghy. She was raised in the summer of 1895, repaired and lengthened she traded as one of the river’ s most successful sand boats until, on 23rd May 1923, when on passage up the Tay to Perth Harbour with a cargo of dredged sand, the she struck a large boulder and began to sink. The captain ran her into shallow water at the end of Moncriffe Island where she settled almost on an even keel. Another company dredger came alongside and unloaded her cargo sufficient for her to be beached on the island where temporary repairs were made. She was eventually scrapped at Perth in 1938.
In 1900 William Thompson Rogers of Dundee purchased the steam puffer Dunglass from William Allan of Culross. By 1904 she was being traded by DS&L as a Tay sand dredger. Launched in 1857 at the William Simons Whiteinch yard for the Clyde Shipping Company, the 54 ton, 8hp Dunglass was re-engined in 1861 when sold to Rintoul and Brebner of Glasgow. She changed owners again in 1866 [William Cowan of Glasgow], 1871[Steel& McCaskill of Glasgow] and 1884 [J.Steel] before Wm.Allen purchased her. Lloyd’s List reported that she ran aground on 7th June 1873 and sank 100yards from the shore near North Berwick on the Forth when on passage to Berwick-upon-Tweed with a cargo of pig iron. “All her crew were saved”. On 24th September 1898 The Fifeshire Advertiser reported that “..there are 16 vessels ashore in the Firth of Forth, east and west of Kirkcaldy. At Kinghorn (the) Dunglass (is) badly damaged”. The 20.8 metre 75-year-old Dunglass was finally broken up at Perth in 1935.
The steam driven, 32 metre long Inchmhor was built as X- lighter X124 designed to carry horses and water at Gallipoli during the First World War. Flat bottomed, with twin screws, she was built in 1915 by Earle’s Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Hull where she was commissioned as the water carrier Pitcher. Later re-built by W H Warren of New Holland, in 1920 she was sold to C.M.Murdoch of the Dundee Sand & Lighterage Company who re-named her Inchmhor in 1921.
X lighter 127 at Gallipoli
On January 17th 1934 the Inchmhor foundered in a westerly gale half a mile off Newport Pier “... in full view of passengers on the 12.30 train crossing the Tay Bridge from Dundee carrying lunchtime travellers to Wormit, Newport and Tayport”. The tug Charles Barrie, Tay Ferry B.L. Nairn, LNER tender Inchcape and the Broughty lifeboat John Ryburn all went to assist but only the skipper of her four crew was saved “… a man’s cap was the only trace of the sunken vessel’s human freight that could be found”. She was quickly broken up where she lay with explosives at a cost of £400 as she was a danger to the Tay Ferries which berthed at Newport Pier on the Fife side of the river. The last of the three lost crew to be found was the mate, who was found “…floating in the Tay off Broughy Ferry…” 22 months later on 12th November 1935 and who, at the time of the disaster, “…was dressed in oilskins and sea boots, and there was never any hope of escape…”.
Lifeboat John Ryburn
In 1924, John Dutch acquired “the most luxurious boat ever to carry sand on the Tay” being the 38mtr, 156gt Dutch built Amsterdam which was delivered to J&A Van de Schuyt in 1907. The Amsterdam was employed carrying freight and passengers between Amsterdam, The Hague, Leiden, Maastricht, Breda and Utrecht and had her name changed to Kinnoull when owned and skippered by I. A. Dutch who used her as a sand dredger, her plates being too thin for general coasting. She was scrapped in 1949 and replaced by the Fairyhouse.
Listed in Lloyds’ Register of Shipping as an “Iron Smack”, the puffer Inchmurren was registered as owned by Mrs Jemima Barlow of Dundee in 1925 and was traded in the Tay’s sand trade for the next thirty years. Built by Burrell & Son of Glasgow in 1883 for T S Tancred, T Faulkener and William Arrol of South Queensferry, she was first used for transporting stone from Arbroath for the construction of the Forth Bridge.
When the bridge was completed in 1890 she was sold to J P Turnbull of Glasgow who owned her when, on 6th April 1895 the Oban Times reported “… whilst attempting to land a general cargo at Lourin off the north of Mull, she became stranded on the rocks there. The wind was blowing strongly from the north at the time. She later refloated and (was) towed to Tobermory” Perhaps a story-line for the children’s program Balamory. The Inchmurren was lengthened at Scott & Sons of Bowling in 1900 and by 1918 was owned by J H Cowan of Glasgow. Sold again in 1920 to one S. A. Portus of Garston and to Frank Minopio of Liverpool in 1923 before arriving in the Tay two years later, where she spent thirty largely uneventful years before being broken up in 1955 aged 72.
The Inchmurren is the first sand boat identified as being owned by a “Barlow” with the company Barlow & Co being formed in 1932 by Joseph Barlow who was reportedly a plumber “before he scraped enough money together to buy his first sand boat...” It is assumed that Jemima Barlow was a relative. In any event by 1949 the directors of the company were listed as Barlows named Joseph, James and Peter who traded from 112 Kinghorne Road Dundee as Sand & gravel merchants, Contractors, Shipowners, Shipbrokers, Shipwrights & Warehousemen. Joseph Barlow died in 1964 aged 74.
Tay Sand Boat Crew
Date first in Tay ?
Ex ‘X’ lighter Inch operated by Dundee Sand & Lighterage Co until circa 1936. Understood to have previously been named Eddie.
Date first in Tay ?
Owned by Dundee Sand & Lighterage Co. the Inchyra Sank 200 yards downstream from the Tay Rail Bridge in February 1928. An account of the event reads “….The Tay was in its most turbulent mood and it was not long before it became obvious that the Inchyra would have great difficulty in making the Earl Grey Dock where she usually berthed. When nearing the Tay Bridge captain Ursito sought to pilot her under the higher arches. While the vessel was being manoeuvred into position a terrific gust caught her broadside on, heeling her over to port. The cargo shifted and the Inchyra was swept under the bridge with a decided port list....The seriousness of the situation became immediately apparent to the crew who desperately sought to right the ship by shovelling out the sand but the task was beyond them and the Inchyra began to sink…”
The crew of seven got away in the ship’s boat and “…attempted to steer the small craft by means of two spars wrenched from the stern of the sinking Inchyra, but they were swept past Dundee, too far out in the river to attract attention. An attempt to reach Tayport failed, and the tiny craft drifted out to sea. Happily the boat hit the sand near Buddon Ness where the men were able to wade ashore about half a mile from the lighthouse and rather surprised the keeper when they walked in. They later proceeded to Dundee….” Seaweed encrusted, she was salved in June 1930 by the Harbour Trust’s crane steamer Charles Barrie and the Branksea after two years at the bottom of the River Tay. She was briefly beached at Woodhaven Wormit before being towed to Dundee. The refurbished Inchyra went back into service until sent to the breakers in 1939, having not long been purchased by the Tay Sand Co Ltd.
Conflicting accounts of the sinking of the Inchyra mention she had a crew of nine and another of seven which, even though she was one of the largest sand boats to work on the Tay, was well above average for the trade. It was more normal for the largest number of crew to be four, Skipper, engineer and two deck hands, with the smaller ones having only having one deck hand. On the Tay to Leith run the Islandmagee, Wisbech and Deneside carried a crew of six, Skipper, Mate, two engineers and two deck hands being two less, stoker and cook, than required by the Board of Trade when they were trading as coasters.
Built in 1890 as the 32hp, 2cy, twin screw Marquis of Anglesey by Edwards & Symes at Millwall for Wilson & Co of London. She arrived in the Tay in 1929 after being purchased by Dundee Sand & Lighterage Co Ltd and having been used by the Admiralty from 1891 till 1921 as a Navy Stores Carrier who named her RFA Growler [ Pennant number X28] at the outset of WWl. On 30th November 1921 she was sold to a H.J.Beazley and shortly afterwards to shipowner William A. Wilson of Southampton in 1922 who re-named her Branksea. 1927 found her registered owner as being Branksea Steamship Company.
In 1935 she sank alongside in Earl Grey Dock. Skipper was James Law, the sole survivor of the Inchmhor disaster the year before was only crew member on board. He was awakened by the ship’s cat running around and just managed to scramble ashore in time. Sadly, the body of local itinerant, Walter Williams, was found on board in the foc’sle when vessel was raised. In 1939 the Admiralty purchased the Branksea as a blockship for Scapa Flow (after the sinking of the Royal Oak by U Boat U47 on 14th October 1939) but she foundered off Girdleness on her way north on 20th August 1940 under the tow of tug Prizeman. There was no loss of life.
Tay Sand Co Ltd. MD & Chairman John Neilson died on 23rd January 1960, having started in the business working for the Dundee Sand & Lighterage Co Ltd. In the mid 1930’s he founded the Tay Sand Company with money borrowed to purchase the 115gt steam driven Rosie. First classed with a “ketch rig” she was completed in April 1907 by J. Scarr of Beverley for one J.Cunningham. Driven by a 16hp 2cy F.T. Harker main engine she was sold around 1940 to Caldwell’s Paper Mill Co Ltd Inverkeithing from whom Tay Sand acquired her.
In the first year he lost money but within five years bought out Dundee Sand & Lighterage. The company branched out into general ship owning with the coaster Sard, renamed Archroyal and later the Islandmagee (1941) and Deneside all running to east coast ports from the Medway to the Northern Isles. As will be seen, the last two of these ships became sand dredgers on the Tay. Coincidental with the Dutch family, in the late 1940’s Neilson obtained permission to dredge 150,000 tons of Tay sand per annum.
Smith & Hood & Co bought the Dundee part of Tay Sand Co Ltd in 1962 and acquired Barlow & Co, the other sand operation in Dundee shortly afterwards. The Perth end of Tay Sand went to D & R Taylor.
Circa 1931, the steam driven 117gt Lyd, with a “dandy rig” mast arrangement, was acquired by I.H.Dutch. Fitted with a 2 cylinder 17hp main engine she stated life as the trawler Annie Hope. Launched at the Leith yard of Hawthorns & Co on 10th September 1881, she was sold and renamed Jeanie Hope in 1885. Whilst named Lyd she traded as a cargo ship (in 1926 she was recorded as arriving in Dundee with a cargo of manure from Middlesbrough) and was, together with a number of Tay sand boats, requisitioned by the Admiralty during WWll. Back in service as a sand boat and “having recently been fitted with a new tail shaft, propeller and renovated engine”, on 21st November 1945 she developed a list whilst dredging and was nearly lost. Marooned on top of her wheelhouse, the crew was taken off by a boat from the Kinnoull. Re-floated the following day the Lyd arrived at Perth’s upper harbour where she was kept afloat with the aid of pumps provided by the local fire department and the assistance of the Kinnoull who came alongside and unloaded her cargo.
9 months later, on 30th August 1946, with her crew sleeping on board the Kinnoull whilst their ship was being fitted out with new bunks, the Lyd sank midway between Moncrieffe Island and the Upper Harbour where she lay for seven weeks whilst two unsuccessful attempts were made to refloat her. On 16th October 1946 the The Dundee Courier reported; “ Yesterday, bringing an extra pump into operation, making three capable of pumping 800 gallons a minute, Captain H. Smith, harbourmaster, and his men had the boat afloat in three hours. The Lyd is now regarded as completely unserviceable and her owners. Messrs. John Dutch & Son. sand and gravel merchants, have already purchased a replacement. It is expected at Perth within a fortnight after certain structural alterations at Dundee”. The replacement vessel was to be named Tayfirth.
Originally built at the Scott & Sons (Bowling) Ltd yard for Munro J. Scott & James Finlay the 91gt Oberon was launched on 29th May 1899. Four years later she was sold to Glasgow Steam Coasters Ltd and in 1912 was acquired by Henry & MacGregor of Leith who ran her until Laighbrannock Steamship Co. Ltd. purchased her in 1919. She first arrived in Dundee under the ownership of J. Barlow & Co. on Tuesday 18th August 1931 having previously been most recently “engaged in the whisky trade between Perth and Dundee”. Her time as a sand boat was not without incident. Having run aground in heavy seas just 30 yards from the Dundee Tidal Basin on Saturday October 19th 1935 she was towed off by the new Broughty lifeboat Mona on her first serious callout. On 23rd June the following year she sprang a leak in King William Dock and Skipper Lawrence had “to do a quick piece of work” when he “ hurriedly took his craft right across to the north-west corner beside the breakwater which was being built in connection with the filling of the western half of the dock”. Alex McNeil of Greenock purchased the Oberon in 1940 and ran her in the Clyde for the next thirteen years before sending her to the breakers, Smith & Houston Ltd. of Port Glasgow, in 1953.
Launched as the 402gt ss Beryl on 30th June 1893 at Scott & Sons’ Bowling yard on the Clyde where she was completed in July, 1893; Yard No.98. for P M Duncan & Son of the Dundee Gem Line Steamship Co. 1915 Renamed Fodhla, L43.2 B7.7 D3.2 with a 66hp 2cylinder Ross & Duncan of Glasgow main engine. By the early 1930’s she was being operated by James Mitchell of Leith but not as a dredger and is included for the sake of completeness as she was employed to carry Tay sand weekly from Birkhill & Balmerlno to Leith. The Dundee Courier & Advertiser recording that “…The sand already obtained is stated to be of the finest quality for reinforced concrete work. The grab-diggers are taking it from about 14feet below the low water mark, where it is clean and free from vegetable matter…” She was sent to the breakers yard at Bowness in 1937.
In the same edition of Courier & Advertiser which recorded the Fodhla’s roll is an account of a shipowner’s generosity which may well be of interest to any readers who spent time at sea. The article records the bequests of the recently deceased Lord Inchcape, chairman and owner the P & O and British India shipping companies who made 600 separate bequests to named officers serving in his ships. The Payments of £100 to Commanders and £50 each to Chief Officers and Chief Engineers were for “You loyalty & Fidelity” and totalled £40,000 in 1932. Apparently Lord Inchcape visited his ships as often as possible and lunched with every Captain returning from a voyage, the luncheons being very much social affairs enjoyed by all.
The Castlerock was acquired by Tay Sand Co. Ltd in 1939 and briefly used as a dredger before being requisitioned by the Royal Navy who used her as a cable layer during the hostilities. Delivered to her owners W.R Metcalfe Co Ltd in August 1904 by her builder the Ardrossen Dry Dock & Shipbuilders Co. Ltd. the 259gt Abbotsford’s name changed to Castlerock in 1915 when owned by one W. Steel. She was registered as owned by W. R Metcalfe, her original owners, in Lloyd’s Register of 1946 still fitted her as built L. Gardner & Sons’ paraffin motors. It being uneconomic to convert her back to a sand dredger, she never returned to the Tay and was sent to be broken up at the Grays, Essex yard of T.W.Ward Ltd. on 26th June 1952.
The ill fated ketch rigged 128gt, 18hp Harfat was launched on 12th August 1911 at the Northwich yard of W.J.Yarwood & Sons for owners the Coast Line Group who traded her for twenty eight years before selling her to the Tay Sand Company . She arrived in the Tay on 22nd July 1939 dead ship and without crew under tow with the tug R.W.Wheeldon of Hull.
The Harfat had been laid up in Falmouth for some time before acquired by Tay Sand. An account of the 664 mile tow mentions it was accomplished at an average speed of 7.5 knots and that having pass through the Dover Straits in dense fog, the only vessel seen thereafter was the Helmsdale “…lying badly ashore near the Longstone Lighthouse..” All went well with her in the Tay until she foundered in a westerly gale 350 metres from Craig Pier, Dundee at 0245hrs on 15th January 1952. Three survivors, including her 70 year old engineer out of retirement, were picked up near Beacon Rock by the sprat yawl Comfort and the RNLI lifeboat Mona which searched without success for the one missing crew member. As with the Inchmhor, the wreck was eventually disposed of with explosives.
First owned on the Tay by the Dundee Sand & Lighterage Co in 1937 the Lintie was launched 4th February 1909 at Greenock yard of George Brown & Co. for the tug/salvage company Steel & Bennie of Greenock. Her machinery was aft and she had a very short funnel which enabled her to berth above Glasgow Bridge. Sold in 1925 to Clyde Cargo Steamers and in 1930 to J Shields of Belfast in 1955 the 172gt 33.5 metre long, 30 horse powered Lintie was fitted with a crane rather than the more usual derrick which she used to lighten the cargo of the Rota which had grounded in foul weather in the Tay en route from Perth to Whitstable with a cargo of potatoes. Refloated and alongside in Dundee the Lintie returned her potatoes. The 58 year old lady was broken up in 1957.
The first sand boat named Edith to arrive in the Tay was the 181gt Aberdeen built Edith which was launched at the yard of A.Hall in July 1893. Purchased by Barlow & Co in 1939 she traded in the Tay until 1951.
The Kinfauns was known to be working in the Tay on October 16th 1946 when she towed the salvaged Lyd into Perth’s Upper Harbour. She was also operating out of Perth for J. Dutch & Son in the winter of 1946 as she was reported icebound there with Dutch’s Kinnoull, Fairyhouse and Tay Sand’s Taybuoy on February 26th 1947. After having been requisition by the Admiralty for at least part of WWII, she arrived back in Perth with a locker full of distress rockets and flares.
Fairyhouse. Report of her crew poaching salmon dated 10th November 1950
ON 152265 L24.4 B 5.0 D 2.0 Main engine 14hp 2cyl McKie & Baxter Ltd of Glasgow. Built in 1929 at the yard of Dublin Dockyard Company (Vickers) for A.Guinness & Co Ltd; who used her as a motorised barge. Her working life ended as hulk used as floating platform in the Tay during construction of Queen's Bridge which was opened in 1960. Photo (where is it?) of her sunk a mile east of Newburgh with Foam & Kinfauns standing by to help refloat her.
Launched on 28th June 1900 at the Bowling yard of Scott & Sons for owners Muir & Houston of Glasgow, the 227gt Bonahaven worked in Loch Ewe and at Scapa Flow during WWll until 1941 when she was acquired by Tay Sand Co Ltd as the renamed coaster Islandmagee running coal to north of Scotland ports and the Northern Isles together with trans-shipped cargoes of sharp sand to Leith & Dundee. By 1952 she had also been …fitted with a grab on her derrick and would sail up the Tay, past the rail bridge, wait for the tide to drop and load fresh water sand. She would then return to Leith, berth at the West Old Dock and discharge her sand for local builders’ merchants. Tragically she “Mysteriously sank with the loss of all hands”. Having sailed from the Tay for Leith at 1800hrs one Monday 26th October 1953 in force 9 winds the North Carr lightship reported that she passed at 2115hrs showing no signs of distress but was not seen again. In 1953 the RNLI logged the following report:-
At 9.15pm on 26 October the ss Islandmagee of the Tay Sand Co. Bound Dundee for Leith with a cargo of sand, was seen labouring in a south-easterly gale and heavy seas as she passed the North Carr Lightship. Distress flares were seen a few minutes later by Coastguards at Fife Ness and both the Anstruther and Arbroath lifeboats were launched. Arbroath lifeboat Robert Lindsay capsized while returning to harbour the following day after an unsuccessful search six of her crew, including Coxswain David Bruce drowned. One survivor, local fisherman Archie Smith, was rescued when a rocket line, fired desperately in the darkness, landed on top of him.
The Islandmagee had disappeared along with her crew of six. Her wreck was found off Fife Ness in 1986. More recently, a diver, having dived on the wreck of the Islandmagee, reported that “….she’s sitting upright as if she was steaming towards Fifeness. Although she has been underwater for almost 50 years, she is still largely intact with her grab still on deck…..” A video taken by divers of the Islandmagee’s wreck has been posted on YouTube.
The Islandmagee was fitted with the normal cargo ship hatch coverings of hatch bars and tarpaulins secured by steel bars and wooden wedges. These coverings would not always be used when working the relatively sheltered waters of the Tay but would always be fitted when sailing coastwise. An account suggesting that the Islandmagee sailed from the Tay into a south easterly gale without her hatch boards in place is vigorously discounted by one who worked in the trade and sailed on the Islandmagee . “…indeed, whoever wrote this is ignorant of the Tay bar as on that day with a SE gale and an open hold, she would have sunk at the bar.”
Tragically, seven years later at almost exactly the same time of day, at 0242hrs, on 8 December 1959, the Broughty Ferry RNLI lifeboat Mona was called to assist the North Carr lightship in distress off St. Andrews Bay. Eight RNLI lifeboat crew were lost during the attempted rescue.
Commissioned by one W. Netleton, the 37.4mtr J.W.N. was built by at the North Holland yard of W.H.Warren in 1916. Lengthened with a new gross tonnage of 219 she was renamed St Kevin in 1930 and acquired by the Tay Sand Company in 1941 who converted her to a dredger named Wisbech. She was returned to the coastal trade for a while when sold to J.R.Bremner of Stromness in 1943. Tay Sand bought her back in 1953 running to Leith to cover for the Islandmag which had passed survey to undertake the coastal Tay / Leith run. She later returned to the sand trade when her certification restricted her trading area. One day in March 1956 Lunchtime passersby in Dock Street were startled by an explosion in the sand boat Wisbeach at Earl Grey Dock. Hatch covers were hurled into the air by the blast and a window was shattered. It is believed that a burning match had fallen onto a can of petrol in the cabin of the ship which belongs to the Tay Sand Co Ltd, Royal Arch. The skipper, James Smith of Broughty Ferry, was slightly injured but was able to drive himself away for medical attention. On 19th September 1960, she arrived at St David’s Harbour on the Firth of Forth where she was broken up.
Although never used as a dredger, the Archroyal, launched as the Sard on March 8th 1909 at Ailsa Shipbuilders Co Ltd for William Roberston Gem Line of Glasgow played her part in the trade as recounted by Tay Sand’s Douglas Neilson.
The twin hatched Archroyal was named after the Victorian Royal Arch that once stood at the entry to the docks used by the sand boats. Around Easter in 1946 she was chartered to take three cargoes of coal from Methil to Scapa Flow where she was discharged into an Admiralty hulk, an ex-Great Lakes steamer, the A.T.Douglas that had made it across the Atlantic in a convoy but was too clapped out to go further. On the first of these coal deliveries, the deck crew travelled to Kirkwall to make the recently purchased hulk, Dunleith seaworthy. The tow rope was purchased from amongst the mountains of scrap wire and hemp ropes belonging to the Admiralty on the Lyness quay. Neilson travelled on the second trip north but the weather was considered not suitable for the tow south so he did not observe it. However, on the third trip the Archroyal arrived back safely in the Earl Grey Dock with the Dunleith in tow. In 1947 the Archroyal was sold to Thomas Stone who named her Fenstone. On 14th July 1950 she struck a mine and sank off Terschelling en route from Emden to Hull with a cargo of scrap. All the crew were rescued.
In August 1946, the 41.3mtr Archella arrived in Dundee having been purchased by Barlow & Company. With a gross tonnage of 325 she was, at that time, the largest sand boat on the Tay. Launched as the steam driven Plasma at the Greenock yard of Carmichael McLean on 17th December 1898 The 42hp coaster was renamed Archella when acquired by G.A.Sheves in 1945. She was reportedly wrecked 2 miles north of Sunderland on 31st March 1946 but what she was doing there is not clear. Refloated and refurbished she continued trading as a sand dredger until she arrived at Granton on the Firth of Forth in August 1950 to be broken up.
The Tay Sand Co. Ltd. purchased the 292gt Dunleith in 1946 in order to use her as a “floating sand depot” in Dundee’s Earl Grey Dock. She was built by J. Fullerton & Company who launched her at their Paisley yard on 25th August 1896. First named Joseph Fisher she would change hands at least once when owned by a D. Chambers who named her Dunleith. When purchased by Tay Sand she was lying in Kirkwall where she had been used by the Admiralty as a storage hulk during World War ll. The Archroyal was dispatched to tow her back to Dundee where her boilers and Hall-Brown Battery Company main engine were removed in 1953. She was used in Earl Grey Dock to store sand until sold for scrap in November 1960 when it was said that “… the scrap weight of her iron hull was very little less than her new build weight of 64 years before..”.
The month of June was to figure large in the life of the 192gt collier ss Jesmond who, on D Day +1, 7th June 1944, sailed from Shoreham Harbour with a cargo of servicemen and Bofors guns bound for the beaches of Normandy. Within two hours of leaving port she was strafed by two German fighters which wounded the mate and thirteen of the RAF men being carried to the fight.
With the wounded patched up, she continued her voyage. Arriving at Normandy she ran up on the beach (something she had practiced a number of times on the British coast) and discharged her cargo of men and arms then waited, all the while exposed to enemy action, to float off on the rising tide. During the next two weeks the Jesmond returned four times to the Normandy beaches carrying men, arms and equipment. Almost exactly 29 years before, on 5th June 1905, the 34mtr long, 55hp Jesmond was launched at Smith’s Dock by Shields Engineering Co. Ltd. for I. Milne. Having survived the war, she was purchased by the Tay Sand Company Ltd. in 1946 who operated her as a sand dredger until, six days short of her 48th birthday; they sent her for breaking up at Grangemouth where she arrived on 11th June 1953.
In October 1946 Tay Sand Co Ltd purchased the 207gt. 8.5kt with a 30hp W.J.Yarwood main engine ss Peronne and renamed her Taybuoy. General Steam Navigation Company’s Length: 30.4mtr Breadth: 6.6mtr Peronne was launched at W.J.Yarwood & Sons’ Northwich yard on 28th June 1917 and delivered to her owners, R & J Park Ltd, in January 1918. She was subsequently transferred to the Great Yarmouth Shipping Company before Tay Sand Co Ltd acquired and converted her to a sand dredger in 1947 after running her as a cargo ship for a while. Taybuoy first dredged with a grab but around 1951 was converted to a suction dredger to improve the quality of the dredged sand. She ended her days on 4th June 1960 when she arrived at Rosyth to be broken up having earlier in the year sprung a leak in gale force winds for which “ …the Broughty Ferry lifeboat was launched but she made it back to port unaided where the Wisbech arrived from Perth and transhipped her cargo allowing the Taybuoy to be beached and the leak repaired”.
Steam driven by a diagonal Lobnitz main engine, the 132gt Carbon was launched on 2nd February 1904 at the yard of Dundee Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. for her owners the Dundee, Perth & London Shipping Company. She started her working life ferrying coal on the Tayport to Dundee feeder service before, in 1920, being re-named Fair City by the same owner employed as a steam lighter on their Perth / Dundee river service. The Tay Sand Company acquired her in 1946, named her Tayfirth and ran her until she arrived at the St David’s breaker’s yard of J.A.White in Fife in March 1953, a month short of her 50th birthday.
The harsh winter of 1947 saw a significant build up of ice between the Upper & Lower harbours at Perth such that more than once the sand boats could not sail one such occasion being reported so “…the Taybuoy, the most powerful of the four boats ( the others were the Kinfauns, Kinnoull and Fairyhouse) made an attempt to break out but Skipper Alf Olsen had to give up the struggle...” the same report mentions that Skipper Albert Eadie “had never seen conditions like it and thought snow and ice dumped into the river from street clearance may have led to icebergs…” Albert Eadie served the John Dutch company loyally for 32 years. His brother Edward was his engineer.
Spillers Limited of Hull ordered the building of the 30.4mtrs long, 132gt, cargo ship ssYendis from J.Scarr & Son of Howden where she was launched in September 1911. Sold in 1935 and renamed Rosyth by her new owners, the Dundee, Perth & London Shipping Co Ltd. she arrived in the Tay in 1949 where her new owner, Mr George T. MacLennan, named her David P.. On the night of Wednesday 4th October 1950 the she sank “..from some unexplained cause…” and resisted several attempts to free her from the mud in Campertown Dock. Finally raised and refurbished with a new mast she returned to work early in 1951.
Less than two years later, in the same gale that claimed the Harfat, she was abandoned off Stannergate. The Broughty lifeboat took the crew off but when she drifted downstream and came up short when her anchor fouled an old telegraph cable near Tayport the crew re-boarded her as the weather moderated. On a final occasion the David P’s charmed life ran out when, on 9th February 1956, she heeled over and sank on the fringe of the Middle Bank. Fortunately there was no loss of life as another sand boat, the Little Orme, picked up her crew of three. “Four members of the same family, two on each ship, were involved in the incident. The skipper of the Little Orme recognising his father’s cries for help from the river.” When her recovery proved impractical the David P was disposed of with explosives.
Barlow (Dundee) & Co. purchased the 203gt Little Orme in 1951, which had been renamed by her then owners in 1907. Launched on 8th June 1906 as the E.L.Lawson and completed in July 1906 at Montrose Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. for Irvine Shipping & Trading Co Ltd. she ended her days when broken up at St David’s-on-Forth in February 1963 having foundered off Fowler Rock?
Earnbank Sand & Gravel was founded in 1952. Moved to Upper Harbour, Perth in 1960.
Owned by D & R Taylor (Contractors) Ltd, 68 West Mill Street, Perth which was founded in 1857. Acquired by Scottish Aggregates Ltd a member of the RMC Group in ????.In 1968 Earnbank was operating three dredgers and was the only company in Scotland registered as a marine dredging company.
The Clan Line ship Clan Macquarrie was lost when en route from Dundee to Glasgow in a storm near the Butt of Lewis on 31st January 1953. After this incident quite a few “Clan “ and “City” ships were loaded by Tay Sand Co Ltd with several hundreds of soft sand as ballast. Presumably the sand was sold at the next port of call, usually Glasgow of Liverpool.
Purchased by the Tay Sand Co. Ltd. to replace the Islandmagee, the 327gt steam driven Deneside arrived on the Tay in 1955 to work as a cargo ship and later as a dredger. She was launched 8th August 1910 at the South Shields, Stone Quay yard of J.T Eltringham & Co. for Wear Steamship Co Ltd. of Sunderland. Deaneside Steam Shipping Co. Ltd. also of Sunderland, owned her in 1922 and Mersey Ports Stevedoring Co Ltd acquired her in 1931. Tay Sand Co Ltd acquired her from the Larne Steamship Co Ltd who had purchased her in 1935. As well as taking sharp sand to Leith she also delivered it to Blyth during the building of the Cambois Power Station which opened in 1958. Refitted in January 1934 with a 2cy G.T.Grey main engine she was sent to be broken up at the yard of Krimpen a/d Ijessel on 18th May, 1961.
Named after the Irish village, the 42hp, 223gt steamship Ardnagrena was launched at the Greenock yard of George Brown & Co on 12th August 1908 for her owners J. Waterson & Co of County Antrim. She was to have no less than six more owners [1914: Humber Steam Coasters (J.R.Rix). 1920: Isle of Man Steam Packet Co Ltd. 1943: Comben Longstaff. 1943: Roderick Cunningham of Stornoway. 1945: T. Dougall of Stornaway. 1947: Bremner & Co of Kirkwall] before being acquired by Dundee’s Barlow & Co in 1953. The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company had her name changed to Cushag, being the name of the 'ragwort' or unofficial floral emblem of the Island. The well used lady traded until, aged 57, she finally arrived at Granton on 28th May, 1957 where she was broken up.
The second sand boat to work the Tay named Edith was launched as the ss Picardy in March 1920 at the Great Yarmouth yard of Crabtree & Sons Co. Ltd. Renamed by Barlow & Co the320gt Edith arrived on the Tay in 1953. In 1966 she was sent for breaking up at St David’s-on-Forth.
Launched for the Ministry of Transport at the Knottingly yard of J. Harker Ltd. on 16th December 1944 the VIC 82 was sold to A.E.Chapman in 1948, who named her Sir James, and seven years later to the Glasgow ship owners J. Hay & Sons Ltd. The 24mtr, 146gt VIC 82 was one of the larger series of VICs which were considered by puffer men as “..not bad boats if they would only steer..” She entered the Tay sand trade under the ownership of Ian Dutch in 1957 and was the first company ship to be fitted with the inverted ‘V’ screening box. She was last owned by D & R Taylor (Earnbank), when they acquired John Dutch & Sons in 1963, who promptly scrapped her along with all their steam driven vessels.
1957 saw the arrival in the Tay of the first dredger to be named Middlebank, which had started life as the 243gt 245hp steam driven Admiral. Launched at the Maryport yard of W.Walker on 29th November 1905 for the Manchester, Liverpool & North Wales S.S.Co. Ltd. of Liverpool, she ran aground near the County Antrim port of Glenarm on 2nd August 1954. Refloated on August 5th she was sold to Miss J.M.McLennan of Angus in 1957 who changed her name to Middlebank in 1958. Sold to Smith, Hood & Co. Ltd. of Dundee in 1962 and again to Tay Sand Co. Ltd. the same year, she traded as a Tay grab loading dredger until sent to Granton in her 58th year where she was broken up in May 1964. She was shortly afterwards replaced with the poorly designed, ill fated Isabel.
J. Hay & Sons Ltd of Kirkintilloch were both ship builders and operators on the Forth and Clyde Canal who replaced their first puffer named Serb, which was stranded off the Isle of Islay two years previously, with the 95gt Serb which they launched on 23rd September 1927. J.Hay & Sons of Glasgow traded her for 29 years before selling her to the Glasgow shipowners, Cowal Coal & Trading Co Ltd who changed her name to Foam. She arrived in the Tay in 1958 via the Forth & Clyde Canal under the ownership of Alexander Lamond and Ian & Jessie Dutch of Perth. Poole registered, grey painted she arrived in Perth still displaying her RAF roundels on her bow. She had been used to move mooring buoys for seaplanes and retained her lifting gear for the purpose. Probably the smallest of the John Dutch boats.
The ex-Arbroath harbour 91 gross ton, single screw grab dredger Fairport , was built by Henry Robb of Leith in 1923 This 24 metre vessel, which sank twice, at least once whilst trading as a sand boat, briefly and apparently unsuccessfully, as a Tay sand dredger when owned by David Taylor in the 1960’s. Reportedly, she was eventually abandoned by the end of the decade and broken up on the Tay’s foreshore just below Perth’s Upper Harbour.
Earnbank Sand & Gravel acquired the 121gt Severn Merchant from the British Transport Commission 19????. She was one of six vessels delivered by Charles Hill to the Severn & Canal Carrying Company in 1935 having been launched on 29th July 1935. The 25hp Severn Merchant was reported as “..laid up, awaiting demolition” in 1974 and was finally broken up by local scrap merchant Andy Wingate alongside Shore Road, Perth.
Registered in Hull and built by J. Softley and Sons in June 1877 at North Shields, the 117gt 64net Lizzie & Annie was still owned by her original owners, the BW Steamship, Tug & Lighterage Co Ltd in 1960 when seen in Whitby by David Taylor. She was brought to the Tay sand trade under the ownership of D & R Taylor (Contractors) Ltd. of Earnbank to replace the company’s ex Clyde puffer Foam. Reputed to be the last working iron built ship in world/UK. She had been a sailing vessel, steamer and motor coaster and had survived three groundings and seven collisions, the last in 1943. After one collision, with a tug in 1905, she was classed as a “barge for being towed” for several years before being re-engined and classed as a motor ship. Prior to arriving in the Tay trade it was said “there is every likelihood that she will pass the century with ease” It was not to be as, in spite of the attention of the World Ship Society, she was broken up on the Forth in 1971 aged 94 by James A White & Co who “…. paid £500 for her and we hope to make a profit” When departing the Sand Quay at Perth’s Shore Road for the last time her pilot remarked that “she sounded a darn sight better than the (much younger) coaster proceeding up the river at the same time”
The 132gt VIC 79 was launched on 16th November 1944 for the Ministry of Transport at the Lowestoft yard of Richards Shipbuilders Ltd. Initially used on various naval duties before transferring to the Admiralty at Sheerness, Kent, in 1947. She was sold to HG Pound of Portsmouth who promptly sold her to D & R Taylor of Perth in 1961. Renamed Aner she worked in the Tay’s sand trade until 16th June 1965 when she arrived at Inverkeithing for breaking up.
The Tay Sand Company’s first suction dredger was the 1918 built steam driven 315gt Glen Helen, ex Mary Aiston, which was acquired from South Wales Sand & Gravel Limited who were the first to trade her as an aggregate dredger when they acquired her in 1932. The washed and screened cargoes she produced saw her working very successfully in the Tay from 1962 until sent for breaking up at Inverkething on 2nd December 1966 having been completed in July 1918 at the Great Yarmouth yard of Crabtree & Co Ltd. for her first owner W. Aiston of Scarborough.
Glen Helen at Dundee
Unlike the successful Glen Helen, the suction dredger Isabel was reportedly in some way “disadvantaged by design” and her untimely end came when she sank alongside in Camperdown Dock, Dundee. It appears she was holed on passage when en route fully loaded from the Tay’s Middle Bank on December 23rd 1965. With the crew at home for the Christmas holiday, the ingress of water was not spotted and she eventually foundered alongside on Christmas Eve. The Glasgow Herald reporting “…Her funnel broke against the dockside and the wheelhouse was crushed against the harbour wall. The mast was broken. There was 30/40 tons of sand on board at the time..” Launched at the Alloa yard of A. Jeffrey & Co in April 1915 named Collin with a gross tonnage of 287. She was first converted to a suction dredger at Appledore, Devon in 1949 for the Isabel Steamship Company Limited of Cardiff who named her Isabel. Acquired by the Tay Sand Company in 1964, she did not survive her Christmas 1965 capsize and was duly replaced by the Rayjohn.
Earnbank Sand & Gravel’s 311gt Tay Merchant was converted to a suction dredger in August 1965 but appears not to have had her name changed from her as built name of Antiquity until 1968. Built for F.T. Everard & Sons at the Fellows Shipyard & Drydock Company they owned in Great Yarmouth, the Antiquity was completed in November 1933. From 12th June 1940 to 28th she was brief requisitioned by the Ministry of War Transport for service as a military store ship. Re-engined in 1942 with a 6 cylinder Sirron oil engine made by the Newbury Diesel Co. Ltd. She was requisitioned again from 19th April till 15th November 1944 as a Cased Petrol Ship. 2nd Mate William Cummings sailing with Ellerman Wilson lines in WWll refers to cased petrol when accounting his wartime experiences “….Of course petrol was the main thing. Now cased petrol was in what they called flimsys, and by goodness were they flimsy. You believe me, there were two of these very flimsy tin cans packed in a carton and they each held maybe 2 gallons each. They would only just stand up to their own weight more or less…”. Earnbank never converted her to a suction dredger as first intended but fitted her with a Ruston Bucyrus 10RB crane instead. Reported as “laid up awaiting demolition” in 1971 she was finally broken up in 1975 by Perth scrap merchant Andy Wingate, alongside Shore Road.
The last sand boat to work out of Dundee was the Tay Sand’s second dredger to be named Middlebank. Completed in February 1935 at the Faversham yard of James Pollock & Sons as the 420dwt collier Camroux II for Newcastle Coal & Shipping Co Ltd who used her to run coal between the north east ports and River Thames. She was acquired by J.Hay & Sons in 1960 before Tay Sand purchased her in 1966 to replace the Glen Helen, whose dredge pump and dredge gear was installed on the newly named Middlebank. This last of the breed sailed from Camperdown Dock at 0920hrs on Mach 17th 1974 bound for T.W.Ward’s Inverkeithing yard where she arrived on 23rd March to be broken up.
When the Isabel was lost on Christmas Eve 1965 a replacement was required which was to be the 155gt twin engined motor barge Rayjohn which arrived in the Tay to be converted in 1966. Built by S.Richard & Co at Lowestoft for Willment Brothers Ltd of London in 1931 she was known as “ the fastest ballaster on the Thames..” The Tay Sand Company traded her for just a year or two before replacing her with the Harry Ford . She was broken up in Perth.
The 132gt Lighterage barge Harry Ford was launched at Cook’s Wivenhoe shipyard on 16th October 1958 for owners Ham Lighterage Co. Ltd. of London. Acquired by Earnbank Sand & Gravel in 1974? and converted to a suction dredger, “She would sail on the ebb tide and ground on the sand bank where she would grab load herself over the low water.”
Scottish Aggregates who had previously acquired Earnbank Sand & Gravel, in their quest to increase production, purchased two Mersey lighters and welded them together, side by side, in Perth. With a large crane sited forward and an outsized outboard motor at each lighter’s stern this ungainly craft sailed with the Harry Ford to the Flisk dredging area where it would lay at anchor in the relatively deep water off Birkhill. The Harry Ford would first load herself before come alongside the lighter which used its crane to discharge the Harry Ford’s cargo into itself. With the lighter fully loaded the Harry Ford would load herself before the strange duo returned to port. Increased tonnage was landed but occasionally the lighters would run out of fuel, often near the Sea Scouts’ slipway. Encouraged by the success of the twin lighters, in the 1980s a Dutch canal barge, the Joma, was acquired and was secured to the side of the Harry Ford as she dredged up and down discharging sand into the Joma’s hold. In 1994, with the Harry Ford’s 36 year old hull dangerously thin from her frequent groundings she was replaced by the Taysand
Earnbank Sand & Gravel Co Ltd acquired the ex VIC 26 in 1974 from her then owners the Ross & Marshall Ltd of Greenock who, when they purchased her from the Government in June 1946, named her Polarlight. Launched at the Thorne yard on the Humber of Richard Dunston on 23rd April, 1943, the 96gt Polarlight was broken up at Perth in the 1970’s.
The 211gt Merger arrived in Tay July 1974 from Thames under own power, having undertaken to. 211grt owned by Earnbank Sand & Gravel Co Ltd. Previously a “ballaster” on the River Thames for 10 years carrying loads of gravel. Took two months to convert her to a dredger. 1974 “ gone to work the lower reaches of the river” L 26.2mtrs B 6.4mtrs D. 2.36mtrs. Dwt 208tons. Fitted with hydraulically operated grab. Dredged in the Willowgate near Perth. She was sold to Lorimer Marine (Tayport) Ltd who continued to use her as a sand dredger supplying his Tayport yard.
The 1966 built 150gt bunkering barge Clyde Enterprise was laid up in the South Bramley Moore Dock in Liverpool when purchased by Scottish Aggregates Ltd who named her Taysand. Towed to Dundee in the winter of 1994 she was converted to an aggregate dredger in the dry-dock of Tayside Diesel Engineering Co Ltd aided by The Napier Company (Arbroath) Ltd. Ironically, as she had been lengthened earlier in her life, her 46mtr length was too long for the higher reaches of the Tay so 6mtrs was cropped off her stern and 9mtrs off her bow, a classic "cut & shut". Managed by Tay Sand Co Ltd under RMC Russell ownership, she laid up in Perth in the early 2000’s before being acquired by Fastnet Shipping of Waterford in 2007. DGW Sand Co Ltd of Hayle purchased her to work out of Penzance where she arrived in 2008 having first covered for the Sand Snipe in Padstow when that ship went for a major refit.
After the loss of the Islandmagee and foundering of the Little Orme and Isabel the Boart of Trade would not allow the relatively exposed Dundee sand boats to operate east of a line from Carolina Port to Tayport and load line exemptions were increasingly difficult to obtain. [Aggregate dredgers are sometimes briefly loaded below their conventional Load Line marks whilst the water is being pumped out of their saturated cargoes which state was recognised by the issuing of Load Line “exemptions”].
Arguably however, the demise of the sand trade in Dundee was mostly due to the opening of the Tay Road Bridge in 1966. Fife, the south side of the river was well endowed with large sand and gravel deposits which could be worked more cheaply than dredging river sand, whereas Dundee and its hinterland on the north side had fewer such deposits. Before the road bridge was opened a lorry load of sand had to make a 40 -50 mile trip from Fife to Dundee on twisting roads. This has now been cut to 10-15 miles on improved roads which led to an increase in the capacity of each lorry. The availability of pit sand in Fife also explains why no sand dredgers worked out of the Fife ports of Tayport and Newburgh but only landed sand or gravel from the confluence of the rivers Earn and the Tay at Dundee and Perth.