Ships and Boats

A look at some Rousay Ships and Boats

The ss Lizzie Burroughs lying off Rousay Pier in the 1880s

1879 April 5th Shetland Times. – LAUNCH THE LIZZIE BURROUGHS. – Last week there was launched from the building yards of Messrs J. McKenzie & Co., Albert Dock, Leith, a fine smart packet, intended for the coasting trade between Rousay and Kirkwall. Her length is 65 feet; beam, 15 feet; depth, 6 feet; and she is to be fitted with a large hold forward, and a cabin abaft for passengers. As she glided into the water she was named the “Lizzie Burroughs” by Mrs George McKenzie, in honour the wife of Colonel Burroughs the chairman of the Company, to whose order she has been built. She is a sister ship the “Sefton” launched the same firm last June, and she will be fitted out with her engines and other gear on the most improved principles by Mr M. P. Galloway, marine engineer, Leith. We may mention that the whole arrangements of the launch were very efficiently carried out, and it is very creditable to the firm – taking into consideration the position of the building yard – that the vessel was got into the water without a single hitch or the slightest damage.

1892 May 3rd John o’ Groat Journal. – SALE OF THE s.s. LIZZIE BURROUGHS. – lt having been agreed to wind the Rousay, Evie, and Rendall Steam Navigation Company, the steamer Lizzie Burroughs was offered for sale at Kirkwall on Monday the upset price of £250. After spirited competition, the vessel was knocked down to Mr Robert Garden, merchant, for £484. Mr T. S. Peace was the auctioneer. One of the conditions of the sale was that the name of the steamer was to be altered within three months. The steamer will therefore be called the Aberdonian, and will continue in the present trade between Kirkwall, Rousay, Evie, Rendall, etc.

John Logie was the butler at Trumland House. He was also an accomplished photographer and artist, his expertise with the brush evident in his painting of General Burroughs’ yacht ‘Annie’.

The Reverend Alexander Pirie, Rousay United Presbyterian Church minister, [white beard, second right] with his wife Elsie and family members aboard Alick Logie’s boat in a photo dated August 1913. Alick lived at Pier Cottage with his father John, a retired yachtsman, and mother Jane.

The ss Fawn at Rousay pier in the early 1900s

When George Robertson’s ship Orcadia (I) became uneconomical to maintain, he helped to create a company which could afford a new steamer for the North Isles of Orkney. He raised capital through selling shares, and managed the company himself, calling it the Orkney Steam Navigation Company. It operated Orcadia (I) for a matter of months before Orcadia (II) was launched. Soon the Fawn was purchased in 1892, and she began operating to Rousay. The company operated just these 2 vessels until 1919, by which time the Fawn had been disposed of and Countess of Bantry was acquired. She operated as second service to the North Isles covering Rousay and the main North Isles roster, if Orcadia (II) was unavailable.

A painting of the ss Fawn by another accomplished Rousay artist, George Mainland

There was no wheelhouse on the Fawn. Therefore the ship’s master, Captain John Craigie [who lived at Lairo] had to man the exposed wheel in all weathers

1914 March 16th Dundee Evening Telegraph. PASSENGER STEAMER BECOMES TOTAL WRECK. – A Kirkwall telegram states that the steamer Fawn, of Kirkwall, while on passage from Kirkwall to the Island of Rousay, with passengers and general cargo, was driven by the tide onto the Holm of Boray and has become a total wreck. Crew and passengers were landed at Gairsay, and afterwards taken to Rousay.

[The above newspaper report is dated 1914, but the Fawn must have been refloated and repaired for she was eventually taken out of service in 1919]

Another John Logie painting: the Otter, one of the best-known vessels in Orkney waters

The 32-foot Otter was built by Kirkwall boat builders James Maxwell & Son for Walter Gordon Grant of Highland Park distillers and Trumland Estate, Rousay. The 6.5-ton boat was launched in Kirkwall Basin on May 19th 1926.

Eventually the craft was bought by the National Commercial Bank of Scotland, which later became part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, with the idea of the Otter becoming a sea-going bank. Re-named Otter Bank, she was used to serve the more remote communities across Orkney during the 1960s, allowing islanders to manage their financial affairs without making the long journey to the mainland.

Taken out of service in 1970 the vessel changed hands, ending up rotting away in a Merseyside shipyard. She was rescued by the Friends of the Orkney Boat Museum and has since been restored to its former glory – and is now on display at the Lyness Museum and Visitor Centre, Hoy.

Rousay men James Stout, Rose Cottage, and Sandy Logie, Cubbie Roo, admiring the sleek lines of the Otter. c1950

Not to be outdone by their brother’s fine craft, Walter Grant’s sisters, Mrs Low and Mrs Laurie [who lived at Westness House] owned the ‘Busso’. She is pictured here below Ivy Cottage, just east of Rousay pier.

A photo taken at the Rousay Regatta in 1924

The Aberdeen Press & Journal carried a report on the Rousay Regatta, held in July 1934…..Fresh to light westerly wind prevailed for the annual regatta at Rousay, in the Orkney Islands. Chief results: 22 Foot class – Sea Imp (W. Sinclair), 1 hr. 3 Foot – Ivy (J. Foulis), 1 hr. 2 mins. 13 secs. 14 Foot – Yala (N. Cooper), 36 mins 37 secs. All-comers – Sea Imp, 59 mins. 12 secs. Local race – Lottie (C. Craigie), 54 mins. 49 secs. Motor boat race – Elsie (W. Foulis). Rowing races – Men’s singles – John Wylie; men’s doubles – John and James. Wylie; Women – Mary Petrie and Molly Flaws. Among the spectators joy-riding in two planes over the regatta were two octogenarians, Malcolm Corsie and James Alexander.

Collision course! A photo taken at the 1948 Rousay Regatta

[All photographs from the Tommy Gibson Collection]