|Western Ferries (Clyde) Limited
An Operational History
Following much speculation about when, or indeed if, a new ferry service linking Cowal and Inverclyde would commence, Western Ferries started their route between Hunter’s Quay and McInroy’s Point on Sunday 3rd June, 1973.
For the new service, the company introduced two former Swedish ferries with bow and stern loading, allowing straight through roll-on, roll-off operation.
Following a refit at Greenock the first ferry was renamed SOUND OF SHUNA, and ran at hourly intervals throughout the day, between 0700 and 2200. SOUND OF SHUNA was joined on the crossing in mid-July when the second vessel, renamed SOUND OF SCARBA, entered service.
Soon Western Ferries was making a considerable impact on travel to and from the Cowal peninsula - so much so that additional tonnage was needed before long. This appeared in August 1974, when the former Isle of Wight ferry LYMINGTON entered service as SOUND OF SANDA.
In April 1985 the company was restructured, taking on its present title of Western Ferries (Clyde) Limited, and soon afterwards, another ex-Sealink ferry was purchased. She joined the fleet in June 1986 as SOUND OF SEIL.
Traffic was still expanding rapidly, and in 1988 yet more tonnage was added in the shape of SOUND OF SLEAT, a ferry that had previously been used on a river crossing in Holland.
By now, Western Ferries was carrying significant amounts of the traffic between Cowal and Inverclyde. To cater for this, two further ferries were purchased from Dutch owners, joining the fleet in 1995 and 1996 respectively, as SOUND OF SCALPAY and the second SOUND OF SANDA. Both were re-engined and given thorough overhauls at Greenock before entering service. These ferries replaced older tonnage.
Loosely based on the design of the two most recent acquisitions by the company, Ferguson Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow produced the second SOUND OF SCARBA in 2001, the company’s first new ferry for the service. She was followed by a sister ship, named SOUND OF SHUNA, two years later.