Never let bureaucrats near anything that requires imagination: voting opens for naming Argyll’s new hybrid ferry

Voting on the shortlist to name the world’s second sea going hybrid ferry opens on Friday 1st March and closes on Sunday 31st March 2013.

The first of this breed of ferry has gone into service on the Skye-Raasay route; and the second - currently in construction at Ferguson’s yard in Port Glasgow on the Clyde – is to serve the Tarbert-Portavadie route on Loch Fyne in Argyll.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) has announced the shortlist of names for this second, seagoing RORO vehicle and passenger, diesel electric hybrid ferry -  which is due to launch this summer.

It is the second in the new and painfully named ‘Scottish literature class’, which will form the basis of all future hybrid ferry names.

The first one, the MV Hallaig, launched in December 2012, is named for a famous poem by Raasay poet, Sorley MacLean, whose title refers to a politically evocative deserted township located on the south-eastern corner of the island. Patrick Maclean from Oban, former coxswain of the Oban Lifeboat and letter its press officer, is Sorley MacLean’s nephew and remembers long childhood time well spent on Raasay.

The heavily worthy shortlist has been put forward by the CMAL Board and the Scottish Government, ‘based on the very best of Scottish poetry and literature to reflect the ferry’s creative technology and local roots’.

Where the name ‘Hallaig’ has powerful reverberations in Raasay, the island served by the first ferry, the shortlisted names on the bureaucrats short list for the Argyll ferry generate no such local ownership.

Choices and commentary

According to the press release just issued, the shortlisted names are -
1.    LOCHNIVAR [sic], a poem by Sir Walter Scott
2.    CATRIONA, a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
3.    GREENVOE, a novel by George Mackay Brown
4.    SUNSET SONG, a novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon


This name is wrongly given. It should be ‘Lochinvar’ and is not the name of a poem by Sir Walter Scott but refers to ‘Young Lochinvar’ in Scott’s poem Marmion – which centres on the Battle of Flodden Field – nothing directly to do with Argyll.


The first part of this Stevenson novel is about the protagonist’s work to try to get justice for James Stewart, James of the Glen. Stewart had been wrongly accused of the murder of Colin Campbell. Colin Campbell of Glenure, the government-appointed Factor to the forfeited estates of the Stewart Clan in North Argyll. James Stewart was convicted in the Campbell stronghold of Inveraray, by a jury of Campbells and was put to horrible death above what is now the Ballachulish bridge in north Argyll.

Why not call the boat the MV James Stewart and forget this tedious ‘literature class’ nonsense which is a daft name for a class of ferry in the first place?


George Mackay Brown was born in Sutherland and spent most of life in Orkney, with his writing evocative of the spirit of that unique place. His novel,Greenvoe, is described as: ‘ a fable-like novel depicting the sudden, destructive intrusion of brute modernity into a tight-knit and unchanging community, as witnessed by an eclectic host of local characters.’ So in this naming option we have moved well north of Flodden and further away from Argyll.

Sunset Song

Lewis Grassic Gibbons novel, Sunset Song is rated as as one of the most important Scottish novels of the 20th century – but it is set in the north east of Scotland.

The issue

MV Hallaig belongs directly, in every way, to Raasay and is all the better for it. Of this shortlist, only Catriona has any relevance to Argyll – and not in its name.

The daft thing about this exercise is that it is intended to generate a sense of ownership in Argyll of its ferry to come. Yet, despite this, none of these names, pleasant as they would be for a boat even if they had no connection with literature, do not resonate specifically in Argyll.

If the bureaucrats want to keep some sort of literary connection in the naming, why not float ‘Mull of Kintyre’ as an option. At least the route this ferry should serve is in the vicinity of the Mull of Kintyre, a visceral touchstone for Argyll and the McCartney song known the world over.

If anyone wants to bother, the naming competition opens on Friday 1st March and voting details are on the CMAL website here.

The prize for the most voted name

One person will be picked at random from all of those voting and they (with a friend) will be a special guest at the ferry’s launch, anticipated as taking place in early summer 2013, as well as winning a one day ferry crossing of their choice for a car and two people on a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, courtesy of CalMac Ferries Ltd.

Guy Platten, Chief Executive of CMAL says: ‘The hybrid ferry project demonstrates CMAL’s commitment to leading the way in innovative ferry design and we are really excited about the names we have shortlisted for our second ferry and look forward to seeing which one is most popular with ferry lovers.’

Ferry facts – and an omen

The hybrid ferries are designed for use on many of the short crossing routes around the Clyde and Hebrides and this ferry will operate the Tarbert to Portavadie route.

Both ferries will accommodate 150 passengers, 23 cars or two HGVs, with a service speed of nine knots.  The new ferries will use some of the most innovative new ‘green’ technology, including Lithium Ion battery banks supplying a minimum of 20% of the energy consumed on board.

Benefits include reduced fuel consumption and impact of CO2 emissions and other pollutants, noise reduction and lower maintenance requirements.

We note the unnecessarily precise wording of one of the notes to editors accompanying the press release on this voting exercise: ‘The two new vessels will be owned by CMAL who are leading the project and operated by the current operator [Ed: our emphasis] of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services, CalMac Ferries.

It is no surprise that the notion persists in SNP quarters of privatising the lifeline ferry services of the west coast.

This would have actually happened later this year, with the Clyde and Hebridean contract up for renewal in early Autumn. As the intention to privatise these services became publicly known, accompanied by campaigns like our own against such a move, Transport Scotland panicked, kicked the ater well away fro the independence referendum in October 2014 and gave CalMac a three years extension, with a new contract award now not due until 2016.

Do not imagine that the intention has gone away. This is a government with no stomach for radical revision of an organic kind. Rather than reform public sector provision, it prefers the Thatcherite route of privatisation what Harold MacMillan called ‘selling the family silver’ – an apt description of the essence of the Clyde and Hebridean lifeline ferry services.

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29 Responses to Never let bureaucrats near anything that requires imagination: voting opens for naming Argyll’s new hybrid ferry

  1. It looks very much as if the literati consulted on suitable names were advised of which route the first boat was to operate, but were told that the second boat could serve anywhere in Calmac’s empire – and even be ‘seconded’ to the Orkneys?
    I think Calmac / CMAL should explain their intentions for the second boat, and for the future of the Tarbert – Portavadie service.

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    • We had exactly the same immediate suspicions after the extra-territorial nature of three of the shortlisted options.
      But notes at the foot of the press release carried the fact that this ferry is to do the Tarbert-Portavadie route.

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  2. Pingback: Green Launch 2 |

  3. At least CMAL have provided a list of suitable names for this new ferry.
    CMAL also provided four shortlisted names for the new Islay ferry one of which was Glendale which CMAL thought was the area opposite Islay Airport. This area was of course called Glenegedale but when the civil servants at CMAL found out about their mistake it was too late to change the name. Therefore the most suitable name left in the shortlist was Finlaggan and the new ferry was named MV Finlaggan.
    Civil servants and politicians always think that they are right and never wrong!

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    • The name, Glendale, had a very noteworthy, albeit brief, association with MacBrayne’s Islay service, the paddle steamer of that name gaining special notoriety by being wrecked in 1905 at Deas Point, the southern tip of the Mull of Kintyre, close to the lighthouse. The stranding occurred in calm conditions during the regular passage from Glasgow. There were no injuries or loss of life but the vessel was a total loss. Given its history, it was a strange choice for CMAL’s shortlist. Perhaps the board of CMAL had looked down their old fleet list without bothering to check.

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  4. Bob Chicken is getting warm, but whilst ‘Gillespie’, or something else from John MacDougall Hay’s powerful Tarbert-based novel is certainly local, it is his son, George Campbell Hay’s poetry – in particular ‘Seeker, Reaper’ – that should provide more uplifting and maritime inspiration to the naming, and be consistent with ‘Hallaig’s’ theme of very local, very high quality poetry. In fact, it should be a no-brainer. Tradition has it that the fishing vessel that ‘Seeker, Reaper’ is based on was named ‘Sireadh’.

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  5. LD, What does “I;l” mean? If it means that you like the George Campbell Hay/ ‘Seeker, Reaper’ idea, then let’s get moving, because there doesn’t seem to be an easily found archive here, and this thread is already buried… As I said, based on the raison d’être for ‘Hallaig’s’ name, and a modern buzz phrase: what’s not to like about using something connected to the fine and far from parochial work of George Campbell Hay in the naming of the 2nd hybrid ferry in build at Fergusons of Port Glasgow – purportedly for the Tarbert – Portavadie route?

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  6. Malcolm Kirk: maybe, but as I understand it the boat – although never named – in the George Campbell Hay poem ‘Seeker, Reaper’ was called ‘Sireadh’. Many years ago I found myself anchored beside her in Mallorca, rather far from original waters and converted to a very characterful yacht, her Loch Fyne Skiff origins unmistakable.

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  7. pm.
    You obviously did not bother to read my post on 28th February which gives the correct explanation for the name “Glendale” as one of the names for the latest Islay ferry.

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        • Thank you, db, for pointing that out. My own fantasy fleet, of a similar MacBrayne heritage and ilk, would have to include, naturally, Lochiel (“those sheeps was great swimmers”, one of her engineers told me), Loch Seaforth (at her third attempt in five years, finally sunk 1973, Tiree, and for her I have a special fondness as both the chairman and managing director of Calmac were on board at the time … ooops), Islay (sunk Port Ellen), Chevalier (wrecked East Loch Tarbert). I’d go as far as to say that Loch Seaforth’s spectacular and photogenic excursions ashore warrant serial resurrection of the name with a I, II and III suffix attached, regardless of the route allocation of her successors.

          Fortunately, no person was harmed in any of the above episodes but I’d guess that a fair few careers and reputations experienced terminal injury.


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          • PS(sorry, DEPV) Talisman had a fondness for the putty too, at least 2 of her high’n'dry escapades are recorded for posterity in photographs.

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          • The shortlist for the new Stornoway ferry gives food for thought – are they seriously proposing the names of some local locations? – isn’t there scope for confusion in an emergency if a ship has the same name as the waters it is (or maybe isn’t) sailing through?

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          • Possibly, but the use of callsigns, MMSI identification via GMDSS/DSC radio and AIS transponder information pretty much rules out such confusion, in the UK at any rate.

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  8. Alison.
    Once again you are wrong.
    This information was obtained from someone who works for CMAL.
    I look forward to your apology on but I will not hold my breath waiting!!

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