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.
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.
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.