Advertiser Mag :: 2019 #14

Craignish Castle, Argyleshire

The focus of this column is about the history of Parlington, and to a lesser extent the families who inhabited the hall. However in the spirit of offering a wider perspective of activities, we shall uncover a story of the Gascoigne seafaring during the nineteenth century. I first came across a reference to a sea going vessel some years back in a short newspaper article about the launch in August 1866 into the Clyde of a steam yacht ‘Ibis’ from the yard of Partick shipbuilders Tod & MacGregor, built for Frederick Charles Trench-Gascoigne of Craignish and Parlington. The yacht was powered by a two cylinder steam engine producing 30HP, it was 106 feet in length, a breadth of almost 20 feet and 11 feet in depth. It had a gross weight of around 181 tons. It was described as having a lifting propellor, for sailing unencumbered by the drag of the propellor. Was largely of mahogany and teak with brass fitments, a luxury boat indeed.

Seemingly, according to a recently uncovered document from the colonel’s son, ‘Dick’, F R Trench-Gascoigne (died 1937). At the time the Ibis was launched the colonel had already been sailing in a yacht called ‘Myth’ a 60 ton schooner, from the yard of Messrs Inman, of Lymington, Hampshire. Then a second yacht was commissioned in 1859 again called ‘Myth’, the first being unsatisfactory apparently thus leading to the second. The second yacht was, according Dick, built by the very (still) famous Ratsey company of Cowes, Isle of Wight. Although present information on Ratsey explains the great expertise in traditional sail manufacture rather than building hulls etc.

These craft suggest in my view a ‘Viv Nicholson’ approach to life. For those unfamiliar with the lady, she was a football pool winner who vowed to, ‘spend, spend, spend’. This she did leading quickly to her husband’s death in a sports Jaguar in short order and her own decline to poverty in the longer term. The colonel it is fair to say had married a very wealthy lady in Isabella Oliver-Gascoigne, and their expenditure following their marriage in 1850 was considerable, even extravagant. A castle in Argyleshire, Craignish and to boot suitable transport moored on the loch, in the form of the steam yacht Ibis. Consider also that owning a steam yacht brought with it a ship’s captain and crew, no small expenditure.

To give an idea of life in the Gascoigne family at the time, it is recorded that the Ibis around 1869 ventured to St Petersburg, via the Baltic, the Gulf of Finland, and eventually to Lake Ladoga in Russia, presumably down the River Neva. Sadly it is recorded that the Russian pilot purposely put the boat into a sand bank, but no damage done. This incident was sufficient to alert the colonel to the folly of permitting the Russian naval officer access to his vessel and he therefore terminated the cruise in Lake Ladoga, returning to the Baltic, and home to Craignish.

Eventually the colonel was described by his son as, ‘over-yachted’ and given that Isabella was by then in her mid sixties and probably not enamoured by sea journeys, the steam yacht Ibis was sold in 1875. They still retained a small 15 ton yawl rig on the loch, named the ‘Avocet’ and then added a steam launch for local calm weather cruising. Unfortunately the launch proved to be a bad sea boat and was sold in 1888, and by then the Avocet had gone also, to be replaced by the ‘Enigma’ a 30 ton yawl, described as ‘a worthy old tub’, but she too was sold in about 1890. Thereafter that generation of Gascoignes’ were without a boat! or as their son Dick remarked they were ‘yachtless’.

The early experiences aboard his parents boats must have left their mark on Dick as he would resume the sea adventures in the steam yacht ‘Ulna’ and also ‘Ulna 2’ in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

The Ibis went on to have at least four more owners, before being lost to history after around 1895. I have a record of it renamed as the, ’Corinna’ and owned by a Mr James Ware of Penarth in 1888 and it was present at the opening ceremony of Barry Docks, largest in the World at the time, in 1889, where it was the third boat through the entrance, flying flags and bunting before a huge crowd of spectators.

This article is slightly longer than that which first appeared in the magazine

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