It’s Sale Day

25 February, 2020 
Sale of store cattle of all classes
Tiree Rural Centre, Crossapol, Tiree

Scarinish Old Harbour

Throughout the day dramatic dark skies alternated with blue sky and soft white clouds. The Sale had originally been scheduled for Saturday the 15th of February but it had to be delayed until today because of ferry cancellations. There are strict rules as to when livestock can be transported by ferry and in doubtful conditions the last word rests with the Skipper.

The MV Clansman with the Isle of Mull as the backdrop

To enable the auctioneer, buyers and the livestock trucks to arrive on the island for the sale the ferry was to operate to an amended timetable. The departure was scheduled for 06:15 but this was delayed by at least 30 minutes due to a technical fault with the vessel.

The MV Clansman preparing to berth at Tiree

What a beautiful morning for the sail from Oban to Tiree. It was a direct sailing with no call at the Isle of Coll. After a calm crossing the MV Clansman berthed at 10:05.  Once again most of the vehicles on the car deck were commercial – tanker(s), cattle trucks and trucks belonging to the local haulage contractors.

A cattle truck rolls off the ferry and up the linkspan.

The cattle trucks are generally very colourful and the first truck to roll off the car deck and up the linkspan was driven by ‘Alan’ of Iain MacFachen Transport. Foot Passengers for the ‘Sale’ were met by bus which then took then to the Rural Centre at Crossapol.

Rolling Off

With the imminent closure of the linkspan for its replacement, hauliers are busy servicing the island while they can. Fuel, animal feed and other essentials must be brought in before the closure.

Vital supplies arriving before the linkspan closure

When all the traffic for Tiree had made its way up the linkspan and onto the island the car deck was not empty. There were the vehicles for the next port of call, the Island of Coll. The next task for the crew was to load the vehicles from Tiree bound for Oban.

The next task was to board the Oban bound traffic

With the closure of the linkspan scheduled for Friday, the last vehicles to be shipped between Oban and Tiree will be on an additional sailing timetable to arrive on Thursday evening at 18:35. When the next ferry arrives on Saturday, it will be a foot passenger only service to Tiree. Take note – the island is not closed.

“See you again this evening.”

In preparation for the closure of the linkspan and its replacement arriving, all kinds of work is going on around the ferry terminal. The main contractor is George Leslie Ltd but local haulier IA MacKinnon was to be seen providing for their transport requirements.


The island’s website,, states that Tiree is divided into 286 crofts and five farms although there are today probably fewer than a hundred active crofters. The land is split into thirty one crofting townships, each controlled by a grazing committee.  Little wonder for Tiree is the most fertile of the Hebridean Isles The livestock sale is held in the purpose built Rural Centre. In addition to the  Cattle Mart the Rural centre hosts an exhibition showing all aspects of crofting and wildlife on Tiree. You can even go there to have your eyesight tested as the island’s optician has a room in the Centre.

The Auction Ring at the Cattle Mart (from a previous sale)

Walks today had to be carefully timed, not simply to coincide with the ferry’s arrival and departure times, but to avoid the occasional shower. These last few days have seen much calmer weather, but it is still February. In the morning shelter had to be briefly sought when dark clouds heralded a shower coming over the island.

Dark clouds dominating the sky to the west – over Ben Hynish.

In the afternoon the view across to the Dutchman’s Cap and Ben More on the Isle of Mull was so clear. How attractive Ben More looked with its snow capped peak hidden in the clouds.  While it was so clear to the east, from the west dark threatening clouds were approaching with another shower.

A clear view across to the Ilse of Mull and the Treshnish Isles

The sale is over, and from could be gathered, it appears at least some received a reasonable  price for their beasts. So, as darkness began to descend the cattle floats made their way back to the ferry terminal.

A cattle float making its way down Pier Road

As the floats were being marshalled at the terminal, the MV Clansman was entering the calm waters of Gott Bay. With snow capped peaks on the Isle of Mull as a backdrop it was a rather cold looking view.

The MV Clansman returns to Gott Bay

One look at all the vehicles waiting to be boarded you wondered if they would all get on this evening’s sailing. Not only were there the cattle floats, there were several articulated lorries and other vehicles. Then you remembered this was not just any ferry – this was the ‘Mighty One’ – the Clansman.

The Pier Office and Marshalling Lanes

On this second sailing of the day there was little inbound traffic  but Oban bound was a very different matter. In addition to the vehicles the foot passengers included those who had arrived in the morning to work or buy at the sale.

A watchful eye being kept from the bridge as the gangway is raised.

When the car deck was emptied of inbound traffic the Oban bound traffic started to roll on. It takes careful management to effectively make use of the space available on the car deck.

Ready to receive the Oban bound traffic

Below are just a few examples of this evening’s traffic

With every last lorry onboard and the Tiree driver safely off the ramp can be raised.

Every last vehicle boarded.

Once the ramp is raised and the vessel secured the ropes will be released and the MV Clansman will head out to sea.

The pier staff walk to their stations in oder to release the ropes

The sale is over and the livestock are on board. In about 3 hours 20 minutes the ferry will arrive back in Oban at the end of a long day.

Waiting for the order to release the opes

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

Thursday 27th February
In anticipation of the Tiree Linkspan closure,
commencing this Friday 28th February,
an amended timetable will operate:

Depart Oban – 0715 … Arrive Tiree – 1035
Depart Tiree – 1105 … Arrive Coll – 1200
Depart Coll – 1215 … Arrive Oban – 1455

Depart Oban: 1515 … Arrive Tiree: 1835
Depart Tiree: 1900 …Arrive Oban: 2220

The MV Clansman heading back out to sea under the cover of darkness