Traffic to the Highlands and Islands through Oban grew rapidly through the 1880s as a result of the connection by rail and the improvements to MacBrayne’s “Royal Route” by steamer from the Clyde. A new steamer was ordered from Messrs Hutson & Corbett of Glasgow and they subcontracted the construction of the hull to the Paisley yard of M‘Arthur & Co. Fusilier was intended for the Portree and Gairloch mail service and it is interesting to note that in the report of her launch in the Glasgow Herald, there is also an article on the meeting of the Crofter’s Commission at Gairloch.
Fusilier and Claymore at Portree
“On Saturday afternoon Messrs J. M‘Arthur & Co. launched from their shipbuilding yard at Paisley a beautifully modeled paddle-steamer names the Fusilier, which has been built by them for Mr David MacBrayne, and will form a useful addition to his large fleet of West Highland steamers. The dimensions of the new steamer are:—length, 200 ft; breadth, 21 ft 6 in; and depth, 8 ft 3 in. The Fusilier is of a very neat design, having a clipper bow, with handsome figurehead and a finely-moulded stern, thus giving her an exceedingly smart appearance. Large deck saloons are now being fitted with a promenade deck above same, while the dining saloon as usual is placed under the main deck. All the usual conveniences requisite for passenger traffic will be supplied, and the steamer throughout will be fitted up in the usual comfortable and tasteful manner so characteristic of Mr MacBrayne’s steamers. The engines are being supplied by Messrs Hutson & Corbett, Glasgow, and will indicate about 900 h.p.”—Glasgow Herald April 17, 1888.
With her bowsprit and clipper bow, Fusilier was like a smaller version of the very successful Grenadier with a single funnel exhausting her haystack boiler. Her propulsion was a single diagonal engine, not a great choice for a vessel designed to travel long distances because of the uncomfortable surging motion this produced.
Fusilier was better suited to the Oban to Banavie service and it was with this route that she became best identified.
Fusilier at Corpach
Fusilier at Ballachulish
Sharing Ballachulish Pier with MacBrayne’s Ethel
Fusilier passing Corran on Loch Linnhe
On her second year in service, she attended the wreck of the MacBrayne steamer Mountaineer.
“A terrible night off Oban: wreck of a steamer.
The steamer Mountaineer, one of the oldest and best-known West Highland tourist vessels, was wrecked at a late hour on Friday night on the historic Lady Rock, a small uninhabited peak-shaped island about two miles to the north of Oban. The night was very dark, and the vessel struck heavily on Lady Rock, at a point opposite Duart Castle. She remained fast, and the wind being high and a heavy sea running, much difficulty was experienced in landing the passengers, fifty in number, on the island. Guns and rockets were fired to attract the attention of the people in Oban, and the supply of rockets becoming exhausted, several sportsmen on board who were returning from their shooting quarters in the North fired volleys from their guns. After a time the signals were taken notice of in Oban, and a steam lighter and the steamer Fusilier were dispatched to the rescue. With great difficulty the women were first embarked, and then the male passengers, and all were safely landed in Oban about two o’clock on Saturday morning. Three hundred sheep were left on board, and efforts were being made on Saturday to rescue these. It is thought the vessel will become a total wreck. She belonged to Mr David Macbrayne’s well-known West Highland line.”—The Northern Daily Telegraph, September 30, 1889.
Fusilier at Fort William (Stengel)
Fusilier at Port Appin (Valentine)
Fusilier was a good sea boat but was generally laid up for much of the winter months. In 1901 she was reboilered. Her old boiler was still serviceable and went to the Glencoe. In 1914, in common with the rest of the MacBrayne fleet, she received additional lifeboats that were mounted aft.
During the First World War, Fusilier, she was moved to the Clyde where she was to be found on a variety of services both above and below the boom. She was eventually placed under charter to the Caledonian Steam Packer Co. Ltd., and ran with their yellow funnel for a time.
Fusilier off Gourock in the early 1920s (Robertson)
Leaving Fort William at 8:00 a.m. in the early 1920s
After the war, Fusiler returned to her Oban-Corpach route. In 1926 she appeared much altered with her bridge placed forward of the funnel. The funnel was also heightened.
Fusilier modified in 1926 (Robertson)
Fusilier at Kentallen around 1927
Fusilier at Lismore around 1927
After the fire that destroyed Grenadier, Iona was moved to Oban to run between Oban and Fort William and Fusilier took up the Staffa and Iona cruise roster in the summer and the Ardrishaig mail run in winter.
Landing from Fusilier off Staffa around 1930
Fusilier off Staffa around 1930
She was relieved of these duties when the new Lochfyne appeared in 1931 and moved to the Mallaig-Portree mail run from the Glencoe, when the veteran was sent for scrap that year.
Fusilier approaching Mallaig (Judges)
Fusilier leaving Kyle of Lochalsh (Kyle Pharmacy)
Fusilier at Portree with puffer Invercloy (Judges)
Fusilier at Portree (Judges)
The new management at David MacBrayne (1928) Ltd. clearly had a preference for motor ships as they modernized the fleet with new construction. When Lochnevis appeared on the Portree service in 1934, Fusilier was laid up and sold for service, first on the Forth, then on the west coast where she maintained the Llandudno-Menai service as Lady Orme, and on to Ramsgate. She was broken up in October 1939 at Barrow.
Lady Orme (Feilden)