puffers & vics



The McNeils of Greenock

I cannot trace any archive of records for the various "puffer" businesses owned by members of the NcNeil family of Greenock. They appear to have been operating in one form or another from the late 19th century and between them owned a number of vessels over the ensuing years including: Colonsay and her replacement Colonsay II, the Sunlight, Na Kiel, Ardfern, Ashdaleglen, Invergowrie and the little-documented Western.  As far as I can trace most if not all were second hand purchases. They had a heavy involvement in the sand and gravel dredging business: for sand they would typically sail their puffers out of Greenock on the falling tide to ground on the sandbanks in the estuary nearby, where they would fill their holds using their on-board grab before refloating on the high tide and steaming off with their cargo to Greenock, Paisley or Glasgow. Gravel was dredged in the Clyde at the mouth of the River Kip, where the marina is now located. 

As far as I can ascertain, the last of the McNeil business intetests: the "Western" and "Na Keil" were sold when James McNeil went bankrupt in the early 50s, and the "Colonsay II", owned by Alexander McNeil, was sold with his sand and gravel business to Welsh interests, presumably in the later half of the 1970/early 80s as this photograph of her at Greenock is dated 1978.