puffers & vics




Builder Murdoch & Murray, Port Glasgow
Official Nr 93265
Yard Nr 95
Launched 1886
Length 72.2 ft
Beam 18.1 ft
Gross 90 tons
Nett 38 tons
Engine 2 Cyl Steam compound

One of the exceptions to Ross & Marshall's naming convention of the suffix "light" was the Mellite, which had been built as an iron-hulled dumb lighter, originally named "Salisbury", in 1886.

Two years later, in 1888, she was engined with one of a pair of engines from an 1840- ish built steam yacht's hull which supposedly had come to grief, wrecked locally.  First registered at Greenock in 1904 to Alexander Ross.   By 1920 she is registered to Wm Campbell of Greenock, and by 1930 with Light Shipping.  

In her latter years, the Mellite became a water carrier at The Tail of The Bank and supplied the big Cunarders and Canadian Pacific liners on the, by then, summer only North Atlantic run, a trade which came to an end in the late 1960's, the Mellite was then sold to Burke's of Greenock and employed on The Holy Loch 'rubbish run' for the U.S. Navy. Despite assurances that the Mellite ended her days at the breaker's yard at Dalmuir in 1968, rumours continue that her owner Willie Burke had a fine appreciation of the old lady and that, rather than give her to the merciless hands of the scrapmen, of which he was one himself, he had quietly and very deliberating scuttled her in a quiet area of the river where she could lie undisturbed and well away from even the most curious of divers. Such are the romantic tales of puffers !

The photograph on the left shows her in 1904 in the James Watt dock, Greenock, alongside the capsized hull of the newly built Belgian training ship "Comte de Smet de Nayer" , which was to founder in the Bay of Biscay just two years later with the loss of 34 lives.   The undated shot on the right is of her on the Clyde 


Photograph courtesy of the Graham Lappin collection

The photograph below is from the Dan McDonald collection courtesy of the Ballast Trust and is reproduced under a Creative Commons license