Comunn Eachdraidh Eige archive, Katie MacLean collection


eigg, the story of an island, camille dressler, 2017

Location: Small Isles
ships and boats, travel by sea

Eigg's Puffer Cave

At the north end of Eigg, two caves shelter under Sgurr Sgaileach (the peak of shadows), one of them the brief resting place of the Chief of Clanranald on his flight to France after the 1745's, the other the final resting place for the remains of the Jennie.

She was a Clyde puffer, one of those stumpy flat-bottomed coal-powered ships which got their name from the puffing sound of exhaust steam exiting through their distinctive funnels. Carrying everything from cattle to coal, they once were the West coast's lifeline: they could tie in at a harbour like Eigg pier or they could run into sandy bays and wait for the tide to go out for their cargo to be unloaded.

But in February 1954, the 1902 Jennie loaded with coal for Eigg Estate did not make it past Sgurr Sgaileach, sinking within a short distance of its rocky shore. Later in the spring, another puffer, the Lythe, was dispatched to salvage the valuable cargo and it too went down at the same spot. Winter storms threw the broken hulk of the Jennie in the Puffer Cave where it has been slowly disintegrating since. Today, the memory of the Clyde puffers is kept alive through Neil Munro’s famous Para Handy stories, featuring the crew of SS Vital Spark. They inspired an Ealing comedy, the Maggie and three BBC series!

More information on visiting the area can be found here.