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Company History

SS Hebrides - Company History

Caledonian MacBrayne started life in 1851 as a steamer company under the name of David Hutcheson & Co. The main sphere of operation was from Glasgow through the Crinan Canal to Oban and Fort William and then on through the Caledonian Canal to Inverness.

In the late 1870's the Hutcheson brothers retired leaving the firm in the hands of David MacBrayne to which the firm was renamed. Throughout the late 1870's and 80’s the MacBrayne empire continued to expand with a mail run to Islay, Harris and North Uist from Skye. In the final months of the decade MacBrayne took over the Outer Isles run from Oban to Barra and South Uist. 

In fairly quick succession new railways began to reach the West Coast – at Fort William, Kyle of Lochalsh and Mallaig and the fleet rosters were altered to meet the new situation. There followed a period of new building, largely utilitarian ships for the mail routes to the islands and remote mainland communities. Following the Great War of 1914 – 1918 David MacBrayne was operating a much-reduced fleet and this eventually resulted in the company's withdrawal from the tender for the mail contract. Thanks to a rescue operation jointly with LMS Railway and Coast Lines Ltd a new company was formed – David MacBrayne (1928). 1948 saw the nationalisation of the LMS shares in the company and the acquisition of the ships.

Five years later the state-owned Scottish Transport Group was formed to operate not only MacBrayne’s but also the Caledonian Steam Packet Company on the Clyde together with the dominant Scottish Bus Company. 

Soon after the shipping companies were amalgamated and renamed Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd, lorry services were operated by MacBrayne Haulage while David MacBrayne was retained for certain minor services. The CalMac vessels soon sported the red CSP lion in the yellow disc in the centre of the red funnel.

From the sixties to the mid-eighties many improvements and refinements took place in order to complete the modern roll on-roll off ferry revolution and ensure that all vessels were operated to the maximum levels of safety.

Corporate Restructuring

In 1990 Caledonian MacBrayne threw off the umbrella of STG and became wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Scotland (now the Scottish Executive). CalMac Ferries Ltd., (CFL) which was incorporated in May 2006 (SC302282), is a wholly-owned subsidiary of David MacBrayne Ltd, which is wholly owned by Scottish Ministers.

As a result of corporate restructuring which took place in October 2006 as part of the preparation for the tender process for the Clyde & Hebrides Ferry Services, CFL took over operation of these services as successor to Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd.

Company History

As a separate element of this corporate restructuring, Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd had its name changed to Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd. (CMAL) and retained ownership of the vessels and piers which are required for the operation of the Clyde & Hebrides Ferry services. 

Company History - MV Caledonian Isles

Under the new arrangements, CMAL leases the vessels and piers to the operator of the Clyde & Hebrides Ferry services (currently CFL). CMAL is also wholly owned by Scottish Ministers and is based in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde. CFL and CMAL are two entirely separate entities. CFL provides certain services to CMAL under contractual arrangements.

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Copyright 2014 Caledonian MacBrayne and CalMac are trading names of CalMac Ferries Limited Company Number: SC302282.
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