The Cathcartpark Mystery

 The SS Cathcartpark was a steel cargo ship of the Denholm line. It seems an unlikely name, but all ships belonging to the Denholm Line were named after parks, originally the six parks in Greenock until the fleet became larger than six ships, at which point parks from other towns were adopted. Cathcart Park is in Glasgow.  On 15 April 1912, she was carrying a cargo of salt from Runcorn in Cheshire en route to Wick when she struck one of the Torran Rocks off South-West Mull and sank off Soa Island.

Salt of the Earth
By tomes of Earth's life history weighed down,
The salt from some Triassic sea run dry
Awaits its time to be long-laboured born
To service of the deities of trade.

From Runcorn to the herring town of Wick.
By gentle Mull and dreaded Torran Rocks
Cathcartpark's course, but "Stay," the salt sea said,
"This is my flesh and blood. It shall not pass."

At that command wind, tide and rocks obeyed.
The steamer foundered broken in the deep,
The salt sea quietly claiming back her own,
Perhaps to be reborn another day.

D Black 2015

She was badly damaged but before she sank, was boarded and possibly stripped by locals, who allegedly thought she could have been salvaged. It seems to follow that she did not break up before sinking and divers off Soa have recently found her and reported on her. The crew abandoned ship on two lifeboats, one of which reportedly came ashore on Iona and the other on Mull somewhere.

There is steel wreckage on the southernmost Knockvologan beach which looks like a vessel, but rather over-large for a lifeboat. Credibly the SS Cathcartpark? Yachtsman Tony Mitchell calculates that this is a likely last resting place for a wreck drifting ashore from Soa Island, but if the divers are right and the SS Cathcartpark is still lying there, what is lying on Knockvologan beach and where is the lifeboat?

Wreckage on Southernmost beach, Knockvologan

More wreckage projecting from the sand on the next beach north.

PS A local fisherman informed me in 2016 that the debris was that of a wrecked puffer. That looks plausible, but there is no record I can find of a puffer wrecked at this location.




Denholm Line Steamers / J & J. Denholm, Glasgow

After owning several small sailing vessels from 1872, James and John Denholm purchased their first steamship in 1881. The company entered the deep sea tramping trade at the end of World War I and began an expansion programme. By 1939 Denholms owned nine ships but by 1945 only two of these ships survived. After the war the fleet was rebuilt and later diversified into tankers and ore carriers. With the demise of tramp shipping, the company concentrated on bulk carriers and still operates a fleet of ships.



Cathcart Park (1) 




7.1.1897 wrecked at Sunderland.

Cathcartpark (2) 




12.4.1912 wrecked South Mull.


Cathcartpark SS was a British Cargo Steamer of 840 tons built in 1897 by Carmichael & MacLean, Port Glasgow for Cathcart SS Co. (J & J Denholm), Glasgow . In 1910 she was purchased by The Denholm Line Steamers. On the 15th April 1912 she ran aground on Torran Rock, South Mull on passage from Runcorn for Wick with a cargo of salt.


Event ID 858338

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes

NM21NW 8001 c. 245 193

N56 17.2 W6 27.1

NLO: Soa Island [name: NM 245 193]

Iona [name: NM 27 24]

Torran Rocks [name centred NM 28 13]

Tiree [name centred NM 00 45].

Formerly entered as Site no. 1 at cited location NM 2420 1920 [N56 17 W6 27.4].

Possibly on map sheets NM21NE, or NM21SE.

CATHCART PARK ran on to 'Sheep Island', one of the Torran Rocks near Iona on the morning of Monday last week (15 April 1912). Cargo of salt from Runcorn in Lancashire to Wick. The 11 crew escaped in two boats. Forepart seriously damaged

Source: Oban Times, April 1912.

(Classified as steel steamship, with cargo of salt: date of loss cited as 15 April 1912). Cathcratpark [Cathcart Park]; this vessel stranded on Sheep Rock , Torran Rocks.

Registration: Greenock. Built 1897. 840grt. Length: 63m. Beam: 9m.

(Location of loss cited as N56 14.0 W6 23.0).

I G Whittaker 1998.

The location assigned to this record is essentially tentative. Sheep Island is presumably to be equated with Soa Island, which is situated to the W of the end of the Ross of Mull and to the NW of the widely-dispersed Torran Rocks.




The Cathcartpark was a 453nt steel steamship built by Carmichael & McLean of Greenock in the Cartsdyke West Yard 5. She was owned by the Cathcart Steamer Fleet, a subsidiary of what was to become the Denholm Line. She was launched in August 1897.

All ships belonging to the Denholm Line were named after parks, originally the six parks in Greenock until the fleet became larger than six ships, at which point parks from other towns were adopted. However, the Cathcartpark proved a very expensive name to telegraph due to its length, which resulted in shorter names from 1897 onwards. The Cathcartpark represented the development of a budding venture for the Denholm Line, who only began introducing steamships to their fleet in 1882. The Cathcartpark was a steamship with auxiliary sails, paving the way for fully steam powered ships a few years later.

 She was en route from Runcorn to Wick with a cargo of salt when she ran aground on the Torran Rocks, near Iona, on 15th April 1912, same day as the sinking of the Titanic. The Cathcartpark's bow was badly damaged, and she quickly took on water, developing a 45 degree list. Captain Thomas Blair and the 11 crew-members were able to escape to shore in the ship's boats, with one boat landing on Iona and the other on the mainland of Mull.

 The news was sent by telegram from Iona to London via Oban. The wreck was first reported in the London Standard on 16th April 1912, detailing that her forehold was full of water. By the 17th, the Standard reported her decks awash even at low water. Salvage experts could not get to work for a few days due to the strong seas which gradually broke the ship apart, turning her keel up and causing the hull plates to part. She was listed in the Overdue Market at being down for 50 guineas to the per cent after two days for reinsurance purposes, rising to 90 guineas after three days. On the 20th, the London Standard stated "the steamer Cathcart Park [...] is in a hopeless position and is off the market", having been declared a Total Loss Only. By then it was clear that saving the ship was an impossibility and the Cathcartpark was abandoned. At time of loss, the vessel and her cargo were assessed as being worth £12,000. 

  Although the wreck was reportedly located a number of years ago, the location was not published. It was not until a group of divers diving from Fyne Pioneer found wreckage off the Torran Rocks in July 2014 that the Cathcartpark was open for use by sports divers. The Denholm Line is still in operation today.

 The wreckage of the Cathcartpark lies spread over a series of gullies just off the Torran Rocks. The deepest wreckage is to be found at the bottom of the gullies in about 22 metres, with the shallowest points higher up the reef at 8 metres. The most distinctive part of the wreck is the remains of the boilers in a sandy hollow at 16 metres, where several metal pipes stand vertically from the seabed up to 12 metres. Also visible in this area are the remains of the coal store and flanges. Exploring deeper down the gully from the boiler, divers can swim along the prop shaft with the prop still in place, slightly left of the winch block at 22 metres. Swimming up the rocky sides of the gully, there are portholes, copper pipes and other debris hidden in the kelp. The next gully along hides lifeboat davits and other wreckage.

 The local sea life is varied, with nudibranchs on the kelp, sea urchins, anemones and squat lobsters.

 Fyne Pioneer



Also reported by Tyneside 114 British Sub Aqua Club


SS Cathcart Park in the BSAC mag

I've just read in the BSAC mag of the long search for the Cathcart Park and how with just one possible mark left to search Tyneside BSAC managed to locate it. 

Exciting story of wreck detective work and a fantastic effort from the search team pooling all that information but I'm a little confused why they didn't just lob the shot on the last possible mark that was 6 miles from where they were searching straight away as I gave them that GPS position for the wreck a couple of years ago? maybe it would have spoiled the story for the mag and I'm a great believer in never let the truth get in the way of a good story, but come on, would it have been so difficult to acknowledge that one of the 'few divers' that had dived it and kept the position 'a closely guarded secret' actually gave you (and a few others) the position for the wreck?

to set the record straight to my knowledge it was first dived by someone I know well who indeed never revealed the position. we had also been looking for the Cathcart Park and Nyland and had spent about 10 years looking with mag and sidescan and multiple drift dives before a chance conversation with a very nice elderly chap I bumped into whilst walking my dog on Iona, mentioned his father going aboard the Cathcart Park and pointed me to the right location (sometimes local knowledge is everything). Apparently his father maintained that they went onboard after the crew departed and if the crew had not abandoned ship so hastily they could have backed her off on the rising tide before she became a total loss and she remained afloat for a couple of days. So I suspect she was stripped before she sank by some of the enterprising locals.

I confess the joy of finally locating the wreck after 10 years of searching was slightly tempered by finally locating her about 100yds from where we originally thought it would be. if only the tide had been flowing in the opposite direction on our very first drift looking for it...

PS the sketch is missing the debris field to the south of the rock