The Loftsman
Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
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Leith Shipyards

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PIONEER - Yard No 515 - Passenger Vehicle Ferry - Scottish Transport Group - Built 1974
M.V.PIONEER Ship No 515
 The M.V.PIONEER being launched from the Leith Shipyards of
Robb Caledon (Henry Robb) April 1974
Owners    Scottish Transport Group
Registered    Glasgow Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Ferry (Ro-Ro) Launched    01/04/1974
      Handed Over    07/08/1974
Ship Details          
Length Overall    67.5 metres Launch Details    
Length B.P.    61.0 metres Weather    
Beam    13.42 metres Time to Water    
Depth Mld     4.0 metres      
Draught    2.413 metres      
G.R.T.    1071 tonnes      
DWT    252 tonnes      
CREW     21      
Engines    2 x Mirrlees Blackstock Diesels built at Stockport, England, producing 1,700 S.H.P. each      
Props    2      
Speed    16 Knots      
Other known names   BRENDA CORLETT    
Current Status   still active in West Africa, since been reported that this fine old ship is now wasting away somewhere on the west African coast.    
Content on the M.V.PIONEER will be added as and when available. 
 The M.V.PIONEER underway at Mallaig July 2003-in this photograph by Tom McGrattan
and shown here by kind permission
Ships History
Once a ship had been built and launched she then had to be out-fitted, and then complete sea trials
before being handed over to her new owners, who would look to have that ship at sea, as long as possible to pay for her build costs and of course to make the company good profits.

To this end one company may have had no requirement for a particular ship after a time and would then sell her on just like any other disposable commodity.
Hence a ship may have had a few owners and would go through many changes and names during what was hoped for a long and successful working life.
The Twin Screw Ferry M.V. PIONEER was an order from the then called Scottish Transport Group which was in effect the Caledonian MacBryne Company but run under the auspices of the Scotland board of Trade or whatever it was that the politicians called themselves at that time.
The ferries were an integral way of life for the Scottish Islands and they needed good reliable ships to keep there way of life and economies going but there always seemed to be at the time a constant battle with Government as to whether the ships were really needed!
But it was the job of the shipyard to build the ship and to build it to the best possible standards a job given to the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb and so it was that this fine and well loved ship was laid down and the build commenced.
The ferry worked the Scottish Isles for a number of years before being sold on by MacBraynes. She was sold on to the Corlett group in 2004 and re-named for work in West Africa.
She was a special ship to the many Islanders that she serviced and with her small draught she was capable of going right into some of the berths that other ships could not go so she could dischargh cargo directly onto the piers. She could carry 218 passengers along with 32 cars at a time and she worked on most of the West Coast Isles. 
She cost around 1 Million British Pounds to build at her time of build in 1974 and this was a fair sum of money.
She is now called the 'Brenda Corlett', she is still sailing, largely unchanged apart from paint, in Equatorial Guinea.
The MV PIONEER as breda Corlett took part in a huge humanatarian operation in July 2006 to re-patriate Liberian refugees back home, the following is a quote from the time.
IT'S all a long way from ferrying daily commuters across the Clyde to Wemyss Bay on a cold, wet January morning. But Caledonian MacBrayne's former Rothesay ferry, MV Pioneer, has earned new fame for herself after playing an important part in returning refugees to their homeland off the war-torn west African coast. The ship, now owned by Corlett Lines and named Brenda Corlett, recently took almost three hundred Liberian refugees - and their belongings - home from the Ghanaian port of Tema, many returning after more than a decade in exile. The far-travelled ferry was chartered to lend assistance to a repatriation effort organised by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR). Liberia is still adjusting to democracy after years of devastating civil war, and the UNHCR has already helped some 73,000 of the country's refugees return home since 2004. Returning refugees have previously been taken home by air, but the charter of the Brenda Corlett meant those travelling back from Ghana could take with them belongings and possessions gathered during their years in exile. "I really feel happy to be going home. I have not seen my parents for 14 years and finally I will see them," said 28-year-old John Washington, who had worked at a hotel while in Ghana. The Pioneer's last CalMac sailings were in November 2003, and she was sold the following summer, in somewhat controversial circumstances. However, it wasn't until Christmas Eve of the following year that she finally left the Clyde for service between Sao Tome and Principe and later in The Gambia. The ferry was built in Leith in 1974 and served on almost all of CalMac's Clyde and Western Isles routes during her 29 years in Scotland, earning her a loyal following among enthusiasts of the Scottish shipping scene - though her window-rattling thrusters were not universally popular among householders and businesses along Rothesay's seafront!
For more on the MV PIONEER working in West Africa please see page 2
In time we shall have a lot more to go onto the pages of the M.V.PIONEER
We try here to give as full an account of her history as time and research permits, if you know of missing info or you have any photographs of her, then please get in touch and we shall update her story as we go along.
 The M.V.PIONEER at Wemyss Bay in a photo by Stuart MacKillop
Tales from the Ship
Here you will find the stories from the men and women who sailed on the ships, what was it really like to be working on a ship in a raging sea and in the pitch dark of night, the real stories some funny some sad, some good and some bad.

Dedicated to all the brave men and women who sailed the vessels from the Leith Shipyards.
The following is from Ian Fraser, who while delivering a ship to the small Islands off the coast of West Africa was invited to visit the ex PIONEER now called BRENDA CORLETT and very well thought of by the locals just as she was while working in Scotland.
 Ian seen above on her bridge - Note the original Ship's wheel
They have kept the original safety notices as well.
Different waters, Different name but same old Henry Robb built ship.
The Bridge looks pretty relaxed in this photograph by Ian Fraser
The bar and main lounge from the MV PIONEER now called Brenda Corlett.
More photographs to follow from Ian Fraser soon. 
Should you know of anyone who may have sailed on her, then please feel free to get in touch so that we can add the story here.
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0 #4 George Haworth 2014-04-17 05:08
Is this the pioner that was in fleetwood lancashire. ?
0 #3 Roy Crozier 2013-05-15 17:13
Brenda Corlett spotted in the floating dock at Douala in Cameroun on 29th April 2013. Now with dark blue hull. Unfortunately no decent photo was possible but good to see that she is still going strong
+3 #2 Ian Fraser 2012-07-16 22:45
I've just delivered the Austrheim to Tiko for Comatrans who own Pioneer and was taken all round her whilst both ships lay alongside I have several photos of her inside and out and she is still working very hard and perhaps a lot harder than she ever worked in Scotland.The people are so fond of her it reminded me of how people in Islay felt about her.
+1 #1 Gordon Reidie 2012-01-01 10:41
This ferry had a large passenger lounge and I seem to remember it being terrible colours blues and orange I think , also all the bulkheads put up by the joiners , including me , were asbestos inside , a white powder asbestos with formica on both sides . What a shame britain has all but given up shipbuilding ............

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