Museum opens with story of the humble puffer
Historic photographs of puffer MV Spartan berthed at Ardrishaig and the Isle of Muck (1965) as well as at Iona (1968) feature in a new exhibition at the Scottish Maritime Museum.
The museum has welcomed visitors back for the first time in almost five months with the 100-ton, 66-foot long major new exhibit and visitor experience.
For the first time, visitors can now step inside the hold of MV Spartan, the last surviving Scottish-built puffer in Scotland, and immerse themselves in the story of the hundreds of puffers which performed a lifeline service delivering everything from cows, cars and cabbages to Scotland’s islands and remote coastal communities for more than a hundred years.
The permanent Spartan: Inside Out exhibition charts the evolution of the puffer, which came to dominate cargo trade around Scotland from the mid-1800s.
Named after the ‘puff, puff’ of spent steam spewing out of the boat’s funnel, puffers were designed to travel where larger vessels couldn’t. With their unique flat-bottomed hulls they traversed the canal highways of mainland Scotland and, where there was no suitable pier or jetty, they ‘beached’ at low tide, dropped their cargo and sailed away at high tide.
The exhibition features unseen photographs from the museum’s collection. These include images of early 1800s’ steam-powered boats through to the seagoing steam, and later diesel, puffers working from the 1870s up until 1994 when the last ‘puffer’ company, which also owned Spartan, Glenlight Shipping Ltd, ceased trading.
David Mann, director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, explained: ‘We’re delighted to welcome visitors back and open our doors with such a fantastic new experience based around Spartan, which was the first historic vessel in the museum’s collection when it opened back in 1983.
Spartan, alongside SY Carola, which is believed to be the world’s oldest seagoing steam yacht, is one of almost 50 of Scotland’s most important historic vessels, maritime artefacts and shipbuilding tools in the Scottish Maritime Museum’s new online collection of 3D models and 360° virtual tours designed to help preserve and increase public access to Scotland’s national maritime heritage collection. The museum is one of the first of such size in Scotland to embark on a major 3D scanning project to digitalise a whole collection.
The Spartan on the Crinan Canal at Ardrishaig.