In the Herald - Mystery of the SS Kaffir wreck

Date Published 
Wed 6 Jul 2022

A couple of weeks ago, Irvine Camera Club decided to take a saunter down to the shipwreck of the SS Kaffir, whose decaying remains sit broken in two and jutting awkwardly from the sea just north of Ayr harbour.  We had chosen the time carefully to coincide with a low tide so that we could get a clear view of the Kaffir’s mast and structure.

There are many tall tales and a certain amount of myth and mystery that surrounds the story of how the Clyde puffer went aground in September 1974.  She has remained stranded on the shoreline ever since.  It is believed that while the boat’s captain and the deckhand had been drinking in a local pub, the engineer had arrived at the harbour and set off, assuming that the crew were already onboard.  Unfortunately, the engineer decided to have a go himself, but he struggled to navigate out of the harbour.  He panicked when he couldn’t fine the skipper and before the puffer could be intercepted by the harbour pilot boat, it ran aground.

Efforts were made to re-float her but she had sustained too much damage and was given up to the sea.  Her cargo of coal was recovered but after almost 40 years the Kaffir lies broken and ravaged by the sea.

Needless to say, the wreck is a popular subject for local photographers.  On this particular visit the weather wasn’t great with a drizzly rain dampening our spirits as we clambered across the rocky shoreline towards the ghostly wreck.  We also quickly realised that the tide was already turning.  It is very easy to get absorbed in taking photographs, and a few of us realised a little too late that the water had come in behind us, leaving us somewhat stranded!  Fortunately it was too deep and with some quick calf deep wading we were back on dryish land.

The rain stopped and the sun burst through the gloom, creating wonderful shafts of light which magically highlighted the outline of Arran.  While some of us focused almost exclusively on the Kaffir, others took advantage of the light to make some portraits and to take photos of the industrial architecture in that part of Ayr.  Details on the shoreline also provide an interesting counterpoint to the main attraction.

If you would like to come along to any of our photowalks, you can find all of our details on our website

Until next week, enjoy the light!