Willie Shand wonders what it might’ve been like to crossing the Beauly Firth in days gone by…
I was watching the cars and lorries steadily stream across the Kessock Bridge from the old pier at South Kessock crossing Beauly Firth this morning. I couldn’t help but wonder how long the queue might stretch if they all had to wait for the old four-car ferry of the 1950s.
The ferry service which had operated for some 500 years was to end in 1982 after the opening of the new cable-stay bridge. Before the bridge, the only alternative to the ferry was a long drive all the way round the Beauly Firth.
A Tragic History
This was regarded one of the safest crossings in the North of Scotland. But, as a wee memorial close to the old pier reminds us, it wasn’t without its tragedies.
In 1894, stormy conditions blew the ferry off course. Coastguards from South Kessock Station rushed to the rescue but when returning to shore both of the boats overturned taking with them the lives of three ferrymen and three coastguards.
Almost half a century earlier, in 1850, it appears the swell of the Firth was enough to make one passenger panic and jump overboard. Unfortunately, that passenger was a horse and, maybe more concerning to everyone else on board, attached to the end of its reigns was the ferryman!