24th July 1812

Doomed paddle steamer PS Comet is launched

The Comet, which carried passengers between Glasgow and Greenock, was Europe’s first commercially successful steamboat. However, after being launched in 1812, it was in service for just eight years before being sunk. It was named in honour of a comet that had been visible to the naked eye for around nine months the previous year.

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Having proved its viability on the Clyde, the Comet’s range was increased – and so was its size – and, by 1820, it was sailing from Fort William at 5am every Monday morning. The route to Glasgow took it by way of “Appin, Oban, Easdale, Crinan, Lochgilphead, Rothsay, Greenock and a number of different Ferries on the coast leading to Glasgow so that by this conveyance the Public can be carried from the West Highlands to the East Coast, and from thence to the Capital of Scotland, in a most cheap and expeditious manner,” according to an advertisement in the Inverness Courier of 11 May that year.

Oban, which was on the route to be served by the paddle steamer Comet

PS Comet grounded

In December of that year, Scotland was hit by high winds and, reported the Inverness Journal and Northern Advertiser on the 15th of the month, “the Comet steam boat was forced from her anchor at Fort William, and driven upon a bank, by a violent gale on Friday.”

Later that month, on the 26th, the Star had more bad news: “Glasgow, Dec 22 – Friday, the Comet steam-boat, on her way home from Fort William to Glasgow, at half-past four in the afternoon, while passing through Dorishmore, at the point of Craignish Rock, was struck with a heavy squall, which laid her on her beam-ends, and in ten minutes, owing to the great current of tide and high seas and wind, was laid broadside on the rocks. Every exertion was made for the landing of the passengers and men, which was safely accomplished. On Saturday morning she was a complete wreck.”



Other events that occured in July

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