The man who paved the way for island travel

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This month we look at Hutcheson’s monument.

This granite obelisk stands on the north end of the island of Kerrera overlooking Ardantrive Bay. It can be seen from Oban and the surrounding area, and is a monument to David Hutcheson, a steamship owner who paved the way for travel between the Hebrides. D & A Hutcheson were the forerunners to Caledonian MacBrayne, the west coast ferry service operator.

Steamboats have played an important part in the history of the west coast. They not only supplied the islands with necessities, but also brought tourism. They opened up the coast and one of the places to benefit was Oban. In the 18th century Johnston and Boswell visited Oban which was little more than a hamlet with an inn but by the time the Caledonian Canal was completed in 1822, it was a mecca for those who wished to travel the ‘Royal Route’ by steamer to Inverness.

Hutcheson was born in 1799 in Inverkeithing, Fife, but the family moved to Port Glasgow. He was related to the owners of the J & G Burns Steamship Company, where he worked his way up from a clerk to a manager and partner, before going into business with his brother Alexander in 1848.

Another member of the company was David MacBrayne. Hutcheson and his partners acquired Burns shipping lines which served the Highlands and the Hebrides. They opened new routes and bought over other businesses, becoming the largest shipping company serving the area. In 1855 they launched Iona, a purpose-built paddle steamer. The company continued to thrive and by the late 1870s had fifteen ships.

Hutcheson retired in 1876 while Alexander retired two years later, leaving MacBrayne as the sole owner. He died in Glasgow in 1881 but was buried at Pennyfuir Cemetery between Dunstaffnage and Oban.
The monument to commemorate Hutvheson was erected in 1883.