Band’s bon voyage to iconic Tobermory fishing boat

The Dawn Treader has featured on the cover of Skipinnish's last two albums.

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Skipinnish has paid a special song tribute to an iconic fishing boat leaving Tobermory Harbour for the last time after 32 years.

The Dawn Treader’s Farewell was composed by musician Angus MacPhail for well-know fisherman Alasdair ‘Steptoe’ MacLean, marking the occasion of his boat changing ownership after more than three decades and heading to Orkney.

The boat, which has the reputation of being the most photographed fishing vessel on the West Coast,  has featured on the front of Skipinnish’s last two albums, in two of its music videos and is on most of its merchandise.

Alasdair ‘Steptoe’ MacLean with his grandchildren standing proudly in front of The Dawn Treader.
Alasdair ‘Steptoe’ MacLean with wife Iona inside The Dawn Treader.
Tobermory’s legendary Dawn Treader out at sea.

Built by John Gaff of Girvan in 1988 especially for Alasdair, it has become an icon of Tobermory and of successful fishing over the years, said Angus.

The boat went up for sale in June and sold quickly, but after a few delays it only left Tobermory last week bound for her life with new owner Angus Sinclair. The band thought the boat would leave sooner, pushing them to record the fitting tribute during lockdown before the Dawn Treader sailed north.

Norrie Maciver was not able to do the recording at the time but the talented Rachel Walker stepped in to take the lead vocal, with Rory Grindlay putting together the recording and the video.

‘It was meant as a personal tribute to Alasdair and his family. Aladair is as much a legend as his boat. He is a very hardworking and respected fisherman. He’s also spent a lot of time looking after the Dawn Treader keeping her as spic and span as all those years ago. It must be the most photographed fishing boat on the West Coast.

‘The massive response we’ve had to the song has surprised me, it wasn’t meant for that, it really was just for Alasdair, but we might do something more with it now,’ said Angus who was just nine when he first stepped on board the Dawn Treader.

‘I remember clearly my first time on board. Steptoe was over at Tiree only a few weeks after he had got the boat and on anchor in the corner of Gott Bay. Myself and my father came alongside on the Skipinnish Maid and Steptoe gave us a tour of his new vessel. Dad had always held the MacLean family in the highest regard, and it was obvious on that day how proud he was of his young friend and fellow fisherman for having taken such a huge step forward by having a boat of that calibre and value built brand new. Thirty-two years on and much water under the keel, that day is clear in my mind,’ wrote Angus on a Facebook post introducing the song to fans.

The music video is on Skipinnish’s Facebook page at

The Facebook post had more than 2,000 likes in just hours with more than 300 comments and 900 shares.

In the weeks since the sale went through and the song was written, Alasdair has bought a  smaller boat and called it the Skipinnish Lass.

Alasdair ‘Steptoe’ MacLean’s daughter Marion MacLean told The Oban Times: ‘We are completely overwhelmed by the response to the song Angus has written in tribute of the Dawn Treader. The words capture perfectly the way we all feel about its departure from Tobermory. It is truly the end of an era, for dad himself, the family and even the town.

‘We’ve had messages of good luck from all around the world, and I’m sure the Dawn Treader will be in safe harbours and good hands in its new home in Orkney. Here’s to new beginnings and semi-retirement with the Skipinnish Lass!’

As for what comes next for Skipinnish, gigs postponed due to Covid are being scheduled for next year.

‘Lockdown has been a terrible time for so many artists and musicians, lots of things have been put on hold. We’ll see what comes next but we’re a resilient bunch,’ said Angus.