SCOTLAND'S last surviving lightship has been saved from the scrapyard for the princely sum of £1.
The maritime charity which has become the new owner of the North Carr Lightship, currently rusting in a dock on the banks of the River Tay, now faces the daunting task of raising the 500,000 needed to restore the vessel and transforming the ship into a viable visitor attraction on the city's waterfront.
The lightship, built on the Clyde in 1933, was stationed off the notorious North Carr rocks, a mile and half from Fife Ness, until 1975, a crucial part of the life saving network operated by the Northern Lighthouse Board.
But 51 years ago the lightship was at the centre of one of Scotland's worst lifeboat tragedies, when all eight crew members of the Broughty Ferry lifeboat drowned after their boat capsized in raging seas while going to aid the North Carr, adrift in a severe gale after breaking free from its moorings off St Andrews Bay. The six men on board the North Carr were later winched to safety by an RAF helicopter.
After being decommissioned, the lightship was briefly used as a floating museum in Anstruther before being towed to Dundee ten years ago.
Fears were raised last year that the North Carr was destined for the scrapyard after the English-based Maritime Volunteer Service (MVS), which had inherited it put it up for sale. But it has now been confirmed that MVS has sold the lightship for only 1 to Taymara, a Dundee-based maritime charity also involved in rehabilitating young people with drug and alcohol problems. The charity plans to turn the 250-ton vessel into floating exhibition, conference and function venue.
Bob Richmond, a Taymara trustee, said local volunteers had spent 55,000 five years ago repainting the superstructure of the vessel, but were left dumbfounded last August when MVS put the boat up for sale.
He said: "The local people who had worked on the boat were so annoyed that we resigned and formed our own charity, Taymara. We put in a bid to buy the vessel but I understand it has taken until now to establish clean titles to the North Carr. And now we have established ownership, we can press ahead with our plans to restore and modernise the boat.
"There has been no maintenance done for about 12 months, so she is looking a bit shabby. But it's really just surface rust.
"Our first task will be stop any further deterioration.
"But a vessel like that takes a great deal of money to maintain and she has to become viable in her own right. But we believe 500,000 is the maximum that will be required for what will be a long-term project." In the meantime, Taymara plans to use the boat as its headquarters.
Mr Richmond added: "There seems to be a great affection for the vessel locally … she saved countless lives in her time." A spokesman for MVS said: "We're not a vessel preservation society. We're focusing on active vessels that go to sea and train people."