The Queen of the Seas meets the Lord of the Isles – HMS Montrose encounters her civilian cousin
During the recent Exercise Joint Warrior, and in subsequent weapon firings and submarine training off the West Coast of Scotland, the warship HMS Montrose spent many weeks operating around the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
On her travels, she repeatedly passed the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry MV Lord Of The Isles, a car and passenger ferry that operates around the islands of the North West of Scotland.
The Type 23 frigate passes countless ferries throughout the world, but this one was rather more special for the ship, as both vessels share a common link dating back to when they were both launched over 2 decades ago, namely the lady who launched them both – Lady Rifkind.
In the Spring of 1989, The Rt Hon Malcolm Rifkind was the Secretary of State for Scotland, and MP for Edinburgh Pentlands, and his wife Edith was asked to launch the brand new ferry.
Having been built in Port Glasgow for CalMac, the LOTI (as she is affectionately known) has been employed in Scottish seas ever since, on a variety of routes, although she mainly operates from Oban, in Argyll and Bute.
Conversely, although HMS Montrose is the most Scottish ship in the Fleet, she is only able to visit Scottish waters once or twice a year, as she is based in Devonport naval base in the South West of England.
The frigate itself is named after the Duke of Montrose, who takes his title from the ancient town of Montrose in Angus, and – just like the Lord Of The Isles – was built on the Clyde.
In July 1992, and with Malcolm Rifkind having been appointed Secretary of State for Defence three months previously, his wife Edith duly broke the traditional bottle of champagne over the bows of Montrose in Yarrows Shipbuilders to launch the ship, and thus started a relationship with the sailors on board that endures today.
Since Sir Malcolm (as he now is) was elected as the MP for Kensington and Chelsea in 1997, he and Lady Rifkind now divide their time between London and Scotland, but this geographical separation does not prevent the excellent ongoing relationship between HMS Montrose and her sponsor, and Lady Rifkind is still regularly in contact with the ship, as she has been for the past 21 years.
The chance meeting between Lady Rifkind’s two ships was not lost on HMS Montrose’s Commanding Officer, Commander James Parkin, he said:
“When we first encountered the Lord Of The Isles off Lochboisdale, it instantly rang some bells.
“Once I realised our shared connection, I realised how rare it must be for a passenger vessel and a warship to be launched by the same person, and then encounter each other at sea over 20 years later.
“It was wonderful for Montrose to meet her Scottish cousin again, and I was delighted to be able to inform Lady Rifkind of the meeting.
“After we return from our operational deployment in 2014, I look forward our returning to Scottish waters to further cement our connections up here.”