One of Britain’s most important historic vessels, preserved at Irvine’s Maritime Museum, has been reunited with its original bell thanks to a kind donation.

MV Kyles, which is believed to be the oldest Clyde-built vessel still afloat in the UK, was launched on March 12, 1872 by John Fullerton and Co. of Paisley and destined for life as a cargo coaster on the Clyde.

Although MV Kyles did indeed begin as a tender for the fishing fleet collecting catch from Clyde fishing boats and transporting it to railheads on the coast, the vessel went on to have a fascinating and changing working life.

Over the following 147 years and a number of structural adaptations made by some 24 owners to suit changing roles, the vessel and bell became parted until discovered by donor Carole Harries whilst moving house.

Mrs Harries unearthed the bell in the garage of her new house in Glamorganshire in the 1980s. The bell is thought to have been taken from the vessel when it laid in the Glamorganshire Canal between 1939 and 1944.

Matthew Bellhouse Moran, Curator at the Scottish Maritime Museum, said: “As well as being, we believe, the oldest Clydebuilt vessel still afloat in the UK, MV Kyles is fascinating and important for the structural changes made over such a long working life.

“Despite those changes though, much of the vessel is in original condition including the iron and steel hull and steel deck and we’re very grateful to Mrs Harries for donating what we believe to be the original bell.”

Kyles, which has retained the same name throughout, is recognised as one of Britain’s most important historic vessels and is included in the Designated Vessels list of the National Historic Ships Committee.