Iolaire story is 200 tales of individual tragedy
More than 200 lives were lost when HMY Iolaire hit rocks at the Beasts of Holm on January 1 1919, in a tragedy that cut so deeply it was not publicly discussed by islanders for decades.
Now a performance using documents, poetry and music relating to the survivors and men who perished is taking place at An Lanntair in Stornoway tonight and tomorrow.
Ahead of the 100th anniversary this New Year, musical duo Duncan Chisholm and Julie Fowlis have been extensively researching the lives of all on board the Iolaire on that tragic night and have compiled a 90-minute show to tell the story of the tragedy through the men who experienced it.
Miss Fowlis said: “When we started the research, one of the best pieces of advice we got was to let the men who survived tell the story rather than us.
“When you start to break down one individual story and then another individual story, you can start to feel the sense of loss and to a small community it is unthinkable that that could happen.”
A piano and string quartet will join the musicians in the show entitled An Treas Suaile, The Third Wave. The title is a reference to the story of John MacLeod, who waited for the third wave of a swell to carry him to shore to secure a rope from the vessel to land, which in turn saved the lives of many on board.
Mr Chisholm said: “Ultimately it is a tragic tale already, but made more so by the time of year and the proximity to home. It was on people’s doorsteps.
“If you were going to tell the story of the Iolaire properly you’d be telling 280 stories.” The event has sold out for both nights.
Further performances are to take place in Glasgow on January 24, and in Inverness on January 27.
HMY Iolaire hit rocks on January 1 1919