Io­laire cen­te­nary: ‘A tragedy that in­volved so many, so close to home’

● Stur­geon and Prince at­tend com­mem­o­ra­tion

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By CONOR RIOR­DAN news­[email protected]­

Hun­dreds of peo­ple, in­clud­ing First Min­is­ter Nicola Stur­geon and Prince Charles, gath­ered at the Io­laire Me­mo­rial in Stornoway for a cer­e­mony yes­ter­day to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of one of the coun­try’s worst mar­itime dis­as­ters. The HMY Io­laire hit the rocks just yards from the Lewis shore­line.

The Duke of Rothe­say and First Min­is­ter Nicola Stur­geon have joined com­mem­o­ra­tions to mark 100 years since the HMY Io­laire dis­as­ter.

Only 79 of the 283 pas­sen­gers on board the ship are be­lieved to have sur­vived when it smashed into rocks near Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis dur­ing the early hours of 1 Jan­uary, 1919.

The men had been re­turn­ing home to Lewis, Har­ris and Bern­eray, hav­ing sur­vived the First World War.

Crowds gath­ered at the me­mo­rial site yes­ter­day to mark a cen­tury since the dis­as­ter. Prince Charles gave a read­ing at the ser­vice and met with de­scen­dants, while Ms Stur­geon also spoke with mem­bers of the pub­lic. They both laid wreaths at a mon­u­ment that over­looks the scene of the tragedy, as did rep­re­sen­ta­tives from emer­gency ser­vices and other or­gan­i­sa­tions.

A note left by the Prince read: “In spe­cial re­mem­brance of your ser­vice and sac­ri­fice.”

Ms Stur­geon said: “It may have been a cen­tury ago, but the legacy of the Io­laire will never be for­got­ten.”

Psalms were sung in Gaelic and English dur­ing the cer­e­mony, as was the na­tional an­them. Prayers and mo­ments of si­lence also ran through the event.

A new sculp­ture to com­mem­o­rate the Io­laire, ad­ja­cent to the me­mo­rial, was shown to Prince Charles.

It fea­tures a bronze de­pic­tion of a coiled heav­ing line, ref­er­enc­ing the acts of John Fin­lay Macleod who swam out with a

rope to res­cue 40 of the 79 men who were saved.

One of the wreath-bear­ers, Lt Ali­son Ross of the Royal Navy, is his great-great niece through mar­riage.

The 29-year-old from Great Bern­era said: “I’m so glad I could be here with the Navy, but also with my great-aunt, stand­ing shoul­der to shoul­der with the com­mu­nity. It was re­ally quite an hon­our.

“Ev­ery sin­gle vil­lage on the Isle of Lewis was af­fected by the dis­as­ter.

“It’s such a shame that peo­ple

weren’t able to talk about it for decades af­ter­wards.

“So it’s re­ally in­cred­i­ble now that 100 years later the whole com­mu­nity can come to­gether.”

Artists Will Maclean, Mar­ian Leven and Arthur Wat­son also un­veiled a work that bears the names of those lost and the com­mu­ni­ties they came from, as well as a bronze wreath com­posed of mar­itime in­signia.

Robert Mackin­non has served in the coast­guard for 25 years and his grand­fa­ther, who

he is named af­ter, was among the sur­vivors.

The 56-year-old from Tar­bert said: “I’m here to­day for two rea­sons – one is to lay a wreath on be­half of the coast­guard.

“The sec­ond is my grand­fa­ther was a sur­vivor of the Io­laire, who se­cured a rope and af­ter all that man­aged to walk 50 miles back to Har­ris, dur­ing the night, with sleet and a howl­ing gale.

“You can imag­ine what was go­ing through his mind af­ter see­ing that dis­as­ter hap­pen

be­fore his eyes.” As events took place on land, a sim­i­lar com­mem­o­ra­tion was held on board Cale­do­nian Macbrayne’s MV Loch Seaforth ferry near where the Io­laire hit the rocks.

More than 500 peo­ple were on board, in­clud­ing school­child­ren from the West­ern Isles who threw 201 red car­na­tions into the sea.

The oc­ca­sion ended with a diver tak­ing a wreath to the site where the ship sank.

“Ev­ery sin­gle vil­lage on the Isle of Lewis was af­fected by the dis­as­ter. It’s such a shame that peo­ple weren’t able to talk about it for decades ...”

LT ALI­SON ROSS Wreath bearer

0 Prince Charles and First Min­is­ter Nicola Stur­geon both laid wreaths in re­mem­brance to those who lost their lives in the early hours of 1 Jan­uary, 1919

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