HMY Iolaire

During my journeys on bicycle, foot, and boat through the Outer Hebrides it seems i have never been far away at all from a monument, cairn, or artwork commemorating struggle, resistance, heroism, or grief.

Not only are the stories and circumstances themselves profoundly moving, but the design of the memorials has often left me in awe of their overwhelming simplicity of design.

I am unable to comprehend the thought of surviving service in the Great War, being within sight of home and family onboard HMY Iolaire as she approached Stornoway, and then the horror of her running aground on rocks just off Holm.

The history of Lewis changed forever at 1.55am on 1 January 1919.

This installation, the exact shape and size of the vessel, commemorates the loss of the Iolaire. 280 posts. One for each person on board. 201 died. Portraits of the dead and of the survivors, and therein some utterly remarkable tales of heroism in those terrible winter seas as men tried to swim for their lives, hang in cafes, information centres, museums, and restaurants around the island. One of them, John F. Macleod from Ness saved 40 lives, swimming ashore with a heaving line, along which many of the survivors made their way to safety.

The poem ‘An Iolaire’, describes the wives of the sailors finding their men washed up on the shore the next day.

The Islands lost the best part of a generations worth of its young men that night.

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