Monday, 10 March 2008

Images from the past

As you may be aware, I've been involved with digitising some of the history of my current location, the Isle of Lewis. One aspect is the Iolaire Disaster, which I have mentioned a few times on here. I am currently transferring the list of names into Blogger (, together with any portraits - and a picture of their gravestone.

On 1 January 1919, His Majesty's Yacht "Iolaire" was returning to Stornoway, carrying 280 sailors back to Lewis. It was the end of World War I, and they had seen up to 4 years of service, either on the high seas or at the Western Front. As Iolaire neared Stornoway, it veered off course and grounded on the Beasts of Holm, a reef just offshore, 2 miles south of the town. The weather was poor, with high winds and a high swell. Seventy-five managed to gain the shore, but when the ship sank, more than an hour after striking the reef, 205 perished. More than 60 of those were never recovered. The others were found on the shore, from Point in the north to Grimshader in the south.

Rather than a celebration of war's end and a new year, deep mourning hung over the island's villages. Some villages had lost up to 9 of its sons, and some families lost more than one. Even now, it is not a subject easily discussed. When I did a presentation to the Stornoway Historical Society in April 2006, outlining the work I had done, the Secretary remarked that all members present would have had a relative involved in the tragedy.

Last year, I went round the island's graveyards to photograph any gravestones of Iolaire victims. The date, 1 January 1919, makes them easily identifiable.


  1. Such a tragedy for those men after enduring years of war.  I am going to visit your blog.

  2. It is a very sad story that you share with us today.     Dawn

  3. katie39041@talktalk.net11 March 2008 at 18:33

    After spending a good couple of hours looking at Blogspot and Iolaire Disaster i found the history side of it fantastic, It is sad for all the familys that lost loved ones. But with these two sites they will never be forgotten. Thank you. You can be very proud of the work that you have done,
    love and hugs