In the early hours of the morning of January 1st 1919, HMY Iolaire, travelling from Kyle of Lochalsh on the Scottish mainland to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis ran aground on rocks at Holm just outside the harbour at Stornoway. The real tragedy about her loss however, was that she was fully loaded (some speculate that she was in fact OVERloaded) with men of the island returning home having been released from service in the Navy at the end of World War 1. 205 men at least are known to have lost their lives - many within sight of their homes and with their loved ones sitting up eagerly awaiting their return.
Almost everyone on Lewis at that time was directly affected by her loss. Some villages lost a substantial part of their population. Mothers lost sons, husbands and sweethearts never came home, and an island which had already lost so many to the war, lost still more just when they thought they were safe to believe it was all over. The local people were faced with the terrible job of having to recover bodies from the shoreline over the following few days, and still others had to identify those found - a truly appalling task when the ravages of the rough seas are considered. To this day the tragedy remains close to the hearts of the people of Lewis
The loss of the Iolaire remains one of Britains worst ever peacetime disasters.
|Car ferry MV Isle of Lewis passes the spot where the Iolaire went aground|