Highlands & Islands

Objects related to Lewis' Iolaire Disaster sought

School pupils look out to the site of the Iolaire Disaster Image copyright he Iolaire Memorial Project
Image caption A series of events are planned to mark the anniversary of the Iolaire Disaster, including a project involving school pupils

Items connected to a maritime disaster that came just months after the end of World War One have been sought for new exhibition.

The yacht Iolaire was wrecked on a reef called the Beasts of Holm just off the Isle of Lewis in the early hours of 1 January 1919.

The ship was carrying home hundreds of sailors following the end of World War One. Of the 280 on board, 205 died.

Museum nan Eilean in Stornoway on Lewis is preparing the exhibition.

It will run from late 2018 until early 2019 in the new museum at Lews Castle and is part of a larger series of events by a number of organisations marking the centenary of the disaster.

The planned events include a project involving local schoolchildren.

There are several artefacts relating to the Iolaire in the museum's collection already, but staff have sought objects and papers from the descendants of those caught up in the disaster for inclusion in the new exhibition.

A spokesperson for the museum said: "At the present time we plan to take objects as loans from their owners during the exhibition period rather than as permanent additions to the museum collection.

"If you are the owner of anything relating to the Iolaire which you think may be suitable for display, please let us know by email or post.

"Please include photographs of the object and a full description as well as your contact details."

The spokesperson added: "Please don't bring any objects or original paperwork to the museum as unfortunately our staff will not be able to accept them for consideration."

The museum's exhibition committee will consider all objects nominated by 31 January 2018 and will keep in contact with owners to let them know progress.

Dark night

Most of those killed in the Iolaire Disaster were from the islands of Lewis and Harris.

The last survivor of the Iolaire - which means "eagle" in Gaelic - died in 1992.

The yacht set sail from Kyle of Lochalsh on the west Highlands mainland on New Year's Eve 1918.

Making its final approach into Stornoway harbour on a dark night and in a strong gale, it changed course at the wrong point.

With the lights of the harbour in sight, the ship struck rocks at full speed and immediately began to tilt, filling up with water.

Although the stern of the boat was at one point just six metres (20ft) from land, many of the men onboard were weighed down by their heavy uniforms and were unable to swim ashore.

The next morning the bodies that had been recovered or washed up were laid out for families to identify.

The cause of the disaster was never conclusively determined. A public inquiry was unable to establish the reasons for the accident.

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