Highlands & Islands

Communities affected by Iolaire Disaster could have memorial

School pupils look out to the site of the Iolaire Disaster Image copyright he Iolaire Memorial Project
Image caption A planned new memorial in Stornoway would direct people to the scene of the disaster in 1919

Every community that suffered losses in the Iolaire disaster nearly 100 years ago could have a sculpture remembering the 205 men who died.

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 boat was carrying home hundreds of sailors after the end of World War One.

The memorials are planned as part of events commemorating the centenary of the tragedy.

A number of communities in the Western Isles that were affected by the disaster have requested a memorial.

Most of those who died were from Lewis or Harris.

Organisers said the sculptures would be modelled on one planned for Stornoway on Lewis.

That memorial would act as a marker and have information boards about loss of the Iolaire and directions to the memorial site overlooking where the yacht was wrecked.

Heavy uniforms

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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