The Prince Charles, Lord of the Isles (as The Prince of Wales is known when visiting the Western Isles of Scotland), today attended a Centenary Service on the Isle of Lewis to commemorate the loss of HMY Iolaire.
The Admiralty yacht HMY Iolaire sank on the approach to Stornoway Harbour on 1 January 1919, with the loss of 201 Islanders returning home following the end of World War One.
The ship hit ‘The Beasts of Holm’ rocks, around 20 yards from Stornoway’s coastline, as it brought men home. Of around 300 on board, over 200 men from Lewis and Harris died along with the crew.
Organised by WW100 Scotland in conjunction with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), the National Commemorative Service was attended by local people; Iolaire descendants, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon; Scotland’s most senior Naval Officer Rear Admiral John Weale and the Convener of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), Norman A Macdonald.
His Royal Highness laid a wreath and read a scripture at the service before unveiling a new sculpture to commemorate the Iolaire. Commissioned by An Lanntair, Stornoway’s arts hub, the sculpture features a bronze depiction of a coiled heaving line which references the heroism of John Finlay Macleod who swam ashore with a rope to rescue 40 of the 79 men who were saved.
It was created by artists Will Maclean, Marian Leven and Arthur Watson and bears the names of those lost and the communities they came from as well as a bronze wreath composed of maritime insignia.
The Lord of the Isles and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met Iolaire descendants and the 29-strong Royal Naval Guard. Descendants included Anne Frater whose great grandfather perished and Malcolm Macdonald whose grandfather died in the disaster. Malcolm has co-written a book about the tragedy ‘The Darkest Dawn’ which tracks the stories of all those on board. HRH The Lord of the Isles wrote the Foreword for the book – read it here.