Great Tapestry on show for centenary of Iolaire tragedy

A panel from the Great Tapestry of Scotland depicting the Iolaire disaster of 1 January 1919 will be on display at Museum nan Eilean Lews Castle as part of an exhibition marking the tragedy.

The loan which has been agreed between the museum and the Great Scottish Tapestry Trust will enable visitors to the exhibition to see a unique example of public remembrance of those on board the Iolaire.

The Iolaire was carrying sailors who had fought in the First World War back to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides on Hogmany, 1918. She departed Kyle of Lochalsh, but at 2.30am on New Year’s Day, she hit the infamous rocks known as the Beasts of Holm, and sank, just a mile away from the safety of Stornoway Harbour. At least 201 of the 283 men onboard died.

The Tapestry as a whole is composed of 160 hand stitched panels which depict the history of Scotland since 8500BC, designed by artist Andrew Crummy and made by over 1000 volunteers from across the country.

It has been exhibited across Scotland, including in the Scottish Parliament. Parts of the Tapestry have previously been seen in the Outer Hebrides at Museum nan Eilean Uist and Barra on the Isle of Benbecula.

The panel commemorating the loss of the Iolaire was stitched during 2012 and 2013 in Harris and South Uist by Tracey MacLeod, Moira MacPherson, and Gillian Scott-Forest.

Nick Smith, heritage manager at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: ‘We are grateful to the Great Scottish Tapestry Trust for agreeing to loan this panel and for their support and assistance as the people of Lewis and Harris prepare to remember the centenary of the loss of the Iolaire.’

Jan Rutherford of the Great Scottish Tapestry Trust, said: ‘The Trustees were deeply moved to know that the Iolaire panel from The Great Tapestry of Scotland is to be displayed at the heart of this exhibition at Museum nan Eilean to commemorate the disaster.

‘The work of the artist Andrew Crummy and the stitchers who created this hauntingly beautiful panel has brought the Iolaire back to the attention of an international audience who had perhaps lost sight of this moment in history over the years. People view the panel – stitched with great care and love – at temporary exhibitions across the country, learn its story and respond with great emotion.

‘Many walk away in tears. All involved with the Great Tapestry are delighted that we have been able to send it on loan for this occasion.’

Museum nan Eilean’s exhibition The Iolaire will open on Tuesday 2 October, preceded by a private view in the evening of 1 October.

Click HERE for more details about obtaining tickets for an event to mark the centenary of the tragedy.