There’s just over a month to go until the commemorative events to mark the centenary of the loss of HMY 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.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is hosting a civic ceremony on 31 December. Weather permitting, there will be a torchlight procession led by Lewis Pipe Band from the Stornoway Town Hall to Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais – leaving at 8.30pm. There will be 201 torches to represent the men who were tragically lost.
The sold out A Community Remembers event will start at 9.30pm at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais and will be broadcast live on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal and will also be streamed live on the internet at Iolaire Online.
The programme will include prayer, psalms, music – new and traditional and a 15 piece Royal Marine Band, plus readings in English and Gaelic.
The MCs for the evening will be Angus MacDonald (BBC) and Agnes Rennie (Acair). There is a relay into The Nicolson Institute which is also sold out.
Those who have secured tickets for these events are reminded to bring the email confirmation along with them to collect the tickets between Monday 3 and Friday 14 December (9-5pm) from the Comhairle buildings, Sandwick Road, Stornoway.
Unless an alternative arrangement has been agreed, any uncollected tickets by 5pm on Friday 14 December will be allocated to those on the extensive waiting list.
Due to the time of year and the likelihood of inclement weather, the organisers are advising the public to ensure that they come well prepared with appropriate clothing and footwear, particularly to the torchlight procession.
Several roads in the town will be closed to ensure pedestrian safety. The public are advised to travel with care.
For 31 December, there will be restrictions on parking within the town centre and the public are requested to make use of the parking across from the Comhairle buildings at Sandwick Rd and The Nicolson Institute Car Park off Smith Avenue. Stewards will be on hand to provide advice and guidance on parking.
The Scottish Commemoration Panel is holding a Memorial Service on 1 January 2019 (subject to weather conditions), at the Iolaire Memorial, Holm at 12noon. The service will be broadcast live on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal for those not in attendance.
Transportation by shuttle buses to the site will be arranged from The Nicolson Institute bus park. Further information on how to reserve a seat will be issued shortly.
The Holm road will be closed off and there will be no other vehicular access to the site. The Coastguard Rescue Service will be monitoring all coastal paths. The restrictions will be lifted one hour after the service finishes to allow general access to the memorial site.
At noon, there will also be a service on board the MV Loch Seaforth (please contact CalMac’s Stornoway Office for details on reserving tickets) led by Rev James MacIver, Stornoway Free Church, following which 201 children from across the islands will throw flowers into the sea. Due to the safety restrictions at Holm, there will be a number of tickets reserved for the service on board the MV Loch Seaforth for those with accessibility requirements.
Again, due to the time of year and the likelihood of inclement weather, the organisers are again advising the public to ensure that they come well prepared with appropriate clothing and footwear to the events on 1st January.
There may be restrictions on numbers depending upon the weather and other conditions on site. Those attending the service at Holm are reminded that they may be outside for upwards of one and half hours prior to the start of the service with no shelter available and no seating.
Parking in the town centre for 1 January will be free of charge and the public are again advised to make use of the parking across from the Comhairle at Sandwick Road and The Nicolson Institute Car Park off Smith Avenue. The CalMac Car Park will be for exclusive use of those going to the service on board MV Loch Seaforth.
All services are subject to weather conditions.