The ship's bell and engine plate recovered from the vicinity of the Iolaire
The ship's bell and engine plate recovered from the vicinity of the Iolaire

Marking the loss of 280 men at new exhibition

An exhibition commemorating the centenary of the loss of HMY lolaire nearly a century ago is to open next week.

The Iolaire was carrying hundreds of Royal Naval Reserve members who had been granted leave to visit their loved ones on Lewis, Harris and Berneray.

The vessel foundered on rocks close to Stornoway harbour resulting in the deaths of 201 of the 280 men on board, on 1 January 1919.

The new exhibition An Iolaire – The Iolaire examines the circumstances of the disaster, its immediate impact and the long-term effects on the people of the Outer Hebrides, and is being held at Museum nan Eilean Lews Castle on Tuesday, 2 October.

The ship’s bell and engine plate recovered from the vicinity of the Iolaire

Objects on show will include a life preserver belonging to the youngest survivor, Donald Maciver of North Tolsta, medals awarded to John Finlay Macleod of Ness whose bravery in carrying a heaving line ashore saved dozens of lives, and a panel from the Great Tapestry of Scotland commemorating those lost.

Documents from the Tasglann nan Eilean collections relating to the Iolaire Disaster Fund will also be displayed, showing the donations which came in from around the world and how they were disbursed to those in need.

A flare gun recovered in the vicinity of the wreck by a diver in 2012

Nick Smith, heritage manager for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said ‘As we approach the centenary of the tragic loss of so many lives it is appropriate that Museum nan Eilean has worked with people here and further afield to bring together an exhibition which tells the story of the Iolaire.

‘We hope that the exhibition will highlight a disaster which is little known outside the islands and that residents will also discover more about a period in the history of the Outer Hebrides that continues to have a deep impact on lives to this day.

‘We would also like to recognise the financial support of the Museums Galleries Scotland World War One Commemoration Fund through which the Museum, Acair and An Lanntair have worked in partnership to develop commemoration activities.’