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TITLE
Sinking of the Iolaire
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_IOLAIRE
PLACENAME
Stornoway
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ROSS: Stornoway
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
unknown
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
2035
KEYWORDS
First World War
disaster
disasters
drowning
drownings
accident
accidents
audio

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The navy vessel Iolaire (Eagle) sank off the coast of Lewis in 1918, when returning home with those ex-servicemen who had survived World War I. Of the two hundred and seventy three men on board only sixty-three survived. In this audio extract, a Stornoway resident recalls the tragedy.

'This is the story of the sinking of the Iolaire which was a naval vessel for naval personnel only. It sailed twice a day between Stornoway and Kyle during the First World War. It happened on New Year's Eve. We were at a party - quite a crowd of youngsters - and the night was so stormy that going home, after leaving the party, we had to hold on to each other. And we took each other home, each getting off at our own home, until we all arrived home. I was working in the Post Office at the time, in Stornoway, and on my way to work, the following morning, I met the girl MacAskill, whose brother was in the navy, and he arrived home in the early hours of the morning. He had been on the Iolaire, had swam ashore, and walked to his home which was about two miles from Shandwick.

You know, the Stornoway harbour, it's quite narrow at the entrance, and you turn round and it's a mile to the pier. Well, it was said that the captain, instead of turning round, he went straight across and beached. And I remember going along Shore Street and seeing lorries and carts with bodies piled up and tied with rope. Most of the Stornoway boys, their bodies had been taken to the country by their fathers, and it was quite a common thing to meet a cart going along Cromwell Street with a coffin. They were so short of coffins that eventually a boat came from Kyle with coffins. I heard - but I didn't see - I heard they were just boxes.

One man had a son in the army and a son in the navy. The naval boy was coming home on leave and he, of course, was on the Iolaire. He met his brother at Kyle and his brother said, 'It's a pity I couldn't get on the Iolaire and get home together', because they belonged to the country, miles from Stornoway. The brother said, 'Just wait a minute' he said. He went aboard the Iolaire, got an oilskin, his brother put it on over his kilt, went aboard the Iolaire, and the two of them were lost. It was dreadful. I sometimes wonder if I really saw it. But I did'

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Sinking of the Iolaire

ROSS: Stornoway

1980s

First World War; disaster; disasters; drowning; drownings; accident; accidents; audio

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

The navy vessel Iolaire (Eagle) sank off the coast of Lewis in 1918, when returning home with those ex-servicemen who had survived World War I. Of the two hundred and seventy three men on board only sixty-three survived. In this audio extract, a Stornoway resident recalls the tragedy.<br /> <br /> 'This is the story of the sinking of the Iolaire which was a naval vessel for naval personnel only. It sailed twice a day between Stornoway and Kyle during the First World War. It happened on New Year's Eve. We were at a party - quite a crowd of youngsters - and the night was so stormy that going home, after leaving the party, we had to hold on to each other. And we took each other home, each getting off at our own home, until we all arrived home. I was working in the Post Office at the time, in Stornoway, and on my way to work, the following morning, I met the girl MacAskill, whose brother was in the navy, and he arrived home in the early hours of the morning. He had been on the Iolaire, had swam ashore, and walked to his home which was about two miles from Shandwick. <br /> <br /> You know, the Stornoway harbour, it's quite narrow at the entrance, and you turn round and it's a mile to the pier. Well, it was said that the captain, instead of turning round, he went straight across and beached. And I remember going along Shore Street and seeing lorries and carts with bodies piled up and tied with rope. Most of the Stornoway boys, their bodies had been taken to the country by their fathers, and it was quite a common thing to meet a cart going along Cromwell Street with a coffin. They were so short of coffins that eventually a boat came from Kyle with coffins. I heard - but I didn't see - I heard they were just boxes.<br /> <br /> One man had a son in the army and a son in the navy. The naval boy was coming home on leave and he, of course, was on the Iolaire. He met his brother at Kyle and his brother said, 'It's a pity I couldn't get on the Iolaire and get home together', because they belonged to the country, miles from Stornoway. The brother said, 'Just wait a minute' he said. He went aboard the Iolaire, got an oilskin, his brother put it on over his kilt, went aboard the Iolaire, and the two of them were lost. It was dreadful. I sometimes wonder if I really saw it. But I did'