THE IOLAIRE – ISLE OF LEWIS- 1st. January 1919

No-one knew her name:  no-one thought to ask.

The engagement ring, found in the pocket of a drowned sailor, remained unclaimed.  Unpossessed.

The overloaded Iolaire sank within view of harbour lights, losing 205 war-weary survivors on the last stretch of their long journey back to Lewis.  To Harris.  Celebrations and reunions were in their minds.  Not death.  Not so close to home.

The morning of January 1st. 1919, they were seen dancing like sea-horses, onlookers said, their bodies tossed back and forth carelessly in frothing waves.

A woman among so many bereft.

Her ring, that token of promise, of unconditional  love, undelivered.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. During WW1 the Isles of Lewis and Harris lost more men per head of the population than anywhere else in Britain. These 300 souls had survived four years of war and were within sight of their homes, longing to get back on Hogmanay to their loved ones and safety. The Iolaire disaster mercilessly robbed over two hundred of them of life on their very doorstep. A more poignant event can scarcely be imagined; it was so painful that the islanders could not talk about it for years. My father-in-law, a school boy at the time, remembered going round the villages and crofts collecting for the widows and orphans – so many of them, so heart breaking. The war was ended and few in the outside world wanted to hear about such further death and sorrow. And so this tragic event was largely forgotten until recently. It deserves to be well remembered.

    1. Jude Hayland

      I hadn’t heard about the tragedy until a Radio 4 programme on New Year’s Day featured it – 100 years since the event. Thank you so much for these very personal comments and reflections on the desperately sad loss.

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