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Service held to mark 100th anniversary of Iolaire tragedy

More than 200 men died when the ship hit rocks off the coast of Lewis in 1919.

Hundreds of people have remembered the deaths of those killed when the HMY Iolaire sank off the coast of Lewis 100 years ago.

The ship hit The Beasts of Holm rocks, around 20 yards from Stornoway, as it brought men home from the First World War on January 1, 1919.

More than 200 men from the Western Isles perished in the disaster, along with the ship's crew.

A commemorative service was held at midday on Tuesday to mark the centenary of the tragedy.

Attendees included islanders, descendants of the men who died, Prince Charles, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, rear admiral John Weale, and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar convener Norman A Macdonald.

Conducted by the very revd Dr Angus Morrison, the service included a reading of Isaiah 43 1-7 by Prince Charles, The Iolaire Lament played by Stornoway piper Finlay Macleod, and The Iolaire Centenary Prayer, which was composed and led by the minister.

The end of a two minute silence was marked by a reveille by Royal Marine bugler James Trowbridge.

https://stv.tv/news/highlands-islands/1434226-iolaire-tragedy-still-haunts-isles-100-years-on/ | default

A new sculpture to commemorate the Iolaire, adjacent to the current memorial, was also unveiled during the service.

The sculpture features a bronze depiction of a coiled heaving line which references the heroism of John Finlay Macleod, who swam ashore with a rope to rescue 40 of the 79 men who were saved.

As the service took place on land, a similar event was held on board Caledonian MacBrayne's MV Loch Seaforth ferry near where the Iolaire hit the rocks.

More than 500 people were on board, including schoolchildren from the Western Isles who threw 201 red carnations into the sea.

https://stv.tv/news/highlands-islands/1433833-iolaire-tragedy-100-years-on-feature/ | default

Ms Sturgeon, said: "As we welcome in the New Year, today in Stornoway we rightly look back 100 years and remember those lost on the Iolaire - a tragedy that involved so many, so close to shore and, for most of the men, so close to home.

"We reflect on those who perished and how survivors, family, friends and the wider communities on Lewis, Harris and Berneray must have felt. It may have been a century ago but the legacy of the Iolaire will never be forgotten.

"I was honoured to be part of the commemorations and meet descendants."

Remembrance: Wreaths were laid by the monument.
Remembrance: Wreaths were laid by the monument. Murdo Maclean

Professor Norman Drummond, chair of WW100 Scotland and the Scottish Commemorations Panel, added: "Today was a very poignant and fitting WW100 Scotland commemoration of the Iolaire tragedy as we remember the events of 100 years ago.

"Trying to imagine the relief and excitement of the men and their families on their return and the sorrow that was to follow is beyond comprehension for many of us.

"The Iolaire remains one of the worst UK maritime disasters of the 20th Century."

https://stv.tv/news/highlands-islands/1434222-descendants-speak-of-the-impact-of-iolaire-disaster/ | default

Robert Mackinnon has served in the coastguard for 25 years and his grandfather - who he is named after - was among the survivors.

The 56-year-old, of Tarbert, said: "I'm here today for two reasons - one is to lay a wreath on behalf of the coastguard.

"The second is my grandfather was a survivor of the Iolaire, who secured a rope and after all that managed to walk 50 miles back to Harris, during the night, with sleet and howling gale.

"You can imagine what was going through his mind after seeing that disaster happen before his eyes."

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