Ross & Cromarty War Memorials

IOLAIRE DISASTER - More Info

A naval ship hits the rocks, 284 men on board, 200 are drowned - yards from shore - how did it happen.

FIRST, it was after 9.00pm at night, on 31st December, 1918, and the Great War had only just ended a few weeks before. The men were going home for New Year 1919.

SECOND, there were too many of them at Ullapool for the ferry of the day, the SS Sheila. This was further aggravated by the arrival of two more trains of men.

THIRD, it was decided to use a luxury yacht (HMY Iolaire) which the Admiralty had been using.

FOURTH, it was night-time, in winter, and there was rough weather brewing.

FIFTH, the Captain, and Officers on the Iolaire had never navigated into Stornoway before, and it was dark, and stormy.

SIX, the yacht had only two lifeboats and not enough lifebelts.

All these things combined and the Iolaire to ran aground on to rocks just off the port. It was said, in one report, that the men were only 20 feet from shore, another said 'yards'.

Click on THE LIST is of those drowned

or 'Web List' - drawn up by Stornoway Historical Society

or 'Walk to Monument' by Glasgow Gaelic Choir - described as 'a lament of unsurpassed beauty' - it will haunt you.

and/or hear 'Lament for the Iolaire', a piobaireachd written by P/M Donald MacLeod MBE and played by Chris Eyre.

THE LIST             Web List             A Walk to the Monument

Lament for the Iolaire

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