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Pupils and teachers from The Nicolson Institute crowded into Stornoway Town Hall for the unveiling of new memorial to the 201 victims of the Iolaire tragedy almost 100 years ago.

The event was affected by rain and transferred indoors from the Carn Gardens location of the new memorial cairn.

The assembly was addressed first by Vice-head Boy, Steven Morrison, who explained how each individual stone on the cairn represented one of the victims.

There was then a moving prayer by Prof Rev. Norman Drummond who spoke of the sacrifice of the men and women of the Western Isles in the First World War. He spoke of the “futile tragedy of the loss of the Iolaire” and he said he hoped the commemorations this year would mark the victims’ sacrifice properly.

Professor Drummond is the Chair of the Commemorations Panel that is marking the centenary of the end of the Great War. Professor Drummond formerly served as a Chaplain in The Parachute Regiment and The Black Watch.

Then a poem about the loss of the Iolaire was read by the Vice-head Girl, Aisling Smith.

Former Council Convener Sandy Matheson spoke next, representing Lord Lieutenant Domhnall Martin, as his predecessor. He read a message from Mr Martin praising the initiative taken by the Stornoway Amenity Trust, Stornoway Port Authority, Stornoway Historical Society and The Nicolson Institute for their roles in filling a gap in commemoration in the town which had existed for almost 100 years.

Mr Matheson said that as a former pupil of the Nicolson Institute he “had never been so proud of my old school as I am today.”

The present Rector of The Nicolson Institute Frances Murray said it was important that now and in future that we continue to remember those who were lost, which included people as young as 17. So it was very appropriate that those involved in creating the new memorial were also young.

Councillor Charlie Nicolson, speaking on behalf of the Stornoway Amenity Trust, emphasised the importance of the event in the context of the Year of Young People. “It was no mean feat” to bring the 201 stones from the length and breadth of the country to create the memorial and he mentioned the work by Gordon Diesels Ltd in creating the plaque.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar later thanked both The Nicolson Institute and Stornoway Amenity Trust for the unveiling of the slate engraving and stone cairn at Carn Gardens, Stornoway.

Councillor Alasdair Macleod, Vice-chairman of Policy and Resources Committee, said: “On behalf of the Comhairle I would just like to thank the pupils and staff of The Nicolson and the Amenity Trust for all their hard work in creating such a fitting and poignant memorial.

"The pupils are a credit to both themselves and the school and their dedication over recent months, in collecting the stones from across the United Kingdom and in the planning of today’s event, should be commended.

"We are also grateful to Prof Rev Drummond and to Alexander Matheson and all participants for their part in today’s event.”

The event was the first in a series of planned events to commemorate the centenary of the Iolaire disaster. 

(The comments from CnES were added after the original publication of the report)