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The exhibition about the Norge maritime disaster in the Atlantic – and the role played by the people of Stornoway in looking after survivors – is currently on show at Breasclete Community Hall. 

The Breasclete exhibition is open from Monday to Saturday, between 2pm and 4pm, and closes on Saturday, August 7. 

One of Point and Sandwick Trust’s community consultants, Tony Robson, led the creation of the exhibition that details the sinking of SS Norge near Rockall in the early 20th Century. The exhibition, entitled Titanic’s Predecessor: SS Norge – An Atlantic Catastrophe, debuted at An Lanntair in May and is now on tour. Its tour began with at Ionad Stoodie in Point recently and it will be going on to the Comunn Eachdraidh in Ness in September and to the Harris Distillery in October. 

There is also the possibility that similar exhibitions could appear in museums across Europe, after a number expressed an interest in receiving the files for the information panels, during discussions with Tony. Some have already downloaded the files, including a museum in Russia. Other interested museums included the Estonian Maritime Museum in Tallinn, the National Museum of Poland and the Maritime Museum of Denmark. 

The exhibition tells the tragic story of the foundering of SS Norge on a reef close to Rockall on its journey to New York, in 1904. It was carrying nearly 800 souls – Russian Jews, Norwegians, Finns, Swedes and Danes – and more than half were mothers and children. With only enough lifeboats for 215, only 160 survived and 635 perished. Most of the lifeboats drifted in the Atlantic for days before being found by chance – one close to the Faroes, around 500 miles from the sinking – and the survivors from two of the closer lifeboats were landed at Number One Pier in Stornoway. 

Some went on to be cared for in the Lewis Hospital and others in private homes. Sadly, a number of them did not survive and they are buried in the cemetery at Lower Sandwick.

The last place to pick up a signal from the ill-fated ship had been Lloyd’s Station at the Butt of Lewis on 27 June, the day before she sank.

The disaster remains the second worst civilian maritime disaster ever in the Atlantic, after the Titanic, and it made headline news around the world when the story broke a week after it happened.