Stones have been collected from the home village of each of the 201 sailors lost on the Iolaire and will be incorporated into a unique memorial in Stornoway town centre to be unveiled later this month - and new details have been found about the victims from outwith the Islands.
The project has involved communities across the UK - including as far away as the Isle of Wight.
Stornoway Amenity Trust, in partnership with The Nicolson Institute, and supported by Stornoway Historical Society, has been working on the Iolaire Memorial Project (Pròiseact Carragh-Cuimhne na h-Iolaire) to create a memorial to mark the Centenary of the sinking of the Iolaire on New Year’s Day in 1919 – the worst peacetime maritime disaster in British waters.
The memorial will be situated in Carn Gardens, close to the Town Hall and will consist of a slate engraving on a wall and a stone cairn which will include stones to represent each man lost. A bench donated by Stornoway Port Authority will also be put in place nearby.
The plan to include stones from the home village or town of all victims was devised by pupils of The Nicolson Institute who have spent the last few months working on those collections.
Stones have now been collected in villages all over Lewis, Harris, Berneray (North Uist) and also from the home towns of the 20 victims who were not from the Isles.
The memorial is currently under construction and will be unveiled at 11am on Friday March 23rd by descendants of some of those lost in the Iolaire.
A procession of 201 pupils from The Nicolson Institute will walk to Carn Gardens where the cairn, the engraving and the bench will be unveiled.
Stornoway Amenity Trust would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery, Stornoway Port Authority for providing funds for the project.
The joint Stornoway Amenity Trust and The Nicolson Institute project also uncovered more details on some of the 20 victims from mainland Scotland and England who were lost in the Iolaire.
The youngest sailor lost on the Iolaire was 17 year old David Macdonald from Aberdeen. He was the Signal boy.
The Amenity Trust contacted Aberdeen Grammar School for assistance in getting a stone to mark his loss. The school’s history department undertook some research about him and provided a granite stone for the Stornoway Memorial.
Two stones were sent from the Isle of Wight to be part of the memorial. Royal Naval Reserve Lt Leonard Edmund Cotter, 49, and Mercantile Marine Reserve Chief Petty Officer and cook Alfred William Henley, 45 were both lost.
Chief reporter of the Isle of Wight County Press, Emily Pearce assisted in ensuring stones were sent from the island and local schools in the villages where the two men lost were from, agreed to collect stones and send them to Stornoway.
Fred McCarthy from Hartlepool, England was part of the Iolaire’s crew and was lost on that fateful night. Back home he had been a bell-ringer at Stranton Church (All Saints), Hartlepool and a member of the Durham and Newcastle Association of Bell-ringers (D&N). He is commemorated on a plaque in Newcastle Cathedral.
Stornoway Amenity Trust received a stone commemorating him and were informed of the D&N Ringing for Remembrance project which is commemorating bell-ringers who fell in the First World War.
This is done through commemorative bell-ringing performances on the centenary of each bell-ringer’s death at the towers where they had rung the bells. This will be done at Stranton Church on January 1st 2019 in memory of Fred McCarthy.
Three of those lost on the Iolaire were from London – twenty-two-year-old Albert Richard Matthews, 19-year-old William Joseph J Stanley and 33-year-old Alfred Samuel E Taylor.
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil assisted in finding three stones from the shores of the Thames to be included in the memorial to commemorate the three London casualties.