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The unexpected connection between a Welsh Westminster politician and the legacy of the Iolaire is to be explored in the latest of Stornoway Historical Society’s winter lectures.

Shadow creative industries minister Chris Bryant MP is to visit Stornoway on Monday (27 November), part of his time devoted to a pilgrimage falling well outside his Westminster remit.

The Rhondda MP is descended on his mother’s side from the family of Ness man John Finlay Macleod, the modest hero of the Iolaire tragedy.

Mr Bryant is to be hosted on his island visit by Labour's candidate for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Torcuil Crichton.

He intends to accompany the shadow minister on a visit to the Iolaire memorial site at Holm and also to Sheòl an Iolaire, the tidal sculpture created in Stornoway harbour to commemorate the tragedy.

John Finlay Macleod was the returning serviceman who brought a rope to shore as the yacht Iolaire sank in the first hours of 1919, taking island men to their deaths just as they returned from four years of war.

John Finlay’s rope, secured to the shore with the aid of other Iolaire survivors including Iain ‘An Help’ Murray of Back, brought 40 men safely to shore, though others were swept away by the force of stormy seas.

The family link with the Cardiff-born MP has been verified by Iain MacLeod, the grandson of John Finlay, who has kept the family tree.

Monday’s lecture will explore ‘the Iolaire and the rope connection’ with a presentation by Iolaire expert and SHS chairman Malcolm Macdonald.

Malcolm is the co-author, with the late Donald John Macleod, of the definitive publication on the Iolaire tragedy, The Darkest Dawn, which was published by Acair in November 2018 to coincide with the centenary of the disaster.

On Monday Malcolm’s detailed and informative lecture will be followed by a personal account from Mr Bryant, who is John Finlay Macleod’s great-grand-nephew.

At the time of the Iolaire centenary in December 2018, Mr Bryant contributed to a Westminster debate moved by Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus Brendan MacNeil, who discovered only on the day of the debate that one of his political opponents had the Iolaire connection.

And Mr MacNeil paid tribute to the connection, saying: “The actions of the honourable gentleman’s great-grand-uncle saved 40 of the 79 who survived. It was quite a remarkable achievement.”

On Monday the shadow minister is also to have talks with MG Alba and with independent TV producers so that he can learn more about the Gaelic TV industry.

Ahead of his visit, he said: "I am really looking forward to meeting with the Gaelic TV industry and exploring how a Labour government could help move the channel into the digital realm.

“But I am also very keen to explore the Iolaire story and my own family's involvement. I've read about it, but this will be the first time I will have visited the site and met the people."  

The second SHS lecture in the 2023 winter series is in the council chambers on Sandwick Road at 7pm on Monday 27 November, with the doors opening at 6.30pm and donations taken on the night.

Pictures show Malcolm Macdonald at the launch of his book, The Darkest Dawn, in November 2018 (Acair) and Chris Bryant MP (Chris Bryant), jointly presenting the second SHS winter lecture on Monday.