View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Iolaire Memorial

So the First Minister of Scotland has laid a wreath at the Iolaire Memorial this afternoon.

I wonder if Mr Salmond will be pressing for the early release of Royal Navy papers related to the Iolaire Disaster, which has its centenary on 1 January 2019, several weeks after the fuss over the centenary of the Armistice War will have passed. I wonder if the people of this island will ever be told the truth, if the truth is known in the first place. Maybe the truth went down with the ship, with the crew members who perished. The Admiralty awarded the families of the crew members lost in the sinking of the ship a sum of money. The families of the 180 naval personnel, or more accurately, FORMERLY naval personnel, lost in the tragedy, were awarded precisely nothing. They had been demobbed and were strictly speaking civilians, so the Admiralty were no longer interested.

I wonder if Mr Salmond will press the Ministry of Defense in London to get the Admiralty to acknowledge that they had some degree of responsibility or even involvement for this tragedy, as it was on His Majesty's Yacht Iolaire that these men were being transported home. The cause of the grounding and sinking of the Iolaire has never been satisfactorily cleared up, and may never be, even if Royal Navy papers are put in the public domain. I do not think that the people of Lewis will be pressing for mass compensation, nearly a hundred years on. Even if it was all down to the poor weather at the time, an unavoidable accident, possibly resulting from insufficient navigational aids at the entrance to Stornoway Harbour.

Since 2006, I have adopted the Iolaire and her story. I am not from these parts - my home soil lies two seas and six hundred miles away. The tragedy has affected me, and I can feel (from a distance) the pain it has caused, and still causes, in the island. I would like to think Mr Salmond also perceived this.

Maybe he could be prevailed upon to answer my questions. Not for me, but for the Dead of the Iolaire. The bodies of sixty of whom were never recovered from the sea, 95 years ago.