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Scottish Parliament Commemorates Iolaire Disaster

Islands MSP Leads Debate Marking Centenary of Tragedy


Politicians from across the political spectrum in Holyrood came together to commemorate the centenary of the loss of HMY Iolaire in a debate led by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan earlier on this afternoon. The islands MSP led the debate in Gaelic. Angus MacNeil MP led a similar Westminster Hall debate last week.

On Hogmanay 1918, His Majesty’s Yacht Iolaire was leaving Kyle of Lochalsh. The Iolaire was full of sailors, most of them returning home to Lewis and Harris after war service with the Royal Navy. Many of the families of the men on the Iolaire were soon gathering on the pier that night in Stornoway. A few miles away from the pier at around 1.55am on New Year’s morning, the Iolaire struck a group of rocks called the Beasts of Holm and sank within the course of two hours, resulting in the loss of 201 men.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“The story of HMY Iolaire is one of the saddest ever told in the islands and its loss remains one of the worst peacetime disasters in Scottish history. Despite the scale of the tragedy, it is a story which has not been widely known outside of the islands. Even here, the subject was so raw and so painful that it was scarcely spoken about it for at least sixty years.

“But it is right that we are remembering it now, a hundred years on. I am very grateful to all of the MSPs from across the chamber who participated in my debate marking the centenary of the tragedy. There were some very moving speeches, and it was an appropriate way to bring the story of the Iolaire to the wider audience across Scotland that it deserves.”

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