Memorial details

Memorial type
Western Islands
Stornoway (Isle Of Lewis)
Western Isles
First World War (1914-1918)
  • Unveiled
    Date: 1960
    Attended by: Provost of Stornoway Donald James Stewart
  • Unveiled
    Date: 1 January 2019
    Attended by: HRH Prince Charles, Lord of the Isles and Duke of Rothesay
  • Unveiled
    Date: 2002
    Attended by: Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles- Sandy Matheson
  • Show More (2)
Not lost
WM Reference

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Current location

On the headland at the entrance to Stornoway Harbour
Holm Point
Stornoway (Isle Of Lewis)
Western Islands
Western Isles

OS Grid Ref: NB 44498 30487
Denomination: Undefined

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Obelisk surmounted on two step base and plinth. Built on paving and surrounded by low railings. Incised inscription. There is a separate plaque at the start of the path to the monument. In 2018, for the centenary of the Iolaire tragedy, a new access path has been constructed. It is paved with tarmac, and wheelchair accessible. A wall has been built just west of the memorial itself, which incorporates a special plaque. In front of it sits a bronze depiction of a coiled rope, the centenary memorial for the Iolaire. The names of all those lost have been cast into bronze strips, which are laid out in front of the wall and rope depiction. HRH Prince Charles, Lord of the Isles and Duke of Rothesay, unveiled this new memorial on 1st January 2019. From 2 September 2019 the wreck site is a protected war grave.
Obelisk: ERECTED BY / THE PEOPLE OF LEWIS AND FRIENDS / IN GRATEFUL MEMORY OF THE / BRAVE MEN OF THE ROYAL NAVY / WHO LOST THEIR LIVES / IN THE 'IOLAIRE' DISASTER AT THE / BEASTS OF HOLM / ON THE 1ST OF JANUARY 1919. / OF THE 205 PERSONS LOST, / 175 WERE NATIVES OF THE ISLAND / AND FOR THEM AND THEIR COMRADES / LEWIS STILL MOURNS, / WITH GRATITUDE FOR THEIR SERVICE / AND IN SORROW FOR THEIR LOSS / 'DO CHEUMA THA 'SAN DOIMHNEACHD MHOIR / DO SHLICHE THA'S A'CHUAN: / ACH LUIRC DO CHOS CHA-N AITHNICH SINN / THAT SUD AM FOLACH UAINN.' / SAILM LXXVII 19 (Translation: 'THY WAY IN THE SEA AND IN THE WATERS GREAT THEY PATH: YET ARE THY FOOTSTEPS HID, O LORD; NON KNOWLEDGE THEREOF HATH.' PSALM 77 VERSE 19) Plaque at start of path to obelisk: THE LOSS OF THE IOLAIRE - A HEBRIDEAN TRAGEDY/ The monument you can see on the shore below commemorates the loss of the IOLAIRE/ On 1st January 1919 at 1.55am the wooden vessel HM Yacht Iolaire ran on to the rocks known as the 'Beasts of Holm'/ (Bistan Thuilm), within sight of the lights of Stornoway. Passengers and crew numbered 284 in all. A total of 205 perished/ and 79 survived. The Passengers were predominantly naval ratings returning to Lewis and Harris from service in the Great/ War. They had boarded the ship at Kyle of Lochalsh and set sail for Stornoway at 9pm on December 31st 1918./ The vessel struck the rocks and slid off the rock ledge, listing to starboard and settling stern first. As she settled the wind/ blew the stern around towards the shore - at one point being no more than six or seven yards from a rock ledge on the/ shore. Of the survivors many owe their lives to the bravery of John F Macleod, who succeeded in gaining the shore with a/ line to which a hawser was attached and pulled ashore. Some 30 to 40 men pulled themselves to safety along this rope/ until the stricken vessel heeled and pulled the rope away. The last survivor, Donald Morrison, saved himself by clinging to/ the ship's mast - which was only part above the water - all night until he was rescued in the morning when the sea had/ abated. Although the shipwreck took place within 50 yards of the shore and at one point the stern was no more than 20 ft/ from the land, such was the roughness of the sea that very few survived unaided. The recovery of the bodies from the sea around the wreck was a harrowing experience for the/ rescuers, many of whom knew the victims personally. Every family in the close-knit Island/ community was affected directly or indirectly by the tragedy./ The magnitude of the loss of life, and the fact that the servicemen were so close to/ home had a profound effect on the island. This loss, added to the 1,000 Islanders/ lost in the Great War, effectively deprived the Islands of a generation and was at/ least in part responsible for the decline in the Island population between the/ two World Wars./ 'Thy way is in the sea, and in the waters great thy path;/ Yet are thy footsteps hid, O Lord; None knowledge thereof hath'/ Psalm 77 verse 19
Inscription legible?
Names on memorial
Beaton, Alex
Beaton, Alex
Beaton, Alex
Beaton, Alex
Campbell, Alex
Campbell, D
Campbell, D
Campbell, Murdo
Campbell, Murdo
Macanlay, Malcoim
See details for all 79 names
  • First World War (1914-1918)
    Total names on memorial: 0
    Served and returned: 0
    Died: 0
    Exact count: yes
    Information shown: Undefined
    Order of information: Undefined
  • Obelisk
    Measurements: Undefined
    Materials: Granite
  • Plinth
    Measurements: Undefined
    Materials: Granite
  • Base
    Measurements: Undefined
    Materials: Granite
  • Plaque
    Measurements: Undefined
    Materials: Unknown
  • Fence/ Railing
    Measurements: Undefined
    Materials: Metal
  • Plaques / Panels with names
    Measurements: Undefined
    Materials: Bronze
  • Detail
    Measurements: Undefined
    Materials: Bronze
  • Wall
    Measurements: Undefined
    Materials: Stone
2003: Memorial and surrounding fence restored. 2001: Descriptive plaque added at entrance to path leading to obelisk.

Comments: The 2003 refurbishment cost £2500, funded by Western Isles Enterprise and the Council's Ace Grants scheme.

Trust fund/Scholarship
Purpose: Unknown or N/A
  • BBC news article about the wreck site becoming a war grave from 2 September
  • In 2019 A book has been published, which is held to be the definitive account of the tragedy. It is called "The Darkest Dawn", by Malcolm Macdonald and Donald John Macleod, ISBN 9781789070248. DJ sadly passed away before the book was published in November 1918.
  • The Scottish Islands: A Comprehensive Guide to Every Scottish Island by Hamish Haswell-Smith 296 Published:Canongate Books Ltd Second Rev Ed. 2004 Edinburgh
  • The Scotsman 22 September 1990
  • Press and Journal 23 December 1998; 28 December 1998
  • Scotland on Sunday 1 January 1989
  • Stornoway Gazette 10 January 1919; 14 February 1919; 2003
  • Full names

This record comprises all information held by IWM’s War Memorials Register for this memorial. Where we hold a names list for the memorial, this information will be displayed on the memorial record. Please check back as we are adding more names to the database.

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