HMY Iolaire was carrying islanders who had fought in the First World War back to the Western Isles, predominantly the Isle of Lewis. The Iolaire foundered on rocks "The Beasts of Holm", on New Year’s Day 1919, a few yards offshore and a mile away from the safety of Stornoway Harbour. The final death toll was officially put at 205, of whom 181 were islanders, with as much as 70% of those on the boat being lost. The tragedy devastated island communities on both Lewis and Harris. Extensive landscapes of memorialisation exist but no one has deep-mapped the impact on the islands in a systematic way or linked monuments to family narratives, individual and collective memory in the way here undertaken. Visualising the Iolaire emerged from an initial partnership between the universities of Abertay and the Highlands and Islands and then developed into a cross-community collaboration with various communities of interest on Lewis. The resultant project sought to interact with the multiplicity of commemorative efforts which took place in the year leading up to the centenary of the disaster, but, uniquely, aimed to draw upon the communal strengths of memory work and commemorative practice in order to investigate legacies of collective trauma. In particular, Visualising the Iolaire collaboratively curated, at the level of the croft/family, township and community, family memories of coping with loss in order to create an online commemoration for the twenty-first century that worked both for diasporic communities and in place.
Focus and Research
Was this project based outside the organisation's local area?
Resources used for research
Local archives, genealogy records, published material with project partners Kinloch Historical Society, Sandwick and Point Community Council and Museum Nan Eilean.