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Poignant Iolaire statue marks 100 years since crash

A poignant wooden statue has been erected on the shores of the Western Isles in tribute to the hundreds of sailors lost during the Iolaire disaster.

HMY Iolaire was making the perilous journey to Stornoway on January 1 1919 following the end of World War One when the vessel came under bad weather; causing it to hit rock just yards from Stornoway Harbour.

Of the 280 sailors onboard the sinking ship, just 79 survived, making it one of the worst maritime disasters in history.

In tribute to the lost vessel, Stornoway Port Authority have created an exact replica of the ship’s hull on the sands of South Beach using a series of wooden posts.

A total of 280 wooden posts were used to create the iconic masterpiece on the island’s shore – with 79 of the markers  painted white to highlight the number of survivors while the rest remained plain to show the scale of loss endured.

The monument is set to be a prime focus during the island’s centenary commemorations taking place on New Years Day, with Lord of the Isles Prince Charles and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed to be among hundreds of people in attendance.

A special memorial service will take place at the Iolaire memorial at Holm around noon to pay tribute to those lost 100 years on.

Murdo Murray, chairman of the Stornoway Port Authority, said: “This is an innovative and respectful commemoration of the loss of the HMY Iolaire.

“It is a poignant reminder of the 201 men who lost their lives and is a highly appropriate way to mark the centenary of a tragic event. Stornoway Port Authority commends the project for its sensitive and fitting approach. We are humbled to have been able to lend our support.”

The concept for the structure was initially generated by journalist Torcuil Crichton and artist Malcolm MacLean.

Artist Malcolm MacLean said: “The tragedy of the Iolaire disaster impacted on every family in Lewis at a time when the rest of the country was celebrating the end of the war.

“The darkness of the story and the scale of the loss was so traumatic that it was rarely spoken about on the island and little is known about it elsewhere.

“The centenary is an opportunity to tell the story in new ways that give public expression to that private pain. Torcuil and I wanted to create a public artwork that made the key facts visible and used the sea and the tides to tell the story.”

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