Metagama bell comes to town

Liza Mulholland presents the bell to Ken Galloway of the Stornoway Historical Society.Liza Mulholland presents the bell to Ken Galloway of the Stornoway Historical Society.
Liza Mulholland presents the bell to Ken Galloway of the Stornoway Historical Society.
The original bell from the SS Metagama has been donated to the exhibition run by the Stornoway Historical Society, after it was recovered and preserved in remarkably fortuitous circumstances.

​The item was recovered in a Glasgow’s scrapyard in the 1960s by Rob Thomson, who knew little of its significance until it was spotted by a Lewis friend of his, Neil Macmillan, originally from Gravir, and who knew of its history. Mr Thomson organised for the bell to be cleaned up and preserved.

In another quirk of fate, it turned out that Neil Macmillan is a cousin of Liza Mulholland, the musician who helped organise and produce the “In the Wake of the Metagama” tour, with writer Donald S Murray, which was launched at An Lanntair and concluded in Inverness's Eden Court Theatre on 29th April.

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Liza takes up the story: “When Neil heard I was doing this tour he got in touch to say would we be interested in getting the Metagama bell.

"Well, we were gobsmacked. Little did we think there would be original items from the boat still in circulation all these years later. So we got in touch with Rob and he kindly agreed to donate it to us.”

Liza, who has a direct interest in the story of the Metagama as her own grand-parents made the journey across to North America on the boat, says that in further conversation it was agreed that after the tour was finished they would hand the bell over to the Metagama exhibition currently showing at the Stornoway Town Hall and organised by the historical society.

On Monday of this week she travelled over to present the bell to Ken Galloway of SHS.

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The exhibition opened on Friday 21st April – exactly 100 years from when the ship set sail from Stornoway – and will go onto the road at numerous locations before returning to Stornoway in August. The bell will stay in Stornoway.

Welcoming the acquisition of the bell on behalf of the historical society, Mr Galloway said it was a “very important artefact”.

"If it hadn’t been for Liza we wouldn’t have known anything about it so we are very grateful and it will be a very important part of our exhibition,” he said.

And in another positive intervention, Mr Thomson, who rescued the bell from a scrapyard, has also agreed for it to be permanently on display at Museum nan Eilean in Stornoway, once the exhibition comes to an end.