MSP welcomes protected status for Iolaire wreck site

The Islands commemorated the loss of the Iolaire at a ceremony on New Year's Day 2019 to mark 100 years on from the tragedy.
The Islands commemorated the loss of the Iolaire at a ceremony on New Year's Day 2019 to mark 100 years on from the tragedy.

Western Isles Alasdair Allan has welcomed confirmation from the Ministry of Defence that the HMY Iolaire is to receive protected status.

Baroness Goldie, Minister for State at the Ministry of Defence, recently wrote to the MSP advising that the site of HMY Iolaire will be designated as a protected place under The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 effective as of September 2nd.

The islands MSP has been campaigning over the course of the last year for the Ministry of Defence to give the site protected status.

HMY Iolaire sank on 1 January 1919 after striking rocks two miles from Stornoway where families were waiting to welcome home World War I naval personnel.

Seventy-nine servicemen survived and 201 servicemen died in this tragic incident. Around a third of those known to be lost were never recovered from the sea and the wreck remains their final resting place.

Alasdair Allan commented: “The story of the Iolaire is one of the saddest ever told in the islands.

“There was barely a family on the island that didn’t lose a relative in the disaster.

“This was a subject that was essentially too painful to be talked about in the islands for at least sixty years, and even now it is still very raw in people’s minds.

“I am delighted that the Ministry to Defence has acceded to calls from myself and others in the community to recognise the Iolaire as a military maritime grave.

“As well as protecting the site, the designation also commemorates the sacrifice of those who served their country in a time of war and lost their lives so tragically close to home.

“Over the course of the last year we have seen a wonderful series of commemorative events to mark the centenary of the disaster.

“These events have, for many people, brought a very belated sense of peace, and the feeling that something inexpressible has at last been expressed, and with honour.

“It is fitting that as these events have drawn to a close, the Iolaire will finally receive official recognition as a military maritime grave.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar also welcomed the news.

Norman A Macdonald, Chairman of the Iolaire Working Group said: “The Comhairle warmly welcomes this news. We wrote to the Ministry of Defense in April of last year asking them to consider a designation of the site as an official war grave on the basis that all these men served their country and were on their way home, having done their part to secure the freedom of the nation.

“The Comhairle felt that the designation would allow those who perished, to rest in peace, and bring comfort to the many families that lost loved ones.”