Last month, as part of the Highland Archaeological Festival, Dr Iain Robertson, Prof. Marjory Harper, and Malcolm MacDonald discussed the findings of ‘The Iolaire Impact’ research project which brought together researchers from the Centre for History, UHI and the Iolaire Centre.
The project explored long-term impact of the Iolaire tragedy in 1919 on the people and the culture of the island, seeking to understand why silence was the main form of coping and recovering from the collective trauma.
The talk introduces the tragedy, contextualises the circumstances and experiences of the people of Lewis prior to and following the disaster, and explores the findings from documentary research, reflecting on the individual and collective memory of coping. It also covers the Iolaire Centre itself, including the context for the creation of the centre and progress to date with the project.
A commemorative pin badge commemorating the loss of the Iolaire is now available to purchase again ahead of Remembrance Day this year.
The unique enamel badge was hugely popular during the commemorations for the 100th anniversary and has continued to be well-sought after over the past few years.
Gordon Michie, Head of Fundraising and Learning at Poppyscotland said: “Since its introduction in 2018 as part of the commemorations to mark the centenary of the sinking of HMY Iolaire, the Iolaire poppy pin badge has been hugely popular. So much so that rather than this simply being an initiative for the centenary commemorations as it was first envisaged, the badge has been continued and remains one of our most popular.
“Sales for these badges helps to fund Poppyscotland’s vital, life-changing services for our Armed Forces community and we are incredibly grateful to Lynne Maciver and the Iolaire Centre Project for continuing to keep alive the memory of the 201 sailors who perished on 1st January 1919.”
New research to narrate story and impact of Iolaire tragedy | Rannsachadh ùr gus sgeulachd agus buaidh cùis-mhulaid an Iolaire aithris
A new research project, ‘The Iolaire Impact’ is underway to explore how the story of the Iolaire tragedy is told and preserved for future generations at a new Iolaire centre in Stornoway.
The impacts of the tragedy on 1 January 1919 continue to unravel across the communities on the Isles of Lewis and Harris, and beyond. The Iolaire Centre Charity recognises that understanding these impacts and telling the story are foundation stones on which healing, cultural identity and confidence can be built.
The research is being led by the University of the Highlands and Islands and includes oral testimony and archival research from both local sources and internationally from the Scottish diaspora. The project has received funding through the Scottish Government’s innovation voucher scheme, administered by Interface, the businesses-academic matching service.
Lead academic Dr Iain Robertson, Reader in History at the university’s Centre for History said; “The outcome of the project will not only ensure that an Iolaire Centre accurately tells the story, but also shares how the event shaped the Islands socially, economically, and culturally in the generations since.”
University of the Highlands and Islands Visiting Professor and Senior Researcher on the project Professor Marjory Harper, said; “As an historian of emigration and the Scottish diaspora, I am particularly interested in how the tragedy of the Iolaire contributed to a significant increase in emigration from Lewis in the 1920s, and to the long-term legacy.”
Director and Trustee of the Iolaire Centre Charity and author of The Darkest Dawn, Malcolm Macdonald said; “It is still evident that there are many family stories which require further research before memories fade even further. Records from the time need to be extensively scrutinised.”
“The centenary commemorations of 2019 testify that the feelings of the community are still mourning the enormous loss and what it meant to such a small community over the years. The impact of the disaster still casts a shadow on these islands. It is most important that everything pertaining to the Iolaire is recorded for posterity as it is a vitally important part of the islands’ history.”
Lorraine Thomson, Interface’s Highlands and Islands Manager, said “Interface, Scotland’s knowledge exchange broker for businesses and organisation, is delighted to have helped the Iolaire Centre at the outset to source academic expertise from the University of the Highlands and Islands. The work will be an important contribution to developing a world class visitor experience to commemorate the tragedy and its impact on the Islands.”
The Iolaire Centre is sponsored by Highlands and Islands Marine Equipment firm Gael Force Group and supported by HIE and Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar. Further information on how people can get involved and to stay up to date on progress of this exciting development can be found on this website.
Tha pròiseact rannsachaidh ùr, ‘Buaidh an Iolaire’ a’ dol air adhart gus sgrùdadh a dhèanamh air mar a thèid sgeulachd cùis-mhulaid an Iolaire innse agus a ghlèidheadh airson nan ginealaichean ri teachd, aig ionad ùr Iolaire ann an Steòrnabhagh.
Tha buaidh na cùise-mulaid air 1 Faoilleach 1919 fhathast a’ nochdadh air feadh nan coimhearsnachdan air Eileanan Leòdhais agus na Hearadh fhathast, agus nas fhaide air falbh. Tha Carthannas Ionad an Iolaire a’ tuigsinn gu bheil tuigse do na buaidhean sin agus innse na sgeòil nan clachan bunait air an urrainnear slànachadh, dearbh-aithne chultarach agus misneachd a thogail.
Tha an rannsachadh air a stiùireadh le Oilthigh na Gàidhealtachd agus nan Eilean agus tha e a’ gabhail a-steach fianais beòil agus rannsachadh tasglainn bho gach cuid stòran ionadail agus gu h-eadar-nàiseanta bho diaspora na h-Alba. Tha am pròiseact air maoineachadh fhaighinn tro sgeama eàrlas ùr-ghnàthachaidh Riaghaltas na h-Alba, air a rianachd le Interface, an t-seirbheis maidsidh gnìomhachasan-acadaimigeach.
Thuirt am prìomh acadaimigeach an Dr Iain Robasdan, Leughadair ann an Eachdraidh aig Ionad Eachdraidh an oilthighe: “Chan e a-mhàin gum bi toradh a’ phròiseict a’ dèanamh cinnteach gu bheil Ionad an Iolaire ag innse na sgeòil gu ceart, ach cuideachd a’ co-roinn mar a thug an tachartas cumadh air na h-Eileanan gu sòisealta, gu h-eaconamach agus gu cultarach anns na ginealaichean bhon uair sin.”
Thuirt Àrd-Ollamh Tadhail Oilthigh na Gàidhealtachd agus nan Eilean agus an t-Àrd-Rannsaiche air a’ phròiseact, an t-Ollamh Marjory Harper: “Mar neach-eachdraidh eilthireachd agus diaspora na h-Alba, tha ùidh shònraichte agam anns an dòigh anns an do chuir bròn-chluich an Iolaire ri àrdachadh mòr ann an eilthireachd à Leòdhas anns na 1920an, agus ris an dìleab fad-ùine.”
Thuirt Stiùiriche is Urrasair Carthannas Ionad an Iolaire agus ùghdar The Darkest Dawn, Calum Dòmhnallach: “Tha e fhathast follaiseach gu bheil mòran de sgeulachdan teaghlaich ann a dh’fheumas tuilleadh rannsachaidh mus tèid na cuimhneachain nas fhaide a-mach à sealladh. Feumar sgrùdadh farsaing a dhèanamh air clàran bhon àm.
“Tha cuimhneachain ceud bliadhna 2019 a’ dearbhadh gu bheil faireachdainnean na coimhearsnachd fhathast a’ caoidh a’ challa mhòir agus na bha e a’ ciallachadh do choimhearsnachd cho beag thar nam bliadhnaichean. Tha buaidh na tubaist fhathast a’ cur sgàil air na h-eileanan sin. Tha e air leth cudromach gun tèid a h-uile càil a bhuineas don Iolaire a chlàradh airson an ama ri teachd oir tha e na phàirt air leth cudromach de eachdraidh nan eilean. ”
Thuirt Lorraine NicThòmais, Manaidsear Interface na Gàidhealtachd ’s nan Eilean, “Tha Interface, bròcair iomlaid fiosrachaidh na h-Alba airson gnìomhachasan agus eagrachadh, air leth toilichte gun do chuidich e Ionad an Iolaire aig a’ chiad dol a-mach gus eòlas acadaimigeach fhaighinn bho Oilthigh na Gàidhealtachd agus nan Eilean. Bidh an obair na cuideachadh cudromach ann a bhith a’ leasachadh eòlas luchd-tadhail aig ìre chruinneil mar chuimhneachan air an tubaist agus a’ bhuaidh a th’ aice air na h-Eileanan.”
Tha Ionad an Iolaire a’ faighinn taic bho chompanaidh Gael Force aig Uidheam Mara na Gàidhealtachd is nan Eilean, le taic bho HIE agus Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar. Gheibhear tuilleadh fiosrachaidh air-loidhne air mar as urrainn do dhaoine a dhol an sàs agus cumail suas air adhartas an leasachaidh inntinnich seo.
Investigation work will shortly get underway in Stornoway on Tuesday 9th November to establish site feasibility for the building of an Iolaire Centre on No.1 Pier.
The exploratory work is a crucial element in the Iolaire Centre development process and is being viewed as a significant milestone for the project.
The site feasibility work at the No.1 Pier car park will require a temporary closure of car parking spaces for a limited period of around 2 to 3 weeks. The timing of the work coincides with what is traditionally viewed as a quieter time of year in comparison to the busier summer months.
Following successful completion of investigative work, the project will then be able to progress to a more detailed design and planning stage.
Commenting on this major step forward, Iolaire Centre Project Manager Lynne Maciver:
“This latest milestone signals a huge move forward for the Iolaire Centre. We are at a key point in the process now and it presents us with an excellent opportunity to understand the viability of No.1 pier as a site location.”
Lynne added: “We are confident that this site investigation work is going to take us closer to realising the ambition. Not only do we see the Iolaire Centre as being a place of lasting commemorative introspection and a hub for the community, but also as a world-class visitor experience. The Centre has the potential to provide a major, transformational, economic boost for the Islands and support a positive view towards the future.”
The Iolaire Centre Working Group has acknowledged that the necessary closure of the car park may result in some inconvenience for residents and visitors to the town. However, it is working closely with engineering contractors and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to ensure that any disruption is limited.
Browse the website for further information on how to get involved and to stay up to date on progress of this exciting development.