New research to narrate story and impact of Iolaire tragedy

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.

A photo of what remained of the Iolaire after the tragedy / Dealbh de na bha air fhàgail den Iolaire às deidh na tubaist

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.

Iolaire Centre site feasibility work set to get underway

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.

Iolaire Poppy Pins Available for 2020

Following great demand last year, we are pleased to inform you that the commemorative Iolaire Enamel Poppy Pin is available to purchase this year.

The pins cost £3 and can be ordered from Poppy Scotland through the link below. They are due to dispatch from today, 26th October, so you will be able to get one before Remembrance Day.

They will also be some available to purchase locally in Stornoway at the beginning of November. We will provide more information about this nearer the time.

Iolaire Visitor Centre Project Manager Appointed

The building of a visitor centre in the Hebrides, which will tell the story of the Iolaire tragedy has entered the design planning stage with the Iolaire Working Group’s appointment of Project Manager Lynne Maciver.

Based in Stornoway, Lynne has considerable experience working with both commercial and community led projects and will lead the development and design stage ahead to bring a proposed Centre outline to the community for consultation in 2020.

The Visitor Centre will mark the maritime disaster at Stornoway’s Number One pier as part of a revitalisation of the Stornoway town centre. Following the consultation with the community in 2018, there was strong support for a world class visitor experience to commemorate the tragedy and its impact on the Islands in the following period.

The design phase is an opportunity to progress what the space could look like, the way the story is captured and told, and prepare for the raising of funds required to build the Centre. This builds on the project scoping exercise undertaken in 2018 and is outlined in an Iolaire Centre Project Overview document available on the Iolaire.org website.

The vision for the Centre is to create a space that tells not only the Iolaire Story but that of the wider context of the island’s maritime history and war involvement. This design stage is an opportunity to tell the story sensitively and with due respect, over a century after the tragedy. It is expected that the Centre would be both a lasting commemorative introspection and a world class visitor experience that supports a major, transformational, economic boost for the Islands.

Project funding has been committed by Highlands and Islands marine equipment firm Gael Force Group with matched assistance and resource support agreed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to fund the detailed development of the project plan through to 2020. 

In response to the appointment, Lynne Maciver said, “The tragedy of the Iolaire is one that touched many lives and families on the Islands and ensuring the story is told and protected for future generations is at the heart of what the Iolaire Centre will do. It is a continuation of the incredible work done around the 100-year centenary commemorations recognising the importance of the story to the culture and heritage of the Islands.”

The Iolaire Centre website www.iolaire.org has further information on how you can get involved and to stay up to date on progress throughout this exciting stage.  

Iolaire Centre Update

The Centenary Commemorations on the 1st January 2019 saw the whole community in Lewis and Harris pull together in an unprecedented way to commemorate, in many incredibly powerful ways, those that were lost and survived the Iolaire Disaster of 1919.

Following these events and the wide and initial overwhelming community support for progressing the build of the Iolaire Centre, the Iolaire Centre charity is now embarking on the fundraising required to move the project forward to build a world-class visitor experience in Stornoway in the Hebrides, which will tell the story of the Iolaire tragedy.

This fundraising is a massive undertaking, with all stakeholders, government and the wider diaspora being able to and invited to contribute. The aim is to raise between one and two million pounds from the public to support the funding.

It is important that the public have ownership of the proposed centre through subscription of a very significant part of the funding and it is hoped that all stakeholders will contribute support in any way they can.

The fundraising campaign has begun with a major corporate donation and pledge of up to £100,000 over the next four years and it is hoped that support for the project, financial or otherwise, will continue through the Iolaire.org web site.