University project maps victims of Iolaire disaster
Researchers have created an interactive map to tell the stories of those who died in the sinking of HMY Iolaire a century ago.
The final death toll of 205 included 181 from the Western Isles who were returning home from the First World War when the ship hit rocks on New Year’s Day 1919.
Researchers from Abertay University in Dundee and the University of the Highlands and Islands have developed an online application, Visualising the Iolaire, which provides a virtual map of the disaster.
It details those that died, identifies the communities directly and indirectly impacted, while also documenting how people have been memorialised on the island.
Project leader Dr Iain Donald said: “The original aim of the project was to look at how the impact of a single event can transform a community.
“Previously we have looked at how the 4th Black Watch casualties at the Battle of Loos in 1915 had impacted the city of Dundee.
“The story of the Iolaire is especially poignant as it occurred after the war was over and was bringing sailors home to be with friends and family for New Year in 1919.
“Working with Dr Iain Robertson at the University of the Highlands and Islands and the community partners on this project has demonstrated what a heavy price the Western Isles paid during the war, and the Iolaire tragedy was sorrow heaped upon sorrow.”
Dr Robertson said: “At a time when society is once more having to work out how to recover from a collective trauma, it is important to see what lessons can be learnt from history.
“We have collected memories of silence, of the ‘widow’s share’, and of the joy felt when sisters and cousins, returning from working in Dundee, were no longer dressed in mourning black.
“And we have heard a song sung by the son of the bard who, upon returning from the war himself and hearing that two of the island’s sons had been lost, felt moved to compose his personal tribute and commemoration of the disaster.”