Islay and Jura pupils pay tribute to First World War heroes

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School pupils on Islay and Jura have been learning about the heroic and inspiring actions of islanders during the First World War.

Leading up to the 100th anniversary of the Great War reaching Islay and the remarkable events that followed, pupils from every primary school on Islay and Jura, as well as Islay High School, have been working on a joint project as part of the WW100 Islay commemorations.

On Friday May 4, the island hosted a service of remembrance for the SS Tuscania, which was torpedoed, and the HMS Otranto, which sank after a collision with another vessel in the waters off Islay. More than 700 servicemen were killed in the two incidents and the people of Islay came together to ensure the soldiers’ bodies were retrieved and properly buried.

As well as those who died in these tragic events, WW100 Islay pays tribute to the many men from Islay and Jura who died in the conflict.

Youngsters have been talking about the past, writing about artefacts, researching census records, creating art and poetry, and taking themselves back in time by imagining and writing letters from soldiers.

Visits to the Islay Museum and war memorials also helped the children to understand better the tragic impact of the war and the heroic actions of local people.

Jo Clark, a teacher at Port Ellen Primary, said: ‘The children at all of the schools have worked very hard on this project, carrying out research and then using that information and their imaginations to create wonderful works of art.

‘We have been very fortunate to work with the local museum and the National Museum of Scotland on this project, and have also had excellent input from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum.

‘Jenni Minto and Stuart Graham from Islay Museum visited our school and gave a brilliant presentation on the sinking of the Otranto and Tuscania, which was invaluable for the pupils.’

The children’s artworks were used as part of the May 4 event, which was attended by Princess Anne and other dignitaries. Pupils from all the schools carried the flags of the US states, some of which they helped make for the Islay Quilters.

Councillor Yvonne McNeilly said: ‘With the overall theme of the WW100 commemorations being remembrance, reflection and reconciliation, it was important that we involved all of the young people on Islay and Jura and ensured that they understood the history of the war and how it reached far beyond the battlefields.

‘They have taken to this project with such enthusiasm and have produced some truly excellent work. Credit must go to the teachers and all of the museum staff and local people who helped bring this project to life and give the pupils a learning experience that they are unlikely to ever forget.’