Few islanders untouched by Iolaire event

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By Cath MacDonald

This was a Christmas and New Year season which will stand out and be long remembered in Lewis and Harris and beyond.

As well as the usual festive events, what took precedence over everything was the preparation for the centenary of and in remembrance of the lolaire tragedy.

As these were well publicised in this and other newspapers and other media, there is no need for them to be listed here.

A lot of hard work went into these events and those involved in their presentation deserve our utmost praise and thanks.

Special mention should be made of two very good books.

The Darkest Dawn, written by Malcolm MacDonald and Donald John MacLeod, was published recently by Acair Books.

A very good account of its contents was given in the first January edition of the Lochaber Times.

There is also When I Heard The Bell by John MacLeod, published in 2010 and reprinted in 2016.

These books are full of information, with photos and some background of those who were lost and those who survived.

One survivor from Harris was Alex Campbell, of Plocropool, a first cousin of my father.

On his way home, a short distance down the road from our croft, he called on my grandparents. My grandmother was his aunt. My father was a child of eight years or so and he remembered Alex calling and that he was soaking wet.

He had walked all the way from Stornoway. This was the first the family had heard of the tragedy, communications in those days being very far from what they are now.

After so many decades of sparse information about the loss of the Iolaire, we are thankful for what we have learned about how the accident happened, about those who were lost and those who survived, and something also of how their families coped with this most tragic accident and loss.

To lose so many from small communities at a time when people expected to be greeting them and rejoicing on their arrival, and for it to happen when they were so close to home, is hard to imagine.

Now we have learned so much about the navigational error which turned out to be catastrophic, and that tribute has been paid to those who were on the Iolaire, returning from a war and then no longer with us, a duty has been done.

We have reason to give thanks to everyone involved in the commemoration events, exhibitions, presentations, authors and publishers, groups and individuals who worked on this very special task of remembrance.

A Happy New Year to all Lochaber Times readers.