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At the COSLA Excellence Awards Ceremony this month, at the Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Iolaire Working Group secured the President’s Award.
As part of the project, a new access path to the Iolaire memorial was constructed, a wide range of events took place, including a commemorative evening on December 31, 2018, a vigil at 2am coinciding with the timing of the sinking of the Iolaire and a service on New Year’s Day 2019 attended by the Lord of the Isles and Scotland’s First Minister.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, comhairle convener Norman A Macdonald said: ‘The award recognises the collaborative work which was achieved with the community and partner agencies in marking the centenary of the loss of HMY Iolaire, in which 201 men lost their lives just metres from shore. This project unified the whole community in an unprecedented way.
‘In a parallel development, Dìleab is an ambitious inter-generational and bilingual education project which encompasses all schools in the Western Isles, which in 2018/19 covered topics such as emigration, protest and politics, the war experience and the Iolaire tragedy.
‘As the island most impacted by the tragedy, pupils in Lewis examined the loss of HMY Iolaire. The outcome is that future generations will have an awareness of the tragedy and a level of understanding of why the silence continued for such a long time.
‘Ultimately, it is our view that the most significant impact of the project was the liberation from the self-imposed censorship of families and communities throughout the islands as a result of the disaster on January 1, 1919.’