14576: Iolaire Disaster

The Iolaire left Kyle of Lochalsh on 31 December 1918 for Stornoway, carrying naval reservists coming home on New Year’s leave or demobbed from the Royal Navy, apart from a few Mercantile Marine seamen. Early on the morning of 1 January 1919, approaching Stornoway in the dark, she struck the Beasts of Holm in the harbour and was wrecked, with the loss of some 205 lives. Only 75 of the passengers survived, and the death toll may in fact have been higher as the ship was overcrowded and passenger records were incomplete.

Many of the survivors were saved by the actions of John F Macleod, Port of Ness, who jumped from the boat with a line, miraculously made land, wedged himself in the boulders and hauled ashore a hawser, along which most of the survivors struggled to safety.

This bitter episode, wherein young men who had survived the hardships of war perished within sight of their homes, was keenly felt by communities throughout the Outer Hebrides.

A full list of all those known to have been aboard has been compiled by Stornoway Historical Society, with details of family connections, addresses, rank and service numbers.

Record Type:
Historical Event
Date / From:
1 Jan 1919
Type Of Event:
Other Military
Record Maintained by:

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