110195: John Finlay Macleod

John Finlay (died 1978) was a son of Murdo Macleod and Catherine Mackay, 4 Port of Ness. 

John Finlay had sought permission to not serve during the First World War, as he was needed in the community as a boatbuilder. However, he enrolled in the Royal Naval Reserve on the 28th of June 1917. He reported to HMS Victory at Portsmouth and served on the drifter HMD Christina Craig from HMS Satellite at North Shields until 26th November 1917. He was based at HMS Ganges II, a boys’ training establishment, where he was an instructor – his ability as a carpenter having been recognised.

In 1919, as a 30-year-old, John Finlay became a hero on the night of the Iolaire disaster, swimming ashore from the yacht to the rocks to secure a rope, on which 40 men escaped. 

After the wreck he was posted from HMS Ganges to the HMS Iolaire depot and demobilised on 5th April 1919. John Finlay continued to build his reputation as an accomplished and versatile tradesman, possessing a wide range of skills in woodworking, and continuting the Sgoth Niseach boat building tradition for many years.  He met Elizabeth II during her visit to the island in 1956, was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee medal in 1977, and the Royal Humane Society’s silver medal for an act of gallant bravery.

In January 1920 John Finlay married Peggy Finlayson of 18 Skigersta. The couple settled at 4 Port of Ness and had seven children. John Finlay died in December 1978 at the age of 90.

Record Type:
Date of Death:
21 Dec 1978
Carpenter; Seaman; Boatbuilder; Royal Naval Reservist
Record Maintained by:

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John Finlay Macleod of 4 Port of Ness

John Finlay Macleod of 4 Port of Ness