The heavy hailshowers continue through the night, with the wind decreasing gradually. At 6 a.m., it appears to increase again. The ferry sails at 10 a.m. on its only sailing of the day. The Small Isles ferry was delayed because the A830, Fort William to Mallaig road, was blocked at Arisaig. Everyone had to transfer to the train to reach Mallaig. Went out to buy a ticket for a film performance next Thursday, 1 December; it's a local production called Rocket Post. It's about the failed experiment in 1934 to transfer mail from Scarp to mainland Harris by rocket. The rocket exploded, scattering all the mail over the beach and burning some of it. Tickets for this evening's showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire were NOT available until at the door. In Somerfields there is not a lot of fresh fruits, and no vegetables. Fairly busy in there nonetheless. Buy a new book with 400 Sudoku puzzles by Carol Vorderman, which should keep me happy. The 500 travellers that were stranded on the A30 in Cornwall are beginning to make their way home. A train derailed on a landslip at Moy, south of Inverness. The carriage remained upright, and 9 passengers were injured, none seriously. After an early supper, I proceed to the Town Hall at 6.30 for Harry Potter. Film was better than I had expected, it kept close to the storyline or what they could show of it. Although boisterous at the start, the teenagers present were very subdued at the end, by 9.20. There were one or two young children present, accompanied by mum and/or dad, as this is a 12A rated movie. As I said, very good but pretty graphic. Return to Newton to find mrs B and her sister partaking in some uisge beatha whilst waiting for a Xmas cake to cook in the oven at 100C. Small wonder it takes about 4 hours.
Very unpleasant weather today. We have a northerly gale, which is gusting in excess of 55 knots or force 11. Elsewhere the wind is even stronger, like at Malin Head, Kirkwall and Lerwick. The strongest gust, 69 knots, was observed at Kirkwall. Snow is a big problem throughout Scotland, although not here. Temperature is 5C, which is too high to allow snow to accumulate. We have a train of hail and snow showers which come barrelling through. Ferry is cancelled for today, and along much of the West Coast, services have been disrupted. The wind isn't that much of a problem, apart from causing a few powercuts in some parts of Scotland. I don't show my face out of doors, but keep abreast of events. Snow becomes a big issue elsewhere. It causes a traffic infarct in Holland, with tailbacks in excess of 900 km or 560 miles. Here in the UK, 500 motorists are stranded on Bodmin Moor when lorries on the A30 Penzance to Exeter road fail to negotiate a steep incline, blocking the path of following traffic. Here in Stornoway, people are panic-buying because there are no ferries.
Dire, dire warnings about today's weather. We start off with a heavy hailshower, which is followed by a procession of snowshowers. MV Muirneag turned back to Ullapool after sailing from there at 3 a.m.. The Isle of Lewis did leave at 7.15. Because of the strong winds, powersupplies may be interrupted. Schools in the Southern Isles were closed due to the weather. Schools in Lewis & Harris are closed for Thanksgiving. Spindrift whirls over the Newton Basin. A fishing boat, heavily laden, leaves port, but turns back. We have a northwesterly wind today, and at 9 a.m. gusts reach 54 knots, force 10. Temperature has plummeted to +2C, as opposed to yesterday's 11C. The Metcheck website is running very slowly indeed. Go into town at 10.30, where many shops are shut for Thanksgiving. I want a roll of film, but the shop in Point Street is closed, as is KJ MacDonald's Pharmacy. Net result, I have to go to the Tourist Office. Wait for about 30 minutes for a haircut. Spend 90 minutes in the library re-scanning pictures. Got some interesting material from North Lochs Historical Society re. Project Timbertown. Mrs B is getting all the candles out in case of a powercut. It is bitterly cold, with a strong to galeforce northwesterly wind, gusting up to force 10. There are frequent hail- and snowshowers. The ferry situation is once again bad. Our ferry is due back at 3 pm, and is unlikely to sail until NEXT MONDAY!!! Notice strong winds right the way down the Irish Sea coast, as far down as Crosby, Liverpool. Gusts at 50-54 knots there, Lusa not far behind at 49 kts. Ferry comes in at 3, followed hard on its heels by a heavy snow shower. Received some nice info from the North Lochs Historical Society. Climbers were lost on Ben MacDui, Cairngorms, in today's blizzards, but were found safe and well if cold. Many schools are closed, Skye Bridge is shut for high-sided vehicles. Big problems with snow and ice, on one section of road vehicles could not gain traction. By 5pm, the freight from the ferry has been unloaded into the supermarket. After dark, snow showers intensify. Gusts up to 56 knots (64 mph) are reported. This is the only place in the UK where Thanksgiving is being held on the last Thursday in November. Heavy snow- and hailshowers leave a fair accumulation out the back. Very cold, barely above freezing. Met Office reports not coming through from Stornoway, so have to get info from XCWeather.co.uk. Spaghetti bolognese from mrs B, with wine.
The weather is bad, so Caledonian MacBrayne is cancelling the following services:
Ardrossan Brodick Service
Due to adverse weather conditions the 1350 sailing has been diverted to Gourock eta 1600. All remaining sailings today have been cancelled. We apologise for any inconvenience.
Due to the adverse weather the sailings have been cancelled meantime
Sound of Harris (Berneray/Leverburgh)
1320 ex Berneray & 1440 ex Leverburgh cancelled due to weather conditions. No further sailings today
Due to adverse weather conditions this service is cancelled for the remainder of the day. Sailings will resume as per timetable on Fri 25th November - weather permitting.
Oban - Castlebay & Lochboisdale
Due to adverse weather the 1530 hrs from Oban has been cancelled. Next sailing will be 0930 hrs on Friday weather permitting.
Mallaig - Armadale
Due to deteriorating weather conditions the 1600 ex Mallaig and the 1645 ex Armadale sailings are cancelled.
STORNOWAY - ULLAPOOL SERVICE
MV Isle of Lewis will attempt a crossing from Ullapool to Stornoway at approximately 1130. It is anticipated that the vessel will arrive in Stornoway between 1500 and 1600. The 1345 sailing (ex Stornoway) and the 1715 sailing (ex Ullapool) have been cancelled, due to forecasted severe adverse weather.
Due to the weather forecast for the next couple of days, the Master of the vessel has indicated that the following sailing may be affected from Stornoway and Ullapool; Thursday p.m - doubtful Friday a.m - extremely doubtful Friday p.m - extremely doubtful Saturday a.m - doubtful Because of the knock on effect of these disruptions we took the decision to close the affected sailings for reservations. This will be reviewed on a sailing by sailing basis, if the weather improves at any stage it may be possible to attempt a crossing WEATHER PERMITTING. Please contact local offices for further details.
Tarbert - Portavadie cancelled until further notice.
Rum and Canna calls cancelled due to weather MV Lochnevis returning to Mallaig
Due to adverse weather conditions the ferry between Oban and Craignure has been cancelled for the whole of today. The next scheduled sailing will be 0800 hrs on Friday 25th Novermber from Oban
Sound of Barra Service
Chargehand has advised that due to weather conditions he was cancelling the first return sailing on this service. ie 07:15hrs ex Ardmhor and the 08:20hrs ex Eriskay. He has now advised that due to weather conditions and forecast he was cancelling the remainder of the sailings on this service for today. Weather permitting timetable as normal for Friday 25/11
It's a very pleasant 1 km stroll to Mealabost, where a small picnic area awaits the weary and hungry. A few head of highland cattle browse in an adjacent field. Four jegfighters come past before circling to land at the airport, just over the hill. The bus comes at 1.35 and returns us to Newton some 15 minutes later. When I go to Somerfields, I encounter Sally (from Balallan) who I have not seen for several months. Her daughter had to leave Lewis due to bullying, but will be returning to continue her education at a university. Cloud increases as the evening progresses, and it comes on to rain at 10pm.
It's a grey and drizzly day, with a thin wind blowing. Jerry left on the ferry, which finally departed for Ullapool at 7.45. Breakfast at 10 o'clock, after which we watch the Remembrance Day ceremonies in London's Whitehall. It's sunny down there, and the trees are still very much in leaf. Services are being held in 4 different churches in Stornoway, each allocated to one or more units of military or civil defence forces. I go out shortly after midday to attend a Service of Dedication up on the War Memorial. As I walk down Kenneth Street, the Free Church goes out, everybody hurrying to their cars to get home. I head down Bayhead Street to the Porter's Lodge, and along the Willowglen Burn to the Watermill. From there, I head up through the housing estate between the Lochs Road and Stewart Drive, to the Memorial. A lady is staggering up the Lochs Road, talking loudly to ... nobody. When I reach the top of Stewart Drive, two minibuses from the Army Cadets are parked. Walked up behind a group of fire officers. A fair crowd had gathered at the Memorial, about 100. A proportion of Army and Navy as well as veterans. Rev W. Black of the Church of Scotland started with a longish prayer, for which everybody took their hats off. Even though it was raining steadily. After that, we sang Psalm 46. Fortunately, someone passed round a crib-sheet with the words. After the psalm, which was not exactly sung with thunderous gusto, the wreaths were laid inside the Memorial. As the picture at the top of the entry shows, this is a tower, 26 metres high, perched on top of a high hill. It can be seen from far away. The tower is normally locked, but opened for this occasion. Proceedings were closed at 12.50, 15 minutes after it began. We sang two verses of the National Anthem, verses 1 and 3. For those who have just forgotten what the lines were, go to http://ingeb.org/songs/godsaveo.html. Everyone filed away, the Army cadets were marched down, the Airforce Cadets, complete with banner were bellowed on their way by their sergeant. The Army lot only went as far as the Stewart Drive gate, the RAF cadets went all the way to Memorial Avenue. I cut through the estate to the Lochs Road and went to the Watermill to take some pictures. Returned to town via the Golfcourse which looked very autumnal. Hardlyanybody about in the town. Returned to Newton at 1.30, where I joined mrs B for lunch. A large flock of gulls wheels over Sandwick Bay, behind the Coastguard Station. We await the return of the ferry, but end up waiting all day. Don't know if it came back. A Navy boat is hovering on the horizon for a while. The lifeboat goes out at 15.10. As darkness falls, visibility drops below 1 mile. Arnish Lighthouse is only visible by its light, on account of the heavy drizzle. With the evening progressing, the wind picks up. The moon is out at 8pm, and a strong wind blows. A severe gale warning is out for the tops of the hills. Later in the evening, I accompany mrs B to her sister's house, just down the road. She is due to return to Stornoway later this week, after an absence of 15 months. The house has lain empty for that time, except for a spell in the summer when a lady staid there for a while. I switched on the electrics and the central heating boiler. It's a nice wee place, but it's a bit pokey; windows are set deep in the 2 feet thick walls.
Jerry was due to go on the ferry (sorry, no pun intended) at 7.15, but CalMac cancelled the sailing. The wind has now veered into the northwest and is still at galeforce. By 10 a.m., we learn that the 13.45 will be going as timetabled. TWO lifeboats are seen leaving port at 10.15 - strange, we only have one on station normally.
Because of the poor weather, the wreath laying at the Ness War Memorial, at Cross, will now be taking place in the church. Most ferry services are going normally now, apart from the Small Isles sailing which was unable to call at Canna. The Eriskay to Barra ferry is off as well. The Isle of Lewis is NOT sailing after all; it has broken down. Again. On Thursday, it took 5 hours to reach Ullapool, a crossing that normally only takes 2 hours 45 minutes. CalMac put out a desperate appeal for parts, which served to patch it up. Now it's not going again. Another boat is due in tomorrow, and folk are being bussed down to Tarbert to go via Skye. Jerry cannot take up that offer, because his car is parked in Ullapool. Yesterday, schools were closed, a plane couldn't land at Stornoway Airport due to water on the runway. Another plane had to turn back from Kirkwall because the 55 knot winds were too strong. Debris is still flying around in Skye. Weather her starts cloudy with spells of rain, but later on the sun breaks through. Very cold wind. Muirneag did come in, but it still has lots of stuff on board. Lorries were damaged during the crossing yesterday. Isles FM reports that CalMac are putting on an extra sailing tomorrow, which is very unusual for a Sunday. There has not been a proper ferry service for 3 days now, and huge backlogs have built up for cars, vehicles and passengers on both sides of the Minch. After nightfall, the showers turn into hailshowers. Jerry and myself are served lasagna by mrs B. The former goes to An Lanntair for a jamming session with his bouzouki. A raging success, he doesn't return until 3.30 a.m..
At 12.30 the sun puts in an unexpected appearance. Wind increases appreciably, now gusting to force 10. Barometer going down like a lead weight: 983 mbar at 12.00. Ferry is not sailing once it's back from Ullapool. The road across the Braighe is closed due to a high tide at 3 pm. Although the rain has now turned into showers, it's still very wild. During one squall, we lose sight of Arnish, and a wild frenzy of spray is blown over the causeway. This is force 11. Several more showers come barrelling through, with a similar effect. Malin Head reports 65 knots, which is force 12; Benbecula at 1pm is on 57, force 11. The ferry was expected in between 1.30 and 2.00, but there is sight nor sound of her. She is reported to be sheltering in Loch Erisort. An accident is reported on board Muirneag, also still out there in the Minch. Lorries have crashed into each other and she is now sheltering off Tolsta. I went out for some shopping at 3.15, which was a disconcerting experience. The force of the wind made walking difficult. After getting food, a paper and a roll of ilm, I went out again for some pictures. Don't know how they're going to come out. Took the camera to the coastguard station, and snapped away. I abandoned any idea of crossing over to Goat Island. The causeway is awash with massive seas going over, and the wind is so powerful that they blow the water clean out of puddles at the corner of the CG station. Back to town, where big seas are running into the seawall on South Beach Street. Water is flying over Newton Street, Shell Street, the busstation (buses are parked up against the shrimp factory, rather than in the bays). Walking very difficult, as I have to hold on to whatever comes to hand. Railings, bins, cars. A gale blows up Cromwell Street. All the fishing boats are tied up in the Inner Harbour. Return soaked, in spite of wearing waterproofs. Wonder where the ferry is - still up Loch Erisort. As darkness falls, winds continue to increase. Tiree and Benbecula now ratcheting up windspeeds of 75 and 73 knots, full hurricane force gusts. Sustained winds there of 55 knots, force 11. Gusts in Stornoway at 4pm reached 65 knots, also hurricane force, so that explains my problems in getting about. Sustained windspeeds up to 45 knots, force 9. The ferry finally comes in at 5.45, 4Â½ hours late. Suddenly, the winds decrease to sustained force 7, gusting to force 10. Still very strong. The really severe weather transfers east. The heaviest gusts occurat Loch Glascarnoch, between Ullapool and Garve, at 62 knots, nearly force 12. Tulloch Bridge and Skye are both going strong with gusts of 50 knots, force 10. Wick is now topping the bill at 65 knots at 9pm. Even Kirkwall and Lerwick are now affected, with 56 knots, force 11. In spite of all the strong winds, there do not appear to have been major problems. Electrical engineers were on standby at the substation in Dunvegan, Skye, which serves the Western Isles. Although we had a few dips in power, it never went off. Mrs B's son and his wife turn up to lash down their caravan, which is parked in the backyard. The wind is expected to veer northwest overnight, which puts it at risk of being blown away.
Armistice Day today, with some quite appalling weather. Gales and rain. Many ferry services are off - I've copied the list of cancellations at midday into a separate entry. The Stornoway ferry is on its way across (rather them than me). Irish weatherstations on the west coast report gusts up to 60 knots (force 11). Stornoway is on 45 knots, force 9. A rare gull was blown across on the winds of Hurricane Wilma and is now attracting twitchers to Bragar. If they can get across at all.
Further updates in a separate entries.
Stornoway 68 kn (120 km/h)
Tiree 74 kn (135 km/h)
Malin Head 77 kn (138 km/h)
Lerwick 78 kn (140 km/h)
South Uist 86 kn (155 km/h)
At midday today, the wind is still sustained at 35 kn (force 8) with gusts up to 51 kn (force 10). Irrelevant information: finished another pen in 11 days. The ferry is an hour late leaving for Ullapool, with quite a few showerclouds around. About 6 in sight at 3.30 pm. We're having two guests in. One is an elderly gent who is very quickly out of breath. Mrs B spares him the ordeal of having to walk the 10 minutes into town for his meal and gives him a meal in his room. This chap, Geoff, lives in Benbecula but hails from the Home Counties of England. He is in Stornoway to attend hospital. The other is a jolly fellow from East Anglia, who is here on a house-hunting mission. A little while ago, the house by the pier at Garyvard, South Lochs, was advertised for sale. Jerry plays the bouzouki
which is what they call an 'octave mandolin'. Each string is actually double-strung, with the two strings tuned an octave apart. It sounds sharper than a guitar. We have a music session, comparing various types of music. Me on the keyboard and the Runrig and Salm CDs. Jerry plays a CD on which he and his partner perform. Very pleasant.
Today starts sunny, but it clouds over very rapidly, and the wind picks up just as quickly. Rain starts at 10.40. It doesn't last very long, and recedes into showers around lunchtime. Head into town after 4.45 to get a paper and a lottery ticket. There was a long queue at the lottery counter in Somerfields. Someone bought £45 worth of tickets. Guy Fawkes night in Stornoway was a damp squib; hardly anything went off. Weather not fantastic, but I heard that plenty of fireworks had been sold. Very nice supper with mrs B, who is spoiling me rotten. Lottery yielded nothing, but mrs B won £10.
When I leave the library at 5.45, it's dark - small wonder, the sun sets at 4.30 pm. Mrs B is making mashedturnip and separately mashed potatoes with onion rings. Mind you, the turnip was fully organically grown, fertilised with seaweed. And mince balls, which I'm in charge of. I made them a bit too big.
After updating the website, I heard of a rescue going on 200 miles west of Benbecula. A man had been crushed by a 2 tonne door. The coastguard yanked a local GP off a scheduled flight and took him on the helicopter. This had to refuel at Benbecula before setting off into the Atlantic. Bought a microwave meal for mrs B and myself, which went down a treat.
No, I didn't make it, but I'm very pleased that this came along. It's given me a fantastic opportunity to read other people's journals. Congratulations to all the winners, listed below. Have a look at what goes in AOL J-land.
POSTSCRIPT: Many of the journals listed here have been discontinued, were transferred to AOL UK or Blogger, following the introduction of advertisements on AOL USA. (26-10-2006)
JOURNAL OF THE YEAR 2005:
Just One Girls Head Noise - his1desire
Transferred to AOL UK
LORD OF THE BLOG:
The StupidSheet Guy - stupidsheetguy
LADY OF THE BLOG:
Judith Heartsong - judithheartsong
Transferred to Blogger
DUKE OF THE BLOG:
Dave Cryer, Cave Dryer - davobarbus
DUCHESS OF THE BLOG:
Adventures of a desperately fat housewife - tillysweetchops
MARQUIS/MARQUISSE OF THE BLOG:
Aurora Walking Vacation - plittle
BEST INTERNATIONAL BLOG:
My Journey to Life - grassriver
Not written in 2006
BEST USE OF GRAPHICS:
Judith Heartsong - judithheartsong
Transferred to Blogger
BEST USE OF ANIMATION:
This and that, and hockey - nightmaremom
BEST USE OF PHOTOGRAPHY:
WonderGirl - cneinhorn
MOST HUMOROUS JOURNAL:
Adventures of a desperately fat housewife - tillysweetchops
MOST EMOTIONAL JOURNAL:
Watching My Sister...Disappear - mlrhjeh
MOST THOUGHT-PROVOKING JOURNAL:
Just One Girl's Head Noise - his1desire
Transferred to AOL UK - writer now deceased
MOST EDUCATIONAL JOURNAL:
Inane thoughts and insane ramblings - swibirun
Transferred to Blogger
MOST INSPIRATIONAL JOURNAL:
A Pennies Worth - blondepennierae
BEST POLITICAL JOURNAL:
the wizard of ahs - anarchitek
BEST SPORTS JOURNAL:
High Above Courtside - monponsett
BEST TRAVEL JOURNAL:
Alphawoman's Blog - alphawoman1
Discontinued blog in October 2006
BEST ENTERTAINMENT JOURNAL:
Albert's World of Artsy Fun - lamove04
BEST FAMILY JOURNAL:
DUST BUNNY CLUB OF NORTH AMERICA - dornbrau
BEST PETS JOURNAL:
Random Ramblings - xzasporated1
Started different blog
MOST OUTSPOKEN JOURNAL (TIE!):
Mrs. Linklater's Guide to the Universe - jevanslink
Screamin' Remo - screaminremo303
BEST USE OF ATTITUDE (TIE!):
Freely Floralilia,the official journal of pointless posting - floralilia
Mortimer's Café - luvmort
MOST WELL-WRITTEN JOURNAL:
In The Shadow Of The Iris - justaname4me2
BEST FICTION/POETRY JOURNAL (TIE!):
Musings from Mâvarin - mavarin
TO GROW IS TO BE ANXIOUS - deabvt
BEST ENTRY OR SERIES OF ENTRIES:
"The Wedding From Hell"
Adventures of a desperately fat housewife - tillysweetchops
BEST THEME-BASED JOURNAL:
Stories From My Ambulance - sekirley
BEST YOUNG-PERSON'S JOURNAL:
I Have a Life, This is It - animaquarius2500
BEST TEEN JOURNAL:
Holding On & Letting Go - rickysbunnie
BEST COLLEGIATE JOURNAL:
Life Or Something Like It ~ LIVE from the U! - luckyaugustgirl
Went to AOL UK
BEST NEW JOURNAL:
Fresh Cup...Move Down - schnozbeary
BEST AIM JOURNAL (TIE!):
The Daily Snooze II - hewasolddog299
Went to Blogger
The Light's On...But No One's Home - krspkrmmom
BEST-KEPT SECRET JOURNAL (TIE!):
From Here to There - firestormkids04
Lotus Martinis - txguinan
Went to Blogger
Life With Linny - lindainspokane
MOST CREATIVE/ORIGINAL JOURNAL:
Adventures of the 2-Faced Baseball - upseted
The Iolaire disaster, where 200 men died yards from shore
31 December 1918
THE ISLE of Lewis had a hard war. Some 6,200 men joined up and nearly 1,000 had died. Every family on the island had lost fathers, sons, brothers or uncles. So, the night of 31 December 1918 was tense with expectation. The war was finally over, the world was at peace and after four long years the men who had served king and country were on their way home.
The Kyle of Lochalsh was alive. Hundreds of laughing, boisterous servicemen were crowded onto the quay. The regular steam-ferry, the SS Sheila, was soon packed so the Royal Navy ordered the Iolaire across the Minch from her berth in Stornoway to carry the extra men left behind.
The Iolaire had been a luxury yacht before the war, sailing under the name of the Amalthaea. She was used by the navy in anti-submarine and patrol work when she was renamed the Iolaire – Gaelic for "Sea Eagle".
When she arrived in Kyle there was some discussion between the Master, Commander Mason and Commander Walsh, in charge at Kyle. Commander Mason was worried about the paucity of life-saving equipment onboard. She was kitted out with only two lifeboats and lifejackets for 80. Even more worrying she had never sailed into Stornoway harbour at night, a tricky manoeuvre in daylight.
Discussions were brought up short when two more trains arrived at the quay spilling out more demobbed men. The master ordered the 284 servicemen, predominately navy reserves, up the gangplank and onto the ship.
She left at 9:30pm, sailing out of the darkness of the new year. But 12 miles out of Stornoway Harbour the weather turned. As a gale took hold the crew of a local fishing boat watched in confusion as the Iolaire failed to change course to make harbour. Instead she carried on full steam ahead into the pitch-black night.
Biastan Thuilm - the Beasts of Holm - is a rocky outcrop just short of the harbour entrance. A small light attached to the rock warns mariners of the approaching danger. When the Iolaire failed to turn, the flickering light was useless. The momentum of the ship kept pushing her forward.
Visibility was poor. Sleet was falling and the seas were wild. When the ship collided with the "Beasts" she went over almost immediately. Nobody on board knew where they were. The boat was lying only about 20 feet from land, but between the ship and the rocks was a boiling, raging sea. Fifty men jumped into the water and made for shore. They all drowned in the freezing water. The two lifeboats were launched, but were swamped immediately as too many men battled for too few seats.
At three o’clock in the morning the ship’s back broke and she went under.
As the men onboard slowly drowned one man, John Macleod, swam for his life hauling a rope behind him. When he reached shore he set up another stronger rope, and 25 men escaped along this safety line. John Macleod was awarded the highest peacetime aware for heroism for his incredible courage and strength.
Donald Morrison climbed the mast as the ship went down and clung on as she submerged. He was picked up alive the next morning at 10 o’clock, having spent eight hours in the water.
His brother was not so lucky. He drowned alongside 205 men who had seen off enemy fire only to die within shouting distance of their own homes.
The Lewis Roll of Honour records the poignant loss of Kenneth Macphail whose death epitomises the tragedy: "He was the sole survivor of a ship torpedoed in the Mediterranean in October 1917. He had a terrible experience before he was rescued having been nearly 36 hours in the sea until washed ashore in Algeria. Pathetic in the extreme it is to think that this powerful seaman after so miraculous an escape in the Mediterranean, perished within a few feet of his native soil."
Aerial photograph of Stornoway
As New Year’s Day broke across the islands, families waiting for the arrival of their loved ones heard rumours of a terrible disaster. Men walked miles from villages to Stornoway searching for news. What they found was devastating. The Scotsman of 6 January reported the tragedy, soberly noting: "The villages of Lewis are like places of the dead. The homes of the island are full of lamentation – grief that cannot be comforted. Scarcely a family has escaped the loss of a near blood relative. Many have had sorrow heaped upon sorrow."
Days went by and still all the men were not recovered. Boats left the harbour in search of bodies to return as night fell to a silent crowd waiting at the harbour. In 1959 Donald Macphail, speaking on Gaelic radio, recalled the moment his friend found the body of his son.
‘The man’s son was there, and I remember he was so handsome that I could have said he was not dead at all. His father went on his knees beside him and began to take letters from his son’s pockets. And the tears were splashing on the body of his son. And I think it is the most heart-rending sight I have ever seen.’
Two investigations were ordered. With the crew dead no conclusion was reached, other than to rule out drink as being the cause. A public enquiry held later found that the deciding factor in the tragedy was the lack of lifebelts and life craft in the vessel.
How traumatically the Iolaire disaster affected the islands is unknown. Roddy Murray director of An Lanntair museum in Stornoway thinks that it cannot be underestimated. "We can speculate on its contribution to the mass emigrations of the twenties, its effect on the Lewis character, the rebirth of an inherent fatalism. Its effect was like the Passover of the Old Testament."
Snaking through the whole story, like a spectral ribbon are tales of supernatural occurrences. John Macleod later told his son that he saw his mother standing before him as he jumped into the sea. Deer, portents of death, were seen in a number of villages that night.Strangest of all was the story of a man from Breascleit who was tormented with visions of a body floating in the sea. He walked to Stornoway and directed the recovery boats to the area he had seen in his dream. Sure enough a body was recovered in exactly the place he had described. It was no surprise to anyone when the body turned out to be the old man’s son.
Brilliantly sunny morning after an overnight low of 4C. Awoke to the sound of migrating geese passing overhead. Rain elsewhere in the UK, but not here. Around 10 a.m., they announce that David Blunkett has had to resign from the UK government again. It's a long story, but it boils down to poor judgment. At 12.30, I set off with mrs B and her nephew to the Castle Grounds. After calling into the Bayhead P.O., we carry on to the Woodlands Centre where we enjoy lunch. I have a baguette BLT (bacon, lettuce & tomato), while my companions enjoy a smoked salmon with a colossal salad each. That was a filler all-round, so a walk was in order. After a brief run round to the northern edge of the Castle Groudns, we went to see the new watermill. This is a reconstruction of the old mill which burned down in 1890. It's very cleverly done. A run off from the Willowglen burn goes to a millpond, which supplies the water that goes over the big wheel. When this turns, electricity is generated to power lighting along the walkway to Cuddy Point. The mill was officially opened on October 21st (see picture)
The wheel is not operating right now as fencing still needs to be erected for safety's sake. Return to town at 3pm. Cloud has increased gradually, and it's feeling cold. Feel very full after the lunch, so contend with a bowl of soup. Watch some TV during the evening, such as All Creatures Great and Small.
November started with a bang at 4 in the morning, on account of two flashes of lightning and two claps of thunder. Heavy rain accompanied this shower. More follow through the morning. Three workmen are staying with mrs B, but their gear has not arrived on the good old Muirneag. Have a good old yarn with mrs B about the church and all the splits that continually occur in the Free Church here in Lewis. The weather turns pretty changeable, with heavy showers alternating sunny intervals. The ferry is about 15 minutes late getting in at lunchtime. I'm writing descriptions for hidden places in Lewis, such as Steimreway, 4 miles west of Lemreway. Others include the Iolaire Monument outside Sandwick and the sheilings at Cuidhsiadar and Filiscleitir in Ness. Also discover a very interesting article on the net from Views of Scotland about sheilings and the proposed windfarm. A bulletin board on VisitHebrides.com features Angus Nicolson, a local councillor, who has some vociferous exchanges with a German photographer and frequent visitor. By nightfall, at 5pm, the showers fade away.
Clocks went back last night so the sun shone at 8 in the morning. Nice bright morning but hazy. Banks of cloud move up from the south, looking threatening, but dissipating all the while. Met Office has issued a severe weather warning with severe gales in the offing. After midday, the rain starts and it gets quite gloomy. Find a report on the Coastguard website that a Spanish fisherman was lost overboard 145 miles NW of the Butt of Lewis. Stornoway Coastguard were alerted by Falmouth CG, who in turn had been alerted by an Irish coastguard at Malin Head. He spoke Spanish, and happened to be monitoring traffic on 2182 kHz. Communications were going via Madrid because "none of the fishermen spoke Spanish". What? Stornoway Coastguard is very concerned, because the man washed overboard in full oiskins in southeasterly gales, with no lifejacket. Search is called off after 6 hours. Sun is back after 2pm, but the wind picks up through the afternoon. Learn that the planet Mars can be seen above the eastern horizon in the evening. At sunset, now at 4.45, a small yacht can be seen sailing into the harbour. Its progress is only slow, and it vanishes into the darkness once past Arnish. Sheets of water slam over the causeway. At 5.30, it's fully dark. Dinner tonight is sweet and sour chiecken with rice, a glass of wine and sticky-toffee-pudding from a tin. The latter is OK, but not like the real article. Finally manage to put the Mod music on the net, and it's available on http://modmusic.bravehost.com.