The Loch Seaforth’s shortest and most solemn voyage was completed without a hitch today (Tuesday January 1st) as 600 passengers made the pilgrimage to view the Beasts of Holm while the Iolaire centenary was commemorated.
The sailing of the Loch Seaforth had been organised by CalMac in answer to access issues for people with mobility problems, who were allowed to drive on board and to use the lifts from the car deck to get access. It also offered a vantage point from which tributes could be laid on the water close to the wreck of the Iolaire.
On calm waters and in bright sunshine, the CalMac ferry left her berth in Stornoway harbour at 11.20am and travelled the short distance to Holm, where she came about and settled into position.
The Loch Seaforth was accompanied towards Holm by fishing vessels from the Stornoway fleet including FV Comrade and FB Sheigra, flying special flags of mourning commissioned by their skippers and created by Helen Macaulay of the Tong business Stitch in the Ditch. Stornoway Lifeboat RNLB Tom Sanderson also followed the ferry, taking up a guardian position beside the Beasts of Holm.
On shore, a crowd had gathered for the commemorative service organised by the Scottish Commemorations Panel and, in an answering tribute, passengers crowded the decks of the Loch Seaforth to share in their own service, relayed by the speaker system to all parts of the ship.
Rev James Maciver conducted the centenary remembrance service for the loss of HMY Iolaire on board MV Loch Seaforth, with almost all the proceedings in Gaelic, as Rev Maciver explained, ‘the language spoken by most of the men who perished here.’
The short service began with Psalm 77, verses 13-19, precented by Norman Morrison, and continued with prayer and scripture from Rev. Maciver. Robbie Drummond, managing director of CalMac recited the Ode of Remembrance and a bugler from the Royal Marine Band played the last post before an impeccably-observed two-minute silence.
On deck, piper Ashley Macdonald played ‘Lament for the Iolaire’ and the on-board service concluded with the Iolaire centenary prayer and Psalm 46, verses 1-5, sung in English and led once again by Norman Morrison.
Following the benediction, children from across the isles of Lewis and Harris cast 201 red carnations into the waters, each representing the life of one of the men lost in the tragedy 100 years ago. Wreaths were laid on behalf of CalMac and the Merchant Navy (Western Isles).
CalMac had arranged for hot drinks and snacks for all passengers, free of charge, as they were quietly brought back to the ferry terminal at 1pm.
Pictures show scenes on board during the service and some of the views of crowds ashore at Holm. (All pics by Annie Delin except Sheigra flag, Chris Murray)