Stornoway’s town centre was packed with hundreds of onlookers last night (Monday December 31st 2018) as the Iolaire Commemoration moved towards its climax.
Francis Street was filled with the sights and scents of the torchlight procession led by the Lewis Pipe Band which walked from the Town Hall to Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais.
The procession had 201 torches representing the men who lost their lives.
The event began from Perceval Square earlier…where people were gathering from before 7.30pm. The Pipe Band and those representing the Royal Navy and other victims of the tragedy marched from the Square to the Town Hall setting off around 7.40pm.
Then a series of media events took place and after that the torchlight parade gathered in Point Street, filling the street and spreading up towards An Lanntair – built on the site of the former Imperial Hotel - before the formal march began, streaming up towards the buildings which would have housed The Nicolson Institute at the time of the tragedy, and then into Sandwick Road, before ending outside the Sports Centre, where the audience was gathering to get into the performance there and in The Nicolson Institute hall.
This was followed by the event, entitled Call Na H-Iolaire: A Community Remembers, which began at just after 9:30pm The emotionally-moving programme was conducted bilingually with announcements and introductions in both Gaelic and English. It included prayers, psalms, music, dance, Gaelic and English readings and a 15-piece Royal Marine Band.
Several of the compositions had been created especially in relation to the Iolaire commemoration – and some had not been performed in public before.
The multi-faceted event – which was flawless in its presentation - finished just after 11.30pm and many of the audience stayed on to welcome in the New Year in the sports centre with refreshments provided.
As the audience left their seats, the big screens in Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais began to display all the names, village by village, of those lost throughout the Western Isles during the First World War.
The concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal and streamed live on the internet at www.iolaireonline.org.