Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no 290

The Iolaire

After four years of brutal war eager to board the Iolaire
The boat laden with too many homeward sailing for Hogmanay

The fires were bright, their clothes airing food prepared, all for welcoming
In sight of home broken on rocks dragged down by sodden great coats

A wailing began as news came on carts we brought their bodies home
One lost her words, was mute, silenced we could no way be comforted

Religion gave the only grace singing psalms a keening in waves
It is why we are the way we are not easy for the survivors

Homeward sailing for Hogmanay the boat laden with too many
Eager to board the Iolaire after four years of brutal war

Mary Thomson

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. Early on the morning of 1 January 1919, approaching Stornoway in the dark, she struck the Beasts of Holm and was wrecked, with the loss of some 205 lives; only 75 passengers survived. Some of the words in the poem are the islanders own, taken from the BBC TV documentary “In Sight of Home: The Iolaire”

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