The anniversary of the Iolaire disaster on 1st January 2019 will be the final formal event in the official, national four-year programme commemorating the Centenary of The Great War.  A time for deep reflection, it is also the appropriate time to create a significant memorial that will give the tragedy the national profile and place in history it merits and create a legacy for the community and for those visiting the island.

An Lanntair, with financial assistance from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, commissioned three of the most senior and respected visual artists in Scotland to prepare a range of designs for a bronze sea or land sculpture located on or near the site where the vessel was wrecked.

It is intended that it will complement the present memorial, encourage deep reflection, symbolise, represent and commemorate survivors, those lost, their families and the survival of the community itself. Because, ultimately, it is not possible to fully understand the history of Lewis in the 20th Century without recognising the scale and impact of the Iolaire disaster.

During our first consultations with the community, the initial designs were on display in the foyer of An Lanntair, and the community were invited to an event to feedback on their views. These designs remain on display through April and May 2017, and feedback can be given in person, or by email to 

The proposals designs are available to view here: Iolaire artist proposals 

Several points from the meeting were:

  • This was a positive, constructive and well-attended meeting.
  • There was a consensus that the names of the survivors and those lost was important and should be included as part of the piece.
  • In discussion about the site, there seemed to be a general view that something in the town linking the original destination (Stornoway Pier) to the wreck site at the Beasts of Holm was a compelling idea:  The idea of a piece on the pier where the men were due to land, twinned with a piece at Holm.
  • Also some form of representation in the communities that had lost men e.g. a multiple of a universal identifying symbol consistent with the memorial.
  • Plans would need to factor-in the renewed pathway to the monument that is to be built.
  • It was accepted that there should be seating.
  • The proposals might also be linked with the longer term coastal path planned from Stornoway harbour to the site.
  • There was some uncertainty as to whether the site was a designated war grave, which would preclude any sea-based work.  It does not appear to be the case, but there might be issues with the Crown Estate Commission.
  • In summary, there was approval in principle for the project and many positive comments on the ideas that were articulated and presented.  For now though, these are not conclusive proposals and the ongoing conversation will continue to inform the design process.

The next stage will be for the artists to reconcile these ideas and contributions and develop a limited number of more highly resolved concept designs.

Anyone who would like to send in comments about these proposals should email

An Lanntair, Acair Books and Museum nan Eilean at Lews Castle are working together on a number of projects around the Iolaire centenary.  In addition to the memorial proposal, there will be a new publication, exhibitions, and a wide-reaching education programme running throughout 2018 and early 2019.