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HMY Iolaire — [Mr Graham Stringer in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:06 pm on 12th December 2018.

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Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee 4:06 pm, 12th December 2018

I am grateful for that intervention. I was just going to come on to John Finlay Macleod; I had not realised he was the great-grand-uncle of Chris Bryant, and I think him for pointing that out.

Those who lost their lives might be people we may meet ourselves someday, depending on what happens after this life. Of the 79 who survived, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, 40 owe their lives to fellow crewman and passenger, experienced seaman and Royal Naval reservist, John Finlay MacLeod, from Port of Ness, who swam ashore with a rope after a couple of attempts. He was swept out at one point. Four followed behind him on the small rope he swam with, the heaving line, but they had the presence of mind to use that line to pull a six-inch hawser, and a further 35 were able to follow. The actions of the hon. Gentleman’s great-grand-uncle saved 40 of the 79 who survived. It was quite a remarkable achievement, although it is sad to note that some were swept off the rope or sucked off the rope by the swell, and lost their lives.

John Finlay MacLeod was said to be a very daring man and, for the lives he saved, many were glad he was. There were many other heroes that night, and it is impossible in the time available to do them any measure of justice. It is worth pondering the effects of the Iolaire on the island of Lewis and Harris, the third largest of the British Isles after the island of Britain and the island of Ireland. The excellent book by Malcolm Macdonald breaks it down into areas of Lewis, because it is a big island. In the parish of Barvas, Ness lost 23 men. It is striking as we look through the names that there are still people—friends of mine—who have much the same names, from those areas: John MacDonald, Murdo Campbell, John MacLeod, Angus MacDonald, Angus Morrison, Donald Morrison, Donald MacLeod, John Murray and Roderick Morrison. These names are as familiar today as they were then in that area.

The parish of Barvas—Borve to Shawbost—lost 28 men. Uig parish in the east lost nine men; in Uig parish in the west, 14 were lost. In Stornoway parish, North Tolsta, 11 men were lost; in Stornoway parish, Back to Tong, nine men were lost. In Lochs parish, North Lochs, 21 men were lost; in Lochs parish, Kinloch, four men were lost; in Lochs parish, Pairc, eight men were lost. In Stornoway parish, Point, 39 men were lost. In Stornoway borough and district, eight men were lost. On the Isle of Harris, four men were lost; and on the Isle of Scalpay, one man, was lost—Finlay Morrison, Fionnlagh Dhomhnaill Fhionnlaigh. One of the things that should be noted in the excellent book is the patronymics of these people, which help people reading it today to know who their relations were. Finally, in the rest of the United Kingdom, 18 men were lost; they were the crew of the Iolaire, who perished.