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New Year’s Day 2019 sees the centenary of the tragic sinking of HMY Iolaire. She was carrying sailors, who had fought during WWI, home to the isles of Lewis and Harris when she struck the infamous “The Beasts of Holm” just outside of Stornoway harbour. Sadly 201 sailors lost their lives in sight of the shoreline. Many of them lived locally and their deaths devastated the Islanders who had thought that their loved ones, who had survived the horrors of war, were soon to be home. One of our panels depicts this heart-breaking event from our history.

To commemorate this centenary, the British Forces Philatelic Services, in collaboration with the Iolaire Working Group, is producing a special philatelic cover for issue on the 1st January 2019.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland Trustees have kindly given permission for BFPS to use an image of the stunning Iolaire panel, stitched by Tracey MacLeod, Moria MacPherson and Gillian Scott-Forrest, and photographed by Alex Hewitt, on the commemorative cover. This sits on a background image of the specially produced limited edition ‘Iolaire Harris Tweed’. A special handstamp, BFPS 3220 featuring a silhouette of ‘HMY Iolaire’, will be used to cancel a 1st class stamp from the 2018 Royal Mail special issue WWI series.

Versions of the cover will include:

  • A numbered limited edition of 201 which will include a bookmark handcrafted by BFPS from a sample of the specially woven ‘Iolaire Harris Tweed’ (kindly donated by Kenneth MacKenzie Ltd) priced at £15 each.
  • A numbered limited edition of 100 signed by Captain C J Smith ADC Royal Navy, Naval Regional Commander Scotland and Northern Ireland at £10 each.
  • A standard unsigned edition costing £7.50 each.

Pre-ordering is advised as demand for this cover will be high. Visit the website now to view options and availability. British Forces Philatelic Services


The beautiful and moving Iolaire panel from The Great Tapestry of Scotland is currently exhibited in the Museum nan Eilean in Stornoway as one part of a commemorative exhibition marking the centenary of the loss of the Iolaire.

The exhibition including this panel opened on 2 October in Stornoway’s Museum nan Eilean. It will run until 27 April 2019.

The panel commemorating the loss of the Iolaire was stitched during 2012 and 2013 on Harris and South Uist.

Jan Rutherford, Project Director for The Great Tapestry of Scotland commented, “The trustees were deeply moved to know that the Iolaire panel from The Great Tapestry of Scotland is to be displayed at the heart of this exhibition at Museum nan Eilean to commemorate the disaster.

“The work of the artist Andrew Crummy and the stitchers who created this hauntingly beautiful panel has brought the Iolaire back to the attention of an international audience who had perhaps lost sight of this moment in history over the years.”

The loan of the panel forms part of a wider effort both this year and next to mark 100 years since the disaster.