Monday, 20 February 2006


In remembrance of those lost on the Norge, 28 June 1904.

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 was one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters of the 20th century. Others have happened before and since, some of which have faded from memory. I have highlighted one other before, the sinking of the Iolaire on the Beasts of Holm, on 1st January 1919.

The story and images below are partly taken from
SS Norge
In 1904, the emigrant vessel Norge sank off Rockall, 200 miles west of here in the Atlantic. Rockall is a rock which juts out of the oceanfloor, and sticks some 70 feet above the waves. A nearby reef is partially submerged, Hazelwood Rock, and both constitute a danger to shipping.
On 28th June 1904, the SS Norge was heading from Norway to America, when she struck Rockall. Her bow became embedded in the rocks. Lifeboats were readied, but the captain ordered the engines in reverse to extricate his ship. Unfortunately, there was severe damage below the waterline, and the Norge sank, taking 700 emigrants with her to the bottom. A number of them were picked up by a British merchantman, the Cerwona. Some lifeboats made it to the Outer Hebrides, and were cared for in Stornoway. Nine of them succumbed to the effects of their ordeal and are buried in Sandwick Cemetery, near Stornoway.

This link leads to transcripts of newspaper articles about the disaster, as they were printed in 1904. A book has been written about the sinking of this ship, but otherwise the event seems to have faded from memory.

Thursday, 2 February 2006


In February 2006, I spent several hours in Stornoway library, looking up names. Names of men, who were lost in the Iolaire disaster, which I have mentioned before. It is one thing reading the dry factual details. Two hundred and five drowned. Their bodies washed ashore around Holm, Lower Sandwick and Stornoway. Seventy-five survived. Many bodies were never recovered.

It becomes more alive, for want of a better word, once you start to browse through the Roll of Honour 1914-18. This always makes me sad. You see that some villages were very badly affected. Out of some families, one son would survive, but the other drowned. It became even more poignant when I came across the pictures. About 60 images are reproduced in the Roll of Honour.

Outside Lewis, this tragedy is little known, although it is one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters of the 20th century. The effect it had on Lewis was severe. Already, several hundred men had been lost in battle and on the high seas. The death toll was further augmented by this disaster, which meant that 1 in every 6 men who signed up at the start of or in the course of the First World War never returned home.

We should not forget them.

The list of names is published on this webpage. Any comments, additions etc. welcome.