Iolaire was mortally damaged by her grounding, and would eventually slip from the rocks and sink into the depths beside the Beasts of Holm. Only her mast would be left showing above the waves.
Flares were let off, which were spotted by the fishing boat and the Sheila, which were running into Stornoway behind Iolaire. Conditions,
however, were too severe for any direct help to be offered by any
vessel, as they would place themselves into severe danger. One intrepid
man managed to bring a hawser ashore, which was to become a literal
lifeline for nearly four dozen souls. Others attempted to use the
lifeboats, which were almost immediately swamped by the heavy swell, or
smashed on the rocks nearby. For Iolaire only grounded about 50
yards from shore. Those who jumped into the sea drowned almost at once,
or were smashed onto the rocks, left lifeless. A life-saving
apparatus, a breeches' buoy, which had been brought from Stornoway,
came way too late to be useful.
Some of those that survived made their way to Stoneyfield Farm, about half a mile from the scene of Iolaire's
sinking, and their terrible news was relayed to Stornoway. The flares
had been spotted from the town, but had been (mis)taken for celebratory
The houses waited. The stew over the fire,
the teapot on the stove. The clothes on the bed, and the made up table.
The families, friends and other islanders waited. Then news filtered
through into, and from Stornoway. The Iolaire was lost. Several
dozen had been saved. But so many more were not. A night of terrifying
uncertainty drew on. Would he be among the saved?
It is early January, and daylight is still many hours away.
To be continued.