After my previous blog, Niall Iain Macdonald from Stornoway got in touch with an interesting and moving footnote to the Iolaire disaster. This is about the ‘real Iolaire’, whose name was temporarily taken by the Amalthaea when it replaced it for naval duties in Stornoway, and was the yacht which tragically sunk. His email is reproduced here, along with his picture of the bell of the original Iolaire, and an account from The Scotsman of the yacht’s final demise in 1948.
Although the sinking of ‘HMY Iolaire’ on New Years’ Day 1919 is fairly well known (though maybe not as much as it really should be) what perhaps isn’t so well known is that the boat which sank that night wasn’t actually ‘HMY Iolaire’ but another ship, very similar to her, named ‘HMY Amalthaea’.
My father told me the story once and as I recall it, during the First World War Stornoway was referred to within the Navy/ Admiralty as ‘HMS Iolaire’ (now changed from HMY to HMS as she was an armed yacht) as it was usual for a port to take the name of the flagship stationed there. In November 1918, she was relieved by ‘HMY Amalthaea’ but instead of changing the name of the port as well, the Navy/ Admiralty just kept referring to Stornoway, and her replacement flagship, as ‘HMS Iolaire’.
The actual ‘HMS Iolaire’ was returned to her owner after the war and was eventually scrapped in 1948. It was my father’s uncle, Captain Ewen Mackinnon MBE, who sailed her on that final voyage to the scrapyard on the south coast and he salvaged the bell from the bridge before she was scrapped.