WW100 Scotland Day of Commemoration on Islay

On Friday 4 May the Ilich will pay their respects to the fallen and the wounded in the First World War, alongside dignitaries who include the Princess Royal, the First Minister, US Ambassador to UK and the Acting Ambassador of Germany, at a series of events marking the centenary of two of the War’s greatest tragedies.

The day, the most significant in a year-long programme of events marking the island’s contribution to World War One, remembers over 200 islanders who lost their lives in WW1; around 700 US servicemen and British crew who perished when two troop ships (SS Tuscania in February 1918 and HMS Otranto in October 1918) sank off Islay’s coast; and the valiant efforts of the local community in rescuing survivors and respectfully burying the dead.

A service was held at the American Monument in February to mark the day the SS Tuscania went down and another will be held at Kilchoman to commemorate the sinking of HMS Otranto in October, but Friday has long been earmarked as the day that respects are paid to both. Continue reading....

Thursday 3rd May

Proceedings will begin on Thursday evening with The Story of Islay’s War, which will be told in Bowmore Square at 6.30pm. Written by Les Wilson and Stuart Graham, this thought-provoking performance incorporates the Islay Community Pipe Band and the Ella Edgar dancers. Later that evening a musical performance, compared by the BBC’s and Islay’s very own Glenn Campbell, will see Scottish and American musicians combining to create a wonderful eclectic mix US/UK five piece Bluegrass band The Coal Porters sharing the stage with Mod Gold Medalist Alasdair Currie, Libby Morris and fiddler, Archie McAllister.

Friday 4th May

On Friday events begin with a service at the American Monument at 8am. The public is free to attend along with a group of invitees with those intending to attend asked to be at the Car park at 7:20am.

At 9:30am South Islay Development has turned Port Ellen Green into an “Island Market” with 20 stalls from a wide ranging cross section of Islay. Included among them will be schools, distiilleries, charities and Islay Ales, who will be showcasing their Reconciliation Ale brewed with hops from America, Sweden, France, Germany and England.

At 11:30am a parade of the State Flags, produced by the Islay Qullters, and carried by children from the island’s schools will start outside the Co-op in Port Ellen and to the War Memorial.

At 12 noon the dignitaries will take their seats for a service conducted by Rev Valerie Watson. After the service there will be an interpretive dance from Ella Edgar’s dancers. Alasdair Currie will sing, Dr Angus MacTaggart will give a reading and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland will give a prayer. A rendition of Amazing Grace will bring the ceremony to a close. From there the dignitaries will head to the Ramsay Hall to meet local residents and descendants of some of the fallen and the wounded who have travelled to the island to honour their relatives. Following this the Hall will be open to the public to enable them to view the flags and other art works produced for the occasion.

At 4pm the Band of the Royal Marines will play Beating the Retreat.

Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th May

Ramsay Hall will be open to the public on Saturday 5 May from 10am to 4pm and on Sunday from 12 noon to 4pm to view the Islay Quilters’ flags, the figurines, the banners and art work produced by Islay’s schools and the Islay Community Art Group.

WW100 Commemoration preparations

With preparations for the WW100 Scotland Day of Commemoration on Islay on Friday 4 May in their final stages, organisers are reminding local residents of how they can get involved. All those who RSVP’d to an invitation for the 12 noon ceremony at Port Ellen’s war memorial have been allocated a seat. Guests are asked to be seated by 11:30 and to allow time for bag searches and ID checks beforehand. The deadline for RSVPs has passed, and all seats for the ceremony have now been allocated to those who have confirmed their attendance.

Also Welcome Without Invitation

Those without a seat and invitation are still encouraged to head to Port Ellen, where they can observe the ceremony from a number of standing areas near the war memorial, and all residents are urged to go along and soak up the atmosphere at the community green, where local stalls and refreshments will be available both before and after the service. Local volunteers and stewards will be on hand at the green and around Port Ellen throughout the day to answer any questions.

Traffic & Parking in and Around Port Ellen

No parking will be permitted around Port Ellen War Memorial or on Charlotte Street and Frederick Crescent in Port Ellen. These roads will also be closed to through traffic and a diversion via Back Road will be clearly signposted with stewards on hand if needed. Guests are asked to park at a safe and convenient location in the village or to make use of the parking spaces at Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg Distilleries. All guests are asked to kindly car share where possible to minimise traffic congestion. Guests with limited mobility can be dropped off closer to the event site but the car must be parked outside the event area. Stewards will be on hand to help.

A Hundred-Year-Old Handmade American Flag Flies Home

An interesting detail of the commemorations in Port Ellen is the 100 year old American Flag which was made by people on Islay to give the American Soldiers an honorable funeral. This flag was in the Smithsonian Insitution and it's now coming home to Islay and will be on display in Ramsay Hall, see a quote from the Smithsonian Magazing website:

Islay’s populace, still mourning the deaths of more than 100 of its own men killed in war, felt deeply the tragic toll upon the U.S. soldiers who had come to help the Allied cause. The islanders resolved to bury the American dead with honor. For them this meant interring them under an American flag. But there was no such flag on the island. So, before the funerals began, they made a decision to fabricate one. Using the encyclopedia as their guide, a group of four Islay women (Jessie McLellan, Mary Cunningham, Catherine McGregor, and Mary Armour) and one man (John McDougall) worked through the night at Hugh Morrison’s Islay House, gathering cloth, roughly cutting out 96 five-pointed stars (48 for each side) plus seven red and six white bars, and respectfully stitching together a rectangular Stars and Stripes 67 inches long by 37 inches wide.

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Published with kind permission of The Ileach