These Men are Worth your Tears - 2018 Edition

In January 2015 the first edition of These Men are Worth your Tears was published. A book written by Stuart Graham which covered the horrors of WW1 and tells the story of the many soldiers from Islay and Jura who went to war for their country, and of those who never returned from the battlefields on the continent, leaving local families behind grieving for their loved ones.

Today, Armistice Day 2018, 100 Years After the end of the Great War, I've read the second edition of Stuart Graham's book and was moved by the personal stories of events on Islay and elsewhere, as well as seeing the many photos and reading the sometimes intimate stories of local casualties. The names of the soldiers who paid the highest price possible can be found on the war memorials in the villages on Islay and Jura:

Well over 200 soldiers from Islay and Jura were killed in the Great War. The memorial in Bowmore has 37 names on it, Port Charlotte 37 as well, Portnahaven 13, Kilmeny 22, Port Ellen 78 and Jura 14.

Names on a memorial, well known for some, unknown for others, but very much respected by us all. In Stuarts book they become more than a name as you can read where they served in the war, which battles they fought, from which families on Islay and Jura they are from and where they lived. There are also many photos, giving these brave heroes a face. Continue reading...

Navigate the Blood - Opera on Islay

NOISE (New Opera in Scotland Events) presents: A new opera, Navigate the Blood, by indie folk-rock band Admiral Fallow and Gareth Williams. The opera is set in the world of whisky and gin manufacturing and will be touring distilleries throughout Scotland from 02 November until 24 November. Navigate the Blood follows the story of Bob and Lena, a husband and wife running a small independent distillery in rural Scotland. Their son Liam disappeared in mysterious circumstances three years ago. Living and working with them is a young Polish woman named Agata. She wants to modernise the distillery by making gin as well as whisky. Into this situation comes Elijah, a young man with a strange, otherworldly presence. Elijah looks and moves very like the lost boy…

The location for this event is Ballygrant Hall Islay and it will take place on Sunday 11 November at 3pm. For more info visit www.noiseopera.com. Tickets available via

WW100 Otranto Remembrance Service Islay

Islanders, and descendants of American soldiers and British crewmen who lost their lives when HMS Otranto sank off Islay, gathered to pay their respects on Saturday ( 6 October) at a commemoration on the island to mark the centenary WW1’s worst convoy.

HMS Otranto, a former luxuryliner that had been requisitioned by the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the war, was the flagship of a 13-vessel convoy bringing thousands of US troops to the conflict on the Western Front. But, caught in Force 11 gale and unsure of her position, the Otranto collided with another ship in her convoy, HMS Kashmir. While the Kashmir managed to limp to the Clyde, the powerless Otranto was driven by the storm towards the treacherous coast of Islay.

British destroyer, HMS Mounsey, commanded by Lieutenant Francis Craven, dashed to rescue 600 men from the Otranto, but nearly 500 men were still aboard when it struck a reef off Kilchoman Bay, on Islay’s west coast. Local shepherds and farmers rushed to the shore and pulled survivors from the pounding surf, but, of the men still on board the Otranto when it struck the reef, only 19 survived. The islanders tended the survivors and, although many of Islay’s able men had already been killed or were still at war, scoured the rugged coast to recover bodies and did all they could to identify them and bury them with honour. Continue reading....

Looking Back - The First RoRo Ferry on Islay

Saturday 6 April 1968 was a new beginning in ferry travel for Islay and the forerunner of ferries as we know them today.

On a beautiful sunny, day 50 years ago, Western Ferries’ brand new red and white ferry, MV ‘Sound of Islay’, sailed into Port Askaig for the first time, heralding a transformation in ferry travel to and from Islay. On that first day it seemed as if half the population of Islay was in Port Askaig to see the new ferry with, what appeared to be the other half, there on Sunday. Captain Angus Mitchell and First Officer, Sandy Ferguson found their ship overrun by enthusiastic sightseers.

With the arrival of the ‘Sound of Islay’, came a revolution in vehicle transportation to and from Islay, as, up until then, cars were driven onto a net and swung into the hold of the mail boat. Now, here was a roll-on/roll-off ferry, bringing Islay into line with the other west coast islands that had, had roll-on/ roll-off ferries since 1964. In 1964 the Scottish Office had three identical ferries built, the ‘Hebrides’, ‘Clansman’ and ‘Columba’, to serve the islands from Mull to Lewis but, for reasons best known to itself, omitted to include Islay in the plan and as had always been the case, Islay was ‘left out in the cold’, having to make do with the ageing mail boat, the ‘Lochiel’. Continue reading...

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