Appeal for memorial stone to remember Hartlepool sailor killed in Scottish shipping disaster

Pupils from the Nicolson Institute look out to sea where the Iolaire sunk in 1919.
Pupils from the Nicolson Institute look out to sea where the Iolaire sunk in 1919.

A Hartlepool victim of a Scottish shipping disaster is set to be remembered in a new tribute – and organisers are appealing to the town for help.

Frederick Charles McCarthy, aged 33, was one of 201 sailors who perished on New Year’s Day in 1919 when Her Majesty’s Yacht Iolaire sank near the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

A drawing of a slate that will form part of the Iolaire centenary memorial.

A drawing of a slate that will form part of the Iolaire centenary memorial.

The vessel which was returning from the First World War hit rocks in bad weather just outside Stornoway harbour.

Twenty of the crew were from mainland Britain.

The Nicolson Institute, the main secondary school on the island, is creating a memorial to commemorate the tragic event ahead of its Centenary.

Pupils are collecting a stone from each victim’s town to incorporate into the memorial called a cairn.

A model of HMY Iolaire

A model of HMY Iolaire

Organisers are yet to find a stone from Hartlepool for Frederick who was a carpenter and lived in Hope Street.

Project organiser Tony Robson said: “It was probably one of Britain’s worst peacetime shipping disasters.

“The Iolaire had left the Isle of Skye with 281 people on board. They were just coming in on New Year’s Day, the bells had rung and it was about two in the morning.

“The ship hit the rocks outside Stornoway Harbour.

“They were about 25 metres from the shore but it was a bad night for weather and 201 people drowned and 81 survived.

“For a small to lose 201 young guys, it was almost unspoken of for years.”

On March 23, the new memorial on the island is set to be unveiled for the disaster’s centenary year by 15 pupils related to sailors who died.

It will include the cairn made up of 201 stones for each sailor who died, as well as a specially made bench, and a slate engraving.

Tony is asking for someone from Hartlepool, preferably a young person, to send them a stone about the size of a cricket ball from the town to commemorate Frederick in the memorial.

Send it to Tony Robson, Iolaire Memorial Project, 2 Holm, Isle of Lewis, HS2 0AZ.

For more information call 07786 686523.