Excerpt from The Independent newspaper for Islay & Jura:
The people of Islay were joined by the great and the good to remember those affected by the twin Islay tragedies in 1918 in a touching series of commemorative events on Friday 4 May.
The Princess Royal, the US Ambassador to the UK, members of the UK and Scottish Parliaments and representatives of the French and German Governments, paid moving tribute to those lost in the Otranto and the Tuscania sinkings and to the Ilich who rescued so many from the ferocious seas, cared for them so compassionately and buried the dead as lovingly and caringly as if they were their own.
The day broke to grey skies, which fitted the sombre respectful mood, and a re-dedication of the American Monument on the Oa. Conducted by Rev. Karen Campbell, national Chaplain of the Royal British Legion Scotland, around 150 people comprising members of the local community, representatives of the military and the media, made their way to the monument where they would see naval ships, HMS Raider, the USS Ross, FS Andromede and FGS Lubeck representing Britain, America, Germany and France, sit on the spot where the SS Tuscania was sunk. Wreaths were laid at the monument, adding to that which Lord Robertson had earlier laid at sea.
The main event of the day was a service, conducted by Rev Valerie Watson, at the War Memorial in Port Ellen. It was a beautifully balanced ceremony, incorporating readings and singing from Islay’s superb Gaelic Choir and Mod Gold Medalist Alasdair Currie. Wreaths were laid by the Princess Royal, the US Ambassador, Woody Johnson, the French and German Consuls, as well as other related organisations. The A reading was also offered by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Right Rev. Dr. Derek Browning.
The ceremony had been preceded by a procession of Islay School children carried the flags of the US States who had suffered losses in the two tragedies. Just as the Stars and Stripes been made to honour the dead at many funerals 100 years before, the full complement of flags, hand-made by the Islay Quilters, brought home just how wide spread were the American losses.
Descendants of those lost in the twin events along with those of local people whose valiant efforts saved so many lives and cared for the wounded, then met the dignitaries in the Ramsay Hall. It was decorated with displays produced by local schools and organisations, showing the depth of care and knowledge of the events 100 years before.
The Princess Royal had a busy day, but was full of praise for the island, for all that had been done 100 years ago and the present commemorations.
“This is very much Islay’s day and I feel so much gratitude for what everyone did and thank you for allowing us to be a part of that,” she told the those assembled in the Ramsay Hall.
There followed an event which will probably never be repeated on Islay. In what could be seen as a reward for all the hard work put in by so many people of the island, the Band of the Royal Marines marched along the Frederick Crescent in Port Ellen. They played a selection of well-known pieces to an appreciative audience of islanders and fellow military personnel, enjoying the delights of the fete on Port Ellen Green.
Following Friday’s Commemorations, there is an online gallery at benshakespeare.com/ww100 showing images from throughout the day. Ben has focused on images of the community in its remembrance of the lives lost during the war. All profits from the sale of images will be donated to the WW100 Islay Legacy Fund, which will support projects to ensure the Tuscania and Otranto tragedies, and the sacrifice that Islay and Jura made in World War One are not forgotten