Jenny Minto writes: The impact of the Tuscania and Otranto tragedies in 1918 on Islay cannot be underestimated. The illustration below shows just a handful of the places and people affected by these major incidents in February and October of that year. They show how the whole island worked together to ensure that those who survived were treated with kindness, and those who were lost were treated with respect.
WW100 Scotland has selected Islay as the major commemoration for 2018. We need to start thinking and planning how we as an island want to commemorate the tragedies. Some suggestions already put forward at the meeting in December include: a Tuscania and Otranto Trail, memorial services at each of the graveyards, recreating Archibald Cameron’s photographs and a procession of the Emergency Services through Bowmore. Continue reading....
Following up on the December meeting, Islay’s determination to commemorate the loss of the troopships Tuscania and Otranto in 1918 was made clear at a lively meeting in the ICCI on the 13th January. The Museum of Islay Life had invited individuals and organisations across Islay to take part in “blue sky” thinking as to how the island might mark the centenary.
It was agreed that the Tuscania and Otranto commemoration should be part of a wider commemoration of the island’s own losses in World War 1. The 22 strong meeting agreed that the Museum of Islay Life should take the lead, but a working group be formed of interested individuals and organisations to co-ordinate the commemorations. There was strong feeling that the events should be wide ranging and inclusive, drawing on the skills of the entire community. The main focus is likely to be on a major event, possibly in April 2018.
Illustration with some of the places and people affected by the incidents
First up with a great idea were the Islay Quilters; they wish to replicate the American Stars and Stripes hand sewn by islanders before a mass burial of Tuscania victims. The original is now preserved in the Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC. Other ideas put forward were ceremonies at the American Monument, at sea and at other significant locations. Everyone agreed that the schools should play an important role in marking the events.
There was a clear wish for the commemorations to also be a celebration of how Islay people reacted and supported those touched in both tragedies. A century ago the people of Islay played a major role in looking after survivors and burying those lost with dignity. This tradition of life saving continues and it was felt that a parade of the voluntary and emergency services through Bowmore would be an appropriate tribute.
It was thought that a creative island like Islay might mark the events through writing, painting, sculpture and photography. A Tuscania – Otranto Trail was also discussed: introducing people to the places that were directly impacted. It was noted that Argyll & Bute Council have examined the track to the American Monument and have had some discussions with the RSPB about improving it. Councillor Robin Currie told the meeting that the Council had set aside around £25k for the commemoration. The meeting agreed that other sources of funding should be sought. To be continued....
published with kind permission of the ileach newspaper