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ISLAY REMEMBERS THE SINKING OF SS TUSCANIA

People of Islay today came together to remember the hundreds of soldiers and crew who lost their lives when the British ship SS Tuscania, carrying American troops, sank off the coast of the island on 5 February 100 years ago.

Locals gathered to commemorate the loss of life from the tragedy, those who survived, and the valiant efforts of the local community to save them. Following a performance at the American Monument on the Mull of Oa by piper Isobel Ferguson, pupils of the Port Ellen primary School Gaelic Choir sang at American soldier Private Roy Muncaster’s grave before moving to a reception at No1 Charlotte Street where survivors of the sinking were billeted.

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Islay piper Isobel Ferguson plays at the American Monument on the Mull of Oa next to flag bearers David MacArthur (Islay Lifeboat Station) and Gus Newman (Port Ellen Coast Guard)

Islay is hosting a year-long programme of events marking the island’s contribution to World War One and the loss of two British troop ships carrying American soldiers to fight alongside the Allies. The sinking of SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto off the island’s coast saw around 700 US servicemen and British crew members lose their lives.

You can read more about the tragedies and events to commemorate them here.

WW100 Islay chair, Jenni Minto, said: “Today was a very fitting local tribute to those lost in the SS Tuscania disaster.  In addition to remembering the soldiers and crew who lost their lives in these two tragedies the Islay 100 programme recognises the contribution made by the local community to the rescue of survivors and its dedication to respectfully burying the casualties.

“At the time, Islay had a population of around 6,000, approximately 1,000 of whom went to war. Sadly over 200 did not return and the impact on the community was significant. Our aim is to leave a lasting legacy that can be revisited by individuals and communities in the future. Today’s event has set the tone nicely for the rest of the island’s programme of commemorations.”

Chloe Bonar and Iona Kirkpatrick, both 6, from Port Ellen Primary School, at the grave of Private Roy Muncaster, who lost his life in the disaster and is the only US soldier still buried on the island.
Chloe Bonar and Iona Kirkpatrick, both 6, from Port Ellen Primary School, at the grave of Private Roy Muncaster, who lost his life in the disaster and is the only US soldier still buried on Islay.