Piper Isobel Ferguson plays at the American Monument on the Mull of Oa, alongside flag bearers David MacArthur (left), from Islay Lifeboat Station, and Gus Newman (centre) from Port Ellen Coast Guard. The memorial was built for the American Red Cross in 1920 to commemorate the losses of the troopships SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto in 1918 (Photo © Warren Media 2017)

Update on Islay's Tuscania centenary tribute

Posted on centenarynews.com on 08 February 2018
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People on the Hebridean island of Islay have taken part in the first of a series of events commemorating First World War tragedies on their shores.

On February 5, they gathered to pay tribute to more than 200 American soldiers and British crewmen who perished on this day in 1918 when the troopship SS Tuscania was torpedoed by a German U-boat between Islay and Northern Ireland.

A ceremony was held at the American Monument on the Mull of Oa, a cliff-top memorial looking towards the Northern Irish coast.

This was followed by a remembrance service at CWGC Kilnaughton Military Cemetery, where a US soldier from the Tuscania still lies, along with four British crew members.

Pupils from Port Ellen Primary School's Gaelic Choir sang at Private Roy Muncaster's grave, and poppies were laid in his memory.

After the Great War, US soldiers lost in the Tuscania attack were either reburied at Brookwood American Cemetery, near Woking in Southern England, or repatriated to the United States. Private Muncaster's family decided he should rest on Islay.

'Lasting legacy'

Jenni Minto, Chair of WW100 Islay, 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."

The centrepiece of this year's events will be a Day of Commemoration on May 4, organised as part of the wider WW100 Scotland centenary programme. It will remember those lost on both Tuscania and another troopship, HMS Otranto, which sank after a collision off Islay in October 1918 with the the loss of 470 US and British lives. A further community event will follow on October 6, the Centennial of Otranto's loss.

For more information about Centenary events, see WW100 Islay and WW100 Scotland.

Centenary News contributor Patrick Gregory tells SS Tuscania's story here.

Source: WW100 Scotland, Commonwealth War Graves Commission - CWGC

Images © Warren Media 2017/WW100 Scotland

Posted by: CN Editorial Team