Sunday, 13 May 2018

Islay: For Those In Peril On The Sea - The 1918 Sinkings Of The SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto

I wept watching the BBC Islay: For Those In Peril documentary, about the tragic loss in 2018 of the SS Tuscania and HMS Otranto off the Scottish island of Islay. The youth of the United States sent to war, many having never seen the sea before, and who never saw home again. The two naval disasters saw hundreds of young soldiers and sailors onboard the convoys washed up on Islas's shores. All buried by Islay's small community of crofters and fishermen. And women. With most of Islay's young men away at war themselves.

The people of the remote Islay did not have a Stars and Stripes flag of the United States, so they handmade one to bury the young men under. Using the encyclopedia as their guide, a group of four Islay women quilters; Jessie McLellan, Mary Cunningham, Catherine McGregor, and Mary Armour) and one man (John McDougall) worked through the night at Hugh Morrison’s Islay House, gathering cloth, roughly cutting out 96 five-pointed stars (48 for each side) plus seven red and six white bars, and respectfully stitching together a rectangular Stars and Stripes 67 inches long by 37 inches wide.

The flag resides at D.C.'s Smithsonian, but has returned to Islay for 2018 to The Museum of Island Life, to commemorate the events.

A very sad but heroic story of our yesterdays. Most of the young men were reburied in the US, but their spirits live on in Islay.

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