Wednesday, 20 October 2010

93 years ago

I've been scouring the Stornoway Gazette's archives for tributes to men from the island who had made the supreme sacrifice during the First World War. Apart from the sad litany of names, there are also unrelated articles about local news from the day.

From May 1917, I have a truncated article about a drowning at Lemreway. 9½ year old Norman Matheson had slipped in the waters of the harbour when he and some of his friends were playing with paper boats. It is thought he had climbed on an old hulk, and must have slipped. He was apparently not missed until nightfall - which is quite late in the evening in May. Bearing in mind the history of movement of people to and from that village, I wonder if the story of Norman's drowning is still around in Lemreway.

Messages in bottles have become somewhat rare, but in 1917 one washed up on the island of Coll, west of the isle of Mull. I copy the message: "Whoever the finder of this bottle may be, please notify Mrs Mackinnon, 42 Kenneth Street, Stornoway, that her nephew Alex. Mackinnon, with two shipmates, were wrecked on an island in one of the Canaries. He belonged to the four-masted sailing-ship 'Hague' from Rotterdam to Rio de Janeiro. He and his two shipmates are still on the island - 3rd Nov. 1916. May the blessing of the Lord be with us. A Mackinnon, D. Maclennan, E. Smith". The Gazette says: "The letter is somewhat perplexing as Mrs Mackinnon has no nephew residing away from Lewis, but has a brother, Alex, last heard of in Toronto. Inquiries are being made through the Custom Authorities".

I shall probably not come across the outcome of that tantalising tidbit from all those years ago. Fancy being stranded on Tenerife and only being able to communicate by message-in-a-bottle - just can't do it, can you?

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