The sound of the waves, driven by the storm of the night before, onto the gravel beach in Sandaig mingled with the playing of the Tiree Pipe Band. We gathered around the new memorial to HMS Sturdy as the rising wind showed us a glimpse of the fury felt by the sailors seventy years before.
The service, led by the Revds Peter Williams and Bruce Neill, was attended by around eighty people – three families of the crew (one had come from New South Wales to be there) alongside families from the township who had done so much to look after the exhausted men, representatives from the coastguard and Commodore Charles Stevenson who was representing the Royal Navy.
A special wreath was laid at the cairn to honour the work of Captain Donald ‘Dan’ Sinclair, Greenhill, who had instructed the crew to wait on board until low tide and had saved many lives as a result.
After the service we left to go to Soroby graveyard where we laid wreaths on the graves of the five sailors who drowned that day, as well as honouring the dead of the air forces who are also buried there. Tea was provided at An Talla and this gave a welcome chance to get out of the weather and swap stories about the Sturdy. There was also a huge display of items from the war from the collection of Mike Hughes.
At night Mike gave an illustrated talk on the impact of the war on the Hebrides, bringing his usual passion to the subject, and some stories. Apparently potatoes from the Sturdy stores have been grown in Middleton until recently. The families who had come for the event left the island full of memories, both happy and sad. Then Monday saw a huge storm batter the island, giving a taste of what it must have been like on that fateful day.
Thank you to everyone who supported the weekend, which had been initiated by Mike Gibson and organised locally by An Iodhlann.