April 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the departure of two emigrant ships from the Outer Hebrides. The SS Marloch departed Lochboisdale on 15th April 1923 en route for St John, New Brunswick. On board were at least fifty families from Barra, Eriskay, South Uist and Benbecula who had made the decision to seek a new life in Canada.
The SS Metagama, which was also bound for Canada, left from Stornoway on 21st April 1923, carrying 300 passengers from Lewis and a smaller number from North and South Uist who had arrived in Stornoway the evening before on the SS Hebrides. Further large-scale departures from the islands occurred throughout the 1920s.
The overwhelming majority of those who emigrated were young people escaping severe economic hardship, in search of adventure and opportunities which were not available at home.
As part of the commemoration of these events, Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean will be posting a series of contemporary letters from the Gibson Collection, which refer to the Metagama, on our blog. We are also planning to launch exhibitions exploring the theme of emigration at our museums in Stornoway and Lionacleit in summer 2024, which will consider the stories behind, and legacy of, large-scale migrations from the islands. In summer 2025, our exhibitions will look at the subject of immigration.
As part of the overall project, a number of civic events are planned by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and schools have been staging plays and performances based on the historic events which occurred. Information about these events is available here.
Comainn eachdraidh (local historical societies) and other organisations throughout the islands from Barra to the Butt of Lewis will also be delivering a wide range of events including exhibitions, re-enactments and arts performances. More information about all the various events is available here.