one lucky man

Ness cemetery, Isle of lewis

view Ness cemetery

Norman MacKenzie was one lucky man. His family lived in Cross in the Ness district of the Isle of Lewis. Norman had seen the horrific battles of World War I and survived the ordeal. He was only 18 years old, when he was heading back home, the war was over and he was still alive. So many others were dead.

Point of Ness

The last stage of his journey had to be made by ship, being from the Isle of Lewis. Norman MacKenzie went on board the HMY Iolaire on 31st December 1918 in Kyle of Lochalsh. The Iolaire, the ship that was heading straight towards disaster, the ship that ran on the beasts of Holm in the early hours of the new year, killing 205 men; including Norman MacKenzie.

So it seemed.

His parents were utterly upset when they heard the news. Their son had survides all this and then died so close to home?  They felt unable to come to Stornoway. Their daughter, Chrissie MacKenzie (Cairistìona Dhòmnhaill ‘Ain Bhàin), had to come to the ammunition store, where the bodies were kept, to identify  her brother. Then he could be taken home for burial.

large obelisk with urna, sea background

What a long and exhausting journey she had, in winter across the moors heading towards the other side of the island. And there he was, lying under a tarpaulin with numbers written on his boots. Just like all the other bodies there, cold and wet. But he was not yet dead. When they lifted the tarpaulin for her, she went down on her knees. It was him, it was Norman. She took his hand and looked in his frozen face… and saw an eyelid flickering.

He was alive!

“The officers turned as pale as the supposed corpse. John Mackenzie was bundled off to Lewis Hospital and, after days of anxiety, and long convalescence from assorted injuries, made an entire recovery, and my father remembers Làrag in Cross, a well known personality, driving his bus, getting on with his life.” (MacLeod)

Quite obviously, Norman MacKenzie was one lucky man.

view from Ness cemetery

Note on near-drowning

Near-drowning occurs when you’re unable to breathe under water for a significant period of time. During near-drowning, your body is cut off from oxygen to the point where major body systems can begin to shut down from the lack of oxygen flow. In some cases (particularly in young children), this can happen in a matter of seconds. The process typically takes longer in adults. It’s important to remember that it’s possible to revive a person who has been underwater for a long time. The majority of near-drowning cases are attributed to accidents that occur near or in the water. Healthline

Liked the read? There’s more here…

Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel. This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.

The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.

Scotland for Quiet Moments is available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.

source and further reading:

John MacLeod: When I Heard The Bell. The Loss of the Iolaire. Edinburgh, Birlinn, 2009





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