A Hundred-Year-Old Handmade American Flag Flies Home… to Scotland

When WWI American soldiers died off the coast of Isle of Islay, Scotland, a group of villagers brought honor to their memory with a handmade American flag.

Islay flag

Smithsonian Magazine this week spotlights the loss of over 200 Americans aboard the SS Tuscania, On February 5th 1918, seven miles southwest of Islay, Tuscania was struck mid-ship by a 2,000-pound torpedo launched by the German submarine UB-77.

Over 2200 young Americans were aboard. The British frigates accompanying them rescued many but 200 were lost, over 180 rescued from the seas by the people of Islay.

The flag is housed in the Smithsonian, but will travel back to Islay for the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

“Islay’s populace, still mourning the deaths of more than 100 of its own men killed in war, felt deeply the tragic toll upon the U.S. soldiers who had come to help the Allied cause. The islanders resolved to bury the American dead with honor. For them this meant interring them under an American flag. But there was no such flag on the island. So, before the funerals began, they made a decision to fabricate one.

Using the encyclopedia as their guide, a group of four Islay women (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.”

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