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TITLE
St Kilda village from the East
EXTERNAL ID
QZP99_97193_04_10
PLACENAME
St Kilda
DISTRICT
Harris
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Harris
PERIOD
1880s
CREATOR
George Washington Wilson
SOURCE
Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Edinburgh Central Library
ASSET ID
38915
KEYWORDS
island life
islanders
dwellings
St Kilda village from the East

The archipelago of St Kilda, the remotest part of the British Isles, lies 41 miles (66km) west of Benbecula. It consists of the islands of Hirta (the largest and also known as St Kilda), Soay, Boreray and the Dun. This photograph of the village, from the collection of the folklorist I. F. Grant, is believed to have been taken by George Washington Wilson, who visited St. Kilda in the 1880s

The islanders, who were Gaelic-speaking, lived in a long row of turf-roofed dwellings in what was known as the Street. There were also stone cleits (beehive-type buildings) dotted around the island which were generally used as stores for peat and food. The islanders' diet consisted mainly of seabirds which they ate fresh in season and cured during the rest of the year. Fulmar and gannets were taken young (before they could fly) while puffins were caught fully-grown with fowling rods or snares. Farming was a secondary occupation as summers were short and crop returns were poor. About two thousand sheep and a small herd of cattle were also kept.

Aside from the annual visit by the factor, communication with the outside world was maintained through the 'St Kilda mailboat'. This was a hollowed out piece of wood in which the islanders would put a letter, a penny for the stamp, and instructions for the finder to post it. This would be dropped in the sea when the wind was in the north-west and was generally washed up somewhere on the west coast of Scotland.

Contact increased as the 19th century progressed. A church and manse were established for a resident minister early in the century, and a school was built in 1884. From 1877 the SS Dunara Castle began regular visits to St Kilda in the summer months. Periods of food shortage and illness led to a decline in population until, in 1930, the remaining 36 islanders requested evacuation to the mainland.

In 1931 St Kilda was sold to the Marquess of Bute, a keen ornithologist. The islands were then bequeathed by him to The National Trust for Scotland in 1957. In the same year, it was designated a National Nature Reserve by the Nature Conservancy Council (now Scottish Natural Heritage). Also in 1957, a small area of land on Hirta was leased to the Ministry of Defence as a radar tracking station for its missile range on Benbecula


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St Kilda village from the East

INVERNESS: Harris

1880s

island life; islanders; dwellings

Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Edinburgh Central Library

I F Grant Photographic Archive

The archipelago of St Kilda, the remotest part of the British Isles, lies 41 miles (66km) west of Benbecula. It consists of the islands of Hirta (the largest and also known as St Kilda), Soay, Boreray and the Dun. This photograph of the village, from the collection of the folklorist I. F. Grant, is believed to have been taken by George Washington Wilson, who visited St. Kilda in the 1880s<br /> <br /> The islanders, who were Gaelic-speaking, lived in a long row of turf-roofed dwellings in what was known as the Street. There were also stone cleits (beehive-type buildings) dotted around the island which were generally used as stores for peat and food. The islanders' diet consisted mainly of seabirds which they ate fresh in season and cured during the rest of the year. Fulmar and gannets were taken young (before they could fly) while puffins were caught fully-grown with fowling rods or snares. Farming was a secondary occupation as summers were short and crop returns were poor. About two thousand sheep and a small herd of cattle were also kept.<br /> <br /> Aside from the annual visit by the factor, communication with the outside world was maintained through the 'St Kilda mailboat'. This was a hollowed out piece of wood in which the islanders would put a letter, a penny for the stamp, and instructions for the finder to post it. This would be dropped in the sea when the wind was in the north-west and was generally washed up somewhere on the west coast of Scotland. <br /> <br /> Contact increased as the 19th century progressed. A church and manse were established for a resident minister early in the century, and a school was built in 1884. From 1877 the SS Dunara Castle began regular visits to St Kilda in the summer months. Periods of food shortage and illness led to a decline in population until, in 1930, the remaining 36 islanders requested evacuation to the mainland.<br /> <br /> In 1931 St Kilda was sold to the Marquess of Bute, a keen ornithologist. The islands were then bequeathed by him to The National Trust for Scotland in 1957. In the same year, it was designated a National Nature Reserve by the Nature Conservancy Council (now Scottish Natural Heritage). Also in 1957, a small area of land on Hirta was leased to the Ministry of Defence as a radar tracking station for its missile range on Benbecula <br /> <br /> <br /> This image can be purchased.<br /> For further information about purchasing and prices please email<br /> <a href="mailto: central.edsc.library@edinburgh.gov.uk">Edinburgh Central Library</a><br />