- St Kilda, Scotland
Infobox Scottish island
norse name=Possibly Skildir
meaning of name= Unknown, possibly Gaelic for "westland"
area= 854.6 ha
highest elevation= Conachair 430 m
Population=Uninhabited since 1930
main settlement= Am Baile (the Village)
island group=St Kilda
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
references= [cite paper| url=http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/publications-and-data/occpapers/occasional-paper-10.html| title=Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited Islands| author=General Register Office for Scotland| date=28 Nov 2003| accessdate=2007-07-25] [http://getamap.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/getamap/frames.htm?mapAction=gaz&gazName=g&gazString=NF095995 "Get-a-map"] "NF095995"
Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 28 December 2007.] Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004) "The Scottish Islands". Edinburgh. Canongate. Pages 314–26] [cite web| url=http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/vli/language/gaelic/pdfs/placenamesP-Z.pdf| title="Placenames"| author=Iain Mac an Tailleir| publisher=Pàrlamaid na h-Alba|format=PDF| accessdate=2007-07-23]
St Kilda ( _gd. Hiort) is an isolated
archipelago64 kilometres (40 mi) west-northwest of North Uistin the North Atlantic Ocean. It contains the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebridesof Scotland. [Excluding the isolated pinnacle Rockall, the status of which is a matter of international dispute. See for example, MacDonald, Fraser (2006) " [http://www.sages.unimelb.edu.au/staff/macdonald.html The last outpost of Empire: Rockall and the Cold War"] Journal of Historical Geography. 32 pages 627–647. Retrieved 1 August 2007] The largest island is Hirta, whose sea cliffs are the highest in the United Kingdom. The Gaelic-speaking population probably never exceeded 180 and was never more than 100 after 1851. Although St Kilda was permanently inhabited for at least two millennia, and despite the inhabitants' unique way of life, the entire population was evacuated in 1930. The only residents are now military personnel. The islands are administratively a part of the Comhairle nan Eilean Siarlocal authority area. [Steel (1988) page 254.]
The origin of the name "St Kilda" is a matter of conjecture. The islands' human heritage includes numerous unique architectural features from the historic and prehistoric periods, although the earliest written records of island life date from the
Late Middle Ages. The medieval village on Hirta was rebuilt in the 19th century, but the influences of religion, tourism and the First World War contributed to the island's evacuation in 1930. [See especially Maclean (1977), Steel (1988), Fleming (2005).] The story of St Kilda has attracted artistic interpretations, including a recent opera. [McMillan, Joyce (3 March 2007) [http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=336112007 "St Kilda the Opera brings out the bully-boys"] . Edinburgh. "The Scotsman". Retrieved 3 March 2007.] The entire archipelago is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It became one of Scotland's four World Heritage Sites in 1986 and is one of the few in the world to hold joint status for its natural, marine and cultural qualities. [http://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/gb "World Heritage: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland"] . UNESCO. Retrieved 3 January 2007.] The islands are a breeding ground for many important seabirdspecies including Northern Gannets, Atlantic Puffins, and Northern Fulmars. The St Kilda Wren and St Kilda Field Mouse are endemic sub-species. Parties of volunteers work on the islands in the summer months to restore the many ruined buildings the native St Kildans left behind. They share the island with a small military base created in 1957. [Steel (1988) page 273.]
Origin of names
No saint is known by the name of Kilda, and various theories have been proposed for the word's origin, which dates from the late 16th century. [Buchanan (1983) Pages 2–6.] Haswell-Smith (2004) notes that the full name "St Kilda" first appears on a Dutch map dated 1666, and that it may have been derived from Norse "sunt kelda" ("sweet wellwater") or from a mistaken Dutch assumption that the spring "Tobar Childa" was dedicated to a saint. ("Tobar Childa" is a tautological placename, consisting of the Gaelic and Norse words for "well", i.e., "well well").Haswell-Smith, Hamish. (2004) "The Scottish Islands". Edinburgh. Canongate. Pages 314–25.]
Martin Martin, who visited in 1697, believed that the name "is taken from one Kilder, who lived here; and from him the large well Toubir-Kilda has also its name".Martin, Martin (1703).] ["Tobar Childa" and "Toubir-Kilda" are one and the same.]
Maclean (1972) similarly suggests it may come from a corruption of the
Old Norsename for the spring on Hirta, "Childa", and states that a 1588 map identifies the archipelago as "Kilda". He also speculates that it may refer to the " Culdees", anchorites who may have brought Christianity to the island, or be a corruption of the Gaelic name for the main island of the group, since the islanders tended to pronounce "r" as "l", and thus habitually referred to the island as "Hilta." [Maclean (1977) page 33.] Steel (1988) adds weight to the idea, noting that the islanders pronounced the "H" with a "somewhat guttural quality", making the sound they used for "Hirta" "almost" "Kilta". [Steel (1988) page 27.]
Maclean (1972) further suggests that the Dutch may have simply made a cartographical error, and confused Hirta with "Skildar", the old name for
Haskeirisland much nearer the main Outer Hebridesarchipelago. [Maclean (1977) page 33.] [ Fleming (2005) page 27. Maclean does not state which island caused the confusion, but Fleming equates 'Skildir' with Haskeir.] Quine (2000) hypothesises that the name is derived from a series of cartographical errors, starting with the use of the Old Icelandic "Skildir" ("shields") and appearing as "Skildar" on a map by Nicholas de Nicolay (1583). This, so the hypothesis goes, was transcribed in error by Lucas J. Waghenaer in his 1592 charts without the trailing "r" and with a period after the "S", creating "S.Kilda". This was in turn assumed to stand for a saint by others, creating the form that has been used for several centuries, "St Kilda". [Quine (2000) page 21.] [de Nicolay, Nicholas (1583) [http://18.104.22.168/maps/early/record.cfm?id=169 "Vraye & exacte description Hydrographique des costes maritimes d'Escosse & des Isles Orchades Hebrides avec partie d'Angleterre & d'Irlande servant a la navigation".] Edinburgh. National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 22 December 2007.] [ However, Martin (1703) states: "all seamen call it St. Kilda; and in sea maps St. Kilder, particularly in a Dutch sea map from Ireland to Zeland, published at Amsterdam by Peter Goas in the year, 1663". This is nearly a century after the publication of Waghenaer's charts, but it is unclear whether his misspelling led to a common spoken usage or the spoken version has a quite different origin. In a later passage concerning the traditions relating to the Flannan Isles, Martin adds "It is absolutely unlawful to call the island of St Kilda (which lies thirty leagues southward) by its proper Irish name Hirt, but only the high country". This refers to the St Kildan's habit of referring to Hirta as 'the high country' and Boreray as 'the north country'. See Fleming (2005).]
The origin of "Hirta", which long pre-dates "St Kilda", is similarly open to interpretation. Martin (1703) avers that "Hirta is taken from the Irish "Ier", which in that language signifies west". Maclean offers several options, including an (unspecified) [Haswell-Smith (2004) suggests this may be "EI hirt" - dangerous or deathlike.] Celtic word meaning 'gloom' or 'death', or the Scots Gaelic "h-Iar-Tir" ("westland"). Drawing on an Icelandic saga describing an early 13th-century voyage to Ireland that mentions a visit to the islands of "Hirtir", he speculates that the shape of Hirta resembles a
stag, "Hirtir" ("stags" in Norse). [Maclean (1977) page 33.] Steel (1998) quotes the view of Reverend Neil Mackenzie, who lived there from 1829 to 1844, that the name is derived from the Gaelic "I-Àrd" (English: "high island"), and a further possibility that it is from the Norse "Hirt" ("shepherd"). [Steel (1988) pages 26–27.] In a similar vein, Murray (1966) speculates that the Norse "Hirðö", pronounced 'Hirtha' ("herd island"), may be the origin. [Murray, W.H. (1966) "The Hebrides". London. Heinemann, pages 196, 236.] All the names of and on the islands are fully discussed by Coates (1990). [Coates, Richard (1990).]
The islands are composed of
Tertiary igneousformations of granitesand gabbro, heavily weathered by the elements. The archipelago represents the remnants of a long-extinct ring volcano rising from a seabed plateau approximately 40 metres (130 ft) below sea level. [ [http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/trends/seas/Seas_Part1.pdf "Knowledge of the marine environment"] (PDF) Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 2 January 2007.]
At 670 ha (1,656 acres) in extent,
Hirtais the largest island in the group and comprises more than 78% of the land area of the archipelago. Next in size are Soay (English: 'sheep island') at 99 ha (247 acres) and Boreray ('the fortified isle'), which measures 77 ha (190 acres). Soay is 0.5 kilometres (0.3 mi) northwest of Hirta, Boreray 6 kilometres (4 mi) to the northeast. Smaller islets and stacks in the group include Stac an Armin('warrior's stack'), Stac Lee('grey stack') and Stac Levenish('stream' or 'torrent'). [Maclean (1977) page 33.] [Quine (2000) pages 99, 109, 111, 125, 137, 145.] The island of Dùn ('fort'), which protects Village Bay from the prevailing southwesterly winds, was at one time joined to Hirta by a natural arch. MacLean (1972) suggests that the arch was broken when struck by a galleonfleeing the defeat of the Spanish Armada, but other sources, such as Mitchell (1992) and Fleming (2005), provide the more credible (if less romantic) explanation that the arch was simply swept away by one of the many fierce storms that batter the islands every winter. [Maclean (1977) page 18.] [Fleming (2005) page 64.] The highest point in the archipelago, Conachair ('the beacon') at 430 metres (1,411 ft), is on Hirta, immediately north of the village. In the southeast is Oiseval ('east fell'), which reaches 290 metres (951 ft), and Mullach Mòr ('big hill summit') 361 metres (1,185 ft) is due west of Conachair. Ruival ('red fell') 137 metres (449 ft) and Mullach Bi ('pillar summit') 358 metres (1,192 ft) dominate the western cliffs. Boreray reaches 384 metres (1,260 ft) and Soay 378 metres (1,240 ft). The extraordinary Stac an Armin reaches 196 metres (643 ft), and Stac Lee, 172 metres (564 ft), making them the highest sea stacks in Britain. [ [http://www.kilda.org.uk/frame26.htm "Dual World Heritage Status For Unique Scottish Islands"] . National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 6 January 2007.] [The heights are from Haswell-Smith (2004), although the National Trust website states 191 metres (626 ft) & 165 metres (541 ft) respectively.]
In modern times, St Kilda's only settlement was at Village Bay (Scottish Gaelic: "Bàgh a' Bhaile" or "Loch Hiort") on Hirta. Gleann Mòr on the north coast of Hirta and Boreray also contain the remains of earlier habitations. [Maclean (1977) page 19.] The sea approach to Hirta into Village Bay suggests a small settlement flanked by high rolling hills in a semi-circle behind it. This is misleading. [ Baxter and Crumley (1988) page 87. "Village Bay and its hills... a stupendous sham, a masterly St Kildan deception."] The whole north face of Conachair is a vertical cliff up to 427 metres (1,400 ft) high,Keay, J. & Keay, J. (1994) "Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland". London. HarperCollins. Pages 840–2.] falling sheer into the sea and constituting the highest sea cliff in the UK. [This is noted by several authorities including Steel (1988), although Keay (1994) erroneously states they are the "highest in Europe". Croaghaun on
Achill Islandis considerably higher at 668 metres (2,191 ft); see for example [http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/geography/extremities.html "Geographical Facts and Figures".] Wesleyjohnston.com. Retrieved on 9 September 2007]
Indeed, the archipelago is the site of what many consider the most spectacular sea cliffs in the British Isles. Baxter and Crumley (1988) suggest that St Kilda: "...is a mad, imperfect God's hoard of all unnecessary lavish landscape luxuries he ever devised in his madness. These he has scattered at random in Atlantic isolation convert|100|mi|km from the corrupting influences of the mainland, convert|40|mi|km west of the westmost Western Isles. He has kept for himself only the best pieces and woven around them a plot as evidence of his madness." [Baxter and Crumley (1988) page 7. The lower case pronouns for the deity and 'westmost' are in the original text.] Although 64 kilometres (40 mi) from the nearest land, St Kilda is visible from as far as the summit ridges of the
Skye Cuillin, some 129 kilometres (80 mi) distant. [Murray (1966) page 163.] The climate is oceanic with high levels of rainfall (1,400 mm or 55 in) and humidity. Temperatures are generally cool, averaging 5.6 °C(42.1 °F) in January and 11.8 °C (53.2 °F) in July. The prevailing winds, especially strong in winter, are southerly and southwesterly. Wind speeds average 13 kilometres per hour(8 mph) approximately 85 percent of the time and more than 24 kilometres per hour (15 mph) more than 30 percent of the time. Gale force winds occur less than 2 percent of the time in any one year, but gusts of 185 kilometres per hour (115 mph) and more occur regularly on the high tops, and speeds of 209 kilometres per hour (130 mph) have occasionally been recorded near sea level. The tidal range is 2.9 metres (9.5 ft), and ocean swells of 5 metres (16.4 ft) frequently occur, which can make landings difficult or impossible at any time of year. However, the oceanic location protects the islands from snow, which lies for only about a dozen days per year.
The archipelago's remote location and oceanic climate are matched in the UK only by a few smaller outlying islands such as the
Flannan Isles, North Rona, Sula Sgeir, and the Bishop's Isles at the southern edge of the Outer Hebrides. Administratively, St Kilda was part of the parish of Harrisin the traditional county of Inverness-shire. [Steel (1988) page 199.] Today it is incorporated in the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar(Western Isles) unitary authority.
Fauna and flora
St Kilda is a breeding ground for many important
seabirdspecies. The world's largest colony of Northern Gannets, totalling 30,000 pairs, amount to 24 percent of the global population. There are 49,000 breeding pairs of Leach's Petrels, up to 90 percent of the European population; 136,000 pairs of Atlantic Puffins, about 30 percent of the UK total breeding population, and 67,000 Northern Fulmarpairs, about 13 percent of the UK total.Benvie, Neil (2000) "Scotland's Wildlife". London. Aurum Press.] Dùn is home to the largest colony of Fulmars in Britain. Prior to 1828, St Kilda was their only UK breeding ground, but they have since spread and established colonies elsewhere, such as Fowlsheugh. [Fisher, James & Waterston, George (Nov. 1941) [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0021-8790(194111)10%3A2%3C204%3ATBDHAP%3E2.0.CO%3B2-1 "The Breeding Distribution, History and Population of The Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) in the British Isles"] . Edinburgh. The Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol. 10, No. 2 pp. 204–272. Retrieved 24 March 2007.] The last Great Auk("Pinguinus impennis") seen in Britain was killed on Stac an Armin in July 1840. Unusual behaviour by St Kilda's Bonxies was recorded in 2007 during research into recent falls in the Leach's Petrel population. Using night vision gear, ecologists observed the skuas hunting petrels at night, a remarkable strategy for a seabird. [McKenzie, Steven [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/highlands_and_islands/7069755.stm "Bird night attacks may be unique"] (5 November 2007) BBC News. Retrieved on 6 November 2007.]
Two animal taxa are unique to St Kilda: a subspecies of
Winter Wren("Troglodytes troglodytes hirtensis") and a subspecies of Wood Mouseknown as the St. Kilda Field Mouse("Apodemus sylvaticus hirtensis"). The third taxon endemic to St Kilda, a subspecies of House Mouseknown as "Mus musculus muralis", vanished completely after the evacuation of human inhabitants, as it was strictly associated with settlements and buildings. It had a number of traits in common with a sub-species ("Mus musculus mykinessiensis") [ [http://heima.olivant.fo/~mykines/mammalsgb.htm "The mammals on Mykines"] Heima.olivant.fo. Retrieved 22 May 2007.] found on Mykines island in the Faroe Islands. The grey sealnow breeds on Hirta but did not do so before the 1930 evacuation.Fraser Darling, F. and Boyd, J.M. (1969) "Natural History in the Highlands and Islands." London. Bloomsbury.] The St Kildans kept up to 2,000 sheep, which were removed at the time of the evacuation, but a herd of 107 indigenous Soay sheepwere transferred onto Hirta from Soay and now live in a feralstate. Soay sheep are a very primitive breed that do not require shearing. Numbers vary from 600 to 1,700 on Hirta, and 200 remain on Soay. A few have been exported to form breeding populations in other nations, where they are valued for their hardiness and small size. [ [http://www.soaysofamerica.org/ "Soays of America"] soaysofamerica.org Retrieved 24 December 2007.] On Hirta and Soay, they prefer the plantagopastures, which grow well in locations exposed to sea sprayand include Red Fescue, Sea Plantain and Sea Pink. There is also a breed of feral sheep residing on Boreray, which is one the most endangered British ovines in existence. [ [http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/boreray/ "Livestock breeds"] Oklahoma State University Department of Animal Science. Retrieved 15 March 2007.] [Quine (2000) page 30.]
The archipelago's isolation has resulted in a lack of
biodiversity. Only 58 species of butterflyand mothoccur on the islands, compared to 367 recorded on the Western Isles. [ [http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/publications/nnr/large_print/St_Kilda.pdf "St Kilda National Nature Reserve: 'A world apart'."] (PDF) Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 18 March 2007.] Plant life is heavily influenced by the salt spray, strong winds and acidic peaty soils. No trees grow on the archipelago, although there are more than 130 different flowering plants, 162 species of fungiand 160 bryophytes. Several rarities exist amongst the 194 lichenspecies. Kelpthrives in the surrounding seas, which contain a diversity of unusual marine invertebrates. [http://www.unep-wcmc.org/sites/wh/stkilda.html "Protected Areas and World Heritage—St Kilda".] United Nations Environment Programme: World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Retrieved 18 March 2007.]
The beach at Village Bay is unusual in that its short stretch of summer sand recedes in winter, exposing the large boulders on which it rests. A survey of the beach in 1953 found only a single resident species, the crustacean
isopod"Eurydice pulchra". [ Gauld, R. Bagenal, T.E. and Connell, J.H. (1953) "The marine fauna and flora of St. Kilda, 1952". "Scottish Naturalist" 65 pages 29–49, quoted in Darling and Boyd (1969) page 184.]
Way of life
The predominant theme of life on St Kilda was isolation. When
Martin Martinvisited the islands in 1697, the only means of making the journey was by open longboat, which could take several days and nights of rowing and sailing across the open ocean and was next to impossible in autumn and winter. In all seasons, waves up to 12 metres (40 ft) high lash the beach of Village Bay, and even on calmer days landing on the slippery rocks can be hazardous. Cut off by distance and weather, the natives knew little of the rest of the world. After the Battle of Cullodenin 1746, it was rumoured that Prince Charles Edward Stuartand some of his senior Jacobite aides had escaped to St Kilda. An expedition was launched, and in due course British soldiers were ferried ashore to Hirta. They found a deserted village, as the St Kildans, fearing pirates, had fled to caves to the west. When the St Kildans were persuaded to come down, the soldiers discovered that the isolated natives knew nothing of the prince and had never heard of King George II either. [Steel (1988) page 32.]
Even in the late 19th century, the islanders could communicate with the rest of the world only by lighting a bonfire on the summit of Conachair and hoping a passing ship might see it, or by using the "St Kilda mailboat". The mailboat was the invention of
John Sands, who visited in 1877. During his stay, a shipwreck left nine Austrian sailors marooned there, and by February supplies were running low. Sands attached a message to a lifebuoy salvaged from the "Peti Dubrovacki" and threw it into the sea. [http://www.widegrin.com/vicmisc/st_kilda.htm "Life in St. Kilda"] , an account by J. Sands in Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Art, 1877. Retrieved 1 April 2007.] Nine days later it was picked up on the Orkneyisland of Birsay, and a rescue was arranged. The St Kildans, building on this idea, fashioned a piece of wood into the shape of a boat, attached it to a bladder made of sheepskin, and placed in it a small bottle or tin containing a message. Launched when the wind came from the northwest, two-thirds of the messages were later found on the west coast of Scotland or, less conveniently, in Norway. [Maclean (1977) pages 136–8.] [ [http://gdl.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/keacam/keacam0109.htm "St Kilda mailboat"] Glasgow Digital Library. Retrieved 4 March 2008.]
Another significant feature of St Kildan life was the diet. The islanders kept sheep and a few cattle and were able to grow a limited amount of food crops such as
barleyand potatoeson the better-drained land in Village Bay. Samuel Johnsonreported that in the 18th century sheep's milk was made "into small cheeses" by the St Kildans. [Johnson, Samuel (1775) " A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland". Republished, Chapman & Dodd, London, 1924. Page 121.] They eschewed fishing due to the heavy seas and unpredictable weather. The mainstay of their food supplies was the profusion of island birds, especially gannet and fulmar. These they harvested as eggs and young birds and ate both fresh and cured. Adult puffins were also caught by the use of fowlingrods. However, this feature of island life came at a price. When Henry Broughamvisited in 1799 he noted that "the air is infected by a stench almost insupportable – a compound of rotten fish, filth of all sorts and stinking sea-fowl".Cooper, Derek (1979) "Road to the Isles: Travellers in the Hebrides 1770–1914". London. Routledge & Kegan Paul.] An excavation of the "Taigh an t-Sithiche" (the 'house of the faeries' – see below) in 1877 by Sands unearthed the remains of gannet, sheep, cattle and limpets amidst various stone tools. The building is between 1,700 and 2,500 years old, which suggests that the St Kildan diet had changed little over the millennia. Indeed the tools were recognised by the St Kildans, who could put names to them as similar devices were still in use. [Maclean (1977) page 26.]
These fowling activities involved considerable skills in climbing, especially on the precipitous sea stacks. An important island tradition involved the 'Mistress Stone', a door-shaped opening in the rocks northwest of Ruival over-hanging a gully. Young men of the island had to undertake a ritual there to prove themselves on the crags and worthy of taking a wife. Martin Martin wrote:
In the face of the rock, south from the town, is the famous stone, known by the name of the mistress-stone; it resembles a door exactly; and is in the very front of this rock, which is twenty or thirty fathom perpendicular in height, the figure of it being discernible about the distance of a mile; upon the lintel of this door, every bachelor-wooer is by an ancient custom obliged in honour to give a specimen of his affection for the love of his mistress, and it is thus; he is to stand on his left foot, having the one half of his sole over the rock, and then he draws the right foot further out to the left, and in this posture bowing, he puts both his fists further out to the right foot; and then after he has performed this, he has acquired no small reputation, being always after it accounted worthy of the finest mistress in the world: they firmly believe that this achievement is always attended with the desired success.
This being the custom of the place, one of the inhabitants very gravely desired me to let him know the time limited by me for trying of this piece of gallantry before I design’d to leave the place, that he might attend me; I told him this performance would have a quite contrary effect upon me, by robbing me both of my life and mistress at the same moment.
Another important aspect of St Kildan life was the daily 'Parliament'. This was a meeting held in the street every morning after prayers and attended by all the adult males during the course of which they would decide upon the day's activities. No one led the meeting, and all had the right to speak. According to Steel (1988), "Discussion frequently spread discord, but never in recorded history were feuds so bitter as to bring about a permanent division in the community". [Steel (1988) pages 44–6] This notion of a free society influenced Enric Miralles' vision for the new
Scottish Parliament Building, opened in October 2004. [Balfour, Alan, and McCrone, David (2005) [http://www.alanbalfour.com/books/parliament/chapter1/index.html "Creating a Scottish Parliament"] Edinburgh. StudioLR. ISBN 0955001609. Retrieved 4 January 2008. Miralles wrote::"Late XIX St Kilda Parliament:To Remember this is not an archaic activity:My generation (myself) has experienced that emotion:Consider how different movements exist in present times:Architecture should be able to talk about this."]
Whatever the privations, the St Kildans were fortunate in some respects, for their isolation spared them some of the evils of life elsewhere. Martin noted in 1697 that the citizens seemed "happier than the generality of mankind as being almost the only people in the world who feel the sweetness of true liberty", and in the 19th century their health and well being was contrasted favourably with conditions elsewhere in the
Hebrides. [See for example Steel (1988) page 71 quoting Macauley in 1756, MacCulloch in 1819 and Ross in 1887.] Theirs was not a utopian society; the islanders had ingenious wooden locks for their property, and financial penalties were exacted for misdemeanours. [Fleming (2005) pages 107 and 110.] Nonetheless, no resident St Kildan is known to have fought in a war, and in four centuries of history, no serious crime committed by an islander was recorded there. [Steel (1988) pages 33–4.] [A 19th century commentator wrote: "If St Kilda is not the Eutopia so long sought, where will it be found? Where is the land which has neither arms, money, care, physic, politics, nor taxes? That land is St Kilda." Maclean, Lachlan (1838) " Sketches on the Island of St Kilda". McPhun.]
It has been known for some time that St Kilda was continuously inhabited for two millennia or more, from the Bronze Age to the 20th century. [ [http://www.kilda.org.uk/StKildaCultHerExtractFINALB38477.pdf St Kilda: Revised Nomination of St Kilda for inclusion in the World Heritage Site List] (January 2003) (pdf) National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 21 March 2007.] Recently, the first direct evidence of earlier
Neolithicsettlement emerged—shards of pottery of the Hebridean ware style, found to the east of the village. The subsequent discovery of a quarry for stone tools on Mullach Sgar above Village Bay led to finds of numerous stone hoe-blades, grinders and Skaill knives [A flaked stone with a sharp edge used for cutting. This neolithic tool is named after Skaill Bay, the location of World Heritage Site Skara Braein Orkney. See [http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/skaraobjects.pdf "Skaill knife"] (pdf) Historic Scotland. Retrieved 21 March 2007.] in the Village Bay "cleitean"—unique stone storage buildings (see below). These tools are also probably of Neolithic origin. [ Fleming (2005) pages 37–56.]
14th to 17th century
The first written record of St Kilda may date from 1202 when an Icelandic cleric wrote of taking shelter on "the islands that are called Hirtir". [Fleming (2005) page 27 quoting Taylor, A.B. (1968) "The Norsemen in St Kilda". "Saga book of the Viking Society". 17. 116–43.] Early reports mentioned finds of brooches, an iron sword and Danish coins, and the enduring Norse place names indicate a sustained Viking presence on Hirta, but the visible evidence has been lost. [Fleming (2005) page 63.] The first English language reference is from the late 14th century, when
John of Fordunmentioned 'the isle of Irte, which is agreed to be under the Circius and on the margins of the world'. [Maclean (1972) page 34 quoting John of Fordun's "Scotichronicon" of c. 1380.] The islands were historically part of the domain of the MacLeods of Harris, whose steward was responsible for the collection of rents in kind and other duties. The first detailed report of a visit to the islands dates from 1549, when Donald Munro suggested that: "The inhabitants thereof ar simple poor people, scarce learnit in aney religion, but M’Cloyd of Herray, his stewart, or he quhom he deputs in sic offfice, sailes anes in the zear ther at midsummer, with some chaplaine to baptize bairnes ther." [Munro, D. (1818) "Description of the Western Isles of Scotland called Hybrides, by Mr. Donald Munro, High Dean of the Isles, who travelled through most of them in the year 1549." Miscellanea Scotica, 2. English translation from Lowland Scots: "The inhabitants are simple poor people, hardly educated in any religion, but the steward of MacLeod of Harris, or his deputy, sails there once a year at midsummer with a chaplain to baptise the children."]
The chaplain's best efforts notwithstanding, the islanders' isolation and dependence on the bounty of the natural world meant their philosophy bore as much relationship to
Druidismas it did to Christianityuntil the arrival of Rev. John MacDonald in 1822. Macauley (1764) reported the existence of five druidic altars, including a large circle of stones fixed perpendicularly in the ground near the Stallir House on Boreray. [Macauley, Rev Kenneth (1764) "History of St Kilda". London ]
Coll MacDonald of
Colonsayraided Hirta in 1615, removing 30 sheep and a quantity of barley. [Fleming (2005) page 28.] Thereafter, the islands developed a reputation for abundance. At the time of Martin's visit in 1697 the population was 180 and the steward travelled with a "company" of up to 60 persons to which he: "elected the most 'meagre' among his friends in the neighbouring islands, to that number and took them periodically to St. Kilda to enjoy the nourishing and plentiful, if primitive, fare of the island, and so be restored to their wonted health and strength."
Religion and tourism in the 18th and 19th centuries
Visiting ships in the 18th century brought
choleraand smallpox. In 1727, the loss of life was so high that too few residents remained to man the boats, and new families were brought in from Harristo replace them. [This is the date provided by Quine (2000) for the marooning of the group on Stac an Armin, (see 'Buildings on other islands' above), although Steel (1988) states that the outbreak took place in 1724.] By 1758 the population had risen to 88 and reached just under 100 by the end of the century. This figure remained fairly constant from the 18th century until 1851, when 36 islanders emigrated to Australia on board the "Priscilla", a loss from which the island never fully recovered. The emigration was in part a response to the laird's closure of the church and manse for several years during the Disruption that created the Free Church of Scotland. [Maclean (1977) page 125.] [Fleming (2005) page 32.]
One factor in the decline was thus the influence of religion. A missionary called Alexander Buchan came to St Kilda in 1705, but despite his long stay, the idea of organised religion did not take hold. This changed when Rev. John MacDonald, the 'Apostle of the North', arrived in 1822. He set about his mission with zeal, preaching 13 lengthy sermons during his first 11 days. He returned regularly and fundraised on behalf of the St Kildans, although privately he was appalled by their lack of religious knowledge. The islanders took to him with enthusiasm and wept when he left for the last time eight years later. His successor, who arrived on 3 July 1830, was Rev. Neil Mackenzie, a resident
Church of Scotlandminister who greatly improved the conditions of the inhabitants. He reorganised island agriculture, was instrumental in the rebuilding of the village (see below) and supervised the building of a new church and manse. With help from the Gaelic School Society, MacKenzie and his wife introduced formal education to Hirta, beginning a daily school to teach reading, writing and arithmetic and a Sunday schoolfor religious education. [Maclean (1977) pages 115–6.]
Mackenzie left in 1844, and although he had achieved a great deal, the weakness of the St Kildans' dependence on external authority was exposed in 1865 with the arrival of Rev. John Mackay. Despite their fondness for Mackenzie, who stayed in the
Time spent in religious gatherings interfered seriously with the practical routines of the island. Old ladies and children who made noise in church were lectured at length and warned of dire punishments in the afterworld. During a period of food shortages on the island, a relief vessel arrived on a Saturday, but the minister said that the islanders had to spend the day preparing for church on the Sabbath, and it was Monday before supplies were landed. Children were forbidden to play games and required to carry a Bible wherever they went. The St Kildans endured Mackay for 24 years. [Maclean (1977) pages 116–9.]
Tourism had a different but similarly destabilising impact on St Kilda. During the 19th century, steamers began to visit Hirta, enabling the islanders to earn money from the sale of tweeds and birds' eggs but at the expense of their self-esteem as the tourists regarded them as curiosities. [It is also clear that the St Kildans were not as naive as they sometimes appeared. "For example, when they boarded a yacht they would pretend they thought all the polished brass was gold, and that the owner must be enormously wealthy". Rev Neil MacKenzie, quoted by Fleming (2005) page 8.] The boats brought other previously unknown diseases, especially "tetanus infantum", which resulted in infant mortality rates as high as 80 percent during the late 19th century. The "cnatan na gall" or boat-cough, an illness that struck after the arrival of a ship to Hirta, became a regular feature of life.
By the turn of the 20th century, formal schooling had become a feature of the islands, and in 1906 the church was extended to make a schoolhouse. The children all now learned English and their native Gaelic. Improved
midwiferyskills, denied to the island by Reverend Mackay, reduced the problems of childhood tetanus. From the 1880s, trawlers fishing the north Atlantic made regular visits, bringing additional trade. Talk of an evacuation occurred in 1875 during MacKay's period of tenure, but despite occasional food shortages and a flu epidemic in 1913, the population was stable at between 75 and 80, and no obvious sign existed that within a few years the millennia-old occupation of the island was to end. [Steel (1988) pages 150–5.] [Maclean (1977) page 140.] [Fleming (2005) page 165.]
World War I
Early in the
Great Warthe Royal Navyerected a signal station on Hirta, and daily communications with the mainland were established for the first time in St Kilda's history. In a belated response, a German submarine arrived in Village Bay on the morning of 15 May 1918 and, after issuing a warning, started shelling the island. Seventy-two shells were fired, and the wireless station was destroyed. The manse, church and jetty storehouse were damaged, but no loss of life occurred. [Steel (1988) page 167.] One eyewitness recalled: "It wasn't what you would call a bad submarine because it could have blowed every house down because they were all in a row there. He only wanted Admiralty property. One lamb was killed… all the cattle ran from one side of the island to the other when they heard the shots." [Neil Gilles, quoted in Steel (1988) page 167.]
As a result of this attack, a Mark III QF gun was erected on a promontory overlooking Village Bay, but it never saw military use. Of greater long-term significance to the islanders were the introduction of regular contact with the outside world and the slow development of a money-based economy. This made life easier for the St Kildans but also made them less self-reliant. Both were factors in the evacuation of the island little more than a decade later. [Steel (1988) page 168.]
Numerous factors led to the evacuation. The islands had existed for centuries in relative isolation until tourism and the presence of the military in World War I induced the islanders to seek alternatives to privations they routinely suffered. The authorities were unable (or unwilling) to do much to assist the islanders, although reliable radios and other infrastructure denied to the civilian islanders were later provided for the military base at a cost of millions of pounds. [ Steel (1988) page 238 quotes £20 million in 1955.] Despite construction of a small jetty in 1902, the islands remained at the weather's mercy. [Even in the 21st century this is a problem. The National Trust reported in 2006 that it was cancelling 2007 work parties as "adverse weather conditions resulted in our supplies failing to reach St Kilda and our next opportunity to get supplies out is May 2007." [http://www.kilda.org.uk/frame26.htm "Work party information"] National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 18 March 2007.]
After World War I most of the young men left the island, and the population fell from 73 in 1920 to 37 in 1928. After the death of four men from
influenzain 1926 there was a succession of crop failures in the 1920s. Investigations by Aberdeen Universityinto the soil where crops had been grown have shown that there had been contamination by leadand other pollutants, caused by the use of seabird carcasses and peat ash in the manure used on the village fields. This occurred when manuring practices became more intensive and may have been a factor in the evacuation. [ [http://www.kilda.org.uk/latestnews.htm#Poison "Poison in Paradise"] National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 20 June 2008.] [Meharga, Andrew. A "et al" (September 2006) [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V74-4JHMRR9-2&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=d56cf474b3c8cc054df0d47228ab717e "Ancient manuring practices pollute arable soils at the St Kilda World Heritage Site, Scottish North Atlantic"] Chemosphere 64, Issue 11. Pages 1818-1828. Retrieved 20 June 2008.] The last straw came with the death from appendicitisof a young woman, Mary Gillies, in January 1930. On 29 August 1930, the remaining 36 inhabitants were evacuated to Morvernon the Scottish mainland at their own request.
The morning of the evacuation promised a perfect day. The sun rose out of a calm and sparkling sea and warmed the impressive cliffs of Oiseval…. Observing tradition the islanders left an open Bible and a small pile of oats in each house, locked all the doors and at 7 a.m. boarded the "Harebell"… They were reported to have stayed cheerful throughout the operation. But as the long antler of Dun fell back onto the horizon and the familiar outline of the island grew faint, the severing of an ancient tie became a reality and the St Kildans gave way to tears. [Maclean (1977) page 142.]
The islands were purchased in 1931 by Lord Dumfries (later 5th
Marquess of Bute), from Sir Reginald MacLeod. For the next 26 years the island experienced quietude, save for the occasional summer visit from tourists or a returning St Kildan family. [ Thompson, Francis (1970) "St Kilda and other Hebridean Outliers". David & Charles. ISBN 071534885X] [Steel (1988) pages 229–32.]
Later military events
The islands took no active part in
World War II, during which they were completely abandoned, [Steel (1988) page 234.] but three aircraft crash sites remain from that period. A Beaufighter LX798 based at Port Ellen on Islaycrashed into Conachair within convert|100|m|ft|0 of the summit on the night of 3–4 June 1943. A year later, just before midnight on 7 June 1944, the day after D-Day, a Sunderland flying boatML858 was wrecked at the head of Gleann Mòr. A small plaque in the kirk is dedicated to those who died in this accident. [Quine (2000) page 90.] Earl, David W, and Dobson, Peter [http://islandaircrashes.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/page4.html "Scottish Island Air Crashes"] wanadoo.co.uk. Retrieved 27 June 2008.] A Wellington bombercrashed on the south coast of Soay in 1943. Not until 1978 was any formal attempt made to investigate the wreck, and its identity has not been absolutely determined. Amongst the wreckage, a Royal Canadian Air Forcecap badge was discovered, which suggests it may have been HX448 of 7 OTU which went missing on a navigation exercise on 28 September 1942. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the Wellington is LA995 of 303 FTU which was lost on 23 February 1943. [Steel (1988) page 236.] [Barry, John C. (1980) "Wartime Wrecks on St. Kilda" "After the Battle". 30 p. 28.]
In 1955 the British government decided to incorporate St Kilda into a missile tracking range based in
Benbecula, where test firings and flights are carried out. Thus in 1957 St Kilda became permanently inhabited once again. A variety of military buildings and masts have since been erected, including the island's first licensed premises, the 'Puff Inn'. The Ministry of Defence leases St Kilda from the National Trust for Scotland for a nominal fee. [Steel (1988) pages 238–55.] The main island of Hirta is still occupied year-round by a small number of civilians working in the military base. [ [http://www.kilda.org.uk/visitor-advice.htm "Advice for visitors"] (2004) National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 18 March 2007. This notes that the name 'Puff Inn' is misleading in that it is not open to the public.]
Infobox World Heritage Site
WHS = St Kilda
State Party =
Type = Mixed
Criteria = iii, v, vii, ix, x
ID = 387
Region = Europe and North America
Year = 1986
Session = 10th
Extension = 2004; 2005
Link = http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/387On his death on 14 August 1956, the Marquess of Bute's will bequeathed the archipelago to the
National Trust for Scotlandprovided they accepted the offer within six months. After much soul-searching, the Executive Committee agreed to do so in January 1957. The slow renovation and conservation of the village began, much of it undertaken by summer volunteer work parties. [Steel (1988) pages 256–7.] In addition, scientific research began on the feral Soay sheep population and other aspects of the natural environment. In 1957 the area was designated a National Nature Reserve. [ [http://www.nnr-scotland.org.uk/reserve.asp?NNRId=5 "Scotland's National Nature Reserves—St Kilda"] National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 16 March 2007.]
In 1986 the islands became the first place in Scotland to be inscribed as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site, for its terrestrial natural features. [ [http://www.snh.org.uk/nnr-scotland/news_detail.asp?newsID=12 "Scotland's National Nature Reserves—News and Events"] (9 December 2004) National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 17 March 2007.] In 2004, St Kilda achieved a joint 'marine' status for its superlative natural features, its habitats for rare and endangered species, and its internationally important population of seabirds. [ [http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/research/pdf_res_notes/rn01-73.pdf "World Heritage Sites in Scotland"] (21 July 2007) Scottish Parliament Information Centre. Research Note RN 01/73. Retrieved 3 January 2007.] By 2005 St Kilda thus became one of only two dozen global locations to be awarded World Heritage Status for both 'natural' and 'cultural' significance. The islands share this honour with internationally important sites such as Machu Picchuin Peru, Mount Athosin Greeceand the Ukhahlamba/Drakensberg Park in South Africa. [ [http://www.kilda.org.uk/frame26.htm "Dual World Heritage Status For Unique Scottish Islands"] (14 July 2005) National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 6 January 2007.]
The St Kilda
World Heritage Sitecovers a total area of 24,201.4 hectares (93.4 sq mi) including the land and sea. [http://www.unep-wcmc.org/sites/wh/stkilda.html "Protected Areas and World Heritage -Factsheet"] UN Environment Programme. Retrieved 24 January 2007. This defines the site as being contained within a square with the coordinates 57°54'36"N / 08°42'W, 57°46'N / 08°42'W, 57°46'N / 08°25' 42"W, 57°54'36"N / 08°25'42'W.] The land area is 854.6 hectares (2,111.8 acres). [http://www.kilda.org.uk/StkildaManagementPlan.pdf "St Kilda World Heritage Site Management Plan 2003 - 2008"] (PDF) National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 24 January 2007.]
St Kilda is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, a
National Scenic Area, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and a European Union Special Protection Area. [ [http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/55/Details/ "St Kilda National Nature Reserve"] National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 16 March 2007.] Visiting yachts may find shelter in Village Bay, but those wishing to land are told to contact the National Trust for Scotland in advance. Concern exists about the introduction of non-native animal and plant species into such a fragile environment.
St Kilda's marine environment of underwater caves, arches and chasms offers a challenging but superlative diving experience. [Booth, Richard [http://www.bsactravelclub.co.uk/reports/stkilda3.htm "St Kilda: The Holy Grail of UK Diving?"] (July 2005) BSAC Travel Club. Retrieved 18 March 2007.] Such is the power of the North Atlantic swell that the effects of the waves can be detected convert|70|m|ft|0 below sea level. [McKirdy, Alan Gordon, John & Crofts, Roger (2007) "Land of Mountain and Flood: The Geology and Landforms of Scotland". Edinburgh. Birlinn. Page 220.] In 2008 the National Trust for Scotland received the support of Scotland ’s
Minister for Environment, Michael Russellfor their plan to ensure no rats come ashore from the "Spinningdale", a UK-registered/Spanish-owned fishing vessel grounded on Hirta. There was concern that bird life on the island could be seriously affected. [ [http://www.nts.org.uk/Home/ "St Kilda Update"] . NTS. Retrieved 10 February 2008.] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/highlands_and_islands/7227563.stm "Rats probe under way on St Kilda"] BBC. Retrieved 10 February 2008.] Fortunately, potential contaminants from the vessel including fuel, oils, bait and stores were successfully removed by Dutch salvage company Mammoetbefore the bird breeding season in early April. [cite news| last =Gaston |first =Jack |title =Early bird saves UK heritage site | work =Lloyd's List Daily Commercial News | pages =22 | publisher =Informa Australia Pty Ltd | date =2008-05-29]
ish structures dating from 400 to 900 AD. Fleming (2005) page 23.] Also in Gleann Mòr is "Taigh na Banaghaisgeich", the 'Amazon's House'. As Martin (1703) reported, many St Kilda tales are told about this female warrior.
This Amazon is famous in their traditions: her house or dairy of stone is yet extant; some of the inhabitants dwell in it all summer, though it be some hundred years old; the whole is built of stone, without any wood, lime, earth, or mortar to cement it, and is built in form of a circle pyramid-wise towards the top, having a vent in it, the fire being always in the centre of the floor; the stones are long and thin, which supplies the defect of wood; the body of this house contains not above nine persons sitting; there are three beds or low vaults that go off the side of the wall, a pillar betwixt each bed, which contains five men apiece; at the entry to one of these low vaults is a stone standing upon one end fix’d; upon this they say she ordinarily laid her helmet; there are two stones on the other side, upon which she is reported to have laid her sword: she is said to have been much addicted to hunting, and that in her time all the space betwixt this isle and that of Harries, was one continued tract of dry land.
Similar stories of a female warrior who hunted the now submerged land between the Outer Hebrides and St Kilda are reported from
Harris. [Maclean (1977) pages 27–8.] The structure's forecourt is akin to the other 'horned structures' in the immediate area, but like Martin's "Amazon" its original purpose is the stuff of legend rather than archaeological fact.
Much more is known of the hundreds of unique "cleitean" that decorate the archipelago. These dome-shaped structures are constructed of flat boulders with a cap of turf on the top. This enables the wind to pass through the cavities in the wall but keeps the rain out. They were used for storing peat, nets, grain, preserved flesh and eggs, manure, hay and as a shelter for lambs in winter. The date of origin of this St Kildan invention is unknown, but they were in continuous use from prehistoric times until the 1930 evacuation. More than 1,200 ruined or intact "cleitean" remain on Hirta and a further 170 on the neighbouring islands. [Maclean (1977) pages 65–6.] [Quine (2000) page 32.] House no. 16 in the modern village has an early Christian stone cross built into the front wall, which may date from the 7th century. [Quine (2000) page 51.]
A medieval village lay near Tobar Childa, about 350 metres (400 yards) from the shore, at the foot of the slopes of Conachair. The oldest building is an underground passage with two small annexes called "Taigh an t-Sithiche" (house of the faeries) which dates to between 500 BC and 300 AD. The St Kildans believed it was a house or hiding place, although a more recent theory suggests that it was an
ice house. [Quine (2000) pages 52–3.]
Extensive ruins of field walls and "cleitean" and the remnants of a
medieval'house' with a beehive-shaped annex remain. Nearby is the 'Bull's House', a roofless rectangular structure in which the island's bull was kept during winter. Tobar Childa itself is supplied by two springs that lie just outside the Head Wall that was constructed around the Village to prevent sheep and cattle gaining access to the cultivated areas within its boundary. [Quine (2000) page 30.] There were 25 to 30 houses altogether. Most were black houses of typical Hebridean design, but some older buildings were made of corbelled stone and turfed rather than thatched. The turf was used to prevent ingress of wind and rain, and the older 'beehive' buildings resembled green hillocks rather than dwellings. [Maclean (1977) page 66.]
The Head Wall was built in 1834 when the medieval village was abandoned and a new one planned between Tobar Childa and the sea some 200 metres (700 ft) down the slope. This came about as the result of a visit by Sir Thomas Dyke Ackland, the MP for
Devon. Appalled by the primitive conditions, he made a donation that led to the construction of a completely new settlement of 30 new black houses. These were further modified after several of the new dwellings were damaged by a severe gale in October 1860. Sixteen modern houses were then constructed amidst the blackhouses and a new Factor's house as well.
These houses were made of dry stone, had thick walls and were roofed with turf. Each typically had only one tiny window and a small aperture for letting out smoke from the peat fire that burnt in the middle of the room. As a result, the interiors were blackened by soot. The cattle occupied one end of the house in winter, and once a year the straw from the floor was stripped out and spread on the ground. [Steel (1988) pages 72–3.] One of the more poignant ruins on Hirta is the site of 'Lady Grange's House'. Lady Grange had been married to the Jacobite sympathiser James Erskine of Grange for 25 years when he decided that she might have overheard too many of his treasonable plottings. He had her kidnapped and secretly confined in
Edinburghfor six months. From there she was sent to the Monach Isles, where she lived in isolation for two years whilst he maintained that she had died and arranged her funeral. She was then taken to Hirta from 1734 to 1742, which she described as a "a vile neasty, stinking poor isle". After a failed rescue attempt, she was removed by Erskine to the Isle of Skye, where she died. The 'house' is a large cleit in the Village meadows. [Quine (2000) page 48.] [Steel (1988) pages 31–2.] [Keay & Keay (1994) page 358.] [ [http://www.kilda.org.uk/frame5.htm "St Kilda: Fascinating Facts"] National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 19 August 2007.]
Boswell and Johnson discussed the subject during their 1773 tour of the Hebrides. Boswell wrote: "After dinner to-day, we talked of the extraordinary fact of Lady Grange’s being sent to St Kilda, and confined there for several years, without any means of relief. Dr Johnson said, if M’Leod would let it be known that he had such a place for naughty ladies, he might make it a very profitable island." [Boswell, James (1785) "Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D." [http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/b/boswell/james/b74t/] ]
In the 1860s unsuccessful attempts were made to improve the landing area by blasting rocks. A small jetty was erected in 1877, but it was washed away in a storm two years later. In 1883 representations to the
Napier Commissionsuggested the building of a replacement, but it was 1901 before the Congested Districts Board provided an engineer to enable one to be completed the following year. Nearby on the shore line are some huge boulders which were known throughout the Highlands and Islandsin the 19th century as "Doirneagan Hirt", Hirta's pebbles. [Steel (1988) page 29.] [Quine (2000) pages 29–30.]
At one time, three churches stood on Hirta. Christ Church, in the site of the graveyard at the centre of the Village, was in use in 1697 and was the largest, but this thatched-roof structure was too small to hold the entire population, and most of the congregation had to gather in the churchyard during services. St Brendan's Church lay over a kilometre away on the slopes of Ruival, and St Columba's at the west end of the Village street, but little is left of these buildings. A new
kirkand manse were erected at the east end of the village in 1830 and a Factor's house in 1860. [Maclean (1977) page 31.] [Quine (2000) page 37.]
Buildings on other islands
Dùn means 'fort', and there is but a single ruined wall of a structure said to have been built in the far-distant past by the
Fir Bolg. [Maclean (1977) page 29.] The only 'habitation' is "Sean Taigh" (old house), a natural cavern sometimes used as a shelter by the St Kildans when they were tending the sheep or catching birds.
Soay has a primitive hut known as "Taigh Dugan" (Dugan's house). This is little more than an excavated hole under a huge stone with two rude walls on the sides. The story of its creation relates to two sheep-stealing brothers from
Lewiswho came to St Kilda only to cause further trouble. Dugan was exiled to Soay, where he died; the other, called Fearchar Mòr, was sent to Stac an Armin, where he found life so intolerable he cast himself into the sea.
Boreray boasts the "Cleitean MacPhàidein", a 'cleit village' of three small bothies used on a regular basis during fowling expeditions. Here too are the ruins of "Taigh Stallar" (the steward's house), which was similar to the Amazon's house in Gleann Mòr although somewhat larger, and which had six bed spaces. The local tradition was that it was built by the 'Man of the Rocks', who led a rebellion against the landlord's steward. [Maclean (1977) page 28.] It may be an example of an
Iron Agewheelhouse. [Fleming (2005) page 58.] As a result of a smallpox outbreak on Hirta in 1724, three men and eight boys were marooned there until the following May. [Maclean (1977) pages 48–9] . No fewer than 78 storage "cleitean" exist on Stac an Arminand a small bothy. Incredibly, a small bothy exists on the precipitous Stac Leetoo, also used by fowlers. [Quine (2000) pages 142 and 146.]
Media and the arts
In 1937, after reading of the St Kilda evacuation, Michael Powell made the film "
The Edge of the World" about the dangers of island depopulation. It was shot, however, not on St Kilda but on Foula, one of the Shetland Islands. [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0028818/ "The Edge of the World" movie] IMDb. Retrieved 25 May 2007.] The writer Dorothy Dunnettwrote a short story, "The Proving Climb", set on St Kilda; it was published in 1973 in the anthology "Scottish Short Stories". [ cite book | last = Scottish Arts Council | title = Scottish Short Stories| year = 1973| publisher = Collins| isbn = 0002218518 ]
In 1982, the noted Scottish filmmaker and theatre director
Bill Brydenmade the Channel 4-funded film "Ill Fares The Land" about the last years of St Kilda. It is not currently on commercial release. [ [http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/title/241246 "Ill Fares The Land"] BFI. 1 March 2008.]
The fictional island of Laerg, which features in the 1962 novel "Atlantic Fury" by
Hammond Innes, is closely based on Hirta.
folk rockband Runrigrecorded a song, "At the Edge of the World", which dwells on the islanders' isolated existence and how "the man from St Kilda went over the cliff on a winters day". [ [http://www.radiance.org/runrig_big.html "Edge of the World" lyric] Radiance.org. Retrieved 25 May 2007.] In a 2005 poll of " Radio Times" readers, St Kilda was named as the ninth greatest natural wonder in the British Isles. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/mid/4735935.stm "Caves win 'natural wonder' vote"] (2 August 2005) BBC News. Retrieved 25 May 2007.] In 2007 an operain Scots Gaeliccalled "St Kilda: A European Opera" about the story of the islands received funding from the Scottish Government. It was performed simultaneously at six venues in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Scotland over the summer solstice of 2007. As part of the lasting legacy, this production left a long-term time lapse camera on Hirta. [ [http://www.eventscotland.org/index/events_calendar/event_details.htm?eventID=7002 "St Kilda: A European Opera (MacTalla nan Eun)"] Events Scotland. Retrieved 3 March 2007.] [McKenzie, Steven (23 June 2007). [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/highlands_and_islands/6763371.stm "Opera celebrates St Kilda history"] BBC Scotland. Retrieved 11 August 2007.] [ [http://www.designiscentral.com/news/st-kilda-timelapse?page= St Kilda Timelapse] designiscentral.com. Retrieved 7 May 2007.] "Britain's Lost World", a three-part BBCdocumentary series about St Kilda began broadcasting on 19 June 2008. [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00c8m7f "Britain's Lost World"] BBC. Retrieved 20 June 2008.]
World Heritage Sites in Scotland
Mingulay– the “near St Kilda”
* Scarp – a Hebridean island which had a 'parliament' similar to St Kilda's
John Sands, a Scottish journalist mockingly described by his enemies as 'the MP for St Kilda'
* Baxter, Colin and Crumley, Jim (1998) "St Kilda: A portrait of Britain's remotest island landscape", Biggar, Colin Baxter Photography ISBN 0948661038
* Buchanan, Margaret "St Kilda: a Photographic Album", W. Blackwood, 1983 ISBN 0851581625
* Coates, Richard (1990) "The Place-names of St Kilda", Lampeter, Edwin Mellen Press
* Fraser Darling, F., and Boyd, J.M. (1969) "Natural History in the Highlands and Islands", London, Bloomsbury ISBN 187063098X
* Fleming, Andrew (2005) "St. Kilda and the Wider World: Tales of an Iconic Island", Windgather Press ISBN 1905119003
* Harvie-Brown, J.A. and Buckley, T. E. (1888), "A Vertebrate Fauna of the Outer Hebrides." Pub. David Douglas., Edinburgh.
* Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004) "The Scottish Islands", Edinburgh, Canongate ISBN 1841954543
* Keay, J., and Keay, J. (1994) "Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland", London, HarperCollins ISBN 0002550822
* Maclean, Charles (1977) "Island on the Edge of the World: the Story of St. Kilda", Canongate ISBN 0903937417
* Martin, Martin (1703) " [http://www.appins.org/martin.htm A Voyage to St. Kilda] " in "A Description of The Western Islands of Scotland", Appin Regiment/Appin Historical Society. Retrieved 3 March 2007
* Murray, W.H. (1966) "The Hebrides", London, Heinemann
* Quine, David (2000) "St Kilda", Grantown-on-Spey, Colin Baxter Island Guides ISBN 1841070084
* Steel, Tom (1988) "The Life and Death of St. Kilda", London, Fontana ISBN 0006373402
* Williamson, Kenneth; & Boyd, J. Morton. (1960). "St Kilda Summer", London, Hutchinson
* Atkinson, Robert "Island going to the remoter isles, chiefly uninhabited, off the north-west corner of Scotland", William Collins, 1949. (Reprinted Birlinn, 1995 ISBN 1874744319)
* Charnley, Bob "Last Greetings of St. Kilda", Richard Stenlake, 1989 ISBN 1872074022
* Coates, Richard "The Place-Names of St. Kilda", Edwin Mellen Press, 1990 ISBN 0889460779
* Gilbert, O. "The Lichen Hunters." St Kilda: Lichens at the Edge of the World, The Book Guild Ltd., England, 2004 ISBN 1857769309
* Harman, Mary "An Isle Called Hirte: History and Culture of St. Kilda to 1930", MacLean Press, 1996 ISBN 1899272038
* Kearton, Richard " [http://gdl.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/keacam/index.html With Nature and a Camera] ", Cassell and Company, London, 1898
* McCutcheon, Campbell "St. Kilda: a Journey to the End of the World", Tempus, 2002 ISBN 0752423800
* Stell, Geoffrey P., and Mary Harman "Buildings of St Kilda",
RCAHMS, 1988 ISBN 011493391X
* [http://www.kilda.org.uk "St Kilda"] National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
* [http://www.culturehebrides.com/heritage/kilda/ "St Kilda"] culturehebrides.com. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
* [http://www.unep-wcmc.org/sites/wh/stkilda.html "St Kilda"] UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
* [http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2003/05/16738/19671 "Revised Nomination of St Kilda for inclusion in the World Heritage Site List"] . (12 May 2003) The Scottish Executive. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
* [http://www.pierreseche.com/cleitean_of_saint-kilda.htm "The cleitean of the St Kilda Archipelago"] . An architectural and historical account by Christian Lassure. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
* [http://www.utopia-britannica.org.uk/pages/StKilda.htm "St Kilda - Death of an Island Republic"] Utopia Britannica: British Utopian Experiments 1325 - 1945. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
* [http://www.nls.uk/scotlandspages/timeline/1930.html 1930 - evacuation of St Kilda] (29 August 1930) nls.uk reprint of report from "The Times". London. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
* [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_20050626/ai_n14694855 "The Last of the St Kildans:"] (26 June 2005) Glasgow. "Sunday Herald". A report of a surviving St Kildan re-visiting the islands by Torcuil Crichton. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
* [http://www.abandonedcommunities.co.uk/page39.html Abandoned Communities ... St Kilda] abandonedcommunities.co.uk Retrieved 28 December 2007.
* [http://www.kilda.org.uk/StKildaCultHerExtractFINALB38477.pdf Revised nomination of St Kilda for inclusion on the World Heritage Site List] (January 2003) (pdf) Retrieved 28 December 2007. Includes a detailed map.
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