Over the years on visits to the Outer Hebrides we had made several attempts to visit St Kilda. Unfortunately often trips can be cancelled due to weather. Subsequently it was not until 2016 we first visited St Kilda. Most of the pictures here where taken during that trip. A glorious July day.
Where is St Kilda
St Kilda is the most westerly and remote group of islands belonging to the Outer Hebrides. The isolated archipelago is in the north Atlantic about 40 miles west of North Uist. Hirta is the largest Island within the group. St Kilda is home to Scotland’s highest sea cliffs and Sea Stack. The Sea Cliffs being at Conachair and the stack being Stac an Armin at 193 metres. Stac an Armin is also the highest stack in the UK.
It is believed that there has been human habitation on St Kilda for more than 2000 years. Evidence suggests the population of St Kilda may have been close to 200 at its peak. However the earliest reliable census took place in 1764 placing the total population at 90.
Since that time the population appears to have fluctuated. Key factors being diseases and migration. In particular an outbreak of small pox reduced the population to 42 in 1727. Following some recovery later in 18th century the population continued to fluctuate until 1930. At this point the population living on Hirta reached a level which was no longer sufficient to sustain the requirements of the community.
St Kilda is a small Archipelago having some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. As a result it attracts some huge numbers of rear seabirds, particular Puffins and Gannets. Fowl and eggs formed a core food source. This was supplemented by fish and some crops such as Barley, Oats and Potatoes.
St Kilda Evacuation
The village on Hirta was home to the total population of St Kilda. To begin with the village consisted of 16 houses. By 1930 only 10 were occupied. Hence the village population had dwindled to just 36. Consequently the islanders petitioned the Scottish home secretary for assistance to leave the island and relocate. Soon after on 29th August 1930 the population being evacuated.
The oldest resident on St Kilda was Finlay Gilles. He lived at house number 7. Finlay lived with his widowed daughter-in-law Catherine Gilles and her two sons aged 9 and 11. Also in 1930 a valuation role was produces. This provides a snapshot of those remaining on the Islands at the time of evacuation. These and further records held by National Records for Scotland are available on ScotlandPeople website. The records subsequently allow anyone to find property owners, tenants and occupiers across Scotland for the period between 1855 and 1930.
Prior to 1930 civilisation had inhabited the Island for 100s of years. The evacuation represented the end of an Era. The last survivor evacuated from the Islands was Rachael Johnson (nee Gillies). Racheal died in 2018 aged 93.
There are some excellent reference libraries for those who wish to explore St Kilda further.