Scotlands History

Leaving St Kilda

The archipelago of St Kilda, 110 miles west of the Scottish mainland, is made up of the main island of Hirta, the smaller islands of Dun, Soay and Boreray, and a scatter of giant rock stacks - breeding grounds for vast colonies of gannets and fulmars.

Inhabited for over 2000 years, and only viable because it lies in the path of the Gulf Stream, St Kilda’s society and way of life did not conform to the very different values and monetary standards of the mainland.

Hirta was finally evacuated in 1930, when the island's resident nurse convinced the last 36 St Kildans that their tenure was unsustainable. Rents could no longer be paid to the island’s owner, and there were constant threats of starvation and severe weather. Lack of resistance to disease was a major problem: a 21-year-old islander died of tuberculosis amidst the preparations for evacuation.

Shipped to the mainland by the government, the St Kildans left a bible and a portion of oats in their abandoned homes. They also left most of the furniture, boats and fishing gear. Most St Kildans settled in Argyll; the younger men were given forestry jobs - ironically, having never seen a tree.

Today St Kilda is a World Heritage Site, awarded for its natural, marine and cultural qualities.

 

  • Photograph of an abandoned stone house on St Kilda in Scotland's Outer Hebrides

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