Go St Kilda were involved in the making of this very special short film. It tells the story of a St Kildan who was, as with all other natives to the island, evacuated from his home and moved to the mainland leaving his culture and the world he knew behind.
Lost But Not Forgotten
The evacuation of St Kilda occurred in 1930. It was the only option for the remaining 36 native St Kildans whose health had deteriorated, and lives had spiralled into poverty.
Native islanders had thrived on St Kilda for over 1000 years prior to this. Its remoteness and independence were said to be huge factors in its success. When communication with the outside world grew, the island became less independent and so less able to survive on its own.
Reliance on the Mainland
The island had become reliant on the mainland, its outside health care, trade and tourism. Although it was thought that this link with the outside world would help, it was not strong enough to be relied upon when the islanders needed it most. The only way they could communicate a message of distress was by lighting a bonfire on the top of Conachair in the hope that a passing ship would see the smoke. Or by St Kilda mailboat (made out of a piece of wood, a bottle and an inflated sheep’s bladder) which would take days to arrive and sometimes wouldn’t reach the shores of the west coast of Scotland.
The population had depleted by the 1920s from disease and evacuation and the island struggled to feed itself. With vital tasks being shared amongst the people, such as bird hunting and sheep tending, any decline in the community was detrimental to the islanders.
As tourism from the rest of Britain increased so did an endless fascination with the people of St Kilda. Their standard of living and lack of access to medical care was often brought into question. After a particularly harsh winter, some families on the island began to ask to leave. This was encouraged by the nurse and clergyman and it set the wheels in motion for the evacuation.
The islanders chose to leave behind most of their possessions and were dispersed to different parts of the country. Many of them felt their skills didn’t resonate in the modern lifestyles they found themselves in. A few of the older generation died with the shock of the drastic changes to their lives. And some lived the rest of their days homesick and unable to forget their home island, like the portrayal in this video.
The incredible lives of the residents had been a powerful symbol of highland folkways and the evacuation meant the loss of a culture that was unlike any other in the world.
Although it seems a sad ending for the islanders of St Kilda, telling their story is certainly a way of keeping their memories alive. By visiting the island, you can gain a much greater insight into this ‘vanished culture’. Speak to our team about booking your trip to St Kilda.