Recently, work producing conservation statements and preparation for an upcoming book has thrown up lots of extra information about St Kilda’s past. My own work on an unrelated project on South Uist has also revealed some interesting information on St Kilda which I thought I’d share with you.
I came across this interesting oral tradition from South Uist recorded by Alasdair MacLean in the 1980s:
"Donald, great grandfather of Angus Macinnes, South Boisdale … went to St Kilda searching for food during a period of scarcity. It could have been during the potato famine. He got a very hostile reception and his boat was about to be sunk under him when he had the presence of mind to inquire if any there were kin to Iain Mor Mac'ille Threubhaich [a famous ancestor linked to several South Uist families]. Apparently they were, and his boat was filled with sea fowl of all descriptions, which kept is family fed during that season. "
St Kilda often had a more successful, mixed, and resilient economy than the rest of the Hebrides. It’s interesting to think that others in the Western Isles may have known this and ventured out for help when episodes of starvation occurred. Such hungry times were very frequent across the Hebrides where Clearance, over-population, and forced emigration were massive problems from the mid-1700s – St Kilda was spared these hardships. St Kilda was always a well-connected and well-integrated part of the western isles, with particularly strong links to the islands in the sound of Harris and family connections to many places along the west coast, as well as Glasgow. It is likely that there are more pieces of information about life on St Kilda within communities and archives across the west of Scotland, and where we put St Kilda in its wider context these will continue to be found and shed light on life in the archipelago.
1984 Notes on South Uist Families. Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness 53 491- 518. , Page 499
Àrsair Hiort/ St Kilda Archaeologist