Last week we received a postcard from some very old friends to the islands which I thought I’d share. It came from Jo Babbs and Jerry Evans, who served as wardens on St Kilda in 1988. Hi Jo and Jerry! I’ve taken the opportunity to go back and back a look at the monthly reports from 1988 and it presents a very different picture to life on the archipelago today.
For one, the presence of the army is very apparent in the reports. Today, the MOD base on St Kilda is run by QinetiQ as is overall a fairly low-key affair with only around fifteen staff on the base most of the time. Back in ’88, the base was still run and operated by the army, with dozens or servicemen present on island and much more hustle and bustle, more frequent landing-craft visits, chopper landings, and mail-plane drops. It was good to read that then, as now, the wardens enjoyed a good relationship with the MOD – they were always on hand to help with what seems like fairly frequent disasters!
Back then, there were as many as eight work parties in a year and the reports describe them losing power, having water cut off, and perhaps worst of all, running out of toilet paper! The most striking difference is perhaps, visitor numbers. In June 1988, Jo and Jerry recorded 372 visitors – then a record number. This compares to June last year when we has 1787 visitors! Although the wardens’ job has changed a lot over the years, their complaints and gripes about St Kilda life haven’t – but these are not for public discussion!
All the best to Jo and Jerry from the 2015 St Kilda team.
Àrsair Hiort/ St Kilda Archaeologist