The visitor season at St Kilda is drawing to a close as the weather deteriorates and fewer boats are able make their way out here. This weekend marks the 85th anniversary of the voluntary evacuation of the island’s inhabitants and given today’s sea conditions they were lucky not have had to endure another winter of isolation and hardship.
(Photo credit: Daily Telegraph)
The evacuation brought continuous human occupation on the islands to a close on the 29th August 1930. The community had become recognisably unviable for demographic reasons. A complex historic scenario lay behind the decision to leave. Rapid cultural change, economic depression, high infant mortality and the promise of a better standard of living away from the islands meant that too few young adults remained to continue a way of life based on the land and seas around St Kilda. For the elderly occupants, even collecting peats from the ridge high above the village proved too much and without evacuation another cold winter lay ahead.
Very little has actually been written about St Kilda by islanders themselves. Literacy, for better or for worse, only became the norm in the late 19th century. Prior to that most of what we know about the islands’ society has come from traveller’s tales over the past thousand years, some more embellished than others. The St Kildans have gone and while their graveyard tells a short recent story, the blank pre-literate headstones hide a greater secret for the archaeologists to unravel.
Today we commemorate the St Kildans' final poignant act by leaving our bibles, as they once did, open at the Book of Exodus.