The first tourists of the season are arriving on St Kilda at the moment, but there’s already been lots of work going on behind the scenes to make sure everything is ready for spring.
A couple of weeks ago dry stone dyker Innes Watson, ably assisted by a previous St Kilda archaeologist, Ian McHardy, repaired a massive collapse to one of the blackhouses on the street. As you can see from the picture below, not only was this a huge collapse, it was also completely blocking the street! For this reason it was a top priority for us to get it rebuilt as soon as possible.
Everything about this job was massive - the blackhouse wall originally also had a drystone gable so the total height would be 2.9 metres (that’s nearly 10 foot in old money). Even just clearing and sorting the stone took the best part of three days. The picture below shows the stone cleared away and the extent of the collapse. As is often the case on St Kilda, there was strong evidence to suggest it had been repaired before – a bit of an old 1980’s parka is usually a good clue!
Eventually with the aid of two unsightly scaffolding towers we were able to painstakingly rebuild the end of the black-house stone-for-stone, and the gable as close to its original style as possible whilst also ensuring it was safe for the public. The pictures below show the results of our repair – at the top, the blackhouse before collapse, and below, the repaired blackhouse. Like much of the expensive and challenging conservation work, the end result should be that no one is any the wiser any work has been done at all!
Àrsair Hiort/ St Kilda Archaeologist