In the 1830s younger St Kildan children including boys
were described as being dressed in smaller versions
of women's clothes! These were a simple sleeved shift
(which is like a big shirt) covered by a tweed dress
By 1886, boys wore trousers and jackets and girls wore
striped, dark dresses with pale scarves around their
necks. You can see this in the pictures below.
In the old days St Kildans would use Fulmar bones, fishhooks
and the bill of an Oystercatcher (a type of bird) as
fastenings for their clothes.
Schoolwork often took second place to other work. This
could be unloading boats, working in the fields or helping
to catch seabirds which all children would have helped
at. Sometimes the school had to close because pupils
were too busy doing other work!
In the early 1800s school was held from 7 - 9 am and
from 12 - 1pm and for 2 hours in the evening to stop
it interfering with other work.
School lessons were in reading, writing and arithmetic
with some history, geography and singing.
Most of the children went barefoot in the summer.
In the 1750s the shoes of adults were made from the
skin of gannet necks!
In the 1830s shoes were made of leather & sewn up
with thin pieces of sheepskin. In later pictures, children
were wearing boots, which had probably been made away
from the island & brought to St Kilda.
Children might sleep on mattresses (which were made
of large bags stuffed with straw) around the fire inside
the house. Although there were plenty of feathers they
didn't use them to stuff their mattresses because feathers
were used to pay the rent.
By 1830, beds & blankets had been brought from the
mainland for the St Kildans.
Before 1861, houses had a midden (or rubbish-heap) in
them. This was often in the part of the house called
a byre (where the cows were kept). The rubbish was mostly
bits of seabirds which hadn't been eaten, peat ash &
manure from cows. This rubbish was spread on fields
in the growing season as fertilizer.
Dogs also helped to clear rubbish by eating leftover
There were no toilets in those days so people must have
gone to the toilet outside or in the byre.
In the old days St Kildans would have had no money.
They would not have needed it, as there was nothing
to buy and no shops. The only thing they would have
needed money for was to pay their rent to the landlord.
So once every year they would use feathers, dried birds,
wool, butter, cheese, horses, oil and barley to pay
St Kildans would get sailors to bring
in things to the island. These would have been tobacco,
iron and salt, tools, indigo (a type of dye) & printed
cloth. They would swap these for things they had (like
seabird oil) rather than pay for them with money.
We think St Kildans (adults as well as children) may
have played a game like shinty on the beach on Hirta.
They would have used short clubs and balls of wood to
They may also have raced ponies from the shore to the