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The lifestyle of a
St Kilda child

What did they wear?
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 with sleeves.
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.

What was school life like?
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.

What did they use as shoes?
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.

Where did they sleep?
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.

What did they do with their rubbish?
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 seabirds!

Where did they go to the toilet?
There were no toilets in those days so people must have gone to the toilet outside or in the byre.

What did they use for money?
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 it.

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.

Did they play games like football?
If so with what?

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 do this.
They may also have raced ponies from the shore to the houses.


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