• St Kilda Photographic Collection

    St Kilda Photographic Collection

    St Kilda’s collection reveals how essential the camera was in documenting unknown and curious places, recording certain ways of life believed to be extinct and for romanticising the remote.

    Explore the Collection »
  • Exploring St Kilda\'s Sea Caves

    Exploring St Kilda's Sea Caves

    The waters around St Kilda are designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for their reefs and sea caves, which attract a wealth of spectacular sea life. Lisa Kamphausen of Scottish Natural Heritage spent time exploring the sea caves of St Kilda & Rona.

    Read the blog »
Visitors St Kilda

Whilst the online presentation of Alice MacLachlan’s diaries take a break - as she leaves St Kilda for a few weeks in the summer of 1907 - we are going to look at visitors to St Kilda in the decades after the MacLachlans were on the island through some of the Trust’s own archives and deposits of archival material to the National Trust for Scotland over the years. 

Going back in time we will look at visitors to the islands in the 1990s, 1980s and 1970s during the first couple of weeks in July. This will include records and photos of NTS work parties.

From mid-July we will examine visitors in the 1960s and 1950s which will focus upon Operation Hardrock, the Soay Sheep project and various school visits after the Trust acquired St Kilda in 1957.

From early August we will be looking at those who went to St Kilda in the 1940s and 1930s which includes visitors going to St Kilda after the evacuation of the islands and those who wrote to the owner of St Kilda at the time, the Earl of Dumfries, requesting a visit for the purposes of bird watching. 

From mid-August we will then look at St Kilda visitors from the 1920s back to the early 1900s and then from early September we will be re-starting the diaries. 

Visitors to St Kilda in the 1930s and 1940s

On 29th August 1930, the last inhabitants of St Kilda were evacuated from the islands.  Among those assisting with the evacuation were the crew of the ship HMS Harebell. They took the remainder of the islanders’ furniture and effects, as well as the islanders themselves to Lochaline and Oban.

We are indebted to Jim Powell of Newton Abbot in Devon, who has allowed us to reproduce a couple of images from his collection of St Kilda photographs.  His father was the captain of the Harebell and so these images are a unique insight into the evacuation.

In September of 1931, MacLeod of MacLeod sold St Kilda to the Earl of Dumfries, later to become the 5th Marquis of Bute.  Within the Trust’s St Kilda archive collection are a series of letters to and from Lord Dumfries mainly relating to enquiries about visits to the islands.  This letter is from the secretary of the Ornithological Society at Reading University about a potential visit to St. Kilda by some of their students in 1946.

Even after the islands were evacuated there were still tours being offered to the Western Isles including St Kilda, by McCallum, Orme and Co who owned the Hebrides and Dunara Castle steam ships.  These handbills are advertising circular tours in 1934 and 1937.

On one of these trips was an Elizabeth Ferguson who went to St Kilda in July 1931, almost exactly a year after the evacuation.  Elizabeth kept this typescript journal with photos of her visit which was kindly donated to the Trust by her niece Dr Elizabeth Riddell. 

Here in this extract Elizabeth describes the schoolhouse and the church:

Sleep with their fathers and forefathers.
          “The ghosts will keep the island,
           and keep the island free,
          Until the western pillars
          Will crumble in the sea”
I am interested in ancient burying places and have seen many in Iona, Islay &c but I will never forget St. Kilda.

Leaving the cemetery and making our way back we meet Mr. Cleland who has come ashore. He is quite at home here and takes us through the Schoolhouse and Church. The little Schoolhouse was interesting with its rather original looking maps and the alphabet hanging on the wall also a globe, but what really amused me was that here on this lonely and evacuated island – on the edge of the world – was a picture of Pola Negri the film star. I wonder I f she would be interested if she knew her picture was one of the remaining furnishings of that little school, The church or Mission house is just in the next room, but it was only it associations that were interesting. Mr. Ferguson gave Nan two books from the Library and put the St. Kilda stamp on them.

I have taken several photographs and several other people are doing the same thing but we could not have got a much worse day for it and I don’t see how the results can be much good.

I have read a lot about St. Kilda and hoped to see some of the wonderful cliffs and bird life here, but I believe they are all much too far away to see in the short time at our disposal. The right place to see these...

Read about Alice Maclachlan's life on St Kilda from 1906-1907 in the St Kilda Diaries. 


Introduction: The St Kilda Diaries
The Evacuation of St Kilda
Life on St Kilda

Garve 1906 
Transcripts & Original Diaries

St Kilda 1906
Aug: Transcripts Original Diaries
Sep: Transcripts & Original Diaries
Oct:  Transcripts Original Diaries 
NovTranscripts Original Diaries
Dec: Transcripts Original Diaries 

St Kilda 1907
Jan: Transcripts & Original Diaries

Feb: Transcripts & Original Diaries 
Mar: Transcripts & Original Diaries

Apr: Transcripts & Original Diaries
May: Transcripts & Original Diaries
Jun: Transcripts & Original Diaries

Visitors to St Kilda
1990s, 1980s & 1970s
1950s & 1960s

  Read more about Alice and her hometown of Haddington in a post on the East Lothian Archive blog.  

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27 Aug
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