St Kilda Diaries: The Diary of Alice Maclachlan (1906 - 1909)

The National Trust for Scotland is delighted to present extracts and transcripts from the handwritten diaries of Alice MacLachlan. New extracts from the diaries will be released every two weeks. All photos are taken from the Milne Album, R. Milne visited St Kilda in 1907. 

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

1 September - 30 September 1908, St Kilda

Tues. Sept. 1st: Another day. The three whalers in and “Chieftain”. Poor Capt. Ritchie. This is a poor trip for him. Ladies quite unsettled as to when they are to get away home. So also am I. No word so far of coals.

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Wednesday Sept. 2nd: Day much better but still all the whalers in. At night after Prayer Meeting, to which I did not go (Miss M. did), the Captains all came in, also Engineer of Skaligram & another man. Gave them milk, Capt. Marten Ørnulf told the girls! to be ready in the morning, as the weather looked as if it were going to be fit. Bed early accordingly.

Thurs. Sept. 3rd: Wakened by a loud whistling from Ørnulf at 4.15. Got up at once & got breakfast. The daft man came ashore for the ladies & rowed them out. They did not get off until 6 o’clock. Had a fine day to myself. It is delightful. Dunie & Kate at hay, which they started on Monday last. Sewed & put up new green curtains in our bedroom & made it look quite nice. Gave flour to Capt. Ritchie. Men went to Soay today after Miss Moir went & brought us a sheep.

Friday Sept. 4th: Lovely day. Sir S. Scott came in late last night with whale. Ørnulf also came in, bringing letters & telegram from Neil Gillies telling about his father. He has undergone operation & is getting on well. Ewan brought me a letter wh. Miss Moir had sent by Ørnulf. They had good passage. Poor Mr. Herlofson’s father they tell me is dying & he (Mr. H.) is very much depressed. In afternoon early a very large Greenland whaler came into bay. The Captain & son came ashore & had tea. We then went out to see the boat with them. They were awfully kind to us & we came home laden with gifts. Tea for Roenig, sweets for the School children & marmalade, preserved fruit, biscuits etc. etc. for ourselves (special gift to the dunie of 4 lbs. tobacco!!). His name is Capt. Robertson of Dundee. Home at East Newport. They know the McWalters. Marmalade was sold to the natives in 7 lb. jars for 1/-. Beautiful marmalade, Keiller’s. I cannot tell how kind they were to us. We won’t forget them soon. Sir S. Scott went tonight to station with a whale (or whales). Weather chainging.

Sat. Sept. 5th: Awful day, nevertheless went up village evening & saw the people. Had tea with Beau Finlay Gillies. Reading “John of Gerisan” by John Oxenham. Splendid. Skaligram came in this evening, but no whale. The others went to the station it seems with five between them. Rough night. Crew of Sk. ashore washing boat at the sands.

Sunday Sept. 6th: Very seedy these days. 2 months today since ill last but a ch. 3 times. Good attendances. Fairly good day. Sk. went out to fish, but came in about time that the two came back from station. M.A. Dodds in all day. Men went out. No news.

Mond. Sept. 7th: Still very seedy. Got breakfast in bed. First Monday of month so no School. Didn’t go to church. No boats in, all out after whales. This is dunie’s birthday. I went up baile & saw Beau Finlay Gillies, Beau Aonghas, Beau Calum, Meirut Ferguson etc. Dunie & Ceit busy with fiar. Agreeing tolerably. Sir Samuel Scott came in with whale. Ceit up village. Enjoying Soay sheep just now. People all busy with their crops.

Tues. Sept. 8th: Most awful day. The whalers going from shelter to shelter, and can’t get it in the end. Children allowed home in aft. Very ill at night. Retching something awful.

Wed. Sept. 9th: Weather still very bad, but the big Schoolboys went out & helped Kate in morning to put in hay which was in danger of being blown into sea. Little better myself but still on sick list. “Skaligram” sheltering in bay, others dodging. Cruvack allowed into Glebe on tether for first time today. Resting all day & very lazy, I’m afraid, but I am so far from well. Of course didn’t go to Prayer Meeting. My bête noir in to supper tonight.

Thurs. Sept. 10th: Dunie & K. busy in Glebe today. School afternoon. Men went out to Skaligram three or four of them, & while they were out the Sir S. Scott came in & down rushes some more of the men, Donald Gillies, Ewan, Norman McKinnon, Neil Gillies had arrived from Glasgow & letters for us. Got letters posted. While we were reading letters & papers, a most awful row came to our ears, Ian Ban above everybody else. Norman McKinnon was led in. He had slipped & an iron row-lock had gone into his eye. It was too horrible. Dunie was so good & bathed it for me & I helped to bandage. The men came in & by way of encouragement (?) stormed at the poor fellow! They are queer people. The Skaligram was just going off to Tarbert. So the Capt. took Norman with him to the Doctor. It was a horrible business. The excitement was too awful. They were simply off their heads.

Friday Sept. 11th: Showere day. Capts. Eleasan and Marten ashore by ten o’clock wanting the men to go for coals for us. The men are to go out at suitable tide. Kate busy baking accordingly.

Frid. Sept. 11th (Contd.): Men went out & worked so well. Got fine lot of coals & splendid ones too. Capts. Eleasen & Marten ashore for tea. Then Aners Andersen came ashore & had teas also. No Skaligram yet. Very seedy.

Sat. Sept. 12th: Lovely day and all the whalers out fishing. They may get whales yet, contrary to their expectations. Dunie & K. busy in the intervals between house cleaning & sermon-making. Sunday evening: Skaligram came tonight bringing Donald McDon. with re-assuring news from Tarbert. Norman’s eye is not so bad as supposed, & he is coming with the next boat.

Monday Sept. 14th: Lovely day for all sorts of outdoor work. Ørnulf came this afternoon bringing Norman McKinnon. His eye is much better though bad enough. Bandaged & dressed it as soon as he arrived. All three Captains came ashore, & were at the scythe. Capt. Cristensen managed to break the scythe handle. All stayed to supper. Sent letters away (Mr. Herlofson, Mr. McRaw, Mrs. Ferguson, Miss Blundell).

Tues. Sept. 15th: Perfect day. Little North wind. Men set off early for Borreray. Nothing happening specially during the day. I went up the village to see the sick ones. We got a fine sheep from Angus in the evening and William McDonald came down & killed it.

Wednes. Sept. 16th: Dressing Norman McKinnon’s eye every day. He isn’t a very good patient. Went to P. Meeting for a wonder. Donald Gillies came in after to ceilidh. Gave him rake for hay and a bible.

Thurs. Sept. 17th: Very blowy day especially up village, so blowy that they have not done a hand’s turn all day. We are able to work & K. has been busy all day & yet not one came down to help her. Annie Gillies came down, took a good tea, & asked for an empty tin box for her Mother & went straight home. Norman McK. came & had his eye done & honoured us by sharpening the scythe & also went home. Yet these people will take as much as ever you like to give them & do nothing for it. Made rhubarb jam. A great success. Kate up village seeing Callum who it seems was “fuasach” last night. Mary bhig helping us. Dunie salted first sheep tonight.

Friday Sept. 18th: Glorious day. Everyone very busy. Cooking nice dinner of chops etc. in my best fashion. Nine or 10 trawlers in last night & two whalers. Ørnulf came in about 12 o’clock. Horribly sick at night again. All three Captains were ashore, & three of the Skaligram’s crew were ashore cutting. One very funny wee man.

Sat. 19th Sept.: Skaligram left for station early this mg. to see what orders are for stopping this season as the weather is so rough. Kate very busy with grass all day. Self very seedy. Went to bed early. Skaligram came back with orders for the whalers all to leave tonight, which they did at 1.30. They came in & said Good-bye but of course I didn’t see them.

Sund. 20th Sept.: Lovely day. Ch. 3 times. Marvellous for me.

Mon. 21st Sept.: Who came in early but Capt. Walkner & “Bannerdale”. With them was Alister Ferguson and Finlay Gillies. The engineer also came ashore. Got letters & parcels galore. Had all A. Ferguson, Walkner & Engineer all to Breakfast & dinner. Finlay keeping wonderfully well.

Tues. 22nd Sept.: Lovely days just like Summer. A. Ferguson out fishing with some of the boys but didn’t get much. We heard that the Bannerdale saw the whalers out fishing yesterday but they were probably mistaken.

Wednes. 23rd Sept.: Still lovely. Nothing much to relate. P.M. of course didn’t go. Dunie O.K. So busy with grass.

Thurs. 24th Sept.: Great excitement tonight. A large tug (the “Oceana” Capt. Pickard came in. They were looking for a grain elevator which they had lost near Tory Island (Ireland) N.W. It had drifted away up North & they called in here on their way outwards. The Capt. and crew were all Irishmen.

Frid. 25th Sept.: The men were out at the tug last night, but it was no good, the Irishmen wouldn’t be “had”. A. Ferguson had good fishing last night. We heard, with great amusement, that the women of the village all congregated in one or two houses last night, expecting the wild Irishmen from the tug would come ashore & murder them. They consoled themselves that the enemy would begin at the Manse, & that they would hear the shrieks up & could then flee! The boat in question left early & then the women went to bed!!! Very wild day. Complete change.

Satur. Sept. 26th: Lovely day. Capt. Walckner walked with two of his crew over from the Glen. The sea wasn’t favourable but it calmed down. He came down (with Alister) & had dinner, also the two men who had dinner after. The girls cleaned the church & also had dinner. K. busy with grass. I went up village after tea with the “Record”. “Bannerdale” left after tea with Capt. Walckner & Alister Ferguson. They will get into Aberdeen early Mon. mg. & the “Bannerdale” is to lie up for some days while Capt. W. goes to Glasgow for a short holiday. His wife & family it seems went there on Tuesday last to the Ferguson’s house.

Sat. Sept. 26th (Contd.): Capt. Walckner in great form & as nice as ever. He says he will be back first trip. We all sent orders. He says he is going to bring me a roast of beef!!! Alister left in great form. He spent all last evening with us & had supper. Dunie paid him his bill of £5. 2. & 5. I got the discount. Dunie had no stamp to affix. Sent for lamp glasses for self & Roenig.

Sund. Sept. 27th: Feeling very ill, & fearfully sick & dizzy. Had to go back to bed & stay there all day with vinegar cloths on my head. No one allowed in but Roenig & Meirut.

Mond. Sept. 28th: Wet misty day. Cleared up little toward eve. Ewen Gillies, Neil Gillies and Angus came & cut some hay. They came into my bedroom to see me. I gave them sweets & a cigar each. They were greatly delighted. In bed all day & much better. Still on milk & water diet but not vomiting.

Tues. Sept. 29th: Little better. Not up till after dinner though. Another wet day. Annie Gillies down also, Callum’s Annie.

Wednes. Sept. 30th: Much better but not nearly “myself”. Towards evening the Ing came in (I’m sure the women are in terror again). The Capt., Mate & engineer came ashore wanting food, but the men were able to tell them what they heard from a trawler yesterday, namely that this trawler had found the grain elevator & had taken it to Stornoway (to the Custom House Officer). 

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2 August - 31 August 1908, St Kilda

August 2nd: Got back here on Thursday mg. after a splendid holiday. No diary kept during last eight weeks. First 10 days or so we were in Tobermory resting. On Monday ( ) I left for Helensburgh where I stayed until Friday at Burnshill with the Campbells.

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Stayed Friday night at McKay’s Hotel close to Queen St. Station & got home on Saturday afternoon. Was at home until the second Thursday thereafter. Then I left for Glasgow for more shopping. Spent night at same hotel & got back to Tobermory on Friday. Dunie had been in Dunvegan for 10 days & did not join me till the following Tuesday morning. After that we just had one full week, in Hull. On the Saturday before we left Dunie & I (& Flora) hired & went a drive round by Soru & spent rest of day at Aintrim. On Tuesday July 21st we left Toby for Dunvegan where we stayed till Friday morning. Then we arrived at Tarbert in the evening. Mr. Herlofson joined us at Rodel & we stayed at Bunamhummedor until Tuesday morning when we got the “Staffa” for Lochmaddy. Stayed Tuesday night with Bain (Contractor’s) family & joined “Hebrides” for St. Kilda on Wednesday night. Met Mr. McLennan at Lochmaddy. Also Mr. McDonald, H.M.S. Inspector from Inverness, who was en route for St. Kilda to examine the School. His wife was with him. It was rather rough coming across but neither of us were sick in the least.

Dunie was in Dunvegan from July 4th to 13th. He joined me in Tobermory on the 14th July. *B.M.B. on Sunday 12th July. Left Toby. On 21st July. In Dunvegan till July 24th. Left that day (Friday) & stayed till Tuesday 28th at Bunamhummedor & got to St. Kilda on the 30th July.

July 31st: Dunie & I busy getting stores put away etc. Had Meeting (Mr McLennan) in evening. The Norwegian Captains came to it but we were not speaking to them. August 1st Saturday. Still busy putting away stores & tidying up generally.

Sunday Aug. 2: Mr McLennan preaching at all services. Poor Annie McQuien & Donald Gillies were made to stand before the congregation today. We hear the people were wild because Mr. McLennan was so lenient with them. The banns were published between Callum & Annie Gillies also between Donald & Annie McQ. Donald (og) Ferguson from Ardrossan addressed the S.S. children very nicely & also Mr. McLennan.

Mond. Aug. 3rd: Service in church at mid-day. Dunie took charge in the afternoon. The two ministers went & visited the people - Donald Ferguson & his wife came down to tea also Donald McQuien (the old man). The latter was giving Mr. McL. all the information about the names.

Tues. Aug. 4th: Donald Ferguson & his wife, dunie, Mr. McL. & Kate all went to the Glen and the Cambergh for a pic-nic. I was too lame with the attack of the dog (one ran up against me on the pier last night). I had a day alone. Mr. McL. went out fishing with the men. Gave Annie McQ. her blouse, also Annie Gillies. Two whalers in.

Wednes. Aug. 5th: Prayer Meeting at night. Nothing much on. Leg very sore.

Thursday Aug. 6th: When we were all in church a yacht came in. This turned out to be the Secretary for Scotland & Lady Marjorie. Also Mr. Forsyth, Queenisl (Crofter’s Commission). The Captain of the “Minna”, Capt. Murdoch, was also there in charge. We were not out for half an hour or so. They all came in & chatted. When they went off Lady Marjorie Sinclair took her husband’s photo with us. Also he took hers with us. It was great excitement. Church at night. Three whalers and two trawlers in bay. Friday Aug. 7th: Busy as usual. Kate goes out to the Services & I stay in for the cooking, but go out at night as a rule. Three services each day.

Saturday 8th: Only one service today. Donald Ferguson & dunie busy making preparations for Comm. tomorrow. Mrs. Neil McDonald admitted into membership. Whalers ashore. Sunday 9th: Big day Commissioner. Every member out including Roenig McRommon & Beau Angus. Monday 10th: Two services. Busy baking & preparing for the feasts & marriage tomorrow. Leg very sore.

Tues. 11th Aug.: Annie Gillies & A. McQuien married to Malcolm McD. & Donald Gillies. Great fun in ch. Quite a lot of the women went to see the ceremony & the men made audible remarks. After six o’cl. all the wedding party came to the Manse & had tea and stayed & saw the newly married pairs in bed!!! Such fun. A. Gillies (Beau Donald) looked sweet in her nightdress & cap. A. McDonald did not look so nice, she had a blouse. Callum & Donald just had shirts on. We kissed them all, Mr McLennan & all & oh! it was awful fun! I was taken unawares and Norman McKinnon kissed me unawares, greatly to the delight of everybody.

Wednes. Aug. 12th: Mr. McLennan’s last day. He was making the most of it. I know not how many pairs gloves & socks he got. Prayer Meeting, after wh. Donald Gillies’ baby was christened. Very wet night. The men with Don. Ferguson were at Soay, & came home drenched & with few sheep. Tonight was the wedding feast in Ewan’s house to wh. Dunie & Mr. McLennan went. They had awful fun and helped the women at their feed after they had all finished themselves!!! Plenty of whales now.

Thurs. Aug. 13th: Very misty mg. up to 11 or so A.M., when we saw the “Hebrides” in the distance. There were such crowds of people. One lady knew Netta & brought a message from her. None of importance. Mr. McL. had dinner before he went. Our paraffin & other odds & ends came.  

Friday Aug. 14th: Quiet day. People started fulmar killing at the Cambergh. Missed Mr. McL. Writing letters for Dunara.

Saturday Aug. 15th: Men busy all day preparing for boat. The Dunara came in at 4.15 afternoon. What a lot of passengers & what stir. Three gentlemen came from Alloa, they brought a letter of intro. from a schoolmaster in Alloa whom we did not know either. They came in a lot. There were three nice little ladies from Stirling (Misses Cummings staying at (Skye) for August. Miss McDonald the Stewardess came ashore & brought me a tin of peaches, tomatoes, bananas & biscuits. She is so kind. Had a house-full all night. The Alloa gentlemen brought tea & tobacco to nearly everybody on the island.

Sunday, Aug. 16th: Had a full church & a collection of 27/- fully. Nice day. Two nice ladies from Edinburgh (originally from Perth) but with plenty of Gaelic were at all the services. Miss McDonald (from Dunara in again). Gave Miss Cumming (from Falkirk) some tea. Met a Mr. & Mrs. Battleman from Edinburgh, friends of the Bertrams, late of Haddington.

Mond. Aug. 17th: Lovely day. People busy dividing spoil from Dunara. Afterwards a fulmar hunt. At night, when at supper, a whaler came in & put out a boat at once. Who had arrived but Miss Moir and a friend (a niece, Miss Winnie Scott). We hurried away our supper & laid another. The two had been staying with Mr. Herlofson since Friday night.

Tues. Aug. 18th: Up in good time. The ladies took lunch & went away to the fulmar hunt at the Cambergh. Miss Moir quite brave. They did not come back until tea time. Killed lamb.

Wednes. Aug. 19th: They went away today also to the same place. Finlay Gillies bad. Has cold I think. Miss Moir came home in great glee. She killed 40 herself, & was down the rope in a fearful place. No. P.M.

Thurs. Aug. 20th: Miss M. & Miss S. away all day at the Dun. Former down rope again & killing fulmar. Not home till 6 o’clock.

Friday Aug. 21st: Fine day. Miss Moir went with Neil Ferguson & a few others in the boat to the back of Berenahake (Stac Lang). We went up to watch them killing the birds & saw the boat with Miss Moir far below. Home same time as boat. Previously seeing Finlay Gillies who is very bad, with bladder complaint. Took pudding. Sent egg previously & again tonight. Very tired tonight & feeling bad.

Satur. Aug. 22nd: Weather changed. What a pity! There are bright blinks of sun, however, but terrible showers. Cold wind. One whale in bay, a very large one. Day turned out fair after all. “Anon”, Capt. Bantock came in. Got lovely plaice & small halibut. Miss Moir & S. went up Connachar themselves. One little chicken came out today (Gerrards). The “Sir Samuel Scott” came in at night. Two days out from station brought letters. Lots for Miss Moir, one & card for Miss S. & one a paper for me from Miss Blundell. Gave Eleason & his Engineer milk. All men down expecting papers.

Sunday Aug. 23rd: 6 wks. today since B.M.B. Looks bad. Out at ch. twice, 3 times with S.S. The two went out in aft. for stroll. Fine day. They saw lots of boats.

Mond. Aug. 24th: West wind. Very blowy. Finished lamb today. It came in beautifully. The two off after men & fulmar again. Busy doing odd jobs.

Tues. Aug. 25th: Not such a good day as yesterday. Great Consultation as to day’s proceedings up Baile but eventually the two went off with Neil Ferguson & Ewan Gillies. Had halibut to dinner. Finished Miss Jules’ socks, thankful to say. The Ørnulf & Skalligram came in. The latter Captain & Engineer came ashore with letters from Miss Moir & Illustrated Papers from Edith Blundell. Gave them light refreshments. Killed first two cocks. 

Wednes. Aug. 26th: Fearfully stormy day. No boats in bay. Misses M. & S. went into School & distributed sweets. Got present las few days of lots of fulmar. Nice dinner today of coilleachs. Miss M. went to church in evening.

Thurs. Aug. 27th: Hebrides arrived about 11 o’clock A.M. No Miss Kemble for which I am devoutly thankful. Mr. Milne came just for trip. Got lots of letters & parcels. Box of papers from Lady Marjorie Sinclair & Hon. John Sinclair. Bibles came from Mr. McLennan & parcel books from Motherwells Airdrie. Very stormy blowy day.

Friday Aug. 28th: Ditto day. Ørnulf only in these last few day. Others must be at station. Capt. Ritchie on new boat the “Chieftain”, with engines broken. The mate of Ørnulf & Steward came in. The former brought me a very nice doormat he had made himself for me (in return for eggs). They had tea. Finished Matthew Dale, Farmer. Not bad. Forgot to say got Box for Xmas from Geo. yesterday, also Parkmans (dishes) Waxcloth & Bacon.

Sat. Aug. 29th: Another blowy cold day. The whalers won’t stay long at this rate. The man off the Ørnulf who made me the doormat came with crabs for me. We had them for tea. Then the Captain of the Ørnulf came in. It is the first time he was. The other Capt. (Eleasen) & the two engineers also came in & finished evening. Had light refreshments.

Sund. Aug. 30th: Good day. Ch. once & S.S. The ladies went out at night but I did not. Crew of “Chieftains” (Capt. Ritchie) & crew of “Red Wing”, also a lot of the Norwegians (Ørnulf) and Sir Samuel Scott) went in at service. Ham & eggs for supper. Reading “Margaret” by L. T. Meade. Enjoying it.

Monday Aug. 31st: Another blowy day. Men roofing Widow McKinnon’s byre, which has fallen in. Ladies went up Mullach Sgail. Skalligram & Ørnulf in tonight, also “Chieftain”. School in twice. Dunie & Kate started hay today. They will be in their element now. Dunie up visiting Roenig Ferguson. Rhubarb tart for dinner, which disagreed with me & made me very ill. Awful night. Wrote lots of letters.  


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