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- 10 March 1908, St Kilda

March 1st: Typical 1st of March. Hope the proverb will be fulfilled and that March will go out like a lamb. Out at church twice. No news. Everyone is speaking about the severe weather.

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Mch. 2nd, Mon.: Service today being first of month. I actually went out. D. Ferguson out too for a wonder as it is so cold. The looms are now going up. William started today. Hens not doing so well owing to cold weather. Dunie and I went up baile after dinner and went to see all the people from the far end of the village down to as far as Finlay Gillies’. Everyone we saw was improving altho’ it is hard to get them to own that they are better. Donald McQuien amused me very much by wanting me to alter a coat for him. To make it fit him would be a difficult matter. Beau Toromich McQuien has been very ill with Asthma but is now better. I wore my big coat & it was much admired. We have had a nice holiday from School what with bad weather etc. We hear there is a trawler at Borreray, but don’t know whether it is Albert or not.

Tues. Mch. 3rd:
Great change in weather for the better. Quite warm today & occasional blinks of warm sunshine. Kate & I put out the clothes which have been in the tub a fortnight. Men over at Dùn for waavi? Guillemots. Turned round the bed for the light is so strong in my eyes in morning. School recommenced today with good attendance after being closed from Th. of last week. Bay quite calm today. Hope to see either Capt. Craig or some other boat soon with our mails. We have had no letters for two months (Jany. 11th by Princess Melton).

Wednes. Mch. 4:
Yesterday turned out very showery. Today ditto but not so bad. Kate ironing and I was making drop scones & Coburg Cake. Both great success. Made toffee at night as dunie has a little of cratan. No news to speak of. A huge boat as if it were on its way to America whistled as she passed quite close to Hirst today. A liner and “Clydesdale” are fishing at Borreray, so we need expect no boats in bay with this breeze (South). Gave Annie Gillies Belladonna Liniment for her Mother’s face (Neuralgia). Re-footing 4 ply stockings, finished one.

Thurs. Mch 5th
:
Had a nice quiet evening at home. I should not say ‘nice’ as my toothache is so bad. The M.A. Dodds came in and the men went out. Capt. Ritchie sent up a nice ling. Days getting nice & long.

Friday, Mch 6th
: When I had Cruvack, Rosie & my cirie at the well, to my great delight the “Bannerdale” came in & brought us such a lot of letters, papers and everything. Capt. Walckner as kind as ever. He brought me a leg of pork, ½ box of finnan haddies, and a box of Scotch. I got quite a lot of letters & papers and my heavy shoes which are splendid. Bad news though in letters. Everyone seems to be ill. Flora ill, & undergone operation in Edinburgh. Geo. Badge ditto. Will ill at home for 8 weeks with ulcerated stomach. No letter from Mother.

Sat. Mch. 7th
:
Who came in but the “Fear big” (Donald Craig) with his new boat. He didn’t bring half the things ordered, but brought mine, altho’ not what I had lent him (6 tins of Cond. Milk). Lovely weather.

Sund. Mch. 8th
: Fine day. Only Capt. Ritchie in bay. Men headed by William went out to see if they would come to church. While they were staying out along time Donald Ferguson came in, for the ch. keys & was “cross” with William for staying out & keeping everyone waiting. So church was commenced without them - Angus leading the singing. When done with first psalm the miscreants arrived (without the crew of M. A. Dodds) who were afraid to venture ashore because of a rapidly falling glass. W. & party looked daggers and would not lead in the following psalms, but Angus did alright. However, he seems alright tonight as I (indoors tonight) hear him singing lustily. Wind rising. Toothache better but swelling still sore.

Mon. Mch. 9t
h: Not much to relate. Don. F. & Juggernaut down to supper & talk abt. funds. Stormy, all boats in.

Tues. 10th Mch
: Day better. Busy writing letters all day. Trawlers went out at night. Dunie suas. baile. Writing letters all day.
 

February 1908, St Kilda

Mond. Feb. 3rd: Yesterday was a lovely day, but today it is simply wild again. So I couldn’t go up as I anticipated to see the sick ones. Dunie went though & found them all much about the same. Finlay’s wife is getting weaker...

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 Angus’ wife is not worse; but very poorly. Donald Ferguson about the same. Dunie did not see him as he was asleep. Yesterday there was only one service as everyone was so sick. The previous Sunday there was none. The Cornelia & two other boats in bay today. My hyacinths (in water) are doing splendidly. I have two lovely pink ones out just now. Donal òg came down to ask for me & stayed to tea. Neil Gillies also came down for eggs etc. for Mother. Finished ruffle for neck.

Tuesday Feb. 4th: Fine day. No boats in. School re-opened today after being closed for a fortnight for Influenza. Out myself today for first time. Went up Baile and saw those who are worst. Beau Finlay Gillies, Donald Ferguson, Meirut, and Roenig Ferguson, etc. Donald Gillies down.

Wednes. Feb. 5th: In School for first time today for long time. Rowbottom came into bay today on one of Bookless boats. They had an accident it seems on board and one man was hurt by the anchor. R. wanted me to take him in for a few days but of course I couldn’t. Gave him bandages and embrocation. He sent in a hug cod & halibut.

Thursday Feb. 6th: Lovely day. Out nearly all day but did not go up village. The sick ones are a little better, we hear. Dunie went up. I am busy making myself a blue flannelette petticoat. Donald Gillies down at night.

Friday Feb. 7th: No boats in since Wed. morning. Breezy day with mist and rain. Glass very high. We hear Finlay Gillies’ wife not so well. Finlay Mòr down to tea, & Neil Gillies in kitchen. Kate busy with her own piece. Hens seedy. Caora Soay lovely. In school. Got piece of mutton Wed. from F. Gillies - piece on Thurs. from Neil Ferguson, & also piece from Callum.

Sat. Feb. 8th: Wet day but I went through every house. Bad though some of the people are, I think all are on the mend. Craig Millar came into the bay. Also Dreadnought (Capt. Morris). The men went out in the evening for news of Princess Melton & Capt. Walckner. They heard that the Princess M. had been sold & that the wee Capt. was waiting for another boat. Also that Ewan was in Aberdeen staying with Captain Craig. Captains Craig & Walckner are awaiting for Bookless boats. Capt. Morris very kind and gave the men ten & told them he had a ckae for me from Mrs. Morris three trips but that the men were not out. He is making splendid hauls. We hear that N…. M…. the big sneak went & informed Capt. Morris that it was Capt. Walckner that brought Influenza to the Island. That didn’t keep him from ordering all he wanted per Capt. Walckner to save freight. Because he got his belly filled tonight he thought he had liberty to lie against & blacken our best friend.

Sun. Feb. 9th: Out twice mg. & S.S. Fair attendances. “Craigmilla” in all day.

Mond. Feb. 10th: Fine day. A little wet but warm. At School. Cirrie got dipped today. One of my brown hens died with cholera. Ill a week. Dunie up bailie.

Tues. Feb. 11th: No boats. Wet & blustering. School as usual. K. doing small washing of flannels. Angelic. School and preparing Flannelette knickers for the four girls who by the way resumed school today. “Craigmillar” always in at night. WE are longing for a mail by Capt. Walckner or Capt. Craig. Cutting out slip bodices all mg. for self. Hear invalids better. Sore back.

Wednes. Feb. 12th: Glorious warm day. Just like summer. Started the girls in School with knickers (flannelette) for Inspector. Did not go to P.M. tonight. Donald McQuien Sen. came to ceilidh after Meeting. Annie Gillies (Ewan’s sister) came for the boots from Kate. I talked to her about Callum & she acknowledged it, but said she did not want to get married this summer. Annie Bella MacDonald ill with mumps. Busy self making slip-bodices. No boats today but Craigmillar out fishing. Got nine eggs today. Finished Conan Doyle’s “Sign of Four”. Not taken up much with it.

Thurs. Feb. 13th: Still no word of a boat. After School Dunie and I went up the village. It is the first time I have been up the village with dunie (or out at night) for six or seven weeks. All are making progress altho’ the Caillachs (Roenig & Meirut Ferguson) are still in bed. We are wearying so much for boat. Before tea William McDonald and Donald Gillies came down and put up the clothes poles. They look very nice & will I am sure prove useful.

Frid. Feb. 14th:St. Valentine’s day, but still no boat. No news of any kind. School. Gave VI Boys an object lesson today on the Hyacinth. One of my own which I took into School. Kate went up baile & Donald McQuien son of Finlay Mòr came to ceilidh. I made toffy today for the coughs up village, and oven scones. Shower of snow tonight and Connacher is covered.

Satur. Feb 15th: Fine bright day with showers of snow. No word of boats! Christina & Mary McQuien came today and gave the School a thorough cleansing, which will do it all the good in the world. Feet washing an raoir! but no more! The girls tell me there are three at Borrera. How we are wearying for them. Making slip-bodices for self. So sorry that up to time of going to bed there is no sign of boat with letters or Ewan. Quite a gale getting up which will surely send the three trawlers who are out at Borera into our Bay. Neil Gillies (Finlay’s) came for medicine. Also William MacDonald’s son John to have his hand dressed. It had been slightly bitten by a dog. This afternoon we had a bonfire with the rubbish out of the storeroom.

Sunday Feb. 16th: Two steamers came into the bay last night & had such bright lights showing that they had fish. We were awakened about 8 o’clock by the loud whistling of one of Bookless boats (The Bannerdale) on which was Capt. Walkner. He hadn’t brt. letter bag as it seems he wasn’t pleased with the St. Kildans for giving the last one to Donald Craig. He had Ewan Gillies with him as deck-hand. Ewan’s sisters came down & gave him a fearful wigging and took him home in triumph. He was rigged out at Capt. Walckner’s expense. His mother would not let him go away again & the men had to go out and tell Capt. Walckner. So Capt. was awfully cross with the Hirteach and no wonder. Big Norman is making an awful fool of himself against Capt. W. who now refuses to bring anything to anyone except ourselves and the Neil Ferguson & William! Great storm in a tea-cup. “M.A. Dodds” in, also “Cornelia” and another. Church three times today! Got “Scotch” as usual from Capt. W. & I sent him 1½ doz. eggs.

Mond. Feb. 17th: T.M.B. Another infectious disease now going through place among children in the throat, but as Annie Bella MacDonald had it all last week they cannot say poor Captain Walckner brought it! They are a poor ignorant lot, & one can’t but be sorry for them. They are like savages. Finlay Mòr in kitchen in good form. Angus & Donald G. down drowing “Bussy”, poor Bess’s dog. Don G. came in to ceilidh. Very bad headache self. Dunie & I had a nice night to ourselves by the fireside. Hens beginning to do not so badly. Dunie slight attack Indigestion. Capt. Ritchie in bay. Gusty night.

Tuesday Feb. 18th: Nothing of note. Intended going up village at night but just wh. ready Donald MacDonald came to ceilidh. Knitting stockings.

Wednes. Feb. 19th: Big washing, consequently K. in vile temper. Men went out to “Cornelia” and “Bannerdale” and brought ashore Captains Amazon and Walckner. They had dinner and tea with us and far too many whiskies. Up in the village, between. Didn’t go to P.M.

Thurs. 20th Feb.: Donald MacDonald put up his loom today. He is first this year.

Thurs. 20th Feb: Rough cold day. Bad all day with Toothache. Dunie got his hair cut (William). Donald Ferguson’s cow calved today & William’s on Monday last, so there should be more milk on hand now. Have stopped Roenig as I have only enough for the tea now. Kate up doing her “big carding” at Meirut’s Hear all the invalids are improving. Fearful night of it with Toothache. Friday, 21st Feb.: Rough day. Better of toothache, but swollen face, which I don’t mind. Hens doing better now. Some days 11 eggs but I am giving away a great any. “Dreadnought” (Morris) in, also Bannerdale (Walckner), Cornelia and a lot of others. Dunie tells me there is hardly anyone at School today with a freash “cratan”! which Ewan is getting the blame of having imported!!! Men just away out as I write to interview Morris as to Donald Craig’s movements. The men heard that Morris had been taken ill en route with pleurisy & had to be sent home from Stornoway. No news of Donald Craig, as Capt. Walkner’s boat from whom we heard the last left about same time as Morris. Donald Billies came for my cloth (shua). Dunie up the village. Very rough night.

Sat. Feb. 22nd: Worst day we have ever seen in St. Kilda. Wind simply fearful, and roof of house rising up & down. Sea just like boiling pot. Five boats in bay, trying to get shelter & finding none. Seedy myself. Reading Ouida’s “Under two flags”. I like it very much, & it rubs up my French a little to go over it. So stormy that the men came down & hauled up the boat. Callum òg & Toromich Mòr came in to see us. No news. Very stormy. K. angelic!

Sunday Feb. 23rd: Weather worse than ever. Five boats in. “Creda” (?) Hull left, but “Tubal Cain” Grimsby arrived. Fearful day. Not out at all. Swelling down.

Monday Feb. 24th: Bad day mg. but calmed down sufficiently to let Trawlers out to fish “feasgai”. Finlay Gillies’ loom set up today. Went to school self. Lost nice sleeve link.

Tues. Feb. 25th: Deeply interested in Nansen’s “Farthest North”, reading it aloud evenings. Finlay Gillies came down for the “Cur” of Mycho Mor this evening. My small piece is finished & I am terribly anxious to see it. Finlay McQuien in to ceilidh early in evening. Regaled him with X Ale & Cocoa-Nut cakes which charmed him. Clydesdale, Dreadnought, Bannerdale and Minerva in bay. Too rough for trawling but they were out last night & had good catches we think from the amount of birds around.

Wednes. Feb. 26th: Very stormy day. Boats doing nothing, but the men (St. K.) went out to the Clydesdale and got some fish for themselves and us. Donald Gillies got us some delicious soles, which we are so glad to have. My eggs will thus be saved for a few days. Ewan Gillies (ma bête noir!) & old Donald McQuien came after P.M. to ceilidh.

Thurs. Feb. 27th: Our first storm of snow today & high wind. On rising this morning we looked on to a white world. Only three or four turned up to School so they were allowed to go home. Dunie & I had a splendid day at home & I read “Nansen” till I was hoarse. It is just like a fairy tale & we have come to the end of Nansen & Johannsens’ wanderings, but we have yet to follow up the movements of the “Frau” with Svendrup as Commander. It is most exciting. No visitors.

Friday Feb. 28th: Day little better. More snow. No School. Morris boat “Dreadnought” left. So did the three others in the afternoon but we do not know yet whether they went home or to fish. We saw a lovely, huge steamer today, evidently on its way to America. How we wished it would come in. Donald Gillies, our faithful friend, came down shortly after my last entry bringing with him my cloth which they had very kindly woven first. We looked at my white piece first. The texture is very satisfactory, but I can hardly say what it will be like until it is washed, as it is so dirty with the loom and the oil, but I think it will be splendid. Then there are 33 yards in the big piece, which is really beautiful. The small piece has about 15½ or 16 yards. There was so much “dluth” over that if we buy a couple of pounds from Angus what with our is left, Finlay G. says we shall have another little piece of eight yards! Mrs. Gillies ill now with “cratan”! Made toffy today. Kate up baile seeing Donald “Callum” who is sick. Bad headache.

Sat. Feb. 29th: Last day of Feb. and a fearful day too! Wind has gone round to E. or N.E. & it is fearfully cold & stormy. No boat could stay in our bay with such a sea. Where is the “Bannerdale” I wonder today? Busy finishing big stockings. Have done so and have started re-footing black 4 ply ones. A trawler which we think Walckner’s dodging at mouth of bay. Dunie up baile. All improving. Very stormy.

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January 1908, St Kilda

Wed. Jan. 1st:Glorius day - bright sun and so calm. Gave Kate her presents. Crochet cape, blouse dearg and Sennuit. Church at 12 o’clock. 

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After which there was a great hurry for the children’s treat came on. After church the people went out for the men off the Princess Melton. After the children’s treat, which passed off with great success, we had in the Capt. Craig of the Princess Melton & John (William’s brother). Then Kate went up the Bailie & Dunie & I had a glorious evening by the fireside to ourselves. My neuralgia bothering me very much.

Thurs. Jan. 2nd: Men of Princess M. again in but only the Capt. in the manse. He came in & had tea. After that we intended going up the village but my face was bad & dunie went along. I kept warm by the fireside. Will & Neil Gillies out trawling. Friday 3rd: Another lovely day. We were out all morning & in the aft. I went up baile and distributed all the peppermints. I was in every house, & got treated to tea, wine, biscuits & cheese etc. Dunie went up for a run to ask William when the Princess M. was going away so that we could get the coilleaches ready for Mother. He said the boat would go tomorrow.

Sat. 4th Jan:Busy killing cocks & preparing all mg. Packed them with sundry other goods for the boat which never came! It was most tantalising. But we must just eat them ourselves. Toothache still bothering me. Busy making pale blue flannel blouse & plum pudding for tomorrow’s dinner.

Sunday Jan. 5: Had very bad night with toothache so had breakfast in bed, & received all village. Did not of course go out today, but had the wee ones in to Sabbath School & they were such darlings. They all said their Psalm, and finished up by singing. I did love them so.

Mond. Jan. 6th: Very stormy day. The sea very big. First Monday of month & last day of dunie’s holidays. The meeting in church this mg. Awful night with neuralgia last night. Got bkft. in bed. Had heaps of callers both before & after Service. Kept Donald McQuien to dinner, when we had one of the coilleachs. Then Finlay Mòr came to tea (Annie his daughter) had been earlier in the evening. Then Donald Ferguson to supper. So we have had a big day. The “Cygnet” dodging about the bay, but does not come in it. Angelic. Neuralgia well tonight. Finished “The lost Sir Massingred” by Peirse & liked it very much. We are longing for the “Knowsie” to come with letters. Lighting up at 5 o’clock. Day growing.

Tuesday, Jan. 7th: Had a splendid ngt. & no neuralgia. Rough day. School reopened today. Did not go out further than byre to see the cirries. Both are now eating oil cake & getting so nice. Mary Mhor came to see me & K. gave her tea. Reading Black Rock by Ralph Connor. It is splendid reading. Finishing pieces for my knickers. Did up Neil G.’s leg - (twice a week as usual). No boats in at all. Feeling very well just now. Kate up “ci ring” at Meirut’s. Great gossip as to matrimonial affairs, as to who Finlay Mòr is to get, whether Bellac or Kate will win! Feeling very well today & night, & had lovely!!!! Night with dunie.

Wednes. Jan. 8th: Blowy day with heavy showers. Saw a liner? working far out today. Cooked second coilleach this week. Went to School for first time since the break-up of School. Feeling alright & so is dunie, who by the way is going it strong with “Bogie Roll”!

Thurs. Jan. 9th:  Still no boats in.  No news worth noting.  Kate up again at Meirut’s combing.  Neil Gillies came down to have his finger dressed.

Friday, Jan. 10th:  Plenty of boats abt. but none coming in.   Had Don. Gillies to tea & Dunie & D. went up together while I stayed in very bad with neuralgia.  Finlay Gillies came down to supper & to show me abt. dunie’s “blanket” pants which F. presented to him.  I not much wiser.

Saturday, Jan. 11th:  Quite a lot of boats in when we waked up.  The Princess Melton among the rest so we got word of the Knowsie which had broken down & took a week to reach Aberdeen.  Capt. Walkner trying to get another boat.  Princess brought letter bag.  Got a good few & a lot of papers.  Got soles from “Cornelia”, thanks to Donald Gillies.  Invalids better we hear.

Sund. Jan. 12th:  No news.  Out at church and S.S.  Then nice night alone D. & I.

Mond. Jan. 13th:  Stormy day.  Boats, eight or nine, sheltering in bay.  Dunie up seeing the sick folks, and there are so many.  Neuralgia v.b.  Indoors.

Tuesday, Jan. 14th:  Better day.  Princess Melton in, & two ashore.  Captain Craig in for a little.  Neuralgia very bad.  Not out.

Wednes. Jan. 15th:  First thing a new boat came in with great whistling.  The men all thought it was Capt. Walckner & so it was and we were so glad.  I went to School & dunie went out.  I got such a parcel of sketches & all sorts.  Got a cake from Dundee from Miss Moir, Dunie got “Omar Kyham” - & Kate a Picture Postcard Album. Capt. Walckner sent me Aberdeen Speldings, Case Scotch - & roes.  Got some letters also.  Feeling much about the same.  Kate bad with cratan.  John Gillies’ wife is very bad.  Got another p.P.C. from Mr. Milne.

Thurs. Jan. 16th:  Rather rought day.  I expected the Capt. of Princess Melton in but the men did not go out as the Pier was rather bad.  Dunie went up the Baile tonight to see the invalids.  I am feeling better.  The two lambs went together to the stream for their meridian.  The taming of her is a great feat.

Friday, Jan. 17th:  Better day.  Two or three boats in.  Capt. Princess Melton came in and gave the children a gramophone entertainment, which delighted and charmed them.  Children got oranges.  Cornelia in bay.  Had the skipper and William McDonald to tea.

Saturd. Jan. 18th - Feb. 2nd:  No diary kept between these two dates owing to being ill myself with neuralgia & everything else under the sun.  The whole village has been ill with a kind of influenza.  It got its grip on poor old Bess, and carried her off in less than two days.  It comes on with shivering & one has a very sore head.  This is one of the chief symptoms together with very sore back & bones.  The majority of the people had violent vomiting.  School of course closed from Wednesday Jan. 22nd until Tues. Feb. 4th.  Bess died on Tuesday night, Jan. 28, & was buried on Jan. 31st.  Dunie has been very bad as well.  For the worst case at present is Beau Finlay Gillies, who has the most fearful incessant cough.  This cough with (sac) as they call it is one of the symptoms of the sickness.  (B.M.B. from 21st Jan. to 24th).  My latest caora from Soay died in the interval from water in the head.  Have not been up the village since 3rd of Jan. when I went up the village with peppermints to everybody.  We have had such heaps of boats in the bay.  Sometimes 14 trawlers, Capt. Walckner is now away from Fraserburgh Tr. Co. and is on the St. Machar, same line as the Princess Melton.  Busy making wool ruffle for self. Friday, Jan. 10th: Plenty of boats abt. but none coming in. Had Don. Gillies to tea & Dunie & D. went up together while I stayed in very bad with neuralgia. Finlay Gillies came down to supper & to show me abt. dunie’s “blanket” pants which F. presented to him. I not much wiser.

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