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.

May 1908, St Kilda

Friday May 1st: Lovely, misty Summer day with fine rain falling.

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Saturday May 2nd:Lovely day but rather misty and blowy. Dunie & I went up Beren-a-hake our usual walk and had a pretty fair view, altho’ rather misty. Waulking finished today in Neil McDonald’s.

Sunday, May 3rd: No boats. Another misty day. No word of whalers. Just a year today since the first came last year. Twice out to church. Remember this date for fear of accident.

First whaler May 5th

Monday May 4th: Warm day but “ceo” to the door. No School as it is question day. Had a row with Beau Toromich McQuien about pills. Dunie went up baile to see the folks who think they are sick! Tues. May 5th: Simply an awful day. Rain pouring down in buckets. No one could do any out-door work at all. Beasts in again. In the evening the first whaler came in. It was the “Ørnulf” - the Botoch’s boat. Dunie & I waved but there was no response. So we knew there was something amiss. A trawler came in at the same time & whistled & the men hurried out. When they came in Alas! it was to tell us the poor Botoch was dead. He died in January about 3 weeks or a month after coming back from Africa. It is terribly sad & we shall miss him more than anybody as he was most of his time here. The mate of one of the boats is now Captain. Paulsen is fishing on the “Scaligram” & Eleasen is in Norway yet waiting for the new boat the poor botoch was to have had. Dunie & I are very sad. The boat whistled to give fish to the men. They had asked before it seems & the Capt. had none. He said Finlay Mòr had cursed the boat and he would get no more fish if he had not come with them. Very wet night. Jolly fried haddocks for supper.

Wednes. May 6th: Another pouring wet mg. but it cleared up later on but no one went to work. Church at night to which I dutifully went! The mate & one of the crew of the “Ørnulf” came ashore wishing to get eggs for tobacco. They came in here first & then went up the village. They only got half a dozen eggs, & called here on their return. I gave them fourteen or fifteen. They said why did we not ask them on their way up? They had given away a lot of baccy but had a good bit to spare for dunie. Howe please he is! He was only done for two days. They seem nice men & were telling us a lot about poor Skondorp. Set Feathery Feet with 13 eggs.

Thurs. May 7th: Fearful day & very rough. Not so wet as rough & cold with high wind. Not a soul did a hand’s turn out of doors today, except my dunie. He is road making. Two Annie Gillies with milk.

Friday May 8th: Lovely day up to 6 o’clock, when rain came on. The whaler Ørnulf went off today. “Katy” in. The men went out & were told that Capt. Ritchie was as far as Loch Roag & had mails also, but had to go back to Aberdeen with broken engine & for bait. He may be back here again tomorrow. Kate most of day up helping her sisters with the planting.

Sat. May 9th: Fine day for outdoor work. Kate up after tea with Meirut & Katrione. Got milk from Finlay Gillies.

Sund. May 10th: Wet blowy day. Great deal of rain. Church once & S.School. Reading “Louise de la Valière”. At night after church the “Fear big” (Capt. Craig) “Craigroy” came in and the men went out at once to see John. Got two papers but no news.


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April 1908, St Kilda

Wednes. April 1st:  Lovely day.  Out at church at night.  Had Finlay Mòr, Ian Bhan & old Donald McQuien in ceilidhing & got great fun.

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Donald was in great form & was telling us heaps of stories about the island - pirates etc.  I wished I had had more Gaelic to understand him better.  He told us of men falling over the rocks at Soay - boys being stolen away from Boreray, & robbers coming to the island.  His gestures were so funny & if any of the others dared to dispute anything he said he almost devoured them.  Entertained them to supper & gave Ian Bhanhis “McCheyne”, also presented the others with “Grace Abounding” in Gaelic.  They were delighted.  No boats in.

April 2nd (Thurs.):  North Shields liner came in & another boat we hear from Inverness.  Dunie went up village.  No news worth relating.  The men think that captain Walckner left last night for Friday’s mkt.  If that is so then he will be here by Tuesday, perhaps Monday.  Just finished “Forty-five Guardsmen”, Dumas.  Have now finished the three of that series, & rather like them.  Fine calm night.  Not lighting up until 7.10 P.M.  Only two lights in church now at nights.

Friday April 3rd:  My daffodils are simply lovely just now.  Nothing special to tell.

Satur. Ap. 4th:  Capt. Craig (Fear big) in & ashore most of the day.  Here to dinner & tea.  Sent ashore soles.  We only finished Capt. Walckner’s today.

Sund. Ap. 5th:  Three! times to church.  Lovely day outside.

Mond. Ap. 6th:  No School.  Meeting in church 12 o’c.  Then K., dunie & I went for picnic to Tobar Nam buadh & made tea.  Glorious!

Tues. Ap. 7th:  Bannerdale arrived with letters.  Capt. Walckner brought our letters & parcels.  Got good news of our invalids.  Sorry to see in papers of Mi Gavin’s death in Cairo.  So sorry for his Mother & Miss Crane.

Wednes. Ap. 8th:  Lovely day.  The men all went away for Gannets in the afternoon to Borreray.  P.M., when Donald McQuien prayed at good length.

Thurs. April 9th:  The men returned at about 2.30 this morning.  Got dozen gannets each.  Beau Don. McDonald sent me half one.  Also got milk from Beau N. Ferguson.  John McDonald & Donald og. came after dinner & put out the manure into the back buall for potatoes.

Frid. April 10th:  Not nearly such a nice day.  Cold & blowy.  Kate got first lamb today.  Writing letters inside.  Dunie “suas”.  No boats.  Wind S.

Sat. Ap. 11th:  Glorious day!  Out nearly all day.  Went suas baile feasgar & saw all the “invalids”!  Simply lovely night.  No boats in.  Forgot to say on evening of 9th the “Rambler” N. Shields in bay first time this year.  Lots of lambs.

Sunday Ap. 12th:  Donald Craig came in first thing this morning & William & some of the other men went out at once.  He sent me in 1 lb. chocolate walnuts.  I had ordered them but he would not take any money for them.  He says Capt. Walckner left last night (without our letters) if it is true.  Out to mg. church & S.S.  People some few of them ill with diarrhoea & vomiting.  William tells us it is common at this time of year.  Good few out of ch. with it.

Mond. Ap. 13th:  Sc. this mg.  Made mixture of Sulphur, cream of tartar & syrup last night & am taking does of it every night.  Think it will make good Spring medicine as I am a bit out of sorts, so languid etc.  Wet day.  Beasts at home eating their heads off, and hay is getting short now.  We went up village to see the people in far away houses.  It cleared up & K. dug all front.

Tues. Ap. 14th:  Beautiful day.  Dunie sowed the front with oats today and Kate harrowed.  Dunie put in two drills early potatoes, the first two were put in yesterday.  Everyone out of doors as much as possible.

Wednes. Ap. 15th:  Another lovely day.  The men about 8 or 10 went today to Stac an Armine to look after some lambs they have there.  Hens doing well just now but ducks are a nuisance laying away somewhere.  T.M.B.

Thurs. Apr. 16th:  Start of waulking the cloth today at Meirut’s house.  Kate went up to “ceilidh” for she would do a little work as possible.  Dunie & she planting potatoes in the afternoon.  The men are working at their boats mending, scraping, tarring, & painting.  Lovely day.  Bad toothached & swollen face again.

Frid. Ap. 17th:  Waulking at Donald McDonald today.  Another fine day, though showery latter part of day.  Boys putting out manure.  John McQuien & Don. McQuien. Donald Gillies & Ewan McDonald here yesterday.  Dunie suas feasgar.

Saturd. April 18th:  Waulking at Finlay Gillies & Kate up “gassing”.  Dunie & I had lovely quiet day.

Sund. April 19th:  Good day.  Out mg. & to Sunday School.  Had good read.  Am still at Dumas.  Have finished “The Three Musketeers” & “Forty-five Guardsmen” & like them better than “Twenty Years After”, which I am at now.  However it is getting more interesting.  Two G.Y. boats in.

Mond. Ap. 20th:  I forgot to say that on Thursday night at midnight Capt. Ritchie came in and brought 20 boxes of red herrings, one for each house, from a Mr. Thompson in Aberdeen.  We are having them occasionally.  Fine day.  Waulking at the “Bandraghs”.  Finlay Mòr came in to ceilidh for a little & Donald Gillies came for my cloths which are to be waulked tomorrow.  Kate baking for same.

Tues. Ap. 21st:  Fine day.  Got cloths nearly dried.  Have one piece Mòr 33 yds. fully - my own white piece 16 ½ yds. & Dunie’s suit length 9 yds. which the Gillies are dyeing.  Finlay Gillies here to tea.

Wednes. Ap. 22nd:  Very cold & windy day.  Showers of snow.  Bad night of toothache.  Got my white piece dreid.  Large buall planted with potatoes today, & looks splendid.  Such a large piece.  Did not go to P.M.

Thurs. 23rd:  Fearful snow storm!  Lots of boats in sheltering.  The men went out to see the strangers.  Sold lots of skins to the Hull boat.  Got our letters away at last.  Got nice soles & ling.  Got milk from F. McQuien today for first time.  Doing a lot of entertaining today.  William out dunie’s hair & I set my first hen (old Blackie) with 13 eggs today.  Very late.

Frid. Ap. 24th:  Days simply flying.  Fearful night of snow & wind & today as bad as ever.  Dunie is afraid he will have to sow the corn over again as it is spoilt he is thinking with the snow & frost.  Better evening.  They were waulking at Donald Ferguson’s.  Came on quite a gale like last night.

Satur. Ap. 25th:  Another day like yesterday.  Simply winter & Arctic cold.  Waulking at Tigh Ian Bhan’s.  Finished white shawl for Bab. today.  Wind came round in evening to West and no fewer than 10 boats came in to shelter.  It was too rough for the men to go out.  Dressed and bandaged Annie McQuien’s foot.  (She cut it when away for peats.)  Calmer as we go to bed.  Got my cloths put away nicely in papers ready for ourselves when we go.  Sewing slip-bodice and improving my dressing-jacket.  Bay looks lovely tonight with all the trawlers lighted up.

Sunday Ap. 26th:  Out three times!  Record.  No news.  Meirut here as usual, and droning away all day reading.  Quite painful to listen to.

Monday, Ap. 27th:  Waulking at Tigh William today and they were lucky in their day.  They got all their cloth beautifully dried.  Dunie & I went “suas na baile” feasgar and got to most of the houses as far as Finlay Gillies.  Took the dye to them for dunie’s suit.  We were also seeing Roenig McRimmon.  Finished white slip-bodice & am making some more.  No boats.

Tues. Ap. 28th:  Very wet blowy day.  Waulking at Tigh Tormomich McQ.  But they will get none dried today.  Heavy sea.  South Wind.  K. angelic.  She & Dunie spreading manure this evening as it cleared up a little.  Took my cirrie for a walk.  Kate has now got four lambs in the Glebe and we hear one in the Dùn.  Sent up to Tigh Finlay McQ. for milk today as I had absolutely nothing for tea.  Condensed milk now done.

Wednes. Ap. 29th:  Waulking today at Finlay Mòr’s.  Middling day.  No cloths dried.  Prayer Meeting.  Gave eggs to Beau Toromich after Prayer Meeting for setting.  Knitting needles and eggs to Mòr big,    Iodoform      to M. A. McQuien.  Finlay Mòr was in the other end wanting Carron Oil for Norman big’s face which was burned with tar (by D. I. Ferguson).  Had an evening to ourselves when at last they all went.

Thurs. Apr. 30th:  Very wet and blowy day.  Waulking at Donald McQuien’s.  Went up baile morning to see Norman McQ. (big).  His face is better.  Also to see little Ian Ferguson who fell in the fire this morning and burned his leg badly.  I did not see him however as he was asleep & we thought it better to leave him as he had been crying so.  Had M. A. McQuien down with Annie’s baby for their first visit.  Gave them tea, & pink & white wool for stockings for the baby.  Later on Callum came to ceilidh with Kate.  Then Donald òg, then Finlay Gillies (with milk).  I got no less than five lots of milk today.  We won’t have any now for days.  Donald òg wanted eggs for his Mother to set under a hen.


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