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 month. 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 November - 30 November 1908, St Kilda

Sunday Nov. 1st: Out to ch. twice & S.S. as well. The “Star of Hope” in Bay all day, but the men did not go out for them. Good day. 

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Mond. Nov. 2: Holiday. Question day. Did not go out but went up the village afterwards to see the host of sick people. Norman McQuien’s wife - fainted last night & is in bed. Callum’s wife with the “griem” - Neil Ferguson’s wife with the “triplitch”, Catrione Gillies who was ill with one of these mysterious illnesses yesterday & today. Also old Donald McQuien with bad stomach. It came on very wet as I was finishing my calls so I went home. Met Dunie coming to meet me with my coat. The people greatly taken up with this mark of “geol mor”. Kate up seeing the sick folks at night. I made cocoa-nut ice. Great success. Men very busy Sat. & today catching young lambs to send to the Dùn. Nice quiet night & did some spinning. 

Tuesday Nov. 3rd: Lovely day. Kate doing washing of white things first since our return. Men over at Dùn with lambs. I of course busy with cooking and School. Dunie busy these days taking up potatoes. The “Bannerdale” will be on her way back again now. John Gillies (minister) came down with cut foot; nothing worth bothering about. Then Donald Gillies (MacFinlay) came down for Iodoform for little Mary who it seems has a wound somewhere. He stayed to supper.

Wednes. Nov. 4th: No boats. Good day. Minister Maide came & carded for me for which he got dinner etc. Prayer Meeting, to which I went (mir. dictu). Finlay McQ. came after & ceilidhed & suppered. Finished first pirn of spinning!!! 4 weeks.

Thurs. Nov. 5th: Lovely day! The Bannerdale did not come. We went up the village & ceilidhed. We were just home when a boat came in whistling. The men were down in a trice & out. They thought it was William’s brother John. It turned out to be “The Chieftain” (Captain Ritchie). He brought a lovely dresser affair to Donald Gillies & a box of red herrings to all the St. Kildans (except us!). Capt. Ritchie says the “Bannerdale” is at Boreray tonight, so he will be in early tomorrow morning.

Friday Nov. 6th: The “Bannerdale” did not come early, but about 10.45. So I had to bustle up & go to School & let dunie out to the boat. Entrusted cooking of duck to Kate who did not bother her head too much with it. Consequently it wasn’t a great success & I came in from School to raw potatoes & ditto duck. However I waited till they were cooked & by that time the men had come in from boat. Great disgust to hear that Capt. W. had not brought mails. Got bread, my Scotch & some fish. It was too bad not to bring mails! “Cornelia” was in at same time & dunie was aboard with Capt. W. seeing “Potoch Nell”! He sent in papers.

Sat. Nov. 7th: Glorious day. No boats in. Dunie & I went for jolly walk up Berenahake. Only saw one trawler working at Boreray. Watching men ruaging successfully. Did a big tidy in store-room in morning. Only one hen laying. No boats in.

Sund. 8th Nov: Most perfect day. Lovely moonlight nights these nights. Church in morning & S.S. Had a good read tonight. Glass falling.

Monday, Nov. 9th: Fairly good day, but very cold. K. & dunie working at potatoes. Kate growling at having to be out in the cold. Rams brought over from the Dùn & commenced work yesterday.

Tues. Nov. 10th: Thanksgiving day, altho’ we have potatoes (very few). Wild day. Out at ch. at night. Collection for cleaning the church amounted to 14/- all but ld. Donald McQ. very amusing. Claimed 7/- at once on strength of collection instead of 6/- but Neil McK. objected. A boat came in this morning in all the wind & whistled as if they had business, but it was too rough to go out. William thought it was our old friend Donald Craig with the mail-bag. I hope not, much as I want letters, as Capt. Walckner would be furious.

Wednes. Nov. 11th: Day much like yesterday but very wet & not so windy. No boats in but we hear there are five fishing at Boreray, & two or three at the South Bank. Ordinary Prayer Meeting to which I did not go. After it Donald Ferguson came & to ceilidh & Hugh Gillies to pay what he was due for Mary’s boots, cheese and fishing red. Killed white cock after supper & combed a lot of wool.

Thurs. Nov. 12th: Very blowy day but fine & fresh. W. changed to West bringing in a fleet of over 16 steamers. Pity it is so windy for men to go out.

Frid. Nov. 13th: Busy spinning. Better day. The men went out to the boats and out to Capt. Walckner, who they found very cross indeed. Fr. Nov. 13th Contd.: He informed the men as there were so many other boats here and so little fish he wasn’t coming back any more! We think he will come though. We sent our orders & he took them away.

Sat. Nov. 14th: Better day. Went up village in afternoon. Nothing of importance. Some boats in at night, but all have been fishing all day. “Bannerdale” at Boreray. Leaves for Aberdeen on Sunday.

Sund. Nov. 15th: Stormy day. Lots of boats in. Ch. in mg. & S.S. Hear Roenig fell on

Sat. Mond. Nov. 16: Very stormy day. Had Mary McDonald carding for me. Men out at boats. John Gillies Senr. in having hand (skinned) bandaged. Donald òg ceilidhing. Gave him Corn Flour for his father who is poorly with his stomach.

Tues. Nov. 17th: Another very stormy day. 17 boats in bay. Botach ruadh - Wrights & Co. Med down yesterday & today turning their boats upside down. After they were done they went out to “levy Custom”. Jeff Wright sent me fish, also Donald Craig who is again in the neighbourhood. Finished third ball of dluth. Meirut, Kate’s sister, very kindly sent down for two fleeces to dye for me. I have no indigo yet till a mail comes.

Wed. Nov. 18th: My “cirrie” was lost last night but Kate found her this morning alright. Fine fresh day. William & some of the men went out for Donald Craig.

Thurs. Nov. 19th: Boats all out today. Fine night. Dunie & I up village. Called on Angus Gillies, Finlay Gillies and Callum’s people. When we came home Angus G. came down with a piece of ancient mutton (killed a week & hanging in smoke since). It was awful. He got what he wished for it - viz. a bag of turnips & supper.

Friday Nov. 20th: Lots of boats but not “Bannerdale”. Men out levying toll.

Saturday Nov. 21st: Rough wet day. Lots of boats in & men out all day. The “Mercury” called them out for trawl net. Very wet later on in day. Combing wool all day.

Sunday 22nd Nov.: Cold wet blustering day. Wore my bit coat for first time this season, & felt the good of it. “Bannerdale” came in & whistled but of course it was impossible for the men to go out.

Mond. 23rd Nov.: Day pretty much same. Very rough. “Bannerdale” and other boats left bay. Wind from South. Donald Gillies carding at night. A very big boat came in & every one thought it was the “Cruiser”. It was too rough to go out. Other boats came in later at night. Wind furious.

Nov. 24th, Tues.: Men lucky today. Tide & wind being more favourable. “Bannerdale” came in and Dunie & men went out. Such letters & parcels. Where they all came from I couldn’t imagine. There was a huge parcel from Dundee like a bed. It turned out to be my Xmas present from Miss Moir, a lovely chair, folding, so that I can lie down on it. The bells came from Mr. McLennan. Two of them, one for church & one for school. Box from ladies for School prizes. One from Mrs. Dickson (sweets etc.) Box Scotch from Capt. Walckner. Letters & papers any amount.

Wednes. 25th Nov.: Not out at P.M. Spinning. Finlay Gillies & his wife were in ceilidhing, also Donald òg.

Thurs. 26th Nov.: School as usual. Dunie & I suas bailie.

Frid. 27th Nov.: Men out levying Custom. Bodach ruadh in Bay.

Sat. Nov. 28th: Fairly good day. I went up village in aft. Had tea with Finlay mòr and family!

Sund. Nov. 29: Out at ch. 3 times.

Mon. Nov. 30th: Busy spinning. Dunie up seeing Beau Finlay Gillies, bad with bronchitis, & Neil Ferguson’s wife (brolach) which I suppose means Indigestion. Capt. W. & his engineer in.

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