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

June 1908, St Kilda

Monday 1st June: Lovely day.  The Mercury only in.  Our men went out to ask if they would tow them to Stac an Armine & Boreray.  So the Capt. said he would...

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He came ashore as they were not ready. We had holiday as it was to have been Meeting day. The Mercury Capt. persuaded us to go out to dinner & see them trawling. So we agreed (Dunie & I). The three boats were in the bay - A. Ferguson’s was going to Soa & the two other boats. When we had almost reached the Mercury, the first boat shouted there was a yacht coming. So it was. I stayed on the trawler & all the rest went to the yacht. It was one A. Ferguson was expecting. We went away after some delay, & some of the Yacht’s folks went to Soay in their steam launch. We got as far as Boreray & Stac an Armine when a horrible accident happened in our boat to Neil Ferguson, who got two fingers (the tops of them) crushed off between the trawler & the boat. We had to come home at once. The Yacht was in the bay still. I ought to have said that Capt. Mercury did up Neil’s hand so nicely. The Yacht’s people came ashore, five ladies & two gentlemen (Hirsts or Hirsch? From Huddersfield). A Bishop was there also.

June 1st (Contd.): They (Mrs. H. rather) brought me in a lovely bouquet of magnificent Nile lilies & large red lilies with Spirea lilies of the valley & ferms. Then they invited us out to dinner on the “Monsoon”. We went & had a lovely time. Dinner of 8 courses. They were so kind & gave us lots of literature. Newspapers, Mags. etc. & to dunie a 10/- box of splendid baccy! I enjoyed it all so much, only I was so sick on the trawler & felt squeamish even on yacht. Home & was sea-sick again. Got brandy for Roenig Ferguson.

Tues. 2nd June: People started sheep shearing at Glen - in evening. In the morning at 11.30 the Monsoon left & took Neil Ferguson to Stornoway to hospital. Donald Bau went also, to help him. No news.

Wednes. 3rd June: No Prayer Meeting as every one was sheep-shearing at Glen. No boats. Fine weather.

Thurs. 4th June: 4 wee chicks out with a black & white hen (Archie Neill). People sheep shearing again. Lots of boats in. I have bad cold. There is also bad cold among the children. I am confined to house.

Friday June 5th: The other two whalers arrived at last with flags flying. Eleasen in his new boat (Sir Samuel Scott) & Paulsen in Skalligram. The two came ashore to tea & then went up to see the sheep shearing going on at back of village today. We had great fun with them.

Sat. June 6th: Got my cirrie home. She got separated from Rosie by the ruaging. The Gillies’ boys found her on the carn mor & fleeced her & brought her home. We have put her in the buall with the wee molt lamb. How pleased she was to get home & to get sugar.

Sunday June 7th: Cold bad. Not out at all.

Monday, Tues., & Wednes.: Capt. Eleasen & Paulsen in, & some boats. Fine weather up to Tuesday. Gave Donald Gillies my black & white hen & 5 chickens. They have been so kind. (Mrs. Dickson’s address is 2 Southbr. St. Paisley, if we should think of going to see her.)

Thurs. June 11th: “Hebrides” came in alright at 10 o’clock, bringing Bain, Contractor and his man. There has been some bungle about the business and all the thing (as far as it has gone must be gone over again). Men are coming to begin work by the first “Dunara” in 10 days time, & it will be done before we go back. We got on board “Heb” alright & I stayed on board until we got past Boreray & the Stacs. They are wonderful. The sight of birds was marvellous. Got very sick & had rather a bad time till Loch Maddy (or Locheport rather). Great fun there with the silly wee man who comes aboard to dance. There are a nice party aboard. One Mr. Moffatt from Glasgow was the wit & we had awful fun with him. Bed (in Ladies Cabin) & had good night. Dunie in Gents. Cabin.  


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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 Ornulf 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.

Mond. May 11th: No boats in. Children got half day from 2 o’clock. We had a cock for dinner which old Donald McQuien presented us with on Sat. night. He killed it as it was so bad for eating the seeds. I gave him 10 lbs. sugar till they get their own. The soup & ch. were splendid. Made rhubarb for past week. Kate with her sisters from 11 o’clock. She was so tired we went for the cows. Cruvack’s time is up two or three days ago. She may have a calf any time now. Got milk from Finlay Gillies’ people, also from Ewan Gillies & form John Gillies, & K. brought some!!!

Tuesd. May 12th: The people all finished their crofts last night, & it is a good thing. Today they are spreading the sheep manure from the cleits where they have had sheep all the winter, & putting it on their grass. We are so lucky to have had all our work done a month ago. Men went to Dùn and brought home all the last year’s lambs. Kate gave me a little “ruadh”!

Wednes. May 13th: Beautiful day. Men went to Stac an Armine for Gannet & Fulmar eggs. They got a lot. Small P.M. to which I went! Donald McDonald & Dunie officiated! Most comical singing. Got a lot of eggs.

Thurs. May 14th: Cruvack got a lovely calf at breakfast time this mg. Kate & Dunie went to Glen with Rosie & Cirrie bhig. They went quite nicely. Men all away to Soay for eggs and fulmars. While they were away three boats came in, first 2, then 1. The botich went out to the two, then the other the “Mercury” came in & whistled. Out went the “Botich”, & the Captain whom we knew before. Dunie was home by this time and we went out with the Mercury Capt. to his boat. Got fish and papers. Gave him eggs. Men came home laden with eggs and birds. Had Neil McDonald & Donald Ferguson to tea. My first lot of chickens are coming out now. T.M.B.

Friday, May 15th: Glorious weather all this week. Men dividing eggs, putting up cran & building dykes. Kate & Dunie preparing turnip ground. We went up baile. Finished dress for Donald Gillies’ baby & gave it to Catrione, who was down with my stockings. Kate and I tidying up Post Office. Put bag of flour and oatmeal in. Got a lot of fulmars & sular eggs. Got permission of shed for our htings. All the sheep out today. Thankful to say. Hear that the first drifter is in the neighbourhood. First day & evening without fire.

Saturday May 16th: Change of weather. The men built our walls (of glebe) today. All sheep out now. The calf is grown so well. Blackie’s chickens did not come out so well as I thought. I have only 10, but still that isn’t so bad. Took Roenig up milk & she presented me with a hen, which I killed immediately on coming home. The people suas are giving the  a fright today. Everybody is doing a small spring clean. Forgot to say set a black & white hen with 12 eggs on Thursday last.

Sunday May 17th: The “Dunara” wakened us all up at midnight last night! The men went out. Alister Ferguson arrived with wife & family. Alister came to the bedroom window at 3 in the morning with some of the Hirsteach. Factor on board & one lady passenger. Church & S.S. Stewardess & Miss Kerr (from Loch Ranza) came to church evening & in to tea. Miss McDonald Stewardess brought me pot of jam & biscuits.

Mon. May 18th: Fine day. Went up village after “Dunara” left (8.30 o’cl.). Factor very busy & having the usual hot time. There is a new cargo boat coming, which means a new captain also. Mr. McKenzie down for “milk”. Mrs. Ferguson down to tea.

Tues. May 19th: Fine day. People busy all getting their goods.

Wednes. May 20th: Blowy day! Mr. McKenzie down to dinner. Roenig’s chicken! to dinner. Very good though. 


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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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