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.

21 January -  31 January 1909, St Kilda

It is now Jan. 21st & I again start diary & must try & keep it better. The village people have in the interval all had their cardings with the exception of William McDonald, Neil Ferguson (whose wife has been keeping poorly), Finlay mòr and Angus.

Read More

 Jany. 21st.

The Finlay Gillies got their carding over first before New Year, they were the only ones, then Callum’s people & so on. As I write Kate has been working at my “cur” for a long time. She had hers the first in the middle of December. Callum’s wife came & her sister Mary, Bella McDonald, & Annie (Finlay). Last week the “Mercury” sent ashore some little things & I went on Saturday & distributed them (& got grand row for it). Men all down on Tuesday last working at the big black boat. Captain Walckner left on Friday last (the 15th) for Aberdeen rather before his time, but the second engineer was very poorly. He has not come back so we are afraid he will not come, as Walckner said that if he wasn’t here by Wednesday (yesterday) or today, he was not coming. Word had come in before he left from the “Minna” that he was to be arrested. Privately he told us he was going to have the fine paid. Boats in today are “Cornelia” Bodach Ruadh, & another. “Dreadnought” in neighbourhood (Captain Morris).

At New Year I gave Kate a new pink blouse which I had made, and a pretty piece of pink ribbon. Also gave other things “suas”. Walckner brought a barrel of apples from Bookless Bros., also 6 lbs. tea & 3 Calendars. Also Santa Claus Stockings for the children. Donald Craig has been a bother lately & has taken offence over a box of oranges which he brought lately which he said he gave himself? Have had lots of letters & parcels. Miss Moir sent cards for nearly everybody, also many sweets. I got the very comfortable pair of corsets for which I sent, & a pretty pair of copper photo frames. A box of shortbread from Bab, & also from Mr. Hutchinson (Alloa) a pretty nun’s veiling dress for - from Mrs. Whitelaw. Miss Scott’s box of toys for children came. The children have come off very well this New Year. They had a splendid entertainment. There have been a few wee colds but nothing to speak of. Callum’s wife took ill again with that mysterious pain which they call a “greim”!!! This was early on Sunday morning. Of course everybody flying as usual. Today is lovely but we have had some very severe weather. Snow (three of Norman McQuien’s sheep, one of Finlay Gillies, & one of his son Donald’s died in the snow & were washed down in the amhuinn mhor). Dunie well & busy & I have started my “layette”. I sent £2 to Miss Moir to get me some little things at Brown’s sale in February. Hear from her every mail, also from the home folks. I ought to have said how that the Pension Officer came with Captain Murdoch on the “Minna” and the people got the first two enstallments of their pension, but the money which came is done now; we saw in the paper that the cruiser may bring it across & watch the trawlers at the same time.

First loom put up this year at Tigh Finlay Gillies (Jan. 25th)

Jan. 21st. Contd. Great excitement later on in day than when I wrote as who came in at dinner time but Capt. Walckner. I went to school (feasgar) but dunie did not go out with the men. They were out till darkening & the old men were getting out of patience waiting at the gate. However the boat came at last & it seems Walckner & Bodach Cornelia were having a convivial time together. They were fu - and Neil McKinnon & the others they would not listen to. I got my bread and cheese & McK. sent two wee cakes for the children in school. There is no word of the arrest or anything so we are glad. A mail came but it is not to be opened till tomorrow, as it was too dark. Mary Gillies down to ceilidh. & tea. Carding at Neil Ferguson’s today. Capt. Emerson sent me a tin of preserved plums & a tin of tea, cocoa. Dunie went up to see Roenig. I sent her milk. John Gillies (Ian Ban) came in for his cheese tonight. We got lovely fish today.

Jany. 22nd, Friday: Got letters by school time. Very small mail. Got a letter from the wee Campbells (Helensburgh) & one from Marion (Jule). Peter got one from Flora & there was an enclosure for me. No news. No letter from Haddington. Got lots of newspapers though. Kate washing. Gave children last of oranges & apples they are to get. Had nice fish filleted for breakfast & espec. for tea. (Kate up village) so I egged & bread-crumbed them. Came on very wet night. Had a nice night at fire-side.

Jan. 23rd, Satur.: Awakened early by Donald Craig’s whistle. He did not come ashore with John McDonald as he had hurt himself with the wheel, it seems, before leaving last time. I went up the village in the afternoon. They are just finished carding in Tigh Donald Ferguson. Callum’s wife better. Roenig Ferguson still the same. Took Roenig McR. the spectacles which Mr. McLennan sent her. Busy with pink shawl. No boats in.

Sunday 24th Jany.: Ch. morning & S.S. No boats in. Very blowy & v. wet.

Mon. 25th Jany: Very windy and perfect torrent of rain. Did not rise till 1 o’clock as I had no sleep last night. Dressed for I’m sure 18th time fingers of Donald Ian Gillies & Donald Ian Ferguson. Sent Friar’s Balsam to Ian Ban himself. Donald Gillies (mac Finlay) down seeing about see cats, for which they are sending. He tells us his father’s loom is put up today. It is the first. Gave D. piece of flannel for shirt. Sent by Mary bhig apples for Neil MacDonald her grandfather. Hens not pleasing me at all this weather. Only the pullets laying. K. angelic. She is busy with the “cur”. Hear the big combing is going on in Tigh William.

Tues. Jany. 26th: Donald Craig’s boat came in. Also Capt. Walckner’s. Neil took out the letters & parcels. We sent off quite a lot. Fear big & Johnnie came ashore. Albert sent us a lot of most beautiful fish soles & haddocks. Only kept a few of the latter & gave the rest to the men. Busy in kitchen all morning. Made Apple Tart, Jam Tart, & Mince pie. Second loom up today at Callum’s Had quiet night at fireside, knitting shawl. Came on very stormy. Second (loom) on 26th at Callum’s

Wednes. Jan. 27th: Sea very big. William’s carding done now, so all are done with the exception of Meirut Ferguson’s & Angus’ but they won’t take long. Fell out with Dunie last night as he stopped me singing under pretence of study, but let Kate make as much noise as she liked. Gave K. use of my spinning-wheel today to see if she can get on quicker. W. in ceilidhing tonight as of old.

Thurs. Jan. 28th: Had a succession of visitors mostly young. Annie (Finlay Gillies) brought down Mary bhig. Gave latter a nice wee doll & stick of rock. Dunie went up baile & Kate came in & told me the surprising news that her molt had come home & if it were good enough she was going to get Norman McKinnon to kill it, which she did, so we shall be feasting on fresh mutton for some days. Dunie was much surprised when he came home.

Friday 29th Jan: Donald big in, also Concord & two liners. Hear that Capt. Walckner went home last night. Men out all day for a boat load of coal from “Concord” in return for their help in mending his “rivet” when he was here last. No visitors.

Satur. 30th Jany.: Very cold day. The looms are going up gradually. Donald McDonald was the third. My hens are not doing at all well just now. Chops for breakfast this weather. Very sweet. Donald big in today. He seems to have a lot of fish. Went up & saw everybody. Lovely day with North wind. Shawl therefore not finished. Heard up village that 6 trawlers were caught by Cruiser near the Lews & taken to Stornoway.

Sunday 31st Jany.: Fine day in mg. but came on very wet in showers in afternoon. After church William & his brother went out for Donald big Cranky. He and John came ashore for a little. Went out before S.S. Did without light in Sunday School in schoolroom at least and almost also in the big class. Very wet night. Out morning and S.S.

View the original diaries