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


April 1907, St Kilda

Mon. April 1st The Knowsie left about 8 o’clock (we hear). Service in church to day as it is first Monday in month. We went up the village & saw those ill. Came home & after tea set the second hen. The circe down with 13 hens. The young pigeon is growing so quickly & there is another egg.

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Tues. April 2 No word of Knowsie we hear there are two liners in the Glen Bay. Duine went up to see William’s wife. Kate went up the Baile. I went to bed early as I was cross with Duine for sleeping the whole evening. I baked some ginger bread, while Kate was out. Very big sea & high wind.

Wed. Ap. 3 Busy writing letters all the time. Baked oven scones in the morning. Hear Ewan Gillies has a bad eye, John (Williams small son) threw some soft soap at him! Went to Prayer Meeting & entertained Don. Gillies & Don. Ferguson after.

Thurs. Ap. 4 Stormy day in mg. Better towards evening. All spare time taken up with writing letters. Boat came in at darkening which turned out to be the “Katy” Capt. Morris. The men went out & brought in a letter bag from Ab. All the men came trooping in to get letters but there was nothing for any one butme. Papers & letters. Yes! there was a long letter from McRaw. We were so glad to get it. The postmaster Aberdeen enclosed the latest newspapers.

Friday Apr. 5th Terrible gale today in the middle of which came in “The Knowsie”. They blew their sirens but of course it was impossible for our boats to venture. The Knowsie stayed all day till evening when shestayed sailed out in a perfect hurricane, the wind washing her from end to end & almost turning her over. Whether she went to the Glen or not for shelter we don’t know or whether she went off straight for the Butt of Lewis. Went up to see the Invalids. Finlay’s (McQuien’s cow calved today). Kate started a pair of stockings for me yesterday - homespun. Didn’t get any letters away at all. The minister Maide came down for some cough mixture for his father. Gave him the last of the toffee.

Sat. April 6th Better day. Knowsie must have gone. A.A. Dodds came in this evening. Capt. Ritchie sent us in a nice little Halibut. The “Katy” (Capt. Morris) also came in & two liners. William & Ewan very angry at “Knowsie”. Sunday Ap. 7th Fine day though a little blowy. “Katy” & other two liners went off early to fish but Capt. Ritchie stayed in bay. None of the crew came in to-day for which fact we were not sorry. Bad headache. Church twice.

Mon. Apr. 8th Lovely weather. No boat. Capt. Ritchie left early but the men are expecting him in on Wed. to take William & wife to Aberdeen. Went up village to most of the houses as far as Finlay Gillies. Brown hen sitting a week to-day. First lamb to day (Finlay McQuien’s.

Tues. Ap. 9th Another lovely day. Out most of the day. Most of the people are finished with their weaving at least nearly. Kate doing a little for Angus. A good few of the scholars absent from school, away bringing home the sheep which are to lamb soon. I went up to see William’s wife. Very gearranach. While up the men came down & went off to Boreray after the Solan Goose. Duine busy digging the back garden. The Rhubarb growing nicely.

Wednes. Ap. 10th The beautiful weather continues. Went down on the pier after breakfast to see gannets killed last night. There were a good few over 100. Each who went had about 30 apiece. We got a pair. I am collecting the large quills. They are lovely for hats. Donald Gillies (son of Finla) & John McDonald (son of Neil) had a nasty fall over the rocks to-day got badly bruised. Went & dressed their wounds. Also small Donald Ian Ferguson who cut his foot badly with an old scythe blade. Did not go to P.M. Everyone expecting the M.A. odds to come aw in to take away our cargo of “Hiortach” to Aberdeen. If they don’t get away now, they are not going at all.

Thurs. Ap. 11th Went up village in the morning & dressed the wounds & saw to the sick folks. The “Knowsie” came in during the morning but the men could not go out as it was so stormy. William’s wife keeps about the same. Roenig down to tea. Got hay from duine. Kate went up Baile & Duine.

Frid. Ap. 12th Went up the baile and saw to my patients. The men all down at Quay busy painting their boats. After School Duine & I were up the Glebe beyond the Store & saying how nice it would be if the “Knowsie” would come in - didn’t she just come in while he was saying it. There was a big rush out & I went too. Got bread, coffee, steak, biscuits, X Ale. A lovely turbot a crab & two large cod. Gave one away to men. Was very sick. Neil Gillies came in to supper. Also got 2 letters from Mother one from Jeanie and paper & Ladies Field from Mrs Stirling. So sorry the news came of poor Mr Russell’s death. He died so suddenly after a shock of paralysis (of brain) & left three children - one baby of 2 mths.

Saturday Ap 13 Lovely day. Still seasick & in bed till after tea. Duine twice & Kate once up baile seeing Finlay son of Precenor who it seems was very ill all last night. Little better to night, but still very poorly. Wife little better. Cooked beef-steak for pie to keep it. Tha mi bochd.

Sunday 14th Had breakfast in bed. Did not go out to church. Hen Duine & I were resting after dinner, the men came down. I went to the bedroom and to my great surprise saw a gun-boat. In a moment or two to our grief in came the “Knowsie” and we knew to our g that she had been arrested by the dirty Government boat. A boat came in from the latter and on her were the Captain (Murdoch) & the Fiscal from Loch Maddy. The latter came to make enquiry about Norman Gillies death. Duine spoke up to both of them bravely. The men were all so pleased. We hear the “Knowsie” is to be taken away to Loch Maddy tomorrow. Duine, Neil Ferguson, Donald og, William all going to speak for Capt. Walkner. We told the other wretches what he had done for us. What no one would do. Capt. Walkner & Engineer came in to hear. The “Mina” (Government Boat) brought us papers. The Fiscal brought sweets for the children.

Monday 15th Up very early as the Fiscal & Capt. came in at 6.30 am. We gave the children a holiday. The Scholars & us had our photos taken by Fiscal, after which he gave them sweets. Capt. Walkner & the mate came in to dinner, after which preparations were made for going off. William & his wife (the latter going to Aberdeen Infirmary). Ewen going to Aber. Norman McQuien going to Greenock with the “Mina”, en route for the Infirmary, Glasgow. We had great scenes on the pier. It was very affecting the parting between Beau William & her baby. At last they got off Duine & Neil Ferguson too. The poor old Knowsie went off first, he “Mina” following behind. When shall we see them back and with what result. The Knowsie is going to Aberdeen before she comes back. Went up village to see the sick folks. Took sweets to Roenig & Donald McDonald who could not come for their share.

Tues. 16th Went to school for Duine as I must do till he comes back. Went up after sch. to see Finlay McDonald who is still ill in bed & also Annie McQuien. Had the eight girls down for their blouse pieces. After they went I cut them out. Black hen clucking. Today, Tues, I caught a guillemot on the rocks myself.

Wednes. Apr. 17th Very cold day. Threatening snow. Clears up through day. Very busy in school all day. After that busy preparing blouses for girls. Prayer Meeting held by Donald Ferguson. After that girls Annie & Cather Gillis (Finlay) also their two cousins & Catherine MacDonald came & sewed till 10 o’clock. Having Aberdeen Steak for dinner. Kate had guillemot which I caught yesterday.

Thurs. Ap. 18th Windy day. A Shields liner fishing straight out from Levenish all day to day. Busy in school as usual. Got first brood of chickens out to day. Set 12 - 3 eggs bad. I dropped a chicken & did not notice it & got it dead in the byre - So have only eight. I am fearfully bilious for a week & suffer from awful headaches. Very busy preparing blouses for girls who came again about 5-30 till 8-30. I ran up after school & saw Finlay McDonald. He is better. After the girls went Neil Gillies, Callum & John MacDonald came down. The people started cleaning the cloth today at Neil MacDonalds. Very tire bed 1 o’clock. What would duine say if he were here. I wonder where he is. Gave kiddies the sweets from the “Knowsie Cook”. Thursday (to day set black he with 13 eggs. She sits well so far).

Friday April 19th Children all very bad with colds to-day & a lot of them away. Very busy in school all day and then every minute preparing for the girls who were coming in the evening. Six came. Bella could not come as her Mother was ill with cold. M.A. Dodds came in at 12 o’clock. Letters.

Sat. April 20th Donald Gillies brought down the letters which came at midnight last night by M.A. Dodds. Two pigeons out to day. “Rambler” North Shields in all day. Went up to see all the folks. Nearly everyone ill with colds & headaches & many in bed. The Rambler sent a whole lot of Solan geese ashore & the people were down on the beach gathering them at darkening. Chickens getting on nicely. Also blouses. Very wet & windy.

Sunday Ap. 21st Fine day but very cold. Chickens take up a lot of time this weather. I wonder if the “Knowsie” will come to day. Read quite a lot. D. Ferguson took both services. Was out twice. Read book called “Thompson’s Progress” by Cutliff Hyne. Very good & started Queechy.

Mond. Ap 22nd Very blowy still. So many absent from school with bad colds. Getting on alright in school. Chickens in second brood beginning to come. The first night doing splendidly. Had sewing class again tonight. I think one more night will finish them for which I will be thankful. Where I wonder is the “Knowsie”? I want it to come. Gave D. Ferguson the two caps that the Fiscal brought.

Tues. Ap. 23rd Wind a little down. Sch. all day. Girls sewing at night. No news except old Annie at Finlay Gillies very ill. Dying we all think.

Wed. Ap. 24th Much better day. Looking eagerly all day for Knowsie. No sewing class. When we were in Prayer Meeting at night and Donald McQuien praying, we heard first the dogs then the whistle (very welcome) of the “Knowsie”. The prayer seemed interminable but it came to an end at last. Everybody was down at pier. At last they came. They had a fearful passage & had been tossing about from Sat. last to to-day! They were all “green”. Poor duine looking fearfully ill & no wonder. Poor Capt. Walkner is in prison in Inverness for 30 days (or £90 fine). They were only one night in Aberdeen where the excitement was intense. All news in papers which I have. Capt. (Rowbottom temporary) & Engineer came in to tea. Lots of parcels. One of material from Edinburgh, one from Miss Rainy.

Thurs Ap. 25th Very cold day. Sch. in morning. Duine went in in afternoon. Girls came for a bit to sew. Neil McDonald here helping duine to put up the garden gate. Kate dug half of plot today. Forgot to say got letters & papers yesterday. One very nice one from Mrs Stirling offering to pay for two men to hospital in Strathpeffer. Kate up baile. Frid. Ap. 26th Very wet & cold. Duine very bad still with stomach & back. My own very bad too. School in afternoon. Old Annie at Finlay Gillies’ died this af evening just when we were up the village. Great lamentations.

Sat. Ap 27th Fine day. Duine very tired. He stayed at home all day. I went up the baile & took everybody their “Witness”. The “M.A. Dodds” came in late & William also came with her.

Sunday Ap. 28th Men from M.A. Dodds came in to dinner & church. My back so bad did not go out. Capt. Ritchie sent us in a ling. Duine & I both broke Sund. by writing to County Council etc. Mond. Ap 29th No school as it is old Annies funeral day. I was not well enough to go but Duine went. Great wailing & Finlay very bad.

Tues. Ap. 30th Fine day but very cold. Duine in school himself all day. I stayed in & sewed etc. He & Kate got back plot ready for oats. Then Duine went up baile to see the bochan. On Friday last we set eggs under “feathery-feet”. Among them hald a doz from Mrs Clark, Erribol. Finlay Mor came down to see me when duine was out. “M.A. Dodds” in. Capt. Ritchie sent fish. Posted Roenig’s letters

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May 1907, St Kilda

Wednes. May 1st Lovely day. Got a little lamb from my caora soay this morning. Feeling some better & am gonig to school to day. Didn’t go to Prayer Meeting as it came on very rough afterwards. Girls came and did a little to their blouses. 

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Thurs. May 2nd Fearful day & Kate washing as we could not put it off any longer. Girls came at night and did some blouses. Two finished am so glad.

Frid. May 3 Cleared up a lovely day. Boys (John McDonald and Donald og came & helped with the manure. Caora Soay out but is as wild as the heather. Hear the first Whaling boat passed to-day, going away out after whaler. Very late this year. Lot of my chickens dying. The first whaler came in this evening and the men went out to see who it was & to get the news. It was “Eleazin” (as near as I can spell. He said “Scondorp” was at the Flannen Isles but would be here soon. Scondorp’s son will not be here as he has gone to China (Yappa) but the mate has got his boat. Had a good read & went to bed at aon nair deng.

Satur May 4th Lovely day. Something like summer. No boats in all day. Went up baile to see the sick folks. Duine getting better.

Sund. May 5th A real summer day. Out to Church twice & Sun. Sch. When duine and I were sitting after supper at the fireside I heard a whistle & ran out what did this turn out to be but the good old “Knowsie”. Duine and the men went out at once & were anxious for news of the Capt. They saw Rawbottom the mate who told Duine to go down to the Cabin himself. Who was there but good old Capt Walkner himself. The petition had to the Hom Secreta great rejoicing. in before the is getting gre [piece of page torn out] Celebra with mys

Mo but the Question Meeting was postponed till tonight as the folks are so busy washing the cloth at Neil Donald MacDonalds & the men are off to Stac. An Armine & Borera after lambs. The men came home with the lambs & some bougies (puggins) and some gannets eggs but they saw no signs of the “Knowsie”.

Tues. May 7th Wet day. No news.

Wednes. May 8th Meeting night. Went up the baile yesterday I ay to see the Finlay Gillies king my cloth. finishing the [piece of page torn out] alcolin’ house while Duine manure. bring home the lambs. They had some disagreement among themselves about the boats and there was some strong language (evidently from signs) going. They didn’t come home till about 8 o’clock. Kate got 3 lambs.

Frid. May 10th Very wet day. No word of boat. William’s wife has been away all this time since the affair of the cruiser. No word of seed yet. Busy with sewing and chickens. Duine working in glebe himself & Kate lazy & stubborn. Had a big row & threatened her with the door. She said she was going but I was independant & would have allowed her but she changed her mind. Who came in to the bay to-night but Botoch-nam Borromie. She & the mate came ashore to see us & stayed till all hours. He mate a very nice man & “glie”. The Botoch brought me my sweets. All the boys came down to see them. William gave him a wire to send off to his wife and I gave him letters to post. Forgot to say the other day that Neil Gillies got word that the “Poot” posted by sea on Dec. 8th had reached its destination, but no particulars yet.

Sat. May 11th The men went off to Boreray & Stac Lee for gannet eggs. One boat went to back of Conacher for lambs. They came home very late & very tired. Kate all right now. Duine with a little of cold. Lovely day.

Sund. May 12th Not so fine to day. Everyone with fearful cold in church duine included. Donald og very poorly also his father. Nice Sunday School. Thami bochd.

Mond. May 13th Rough day. Busy with sewing. Sewing slip bodices for going away & blouses to cut up baile after tea & never saw such a hospital. Simply every house with someone in bed. Old Donald McQuien very ill indeed with a sever cold all through him. Also Finlay Gillies, Finlay McQuien, Beau Niel Ferguson, Beau Neil McKinnon. WE have never seen its equal. When we got home Mary McQuien came for medicine for her father who was taken worse. Duine very bad but much the better of Eucalyptus. Wind very high.

Tuesd. May 14th Everyone busy with their crofts. Kate has been up every day helping Callums people with their out door work. Very sorry to say Finlay McQuein’s dog killed & ate my little Soay lamb which is just a fortnight old. I am so cut up over it. The children got a holiday this afternoon as so many are absent at out door work. Duine very bad with cold (Influenza).

Wednes. May 15th No school as so few came. When we looked out in morning we saw three drifters. The men came in later in afternoon & we got lovely fresh herrings. The men came in a second time & brought us some more herrings. We are so enjoying them. The “Scaligram” came in for first time this year also a trawler from Hull. He whistled & the men went out but he only wanted news of the “Knowsie” & to know about capture. Went to Prayer Meeting. Went up baile Thurs to see the bocham & found everyone very bad. No sch. in afternoon. Dressed Roenig’s hand with Goulard’s Lotion.

Thurs. May 16th Drifters still in bay. Duine little better. No boat with potato seed yet. We are all very anxious for it. Kate up baile every afternoon helping Meirut. Duine little better. Hear Lotion (Goulard’s) helped Roenig very much.

Frid. May 17th Duine in school all day with good attendance. Kate cleaned out Post Office & best bed-room. It is such a load off my mind. Got 9 chickens out of 11 from feathery feet to day. Got bad cold myself. Went up baile to see the bochan. No potato seed yet.

Sat. May 18th Lovely day. Men putting up cran, & building walls etc getting ready for Dunara. Both our colds are pretty bad. The men gave a false alarm to night that the Dunara was in sight. We all made a rush to don our best, but it was all a sell, & had only been a liner. We expect her tonight later or to-morrow.

Sund. May 19th Blowy day but fine. No Dunara Castle came after all so the date had not been correct. When we were in S.S. a dog came & nearly killed two of my hens (both of these with chickens). Duine was in a fearful state. However none of them were any the worse. D. nearly killed the brute. Colds very bad to-day in church & our own very bad still too. We are much disappointed that the Dunara didn’t come but we know that all’s well the “Hebrides” will be here on Wednesday.

Mond. May 20th Awakened early by the siren of the “Dunara Castle”. The factor (Mr MacKenzie) and Alister Ferguson, & Neil Gillies all arrived. Only two visitors. Great excitement. The people got their first supply of meal & flour while A.F. brought all sorts of luxuries in the way of eating and clothing. Went up the baile and dressed Neil Gillies’ leg. Very bad with wound pretty open yet. Called for Mr McKenzie who came down later on & spent some time with us.

Tues. May 21st Forgot to say got lots of letters yesterday. In the house myself now with bad cold & sore throat. Norman McQuien’s arrived home to-day yesterday. Mr McKenzie came to supper.

Wednes. May 22nd Very blowy. Everyone says no hope of Hebrides. But it may clear up. Cold very bad. The Queen called with milk & had a ceilidh. Also Annie (Aig Finlay) & Mary Mohr (also with milk. Made treacle toffy (great success) & entertained Mrs McKenzie.

Thurs. May 23rd The night was blowing a perfect hurricane yet the “Hebrides” came in & blew her whistle hurriedly. We got up & with great difficulty the men got the boat out. They came back with the word that the boat wd wait for nobody. They took out the Baile but the men here persuaded us not to venture. The little boat was nearly swamped each time. Busy with letters & very bad colds indeed. Dressed Neil Gillies’ foot.

Friday In bed all day with bad headache. Kate & Duine bad too. People planting their potatoes.

Saturday May 25th Lovely day. The boat loads went to Soay. One to Boreray (Alister Ferguson etc in the latter). It was a perfect day. In & out all day. Went down to the Pier at night to see the boats return. Got a lot of guillemots eggs. The men had some fulmar too. Feeling rather seedy yet after Influenza.

Sund. May 26th Another day like yesterday. Not out in mg. Went out to S.S. and evening church. Good attendance.

Mond. May 27th Cold day with biting east wind. People started cutting their peats to-day. Went to school in aft. Feeling almost alright. Dressing Donald Gillies cut finger early in day. Dressed Neil Gillies bad leg later on in day. Had Alister Fergusons friend (Mr Kirkland) in. He stayed supper & had a long evening. We enjoyed his company very much.

Tues. May 28th Cold east windy day. How I wish this wind wd go. People busy with peats. We hear that there are a good few steam drifters in the neighbourhood, but of course they never will come in with this wind. Our food supply getting very low.

Wednes. May 29th Very breezy. “Johanna” came in in morning from N.L. Tarbert. There is a whale in the bay & in evening the Botoch & Scaligram came in (the latter with a whale). The “Johanna” left at once with them. A boat went out with letters. P.M. but did not go. Kirkland came in for a bit. Very rough night.

Thurs. May 30th Wet a little & very blowy. Dressed Donald Gillies’ finger early in morning. Strong east wind. No p turf cutting to-day. No boats in with this wind.

Frid. May 31st Blowy day, dull. Kate went off in mg. to work at peats with Meirut. It came on to rain but they stayed all day. Finlay McQ. came in. Made tea for him. D. Gillies came in in Evening.

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June 1907, St Kilda

Sat. June 1st  Another day like yesterday. No boats in yet. Did not go out all day. Cold bad. Fearful weather. 

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Sund. June 2nd Rather better day but glass very low. Raining. “Joanna” & the three whalers came into bay to shelter. One whale. The Captain of “Johanna” and Potoch Na B. with mate came ashore but did not call here. Finished salt mutton to-day.

Mond. June 3rd Much better day. Long lie in bed after bad night with coughing. Service in church being first Mon. of month. Dressed Donald Gillies finger after ch. & then Neil Gillies’ legs. Hear that Ewan Gillies is going away to work at whaling station with Mr Herlafson & leaves tonight also Mr Kirkland. Weather most unsettled. Doing little packing. The “Johanna” left at 8 o’clock taking Ewan and Kirkland with them. Weather seems much more settled now and glass rising. Kate suas baile.

Tues. June 4th Fearful day. East wind & a very high sea. However the rain is pouring down in buckets so that should settle the wind. Got three fulmars. Kate away all day at peats. A. Gillies (sister of Ewan) brought milk, also Minister Maide. Latter stayed to supper along with Donald Gillies who brought me some puffin & fulmar eggs. Doing some packing, Jars, eggs etc. Kate brought three fulmars from Meirut. Cold very bad yet. Not out since Sundy.

Wednes. June 5th Very wet but sea very calm, with little or no wind. Good look out for “Hebrides” due tonight. Very bad night again coughing, last night. Came on to blow very hard during the evening.

Thurs. June 6th Fearful morning. The “Hebrides” came in in a perfect gale but yet the men went out for letters. They returned with the mails & to say that the Inspector & Doctor were on board. We had left the fire on all night so we poked it up & had tea. The Inspector came in about 6 o’clock (a bit before) & we went out at about 7 o’clock. Think the children did fairly well. No tourists could come ashore the weather so awful & I don’t know how in the world we ever got on board the “Hebrides”. The weather unspeakably bad between St. K. & Lochmaddy. Never was so ill in my life. Had good night &

Friday June 7th next mg. got to Castlebay & had a walk ashore. Saw Mr Grant Deputy to Fleet of Herring boats. Got news and invitation to Inverness. Got to Tobermory at 7 o’clock at night. Forgot to say we got heaps of letters & post cards & also photos (three from the McRaws) of Jeanie in her M.A. Cap & Gown. Mr Levach & Campbell called.

* Tobermory * J.M.B.

June 8th Wet day. Cold bad so am going to stay in all day. Saw Mrs Simpson. Duine saw quite a lot of folks. Mr Campbell called in morning.

June 9th Sund. Watery kind of day again. Duine went out to church with Flora & Archie Paterson. I stayed in all day & had a good read.


June 10th 1907 Fine day. Busy all day writing letters. Mr Campbell called. Went out after tea for a walk.

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