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


July 1907, St Kilda

Alice MacLachlan left St Kilda for a few weeks over the summer in July 1907.  Due to a break in the diaries we ran a short online exhibition about visitors to St Kilda in the decades after the MacLachlans were on the island, using some of the Trust’s own archives and deposits of archival material to the National Trust for Scotland over the years. 

Visitors to St Kilda


August 1907, St Kilda

Aug. 1st (Thurs.) Arrived here this morning after a delightful holiday. Had a rather stormy passage. The “Hebrides” acting up to her reputation for pitching and rolling. We were not particularly taken up with the crowd aboard. Saw Mr. McKenzie Senior & Jun. at Dunvegan, also Dr. Mack. Brother. Ordered wool (Cheviot) and wheel from factor. Found on arrival that Rachel McKinnon had fallen down a great side of Connacher and was very badly hurt...

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Her thumb broken shockingly – with bones protruding. Head terribly cut & body badly bruised. There was a doctor (McKintosh) from Edinburgh who came and saw her but was unable to do anything as it had to be amputated at once if anything was to be done. Had a busy day and what with the sea sickness etc. it was fearful. Mr. McKenzie (Factor) introduced me to two young gentlemen (Messrs. Milne and Clarence) who were coming to St. Kilda & who have taken up their abode with us.

Friday Aug. 2nd: A bright day to begin with but showery. Mr. McAllister took the gentlemen for a long walk as yesterday, while Dunie & I were busy unpacking. I found my little Soay sheep nicely. She is a great pet & so pretty, nor is she shy. Killed calf today (Donald Gilles & William McDonald). Paid two visits to Roenig as yesterday.

Saturday Aug. 3rd: Showery day. Lots of boats in bay. Two whalers in with whales. Roenig much about the same but her finger is not bleeding now, & is keeping clean. Mr. Clarence & Mr. Milne out fishing for mullet. They got four and a nice lithe.

Sunday Aug. 4th: Very wet & stormy day indeed. Visited Roenig first thing after breakfast. She is much as usual, only she seems to have had a great shock. They have put her back into her own bed. Did not go out in morning as I was busy with dinner & Roenig. Rested afternoon & read “Barbe of Grand Bayon” (John Oxenham) which I enjoyed very much. Church at night again. Whalers all left.

Mond. Aug. 5th: Another fearfully wet day. I am so sorry for both our Oxford friends & also Mr. McAllister. Usual monthly service, to which I did not go. The men were out fishing for mullet & one boat got 54. They gave me 2. Capt. Ritchie very kindly sent me in a fine halibut & the “Hope” sent in two fine ling. So we are having the supplies coming in nicely. Roenig much about the same.

Tuesday Aug. 6th: Still another wet day. Mr. Clarence & Mr. Milne went over to the Glen to drink of the well of virtues. Visited at Roenig’s & did up her hand. She seems half-dazed. Lots of trawlers & liners in the bay. Reading “Barbe of Grand Bayon”.

Wednesday Aug. 7th: Fine in morning. Mr. McAllister, Mr. Milne, Mr. Clarence & the Dunie all went out to the Dun. Service in church tonight. Had Donald Ferguson to tea - and Donald McDonald & D. F. also to supper. Great fun.

Thurs. Aug. 8th: Much better day. The gentlemen got about a little more. Had the three of the Ørnwulf (the Botoch, Mate & Engineer) to tea. Have nothing much to relate further than seeing Roenig twice & taking the Botoch with us. He gave me some Boracic ointment & a small bottle to cleanse with water. (Tha mi bochd)?

Friday Aug. 9th: Lovely day. Botoch came in & had dinner with us. Then we went out & called on the “Evening Star”. Saw Mr. Phillips. Then went to fish. Got nine mullet. We got a fine ling from the “Red Wing”. Saw Roenig twice. She is much as usual, & not making much of it. Sent milk out to Botoch. The Gents. Went out to fish mullet, fifty-eight. Mr. Clarence busy drawing caricatures. Kate joined church today. Great fun over D.F.’s catechizing which K. greatly dreaded but which only turned out to be “a kiss”.) Botoch helped me at Roenig’s. Got two eggs today, which is splendid news, as they have evidently not laid since we left.

Saturday Aug. 10th to August 24th (Saturday): For the last fortnight I have been so awfully busy I have had no time to keep my diary but shall just write what I remember. There were five new women members “joined” the church. Kate, Mor (her sister). Bhen Don. McDonald, Bhen Ian Gillies, and Bhen Toromich. It was a very busy time altogether with having the gents. They all left on Thursday morning by the “Heb.” I was very sorry parting with the two sassenachs. Kate also left for Tobermory. There was rather a mixed party both on board the “Dunara”, which came in on Mon. mg., and also on the “Hebrides”. There was a nice man from Carluke who had known my father, Ferguson, Clyde View, Carluke.

We have seen a good deal of Botoch na Boirronach, and one night went out fishing with him but it was awfully rough. We stayed out only a little and caught two. The people started killing the fulmar on Friday (Aug. 16th) & have had very good weather so far. The “Alekto” is the new boat in place of the “Johanna” which is at the bottom of the sea now. There is a new captain & crew. The Captain seems very nice indeed. Yesterday Aug. 23rd Frid. We had a lovely day – the Alekto “came in” bringing Mr. Herlafson & Mr. McKenzie with them to measure out ground for the new fishing station (whales). They came to us for lunch and tea. We went altogether by boat to the Dùn in the afternoon & had some awfully good fun - scaling the rocks. Mr. Herlafson & I were roped together and he would persist in playing such capers. We had simply to sit down & slide down the rocks to the boats. Finlay Mòr took me in his care & put his arm round my waist to take me to the boat, & it was all too comical. When we got into the boat it was great fun to watch the others coming down. The Captain of the “Alekto” is big and stout & in his efforts to come gracefully he split his trousers! Mr. Herlafson was awfully kind, indeed beyond my expectations! with coals etc. etc. He may come back this month again. I hope he will. Mr. McKenzie also awfully jolly & kind. I forgot to say last week we had a little sailing yacht in called the “Silver Bell” - with a Doctor Wolfenden & party: he is a scientific man & is partly on errands of science & partly on pleasure. He is an M.D. and very kindly came to see Roenig’s finger with me. She is getting on very nicely indeed. The Baile was telling me I was getting great praise in the village for my skill! The Alecto sailed at 9 o’clock last nt.

Satur. Aug. 24th: Very busy all day. Annie Gillies comes to milk every day twice & carries in water but that is all. Went up to Roenig’s. One whale in bay but no boats. The “Alecto” came in at 7.30 tonight back from Tarbert Harris. Dunie & I made cheese today & put the other in salt & water. Made butter on Wednes. last. Tidied up post office today. Wrote letters tonight. Are getting on famously with Neil McDonald’s calf which we bought for 10/-. We sold half of it to the “Silver Bell” people. I ought to have said we got 6 tons of coals from Mr. Herlafson on the day Kate left. We had all the men in for some food. The biscuits came that day & also the cheese. The hens are doing well now. Fid… is “to die” in a few days now.

Sund. Aug. 25th: Very wet morning! The people are nearly all very bad with a cold. The first of the winter’s beginning. It is awful. Beau Niel Ferguson in bed with it, also William McDonald. Roenig’s finger getting on nicely but she has the cold. Day grew better by morning church. It then became lovely and bright. No whalers, only the “Alekto” in the bay. Had the two cailleachs to dinner. Did not go to Sunday School as Kate is not home yet. Hear Finlay Gillies and Donald car now in bed with the “cratan”. Enjoying a good read today. Did not visit in village further than Roenig’s, & am only paying her one visit per day now. Getting through with Neil McDonald’s calf now, but we had the good of it, in spite of Kate’s being away. The potatoes in the garden are growing splendidly & the ones we are using are a great success. The Botoch came in with a whale. There are now three in the Bay, so the “Alecto” is sure to go tonight. The Gillies sent off a lamb (dead) to Ewan & I sent off six letters to be posted from Tarbert. Went to church twice but no S. School yet.

Monday Aug. 26th: Fearfully wet morning. The “Alecto” did not go away as she anticipated. One of the crew came in about 9 o’clock to ask if the men would go out for coals. They did but one of the whalers came in, so the men had only one ton just now, but they are to get more tomorrow. The “Alekto” goes off tonight with three whales. It has been a funny day. Very wet part of the day, then clearing up and becoming quite fine, then another deluge. Busy baking all mg. & tidying up. Soaking clothes & tidying Kate’s bedroom in afternoon. Neil McDonald & Neil McKinnon came in to tea & then Dunie went up the Baile. I stayed in & wrote letters. “Alecto” left.

Tuesday Aug. 27th: Fine day. If it is like this Kate will have good passage. Roenig about the same.

Wednes. Aug. 28th: Wind rising - Alas for Kate & D. Ferguson! The Botoch’s boat in bay. Hens doing well these days.

Thurs. Aug. 29th: A better day. Wind high. Hebrides called for last trip. Kate came. Got bacon & plenty parcels from Toby. Botoch here to tea.

Frid. Aug. 30th: Having easier time now that Kate is home. Busy knitting shawl for A. Gillies.

Sat. Aug. 31st: Alekto in & the men got their coals & we got two more tons from Mr. Herlafson. The men brought them all up.

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September 1907, St Kilda

Sunday Sept. 1st: Was at S.S. today. Roenig keeping better but very gearsanach. People have bad colds. Knowsie in, Got Halibut & haddock

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Mond. Sept. 2nd: Dunie & I went up the village, seeing far away people. Roenig about the same. No boats in.

Tues. Sept. 3rd: Donald Ferguson came to ceilidh. People busy dipping the sheep these days. D. Ferguson came to ceilidh. Go cheese.

Wednes. Sept. 4th: Started going to School myself today. Four or 5 whales in Bay. Two boats. No P.M. Men busy dipping sheep.

Thurs. Sept. 5th: Alecto came in & brought me three letters, one enclosure from Mrs. Taylor, York.

Frid. Sept. 6th: Tha mi bochd. Pleasant surprise. Roenig’s finger not so well today. Kate got home her new gown made by Finlay Gillies. William swept sitting-room chimney this morning. Alekto went off this mg. & Botoch with 8 whales, huge ones, between them. Very stormy day. Sent off lots of letters. Kate & Dunie at the hay in far Glebe above store. Went up baile & saw those who are ill. Didn’t come back till 8 o’clock. An illness very like the measles is going the found. I gave a bottle of embrocation to Roenig McRimmon & one to Donald McQuien. One also to Rachel Ferguson. Busy knitting shawl. Wind not down at all. Satur. Sept. 7th: Lovely day. Quite like summer. “Scaligram” & other boat in but the “Alecto” & Botoch have not come in. The men busy ruaging & dipping all day. Had halibut for dinner. Kate busy washing out white things which have been bleaching since Monday, when all the things were washed, and the wool also. Roenig’s finger better a little today. Kate and dunie busy with hay in odd minutes. Three sheep went over Road..val in the ruaging, two belonging to Roenig & one to Callum. One of Roenig’s dead but the others will get better. Annie Gillies brot. a piece of fresh mutton.

Sunday, Sept. 8th: A beautiful day. No boats came in today at all, till late at night one came in. It was too dark to distinguish whether it was a whaler or a liner. Went to church twice & S.S. Beau Angus did not come to dinner. Roenig about the same.

Monday, Sept. 9th: Simply a charming day. We were up early for dunie wanted to be at the bay. We looked out about ¼ to 7 & saw one of the whalers just going away. The Alekto also was in and had four whales. All must have come in last night or early this morning. Roenig very complaining just now, & her finger really is not well. Killed the big cock myself today. Made butter & cheese, also went into school, so I am busy enough. Finlay McQuien’s Donald & Donald (Ian Bhan) & John MacDonald McQuien went over to the Dùn in the black boat with some small sheep. It was a shame to allow such young boys alone to such a place. However they all came back safely. No boats in & no signs of whalers. Kate & Dunie had a great day at the hay, until 8 o’clock. Most beautiful day with lots of sun and a drying wind; but great mist came on at night. Did Neil Gillies’ leg. Do it every two days.

Tues. Sept. 10th: Very misty morning, which came on to rain before 10 o’clock. Went as usual to Roenig’s immed. after breakfast. She is a bit better & more contented. Much need. Ian Bau & Finlay Gillies there salting sheep, but no one said, “There’s a bit for all your trouble”! Tues. Sept. 10th Contd.: No whaler & no Alekto. A most depressing day. Feeling better now. Went up to Roenig. School afternoon & dunie & Kate went to hay. Dunie came into School to tell me the Botoch was in the bay but no whales. The Botoch & Svennsen came ashore for tea & stayed all the evening. The Alekto goes to Glasgow on Saturday with 1600 barrels of oil, whalebone etc. Got no letters, but Donald òg got two. Glad to say I got a whole lot posted. Botoch tells us a son is very ill of blood poisoning. Dunie went up to see the McQuien’s (Christina & John) who are ill with something like measles.

Wednes. Sept. 11th: Scotch mist heavy but cleared up by mid-day. Roenig bit better, also McQuiens. Had Coilleach Mòr for dinner & very good he was. Cutting blouses for big girls in School. “Bronülf” gone when we rose but trawler in. The men went out to them. I hear it was the “Elsie” from Hull. School afternoon. I went up the baile to see Katherine Gillies who has the “Tinneas”. It is very like the measles. No Prayer Meeting tonight as men were away at the Glen dipping the sheep. I called on Beau Angus also. She was in good form. No boats in tonight. Meirut came down with a piece of mutton. Misty tonight again.

Thurs. Sept. 12th: Raw cold morning. Mist gone & high wind. Had good sleep last night unlike the previous night. Roenig better. Continued wet all day. The three whalers came into the bay this afternoon, but did not come ashore. Men went out to fish, others went to the Dùn with lambs. Donald Ferguson came down for his hens and stayed to supper. Gave him four chickens. Dunie sulking all the night after that at having to give the chickens. He is growing greedy & miserly. It grieves me awfully, when he has so many other good points. Busy with A. Gillies’ white shawl. Very bright lights in the bay tonight.

Frid. Sept. 13th: Raw wet day. The bright lights were from the “Knowsie”, which had come in after dark last night. The men went out before 8 o’cl. The Capt. brought me sweets & a bottle of ginger ale. Also a bag of potatoes from Logan, who also sent paper & Review of Reviews. I went up to Roenig’s & the Botoch followed me and looked at Roenig’s hand. He came in and stayed nearly all the morning. The “Knowsie” lost her anchor & 16 fathoms of chain when they were here before so the boats were out helping them to look for it. Went into School in the afternoon. Both Captains Eleasen & Skontorp came ashore after tea & cut grass, & stayed to supper. The “Skaligram” left for the Station to get her boilers cleaned. So we shall expect letters by Sunday. Got a good few eggs today. Enjoying a newspaper from Logan. A much better evening, & good for hay. “te-steele” Norweg. keep quiet.

Satur. Sept. 14th: Very stormy & wet night. Morning better, with some sun & high wind. Morning (???) Went up to Roenig’s after breakfast. Two boats in the bay, the Botoch and Eleasen. The Scaligram will not be back till tomorrow night. The Botoch & Eleasen went up the village & we thought they wouldn’t come in here but they did & stayed such a long time. Made a cheese (Kate & I). Botoch brought 3 nice post-cards.

Sunday Sept. 15: Fine day. No boats in bay. Went to church three times & also to see Roenig. After the evening church “Scalligram” came in with letters. I got a lot, also the men. There were two jolly letters from Mr Herlofson wanting us to go for a trip to Harris to see him. I wish we could go. He also returned the last coal-money. He really is awfully kind. Letters from Mother, Mrs. Robertson, Miss Caldwell, etc. etc. Also Bibles from Miss Joll. The Botoch & Eleasin’s boats came into Loch.

Monday Sept. 16th: Fine breezy day. It kept up nicely all day and was grand for the hay. Was in School good part of morning. The Botoch & Scalligram in, also Katie & a trawler from North Shields. After tea the Botoch & Powellsen came ashore - they came in for a few minutes and then went up the Baile. Stormy night. Botoch got whale & goes to the Station tomorrow, if weather is suitable. Distributed Capt. Walkner’s sweets to the children today. Children started making their blouses last week. No very good patterns though. Men at Dùn today and took letters out to Botoch. Roenig is keeping better. Wrote to Kate McLeod & Mrs. Walckner. Capts. S. & P. both came in & “cailleidhed” before they went home & took letters. Great fun with the Botoch. Gave them milk.

Tues. Sept. 17th: Miserably wet day with mist. Capt. Skortorp went to the Station last night (or this mg.). Eleason will be back soon we expect with letters. The men put the new lamps in church today. They look very nice. Had row with Finlay Mòr today over Ian who is not learning his lessons at all well & who is such a clever boy when he likes. Gave girls Singing today. Dunie went up the Baile himself tonight. I stayed in with a sore back. The Skaligram came in and of course had no letters. Gave Donald Gillies (Mac Ian Bhan) Boracic Ointment & Bandages for his mother.

Wednes. 18th: Very misty all day. Even in the mist the Skalligram went away to fish evidently. The men went out with two boats to fish for Morbher. Neil Ferguson wanted me to go too but I didn’t. Prayer Meeting, did not go. Bandaged A.B. McDonald’s burnt arm. The Botoch Ferguson came in – also Angus & Neil McKinnon after P.M. to ask for my “drein goest” & pay “Witness”. Skalligram only returned to by without whale.

Thurs. Sept. 19th: No boat in. Lovely day. Kate & Dunie anxious about hay. No drying although it is so fine. Just before dinner all the whalers came into the Bay. The Botoch came in alone to the School to hear the singing. Then he worked at the scythe. He bought one letter from Susy Hutton. Then Paulsen and Eleasan came in & also worked. All then came to tea. I went up the village & saw all the sick folks. Then came home. Men out fishing. Got two or three letters from Eleasen. One from Bab. Saying my box had been sent on or was to be sent on.

Friday Sept. 20th: The three Bata Na Nunc left the Bay just as we were rising this morning. So we have no boat in at all now. School afternoon & went up the Baile afterwards to see Neil Ferguson, William’s wife, and Annie Gillies, and Angus Gillies’ wife. The three former have measles right enough. I finished Annie Gillies’ shawl this morning but have not yet washed it. Cut and started making the blouse in pale blue stripped flannelette. Lovely day but no drying. Roenig keeping better. Sent milk to Beau William.

Satur. Sept. 21st: Wet night but there is a good breeze today. Dunie busy as it is Saturday. I went up baile in afternoon after tea. Before tea dunie I were up Berenalake. The whalers all came in after tea into the Bay. Botoch & Powelsen came in to the Manse at darkening. Botoch brought a book to teach me Norwegian. It seems quite easy. Lovely day.

Sund. Sept. 22: Beautiful all day. Three times at church. No boats in bay all day until late at evening, also another boat in Bay, I don’t know what but not whaler. Had lamps for the first time this year tonight. New ones, they do very well, Did some Norwegian.

Monday Sept. 23rd: Fair all day but glass falling rapidly. Eleasen (Kuendulf) came into Bay. So we surmise Skortorp & Paulsen must have got whales & gone to the station. Men went out to fish altho’ rain had meanwhile come on. Dunie went up the Baile visiting. Roenig keeping better. Measles still raging. Stretched shawl.

Tues. Sept. 24th: Very miserable day. Foggy & wet. Eleasen in Bay but no others. We hear the Liner from Levenish was in Bay all night but did not see it. Eleasan went to fish but returned minus whale. Botoch and Paulsen returned from station bringing (the former) letters. One from Mr. Taylor, York, & one from Mother, also parcel of wool from Allan, Dick & Buchanan’s. Sorry to say no box and I’m afraid I’m not going to get it after all. It is such a disappointment after all the trouble. Botoch came ashore & went up the Baile & certified that all the patients are suffering from measles! The liner from Grimsby came in and sent us herrings & nice small ling. (Also gave Botoch one.) The latter stayed with us for supper & read English with Dunie. He also presented me with the Norwegian Grammar which he is very anxious to learn. Very miserable day. Did not sleep well.

Wednesday Sept. 25th: Misty day & fearfully rough and like rain which however kept off all day. Of course it is too rough for the whalers to go out after whales. The Botoch’s son from Tönsberg has now joined him & is on board. I am busy knitting new feet for my old stockings of last winter. Kate knitting me a new pair. Went into School for a bit this morning while Dunie & Kate were at the hay. Spoke to Donal òg and Finlay Gillies this morning up at Roenig’s. Skontorp & Paulsen came ashore this evening just before Meeting. I went to P.M. & met the two Captains just going up as I was coming down. They called in late for a little. Neil Mcdonald came into supper and paid “Witness”. Did a little Norwegian.

Thurs. Sept. 26th: Fine day altho’ a little misty. Amid great excitement & barking of dogs, the men came down and made preparations for going to Borreray. Only one boat set out with loud talk but they were not away more than an hour when they returned. It seems they had some hot words about the number who were to go and they found out they could not bring any sheep with the number of men - not to speak of dogs - so they came back. Went up the Baile after tea to see Donald (Mac Finlay McQuien) who has been sick for two days. William MacDonald came down and cut Dunie’s hair. Fell out with Dunie & went off to bed as he went to sleep all the night again. His mind seems a vacancy. No desire for reading or improvement in any way, & when callers are in he sits & stares in such an imbecile fashion and is half asleep. I don’t know what to do with him. Up at Roenig’s today. No boats at all in bay.

Frid. Sept. 27: Fine day. Two boats left by 9.30 for Borreray. No other boats in bay but the Grimsby liner left the bay about a quarter to eight for Levinish. Not speaking to Dunie. Am not going to Roenig’s today as her finger is healed, but will send up milk & go myself tomorrow. Had a headache & went up the baile in afternoon & called on Donald (aig Finlay McQuien). He is better. Went into William’s house where there was an assembly of women. There I heard the astounding intelligence that Annie McQuien - daughter of Finlay - is to have a baby in a month or two & that the father is our friend Donald Gillies - son of poor Finlay Gillies. We are awfully sorry about it, & would never have believed it of the latter. Came home & told Kate & Dunie. The men came home - one boat about ¼ to seven o’cl. The other about 8, being towed by Eleasan (or Pauelson?). When we were preparing for bed, Donald Ferguson & Finlay Gillies arrived about 11 o’cl. And wanted to see Dunie about “the pair”. They want to get them married and to get dunie ordained at once. The men got lots of sheep. There was no case of illegitimacy on the island here for the last 20 yrs. Tonight.

??? Saturd. 28th Sept.: Whaler left bay early. Lovely morning. Went with Dunie to the hay. However it became very dark before dinner & Kate & I went out to help to gather it in. Then the rain came on in earnest. No boats in. Before tea I got mutton from William & Neil Ferguson. We went up the village and called on Finlay McQuien & Finlay Gillies & sympathized with them - Saw Annie McQuien (one of the culprits) in bed in William’s house, as her father put her out of the house last night & says he will never allow her to darken his doors again! Got meat from John Gillies, Angus Finlay Gillies, Neil McKinnon, Toromich McQuien. Saw Roenig today & found her very good. Wet evening and no signs of boats. Very constipated. Wrote lots of letters.

Sunday 29th: Very misty day. No boats in. Went to church morning & S.S. Broke off going to Roenig’s today also. Was going to rest at home this evening & was in bed when the syren of a boat began to sound. I flew into church for fear it was the Botoch & indeed it turned out to be he as he arrived with letters just as we came out of church, & also with Peter’s boots from Flora. Neil Gillies came down with some letters.

Mond. 30th: Made cheese & butter & went to Roenig’s Cooked roast of mutton when Botoch & Paulsen arrived (latter with more letters). Paulsen & Eleasin came into bay today. No box yet. Got letter from Miss Turnbull & Shape from Miss Caldwell. Letter also from Phoebe McPhail saying 30 yards of flanneletter are being sent on. Botoch & P. to dinner & tea. They brought gun & shot 3 grey crows. Got letters posted. Did a lot or carding. P. & K. doing a little with scythe.

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