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5 Aug 2019

From the edge of the world: part 8

Written by Sue Loughran
The special post mark applied on post sent from St Kilda, featuring a black circle surrounding a puffin. St Kilda is written above, and World Heritage Site below.
Hello! I’m Sue, the ranger on St Kilda. I’m writing a blog to share what it’s like to work on these incredible islands. This week, I talk about keeping in touch, the St Kilda way!

How do you keep in touch when you go on holiday? With modern communication systems, we hardly need to lose contact with family and friends, no matter where we travel in the world. More often than not, we keep in touch via our phones, sending the latest pictures of what we’ve been doing. Things have changed dramatically over the last 30 years, when previously the most one could expect from anyone travelling was maybe a postcard, which often arrived ages after the sender had returned home!

So what has happened to that age-old tradition of sending postcards? Well, here on St Kilda, it’s alive and flourishing! When I’m giving the introductory talk to new visitors, there’s always a big smile when I explain that we sell cards which can be written and posted on the island. Most important of all is the fact that, in addition to a normal postage stamp, there’s the special St Kilda ‘stamp’ to prove it was sent from the island. What people may not realise is that they’re following a long tradition of sending written words across the sea from this remote island.

The red post box on St Kilda, with a photograph of former islanders lying on the top. The post box sits inside a white stone alcove. A sign is stuck to the front saying St Kilda Mail.The door is ajar and a key hangs from the lock.
The St Kilda post box

On St Kilda, the need to be able to communicate with the outside world has always been of great importance. The very first St Kilda mailboat was constructed from a sheep’s bladder, and sent to alert the mainland that the islanders were starving. This worked very effectively, resulting in food and help being sent across a couple of weeks later. By the time of the evacuation, the island had its own post office. In the island museum today, there’s a photograph of the last postcard to be sent, just as the last islanders were due to leave.

A man leans on a wooden bench indoors as he writes a postcard on St Kilda. He turns and smiles towards the camera.
The new postcard writing bench in use

Moving swiftly to the modern day … we have the art of postcard writing all sewn up here – from purchasing the card in our St Kilda Club shop, to buying a stamp for anywhere in the world, followed by the addition of our exclusive St Kilda ink stamp. Writers can take advantage of our handmade postcard writing table (designed and made by Work Party 1 this year), and then post it in the box at the end of the hall. It just remains for us to ensure that it’s sent on the next helicopter (normally on Tuesdays and Fridays), before the Kilda Mail flies on to its destination! I’m always amazed at the popularity of this simple act, which has become an important part of many people’s visit to the island. Come and visit us, and try it out for yourself!

A lady leans into the post box and sorts the mail inside. Many pairs of boots are on the floor beneath the post box.
Me sorting the mail!
From the edge of the world

St Kilda blog

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