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10 Apr 2018

The St Kilda Diaries: 1 to 14 April 1909

A black and white photo of the village on Hirta.
The village on Hirta, St Kilda; photographed by R Milne in 1907.
Alice was married to Peter MacLachlan who was the Minister on the archipelago of St Kilda - the remotest part of the British Isles, 66 kilometres west of Benbecula in Scotland's Outer Hebrides - between August 1906 and May 1909.

This week read about Alice’s time on St Kilda during the first two weeks of April in 1909. 

New extracts from the diaries will be released every two weeks until the middle of May when Alice left St Kilda. All photographs in this article were taken from the Milne Album; R Milne visited St Kilda in 1907.

Thurs. April 1st

Dunie at School.  I just taking care of myself.  Lots come to ask for me.  Weather fearful. 

Frid. Ap. 2 

Day just as bad.  The men went over to the Glen & took the letter bag.  They spent the most of the day with Walckner.  They got fish and gannets, 42 between them.  Donald Gillies brt. us some trews and haddocks & stayed to tea.

Saturd. Ap. 3 

Day as yesterday and I can’t get out of doors.  The beasts in yesterday and today, eating their heads off.  Saw no one.  Rachel Ferguson continues very poorly.  Castor oil!

Sunday Ap. 4th

This is the second Sunday without lamps.  Lots came to enquire for me, as I am not going out to Church now.  We hear the bereaved folks are as bad as ever.  Donald òg & the three McDonald boys were at church though I am still a prisoner.  Torrents of rain and very high wind.  No Sunday School. 

Monday Ap. 5th 

First Monday of month, consequently no School, but service in church.  Killed Archie Neill’s hen who was doing nothing but eating her eggs.  William killed her for me.  She was putting the clucking hen off her eggs.  Weather dry but cold with very high wind.  I got out for a spell today.  Dunie up village in the evening.  Cows got out for good thing.

Tuesday Ap. 6th

Cruvack was ill all yesterday when she was out, & is worse today & won’t eat anything.  Lovely day and I was out all day nearly and feeling so well.  Kate up village trying for milk, but was unsuccessful.  No sleep.

Wednes. April 7th 

Another glorious day.  Captain Walckner came in in the morning for tea, sugar (which he got from Neil) and tobacco which he got from us.  He was in good form & is getting fish a little.  He brought in some & 6 wee loaves.  He is awfully kind.  Out all day nearly but awfully tired.  Mrs. Gillies (Beau Finlay) in to tea.  Neil Ferguson and Finlay Gillies in after church, the latter wanting bandages.  I am nearly ruined for them now.  Kate doing a little spinning for Mor her sister for a breacan.

A black and white photo of men from St Kilda sitting down.
A group of islanders on Hirta, St Kilda; photographed by R Milne in 1907.

Thursday April 8th

Kate’s long delayed washing day and it was really worth waiting for.  Fine wind and glorious sunshine & Kate in best of humours.  I was busy most of day in kitchen.  Mary Gillies brought me milk - she & her sister (Beau Callum) had dinner (& tea) - after I got tidied up I went out.  Then Meirut arrived (by invitation) to be shown the layette.  We had great fun over it.  Mrs. Finlay Gillies saw it yesterday and they are both awe-struck & never saw anything like it before.  Never saw a baby’s first long gown!  Meirut had tea with us.  Kate went up village.  Dunie was going but when he heard she was going, he insisted on staying with me.  Busy knitting stockings for myself - five ply ones.  Cruvack better now, but not out yet.  Kate got all her clothe nicely dried.

Friday April 9th

Another day of the same.  I was out all day.  Finished pair of 5 Ply stockings (which K. informs me are to be worn in bed on a certain occasion in the near future).  Had Katrione Gillies with milk & Donald to supper.  Also got milk from the Fergusons this morning. 

First batch of chickens out yesterday, April 10th.  Very early.

Saturday Ap. 10th

Out quite a lot although day not so good.  Coldish and dull with some rain.  Have my chickens coming out.  Only 10 set, but I don’t know how many will come out.  No boats.

Sunday Ap. 11th

Very bad night; no sleep and much pain everywhere.  Got milk from Bandragh McKinnon.  It wasn’t the better of being in church under the breacan & dirty can.  The “Roman Empire” in bay until 5 o’clock.  Donald Ian Ferguson kept me company all morning service.  I’ve given up church now for almost a month.  All my chickens came out (10) so I hope they will all live & thrive.  They are the first batch & so bonny.  Out with Topsy most of evening and doing odd jobs!  Hear that Rachel Ferguson is better much!  Sent up boracic powder & bandages every week.  Hear Captain Walckner went off yesterday, so he will be back on Thursday.

Monday Ap. 12th

Blustering kind of day.  Was out a good deal though.  Not feeling very smart.  Darning & looking after my ten wee chickens.  Mary (Callum’s) was sleeping with Kate last night.  K. evidently expected to be in luck!  Sent eggs & semolina to Donald McQuien who I hear has been very poorly for two nights.  Kate took it up.  Men went out to the trawler - “Roman Empire” in bay.  Gave Finlay Gillies more bandages, & cotton wool for Rachel Ferguson whose legs they say are too dreadful.  Cruvack only very middling (diarrhoea).  Very showery in the evening. 

Tuesday April 13th  

Nothing of importance to relate.  Going about, in and out a little as I am able.  Chickens all well and thriving all ten.  Dunie up the village.  Have started a second pair of 5 Ply Stockings for self.  No boats.  Donald McQuien still very poorly.  Showery.

Wednes. Ap. 14th 

Lovely day.  Out most of day.  So warm.  My chickens in front garden all day & so smart.  I get lots of milk.  Two lots this morning before School (Beau Neil Ferguson & Bandragh McKinnon).  Kate finished digging the front this afternoon.  So if fine it is to be sowed tomorrow.  It feels glorious to be out but I am so tired!  Surely I shall be in luck soon.  Gave Meirut eggs for setting.  Poor Donald òg down registering his brothers’ deaths.