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8 Mar 2018

The St Kilda Diaries: 1 to 14 March

Alice MacLachlan working a spinning wheel on St Kilda in 1907
Alice MacLachlan on St Kilda 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 March 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.

Mond. Mch. 1st

Lathan a ceisd.  Everybody spoke so the Meeting was long.  Dunie suas & while he was up, Donald McDonald came down & ceilidhed.  He stayed till dunie came & had supper & spoke most kindly about my going away.  Kate very busy with extra cur for my cloth bhig which is not to be so bhig after all. 

Tues. Mch. 2nd 

Very stormy & a lot of snow, first really this year.  School only half day.  Then dunie & I had a fine cosy night at fireside.  No visitors.

Wednesday 3rd

Some more snow but not so stormy.  Very few at Prayer Meeting.  Donald Gillies & William ceilidhing for a little.  Kate finished cur at last.

Thurs. 4th

More snow but not much.  Pleasant sunshine & snow disappearing.  Dunie suas Roenig Ferguson & Meirut, both in bed.  The former very swollen.  Donald Gillies came down with my cloth (the wee (?) one - which turns out to be 28½ yards!!!  Another piece 35 yds. & other 33 yds.  They will go in a little but not much.  So that is very good out of 3 stones from Connu Morison & 6 lbs. (3 x 3) from Angus.  As well as the molts.  It would altogether be less than 90 lbs.  I got a bundle from Beau Neil Ferguson & Mrs. Gillies, also a little from Meirut, Mairi Bhor & the Bandragh, Liath from the latter five.

Friday 5th

Deep snow & snow still falling.  More wintry like than ever.  No Bannerdale in morning at any rate.  Busy sewing and doing one thing or another.  Good attendance in morning but fewer in afternoon, as it was so cold & snowy.  Mairi Mhor came down (at tea time) with two bottles!  School afternoon & Friday again.  No Walckner yet!  Eggs very scarce.  On fine days.  I have got 7 eggs but that is few & far between.  Hens doing very badly so far.  No village news. 

Saturday March 6th  

Very cold day.  No more snow.  Disappointed that Captain Walckner has not appeared, but I do not think the men could have gone out if he had come as it is so rough in the bay.  Huge waves.  However he may yet come today.  Went up & saw everyone as far as Banragh McKinnon’s house.  Fine afternoon.  Grew very stormy at night.

Sunday Mch. 7th  

Fearful day.  Very few out.  Was out at church myself nevertheless.  Very high wind, sleet & showers.  No Sunday School as it was too stormy.  Hear Donald Ferguson bad with “Tinnias”.  Lovely night at fireside.  Of course no “Bannerdale”.

The village bay on Hirta, St Kilda
The village bay on Hirta, St Kilda; photographed by R Milne in 1907

Monday Mch. 8th

Quite as stormy as yesterday.  Dunie went up village to see them all.  They are all “mar sid”! except Roenig Ferguson who is steadily getting worse.  One of the ducks started to lay today.

 Tuesday Mch. 9th

Day a little better but no boat.  It grew very stormy towards night again.  Had a very bad day & did not rise till 6 o’clock, when Finlay Gillies came in for lint & bandages for Roenig’s foot.  Gave him the last of the cough mixture for his wife.  Bed early.

 Wednes. Mch. 10th

Much better day.  Made drop scones & Rock cakes.  Finlay Mòr in ceilidhing.  A. Gillies came to see how I was.  Fortunately much better.  My duck started to lay today.  Roenig Ferguson we hear is worse.  No boats.

 Thurs. Mch. 11th

Fine day.  I went away for a stroll myself the “rath irisal”.  When I got the length of Don. McDon.’s croft a shower came on and I had to shelter in hise house.  Then of course my walk was done.  I went into John Gillies’ house.  Then Don Gillies, ceilidhed with all the women who when the sun came out were at the doors.  Then I went into Meirut Ferguson’s to see Roenig, & home again at dinner time.  The day turned out lovely & the men went to Soay to look for a raven’s nest but they were unsuccessful.  Heard when I was up that a lot of boats had just come to Borreray.  Dunie up the village at night.  No Bannerdale.

Frid. Mch. 12th

Day fine again.  Another detachment of men went to Dùn with a sheep of Donald òg’s.  The “Roanna” in.  They went to her and got lots of fish.  I went with Kate & the cows & then went up Berenahake, & felt very clever but very tired later on.  School later on.

Satur. Mch. 13th

“Bannerdale” came in early and great excitement.  I got my Scotch & lovely fish.  Lots of letters & parcels & books.  Mrs. Hay & Mrs. Walckner sent letters wanting me to go to Aberdeen, that Mrs. H. had got rooms if I went.  A huge parcel from Flora - another layette.  Miss Caldwell binders, Bab. shawl (old one for emergencies as req.)  Books and cake from Miss Moir.  (She sent mufflers to Neil McD. & Don. Mcq.).  Long letters from Mrs. Dickson of Paisley, Miss Moir, & heaps of others.  Books from Nellie.  Photos, letters and books from Cousin John Liverpool.  Got a present of bottle “fion” from Mackie, Grocer, Aberdeen, as discount. 

Sund. 14th Mch.

Wild day.  Only out morning.  Not S.S.  Seedy.