Step back in time to an era when the Scottish island of St Kilda was inhabited, thanks to fascinating old photographs, vinatge film, and recorded memories.
St Kilda in 1908
This black and white silent film from 1908 takes us back to a time when the inhabitants of St Kilda had very little contact with the outside world. They had to survive with what they could find in the difficult terrain.
The children are barefoot, and don’t appear to have any toys.
Women knit and spin, milk sturdy cattle, and wash clothes in wooden tubs in a field.
The capture of a wild sheep means several men prepare its meat and fleece next to the sea, surrounded by children. Even more men sit on the seafront rocks preparing the freshly caught fish.
Catching a puffin looks precarious, a man softly creeping down the rocks to successfully hook one of the birds with his rod and line. The serach for guillemot eggs is even more dangerous, with a man and lad holding on to ropes as another climbs down the rockface, holding a basket.
The Island Of St. Kilda (1908) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Old Photos of St Kilda
And next, see what life was like for these inhabitants before their lives changed so dramatically, with this collection of old photos of St Kilda.
Old Photographs St Kilda Scotland: tourscotland (YouTube)
Ancestry Photographs St Kilda Scotland: tourscotland (YouTube)
Old Photographs And Footage Of St Kilda Outer Hebrides Scotland: tourscotland (YouTube)
Old Photographs And Footage Of Fowlers On St Kilda Outer Hebrides Scotland: tourscotland (YouTube)
The Evacuation of St Kilda
On 4th April 1972, Thames TV broadcast firsthand accounts of the evacuation of St Kilda that took place on 29 August 1930.
The 36 inhabitants were struggling with hunger and poverty, so with an absence of any help, moving to the mainland became the only option.
The doctor was worried. On an island without cars, no one had learned how to step out of the way of approaching vehicles. More realistically, would their immune systems cope living in a new environment and population?
One family of 8 later lost 5 members to TB, and one man lost his lung to it.
The Evacuation of St Kilda | St Kilda | Poverty | Dangers of the Mainland | Scotland | 1972: ThamesTv (YouTube)
Given the age of the people being interviewed, the cameras captured these personal experiences and worries of a unique event before they were lost forever.
St Kilda in the 1970s
In 1971 the cameras recorded images of St Kilda’s army base, including a glimpse of some of the serving soldiers stationed there. Most of the scenes, though, look at the rugged coastline.
Army Station At St. Kilda (1971) – British Pathé (YouTube)
And there’s a second film about the army base, starting with the abandoned homes of the long-departed villagers, now in a state of complete disrepair.
Army In St. Kilda (1971) – British Pathé (YouTube)
The following footage, lasting two and a half minutes, was recorded on 25th August 1971. It shows St. Kilda’s weather station instruments in use.
St. Kilda Weather Station (1971) – British Pathé (YouTube)
Also on St Kilda in 1971 was a power station. It’s not a particularly interesting film, looking at minutiae and ignoring the chance to show the building or its location, but it’s a reminder that the island still had such a facility.
St. Kilda Power Station (1971) – British Pathé (YouTube)
This silent colour footage of St Kilda in 1971 was recorded from the air. It shows what a lonely and difficult location this is for habitation.
Aerial Views Of St. Kilda (1971) – British Pathé (YouTube)
And more silent colour footage of the natural environment, this time from 1971.
Coastline St. Kilda (1971) – British Pathé (YouTube)