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Evacuation of St Kilda 90 years later: ‘They didn’t want to go but knew it was better’

By on May 10, 2020 0
Men on either side of the street forming St Kilda’s Parliament in the island village of Hirta, St Kilda.

The 90th anniversary of the day the last residents of St Kilda asked to be evacuated from their home island in the most remote part of Britain is being celebrated this weekend.

The last 36 people living in the archipelago 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides were evacuated in August 1930.

They had asked for help three months earlier, on May 10, when they wrote a letter to the government saying life was no longer viable.

The letter was forwarded to the captain of the first passing trawler to post. Shortly after, George Henderson, Inspector of Public Health, visited St Kilda and reported that “swift action” was needed.

Julie Hunt, chair of the conservation body St Kilda Club, said the decision to leave the archipelago was difficult but necessary.

She said: “They didn’t want to go but knew it was the best thing to do. They had just come out of a particularly devastating winter and things had become increasingly difficult for them. They were not self-sufficient and able to “improve” as the letter says.

“They knew they couldn’t survive, but they didn’t know what the other options were. It had gotten to the point where they were relying on incoming ships and these were becoming less frequent.

“There is a story of them sending letters on the mail boats asking for food when they were starving.”

St Kilda has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) since 1957.