Exploring three of the St Kildas

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I have visited the St. Kildan archipelago here in Scotland a number of times over the years.

So, after reading a lot about the islands’ rich history, it was only a matter of time before my interest was drawn to finding out more about the connections between the other two places in the world called St. Kilda. The other two being St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia, and St. Kilda Dunedin, New Zealand.

I was also aware of smaller places in the world where the name St. Kilda is used, however, these were not on my list, yet.

August, 29th, 2014, marked the eighty-fourth anniversary since the last thirty six islanders left St. Kilda, after thousands of years of habitation. They had lived off the seabirds, climbing up the highest sea stacs in Britain, applying their successful bird fowling techniques.

After the evacuation a good number of the 36 St. Kildan’s settled in Morven, here in my native Lochaber.

Today, the island is still home to many thousands of seabirds. The descendants of those same birds the St. Kildans had survived on. Ironically, the islands now attract bird watchers to the area often referred to as ‘Islands on the Edge of the World’.

Starting out from Lochaber in early July, I headed over to Harris from where I made my way out to St Kilda by boat. After a bumpy voyage out in to the rough Atlantic, we eventually landed safely in Village Bay on the main island of Hirta.

Each time I visit the island, I try to go to new parts which usually involves a steep climb over the hills around Village Bay. This year I wanted to visit the well of virtues, as well as making for Conachair, the highest point on Hirta which commands great views over to the sea stacs.

With St. Kilda Scotland visited, I then made my way back to Lochaber and on to Glasgow to fly down to Australia.

A day in the air later, I flew in to Melbourne, Australia where I would visit my second St. Kilda.

Arriving in this bustling suburb of Melbourne, I soon spotted many signs with ‘St. Kilda’ in the title, which was quite surreal, given that I had come from the remote island of St. Kilda in Scotland only a couple of days, earlier and where there were virtually no signs, just thousands of sea birds.

Over a number of days I was able to explore the suburbs of St. Kilda, finding out about its history and many links with Scotland.

I discovered that this part of Melbourne takes its name from the schooner ‘The Lady of St. Kilda’, a trading ship owned by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland. Acland and his wife Lydia had visited St. Kilda Scotland in 1810 and the schooner was a regular visitor to Port Philip in Melbourne from 1841 onwards.

Ironically, eleven years after this suburb of Melbourne was renamed St. Kilda, 36 St. Kildans would leave their remote island home in Scotland to make a perilous journey on the emigrant ship Priscilla to nearby Port Philip at the other end of the world, all in the search of a better way of life. Sadly, only 16 of the St. Kildan party survived on the journey from Scotland.

The surviving St. Kildans were employed in factories and farms throughout Victoria.

Moving on from St. Kilda Melbourne I gradually made my way up the east coast of Australia over a number of weeks to Cape Tribulation, before travelling over to New Zealand to visit my third and final St. Kilda.

Flying in to Auckland in early August, I was delighted to stop over in the city of sails for a couple of days, before visiting my last St. Kilda on the South Island of New Zealand.

Landing in Dunedin a few days later, I made my way from the airport over to St. Kilda beach, where breaking waves crashed on the shore and the setting sun created a wonderful pink sunset.

Exploring various parts of St.Kilda, including its historic buildings and coast. I was surprised to spot an emergency shark bell along the bay from St. Kilda beach. This is a popular surfing point for surfers, and occasionally sharks!

In researching the origins of St. Kilda Dunedin, it appears that the area was named by the Australian property developer George Scott, after the Melbourne suburb of the same name in 1862.

Scott had come over from Australia to develop property in Dunedin and apparently the area reminded him of St. Kilda, Melbourne. The area was previously known by its Maori name of Whakaherekau.

Again, surprisingly I have since discovered a number of connections with descendants of the original St. Kildans who came over on the Priscilla in 1852 and who now stay in this area.

In visiting the three St. Kildas at opposite ends of the earth, I uncovered some interesting connections between all three of them.

If asked to choose between all three, I would say St. Kilda Scotland is by far the most beautiful and interesting. However, there is much less chance of being dive bombed by bonxies in sunny Melbourne!

Pictured above is St. Kilda Bay, looking on towards Melbourne in the distance.